Munch goes to B Gourmet
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Munch's job has taken this tired, flabby body to many a windowless, smoky haunt to try thrice-fried bar wings, to greasy spoons where cigarette ashes are part of the decor, to takeout joints where outdoor furniture was considered indoor furniture and to taverns where Munch had to step carefully around dubious carpet stains. All in the name of finding you, Friends of Munch, a good, cheap place to grub.
But as Munch is growing old, Munch's palate is growing finer and Munch's tolerance for things like dingy fluorescent decor has waned. Unfortunately, Munch's wallet remains thin. Which is why a place like B Gourmet is the best of both worlds.
B Gourmet is the more casual, more journalism-salary friendly sibling of Avenue B on Centre Avenue in Shadyside. The latter serves modern American cuisine with a modern American price tag. That is, it's safely out of Munch's budget until Munch strikes the lottery or until the Penguins sign Munch to a long-term deal instead of Sidney Crosby -- whichever is more likely.
And speaking of Sid, B Gourmet is located in his current haunt -- the tony suburb of Sewickley. Munch and Sports Writing Friend of Munch donned our preppiest attire. For Munch, it was a snazzy pair of slacks from Banana Republic (which we termed "Banana Pants"). For SWFOM, it was a dapper hat and linen shirt. We talked about things such as Mitt Romney's poll numbers and our country club memberships and our off-shore bank accounts. (Munch once left a wallet in Cancun.)
It all ended up being a little unnecessary. The woman behind the counter was laid back, friendly and clearly passionate about the food, for good reason.
B Gourmet is sort of like the prepared food counter at your local grocery store -- except really, really nice. There are no crusted-over tuna salads, no day-old fried chicken, no potato salad that looks like it's left over from the Super Bowl.
Instead, there are Szechuan green beans, white bean salads, tri-color vegetables but also faithful standbys such as meatloaf, mashed potatoes and mac 'n' cheese.
Many of the dishes are priced by the pound and packaged for takeout, but if you want to eat in, dishes can be heated on the spot and served in shabby chic tin buckets, and you can eat in the clean, modern dining room. Full-fledged takeout dinners also are prepared with entrees rotating daily.
Munch and SWFOM, a native of the South, settled on the pulled pork barbecue sandwich ($11), a fluffy white bun thickly piled with shredded meat, cole slaw (which provided complementary crunch) and dill pickles. He described it as good but perhaps not good enough to inspire another trip to the Sewickley area, especially if he has to leave the house and put pants on. Munch, less familiar with the cuisine, found it commute-worthy, especially paired with the herbed fingerling potatoes, the sort of snobby (but tasty) brother of french fries.
Munch ordered an array of other items -- baked mac 'n' cheese with peas and bacon ($5), tilapia ($7), a fried green tomato (one slice $1), honey sesame brussels sprouts ($8 per pound) and peach barbecue chicken ($5).
SWFOM favored the tilapia, cooked in brown butter and topped with caper and lemon, which he called "salty, but not overly salty." (Keep in mind that what 80 percent of sports writers eat is lukewarm ballpark hot dogs, nachos topped with that creepily neon cheese sauce and stale popcorn.) Munch thought the dish succeeded where many other places fail in that it was cooked delicately, in a sauce that was subtle enough for the mild-flavored flesh.
Despite a traumatic childhood experience with mac 'n' cheese, SWFOM loved B Gourmet's version, a generous plank of pasta held together with just the right amount of cheese and peppered with bacon and plump green peas. Munch found it surprisingly restrained. The fried green tomato was similarly balanced, a tart disc surrounded by salty breading.
The peach barbecued chicken was subtly peachy and slightly sweet, a nice deviation from the typically cloying barbecue sauce.
The Brussels sprouts, crunchy with a slight sweetness and nuttiness, surprisingly topped Munch's favorites. SWFOM exclaimed "They made Brussels sprouts edible!"
We polished off this formidable feast with a chocolate tart ($5.25), which came with a decadent pudding-thick filling.
If you're in the Sewickley area, whether to stake out Sidney Crosby's new home or whatever, B Gourmet is the perfect place to stop for a delicious sandwich and gourmet entrees. And unlike actually living there, it may be safely within your price range.
First Published June 21, 2012 12:00 am