Go ahead. Call Munch a front-runner.
After absorbing 19 years of pathetic Pirates baseball which has elicited emotions ranging from disappointment and despair to anger and apathy; after throwing good money after bad on tickets and laughing to keep from crying, these suddenly plucky Bucs even have cynical, curmudgeonly Munch throwin' up Zoltan "Zee's" and straight #BUCN.
Typically, Munch would be a Doubting (Frank) Thomas, demanding to see the healed holes in Pirate bats and gloves before getting religion with this outfit. But based on the Bucs' Sunday slapping around of Giants ace Tim Lincecum, the baseball season here isn't going to "end" at the start of Steelers' training camp for the first time in forever.
So, by all means, you can call Munch fair-weather. Nineteen years of resentment doesn't just evaporate. That Bucco bandwagon? If things go sour, Munch will leave again in an instant.
Which is roughly the same advice that Munch offers if you get a sandwich at Dominic's Famous Deli & Bottleshop on the Federal Street side of PNC Park.
Opened last season, Dominic's is a comfortable space to hang out and have a beer before or after a game, with plenty of TVs to scoreboard watch divisional foes -- something not done here since the Bush 41 administration -- or to soak in summer on the outside patio.
Dominic's has a respectable beer selection that includes local Penn products, microbrews and a number of imports. Munch and Co-worker of Munch (CWOM) sipped a Stone IPA and a Guinness, respectively (each $5).
CWOM brought along Mrs. CWOM and their precocious son who, according to his parents, at age 2 already has a devious Hyde-like alter ego known as Mr. Dallas Carseat (Mr. DC).
Kids eat free on Sundays at Dominic's (from a limited menu) -- a truly thoughtful promotional gesture given that ballpark trips can be a financial strain on any family this side of the Romneys. Young Mr. DC gobbled up a complimentary grilled cheese with glee. Probably because he isn't quite as picky as the grown-ups.
There are about two-dozen varieties of sandwiches, hoagies, paninis, and wraps on the menu with most of the standards represented -- Italian, Reuben, Buffalo Chicken, etc. -- and another half-dozen salads (all $6-$8.75).
The Grand Slam Tavern Melt -- comprised of Boar's Head brand Londonport roast beef, cheddar cheese, onion and honey mustard on marble rye ($8.75) -- caught CWOM's eye.
Typically, an important aspect of a sandwich termed a "melt" is that something is, y'know, actually melted -- namely the cheese. Toasted bread and warm meat? Also crucial components of a melt.
Not only did CWOM's melt come unmelted, it was cold.
This could've been an isolated incident. Except that Munch's selection, another from the hot sandwich family -- the C. Tanner's Turkey Panini made from Boar's Head brand Sausalido roasted turkey, Monterey jack cheese, green bell peppers, red onion and a pesto mayo ($8.50) -- was also completely uncooked. It's a panini! It should be hot!
The funny thing is that the bread had compressed grooves on it like it had been properly put in the panini press, but the machine was either off or broken, because again -- unmelted cheese, cool meat, untoasted bread. At least the pickle was crispy.
We'd have sent them back, but the game was starting and we didn't want to wait.
Mrs. CWOM was so-so on her "Snob Salad" ($8.50), a curiously re-branded Caprese salad made of average tomato slices and buffalo mozzarella topped with basil and a balsamic glaze.
On the plus side, our service was very friendly.
Perhaps an unintentional commentary on the recent history of the club: Dominic's has as many sandwiches named for the Steelers as the Pirates in a deli at the baseball stadium, and none of those Pirates even played at PNC Park. To that end, Munch offers some quick suggestions:
• The Randall Simon: made from Milwaukee's finest Italian sausage.
• The Giles: might be loaded with juice -- err, au jus -- but never proven.
• The Kendall: Crabcake with lemon butter, so it's salty and sour like its namesake's personality.
• The Bay: so good it's traded to rival delis for sandwich prospects that never amount to anything. (see also: The Bautista, The J. Schmidt, The A-Ram)
• The Derek Bell: a once-decent sandwich that's completely stale by the time you order it (see also: The Mondesi, The Burnitz, The Matt Morris).
But bandwagon fans like Munch need a symbol to rally behind. So how about a veggie dog called the Green Weenie?
Could be delicious, so long as it's topped with some hidden vigorish.