Robert Chambers Jr. first opened the joint in Homewood in the late 1980s and moved it to this roadside spot a decade ago.
Munch is a little bit Johnny Cash, a little bit Joan Jett.
A little bit Froggy, a little bit WDVE.
A little bit Nashville, and a little bit -- God forgive me -- Cleveland.
Meaning that Munch is a little bit country. And a little bit rock 'n' roll. (And zero bit Donny and Marie Osmond, FYI.)
So, too, is the Loose Moose Saloon in Baldwin Borough, a pleasant bar with a pleasant wait staff and a pleasant variety of chicken wings and sandwiches and burgers. Oh, and three newly felted pool tables, which is not to say that they have been recently groped, but that they have been reupholstered. Or whatever it is you do to a pool table when it needs new felt.
Anyway, long story short, the pool tables are bright yellow now.
The Loose Moose purports to be the "South Hills' rock and country bar," and I suppose it is that, but as is the case with most bars in this rainy little patch of Milky Way that we like to call southwestern Pennsylvania, you can put all the wagon wheels and longhorn skulls you want on the walls, but, at the end of the day -- say, isn't it almost time for the Trite Trophy? -- this is yer basic sports bar. Big projection TVs, cheap beer, nightly specials and a great crowd for Pens and Steelers games.
So a true country bar, the Loose Moose ain't. (No relation to the Smiling Moose, I'm told. Although perhaps the reason moose No. 1 is smiling is because moose No. 2 is, ya know, loose?) But what's here now, at 5185 Brownsville Road, is still an improvement over what was here before. A bit of remodeling last year helped patrons forget about the Loose Moose's previous iteration, Big Dawg's Roadhouse. For many decades before that, it was the Southern Star Lounge.
This is the type of place, Munch should note, where men will walk around with substantial rattails and goatees that are bound up with rubber bands, and act as if this is a totally normal thing to do. Captain Lou Albano is dead and gone, but his fashion sense lives on in the South Hills. T-shirt sightings included Brett Keisel's "Fear the Beard" shirt, Pens shirt, Iron City shirt, Miller Light shirt, Miller Auto Parts Store in Bethel Park shirt.
The standards, in other words.
Food-wise we are not reinventing the wheel here. But why reinvent the wheel? The wheel is working out just fine, thank you. Has been for years, transporting people to and fro since, I dunno, the Oregon Trail days or something. The wheel stands the test of time.
And the same goes for chicken wings ($3.95 for six, $6.95 for a dozen, except on wing night, 10 flavors in all). Here at the Loose Moose, they have the decency to give you the whole wing, unlike some of them hoity toity South Side bars, where you pay $10 for a dozen bitty wing ding pieces. Half the wing, at twice the price. What am I, Thurston Howell VI? You want me to put on a monocle and eat 'em with my pinky extended?
MUNCH IS THE 99 PERCENT!
Anyhow, the wings are substantial -- six will do the trick, unless you are some kind of disgraceful slob, in which case you will also order the hickory bacon burger ($5.75), a half-dozen mozzarella sticks ($3.95), and a meatball sub on top of that ($4.25 for a 6-incher). Munch stopped there, because a commercial for "The Biggest Loser" came on the television. One day, you're ordering a meatball sub at Loose Moose; the next day you're struggling though two pushups and dry heaving on Jillian Michaels' sneakers.
Note: They still allow smoking here, a possible turnoff for some, but certainly not for the apparent Marlboro convention that had gathered at the bar on a recent Monday. But if you don't mind the smoke and you're a fan of cheap beer, good sandwiches and vaguely Western decor, well, this is the place for you.
Loose Moose Saloon, open seven days. 5185 Brownsville Road, Baldwin Borough, 412-655-3553. Munch@post-gazette.com .