Munch goes to Industry Public House in Lawrenceville
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Here are three words that you don't stumble upon very often in Pittsburgh but, if you share Munch's palate and meaty sense of curiosity and demoralizing blood lipid levels, you will be pleased to hear:
Wild boar bacon.
Does it taste better than regular domesticated pig bacon? Probably not. Are the boars actually wild? Probably not, unless you consider being raised on a boar farm in Slippery Rock as "wilderness."
Does any of that matter?
Again, probably not, least of all to the Gadabout Gourmand.
You will find the wild boar bacon atop the "farmed out" burger ($9.75) at a place called Industry Public House in Lawrenceville, a new bar and restaurant that is brought to you by the same folks responsible for Elixir Ultra Lounge and 1311 in the South Side. Elixir is a late-night club, 1311 is a smoky sports bar, and the fear, at least among some of Lawrenceville's self-appointed neighborhood guardians, was that Industry Public House would end up being a noisome combination of the two.
It is not. Industry Public House is pleasing to the eye, in the manner that many new and shiny gastropubs are pleasing to the eye. Whimsical light fixtures, outfitted with those old-fashioned, complexion-flattering amber filament bulbs? Check. Exposed brick walls? We got 'em. A wall of taps longer than the arm of God? Forty beers on draft, about a dozen of them brewed in Pennsylvania, and some three dozen whiskies.
But what about the tongue? Here, Industry is pleasing, too -- perhaps not as much as we'd like, given the visual promise of the place. But there are some real winners on the menu, and given a few months, Munch suspects the kitchen might develop a few more.
Munch and Co. were generally on board with the petite, floury flatbread ($8), dressed with sun-dried tomatoes, aromatic chopped basil and melted mozzarella drops. This is what flatbreads looked like in the days of Tesla and Edison, I suppose, before they grew to be the size of deep-dish pizzas. (The flatbreads, I mean. Tesla and Edison grew much larger than pizzas, according to historians.)
Triathlete Friend of Munch informed us -- in the smug and self-satisfied manner that is typical of most people who possess physical discipline and oversized runner's watches -- that she was, as usual, training for some preposterous test of endurance or another, and thus abstaining from Industry's long list of half-pound burgers. Instead, she went for the chicken sandwich ($8). The boneless skinless chicken breast -- that dubious cut of fowl so prone to overcooking -- was nicely done, tender and juicy with a thick slathering of jerk sauce that held just the right amount of spice.
"Why isn't it jerked apart?" Munch asked.
"You mean, like, shredded?" TFOM replied.
"Yeah. Like jerked pork. Isn't that what 'jerked' means?"
"No," TFOM said. " 'Jerk' refers to the seasoning. Once again, as has happened literally hundreds of times over the past 16 years, you have proven to be a functional idiot when it comes to culinary terminology, and I weep for the Post-Gazette."
Meh. I've been called worse.
Munch's "farmed out" burger -- the one with the boar bacon -- also came appointed with shaved porchetta ham, white cheddar and a barbecue sauce that gave the burger a delicate sweetness. That's more beef and pig than anyone needs in a week, let alone one afternoon, needless to say, but if you're going to die an early, scandalous death, as Munch is almost certain to do, might as well enjoy extra meat along the way.
Nothing against vegetables, of course. Flora Friend of Munch tried the "rooted" burger ($11, with goat cheese) -- a vegetarian patty made of root vegetables, zucchini, bulgur wheat and whatnot -- and found it bland, rescued only by some generous table-side Tabasco seasoning. The side of chili, FFOM said, also lacked the heat she'd expected.
Other burgers were good, yet less than hoped for. Three years ago, the burgers at Industry would have been among the clubhouse leaders. Today, they are middle of the pack. That may say less about the state of the kitchen at Industry than the outstanding state of the burger joint in Pittsburgh, and the trendiness of the "upscale" burger in general, but there it is. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Munch and friends were there for lunch, so we can't speak to the character of the place after hours, or the noise levels. But Munch's sense is that Industry hopes to be Lawrenceville's version of Fatheads -- great beer list, growlers to go, pretty good sandwiches, the place people in that neighborhood automatically think of when they want a burger or an interesting late-night tipple.
And if they succeed, that, too, will be a pleasing thing.
First Published August 2, 2012 12:00 am