Three weeks until the end begins. Three weeks until this Munch is closer to writing reviews about early bird specials, having pureed hot wings and becoming a fan of CBS procedural dramas.
Three weeks until I'm officially in my late 30s. Or at the end of my mid-30s. Or whatever 36 is.
Not to be dramatic or anything.
But in an acknowledgment to my jog toward mortality, age 35 has been marked by relative restraint and changing habits. To wit: Chubby Hubby pint consumption -- only four this entire year versus nearly one a week in 2012; bought a juicer -- Jack LaLanne has nothing on my beet juice intake (mostly because he's dead).
In my mind, my workouts look like a Rocky training montage, even if in reality it's more like Izzy Mandelbaum. The spare tire is deflating. My teeth and my arteries have less plaque. Sweets? I'm sour on them. Pop swilling? Negligible.
As my vices are gradually disappearing, two remain that will have to be pried from my cold, fat fingers: pizza and beer. Especially when paired in fine fashion like Nick and Angie Bogacz do at Caliente in Bloomfield, opened last year in the space that was Gator's Saloon since the late 1990s. (Gator's has since moved to Indiana Township.)
Beer and food menus are drawn out on colorful chalkboards, as is a beautiful sketch of the Liberty Avenue streetscape, including the restaurant and neighboring Santa Maria Goretti church. Most of the decor is made up of colorful tin beer and brewery signs and tap handles, and a handsome wooden bar anchors the place. The kitchen serves the barroom basics -- pizza, calzones, wings, salads, gyros, burgers and hoagies -- nightly until 2 a.m.
Twenty well-curated taps fill out an excellent (albeit pricey) draft list that during my visit included Avery Maharaja Double IPA, Firestone Double Jack and Founder's Double Trouble. The robust bottle selection included, among others, a number of hard to find California beers such as Port Mongo IPA, AleSmith Speedway Stout and Russian River Damnation ($7 to $19.95).
My picks were the incredible tasting and cumbersomely named Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout ($9) -- my first sighting of this in Pittsburgh on draft -- and the terrific Helltown Idle Hands Double IPA, made in Mount Pleasant ($8), which was paired with a well-constructed and 12-inch spinach and feta pie (white sauce, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion and feta; $12.99) that was tasty and soaked up my choice of strong ales.
Meanwhile, my pal quaffed the Great Lakes Truth, Justice and the American Ale as if it were his job ($8) as he crushed a steak calzone ($11.99) and enjoyed a large, nice-looking fresh Greek salad topped with black olives and feta ($8.99).
Clean, comfortable and welcoming, Caliente had good service behind the bar and a relaxed, comfy vibe in front of it with a Saturday night crowd that was a healthy mix of collegiate and adult while a juke box swung between A$AP Rocky and the Allman Brothers. In other words, a fine place for a grudgingly grown-up Munch to get a pizza and beer fix while still pretending to be a kid.
Caliente Pizza & Draft House is at 4624 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Information: 412-682-1414 or http://pizzadrafthouse.com/.
Dan Gigler: email@example.com or 412-263-2533.