Munch goes to The Cabana Bar (and Grazie)
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The beach is no friend to Munch, for any number of reasons.
• Munch's vaguely manatee-shaped body, sagging and slanting in all the wrong directions.
• Munch's complexion, which goes from alabaster to a la lobster in, oh, about 14 minutes, especially when exposed to sun at more tropical latitudes.
• Munch's fear of open water. You ever see "Jaws"? Munch saw "Jaws." Like a hundred times.
Problem is, for all Munch hates about the beach, the place has some endearing qualities. Munch really enjoys dining outside; a bit of sand in the ol' flip-flops; a stroll on the ol' boardwalk; a Corona in the ol' gullet; or -- if the mood and music are just so -- even one of those fruity umbrella drinks.
So I guess what I'm saying is, Munch likes the esprit de beach, but not the beach itself, which makes The Cabana Bar a pretty fair compromise. You got yer individual hammocks, yer swaying palms, yer group hammocks, yer outdoor fire pits and tiki torches, yer faux waterfalls, and plenty of white sand. And best of all, it's in Pittsburgh.
And by in Pittsburgh, I mean way the bejeebus up in McCandless. Munch, Groupie of Munch (GOM) and Shadyside Friend of Munch (SFOM) piled into the Munchmobile on a Monday night and drove north, and it wasn't long before GOM and SFOM were snarking about Munch's dining choice:
"Where are we, Wasilla?"
Har har, ladies. But Alaska doesn't have sand and palms, does it? That the Cabana Bar does means it's in limited company locally. There's Paradise Beach on Neville Island, Kelly's in Beaver County, The Beach in Monroeville, and darned if I can think of any others.
Before we could eat there, though, we had to find the place, and I'm not just talking about the drive. The Cabana Bar is connected to a restaurant called Grazie, which itself is at the back of the Oxford Athletic Club, which is just about the biggest gym Munch has ever seen from the inside.
Your Laconic Landlubber grabbed a table outside and ordered two starters, fried zucchini and barbecue chicken dip (both $7.49).
No wonder Munch's beach body is looking more and more like a beached whale body. The zucchini decorated with little flecks of parmesan but otherwise standard; the chicken dip (served with tortilla chips) was the preferred dish of the two -- hot, gooey, drippy and sweet, thanks to the barbecue sauce floating on top of the cheese.
Main courses: SFOM, who is part Greek, honored her homeland by sampling the chicken gyro ($7.49), and regretted the choice, saying it tasted reheated. Munch made it through about half of an excellent fried fish sandwich ($8.49) before tapping out. GOM made it through even less of her enormous plate of spaghetti and meatballs ($10.99), which would have fed most of the Detroit Red Wings roster. Supposing they wouldn't have, uh, choked on it.
Whether you're seated upstairs at Grazie or downstairs at The Cabana Bar, the food comes from the same kitchen. Grazie has a broader menu with a few Italian and pasta dishes on it; The Cabana Bar sticks with appetizers and a few sandwiches and salads.
The food isn't divine. But does anyone really mind? When the prices are fair, and the night is warm and the friends are witty, and the hammocks are oh-so comfortable, Munch is willing to let a lot of stuff slide.
First Published June 18, 2009 12:00 am