Munch goes to brunch at Club Cafe
Share with others:
Wayback-machine time: Summer 1990s. A newly minted college graduate, Munch returns to the Pittsburgh motherland after five years mostly away. Having left as a suburban adolescent and returning as a young adult, Munch no longer knew Pittsburgh -- feeling, rather, like a stranger in a familiar place.
Looking to go all Chabon and explore the mysteries of Pittsburgh, Munch went to see a show at the Club Cafe on the South Side on a Friday night. Munch entered a smoke-filled cavern of punks, hipsters and rockers -- all exponentially cooler than Munch.
On the stage, in front of that twinkly starlight backdrop, in all of her plus-sized, tattooed, shaven head-with-long-pigtails glory was Phat Man Dee, crooning a cosmic cabaret. It was something of a yinz-reka moment where Munch realized there was more to this ol' Pittsburgh than inclines and fireworks.
Munch has since been to Club Cafe many times, for many drinks and many shows, during which time Munch's palate has graduated from Jager bombs to single-malt Scotch, and Munch's musical tastes have evolved from Blind Melon to Blind Lemon Jefferson.
After an ownership change last year, music-wise things at Club Cafe are virtually unchanged, but new wrinkles have emerged, including better drinks and now, every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., brunch.
The idea of eating at a Pittsburgh music institution, site of so many liquor-soaked midnight shows, was met with equal parts intrigue and skepticism. Seeing the place in the light of day was part of the draw -- with the curtains drawn, the place is surprisingly bright.
Munch and Dear One of Munch sat at a table on the stage, a perfect perch to peer out the panoramic window behind the stage (who knew?) at the streetscape. A double-decker tour bus went by. Young couples wrangled their kids. Hipsters smoked cigarettes out front, chatting with bikers who disembarked from their hogs to spend the afternoon next door at Jack's -- worlds colliding on a gorgeous South Side Sunday.
Club Cafe sans drink just felt wrong. Problem solved via an inspired brunch cocktail menu that includes plays on classics like the Morning After Manhattan ($9) -- made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, sweet vermouth and rounded out with Kahlua. DOOM loved the Imperial Bombay Mary ($7) -- a Bloody Mary comprising Beefeater gin, muchi curry, ginger and with a pickled eggplant garnish.
The drinks reflected the menu -- sophisticated, fun and delicious. We pigged out shamelessly.
We split an order of smoked salmon flatbread ($11). A creamy egg pate, topped with smoked salmon, truffle oil and shaved asparagus, this was a great beginning to an excellent meal.
DOOM had the steak & egg croissant ($9), which sounds simple, but when served on a soft, buttery croissant from Jean-Marc Chatellier's French bakery in Millvale, it was a revelation. The steak was tender and the balsamic caramelized onions and smoked Gouda cheese gave the sandwich a lot of depth.
Each week there's an omelet special using organic eggs from Churchview Farms in Baldwin. On this visit, it was the Greek ($11). Made with spinach, tomato, red onion, Haloumi cheese, grilled lamb, topped with a cucumber yogurt and served with warm pita and field greens, this was a perfectly cooked and folded omelet. The eggs were light, and the ingredients complemented each other with nothing overpowering the taste buds.
Finally, wanting something sweet, we split an order of granol-crusted French toast ($10). The granola is housemade, and the white chocolate marscapone cream was a beautiful complement to the fresh berries topping Chatellier's French bread.
This is an exceptional brunch put together by chef Monique Achaia Ruvolo. This food was outstanding. The presentation on each dish was gorgeous. Service was very friendly and knowledgeable (although occasionally inattentive). Music stuck mostly to jazz and old R&B -- Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles -- and we dug the vibe.
DOOM thinks that the music should be live, but Munch disagreed -- otherwise we wouldn't have gotten to be on stage. Which as any performer will tell you, is the best seat in the house.
Even for brunch.
First Published June 14, 2012 12:00 am