Munch goes to Thee Olde Place Inn
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"Dine indoors under the shooting stars," says the takeout menu, underlining "indoors" for emphasis. So we're eating at a planetarium this week?
No, it's just one of those places where, against all reason, they've painted the ceiling black and embedded a bunch of twinkling blue Christmas lights into the drop-down tiles. The bar stools don't match the carpet, the carpet doesn't match the bar, the tap list is limited, there are four or five paintings of martini glasses on the walls, and apparently there is some ordinance in Baldwin forbidding bars and restaurants from allowing natural sunlight through the windows, giving the overall impression that Thee Olde Place Inn was designed by, and for, vampires.
You'd have no business knowing about Thee Olde Place Inn unless you lived in the South Hills and, even then, it would probably help to be familiar with the Streets Run Road corridor. So allow Munch to guide you -- you can find Thee Olde Place Inn right next to the Suntan Shack tanning salon ("Hey, anybody want to go for a tan and a steak salad? ... "), which itself is right next to a custom leisure-wear shop (... "and afterward we can get our robes monogrammed."). If location informs execution, your Gloomy Gourmand was not in a hopeful mood.
But guess what? The food here is really quite excellent, and I'm not just saying that because I feel guilty about the opening paragraphs. It's a nice menu, with lots of interesting items on it, and everything Munch tried, Munch liked.
Let's start with the provolone sticks ($4.95). Faithful Readers of Munch (FROMs) know that the humble cheese stick is, in Munch's opinion, a bellwether of everything else that's going on in the kitchen. If you can't do the cheese sticks right, there isn't much hope for the rest of the menu, is there? At Thee Olde Place Inn, they do 'em right, hot and gooey and crispy, with enough cheese to stretch from here to Streets Run.
Soon, Munch's sandwich bone was tingling. The only cure: A lively French dip ($8.95), thin-sliced roast beef on a toasted roll, draped neatly in Swiss cheese with a small crock of au jus on the side. The sandwich, plus the house-cut potato chips, plus the aforementioned cheese sticks, would ordinarily be enough to satisfy Munch's gustatory yearnings, which are somewhat hippo-like. (Fun fact: Full-grown hippos eat about 90 pounds of food a night.) But on this day, Munch spied a plate of pasta carbonara on the menu, and darned if Munch's pasta bone didn't start tingling too.
The pasta bone, FYI, is connected to the shin bone, but we're not here to talk anatomy, are we? Or hippos for that matter. My bar waitress, pleasant as pleasant can be, said that the diners had been raving about the carbonara all night -- which can be taken two ways, but I assumed that the customers weren't deliriously angry about the pasta.
The carbonara ($10.95) was more or less up to Munch's standards, except there was a suspicious amount of vegetation (tomatoes? spinach?!?) and not enough bacon. Here is a tip for those of you making poor-man's carbonara at home: There can never be enough bacon. Or cream. Or eggs and cheese.
By the time Munch toddled off the bar stool and oozed out the front door, the check totaled less than $30. As ever, Munch appreciates a bargain, but if you want to whoop it up, you can do that here, too -- porterhouse steaks, veal chops, lobster tail and other pricey meat cuts populate the menu, alongside a half-dozen seafood items and a handful of specials, such as Asian-plum pork ribs and frog legs, which Munch unfortunately noticed after placing the sandwich and pasta order. Pan-fried frog legs are proof that God loves us, and hates frogs.
Also, hippos can't swim. Did you know that?
First Published August 19, 2010 12:00 am