Saturday dinner date night found us traveling down Route 79 to the place where we (well, I, since SP moved there when he was 16) grew up: McMurray, also known as Peters Township. Our destination: Table Lakeside Brick Oven & Bar, which has been reviewed recently in both Pittsburgh Magazine and in the City Paper. We also had a $10 off coupon.
The restaurant is located off the side of Route 19 opposite Donaldson's Crossroads, and once you drive a bit down McDowell Lane and across a wee bridge, it's on the right, across from Little Lake Theater. We pulled in a bit before 6 pm and parked in the last open handicap parking space (there were only 2). Right after we pulled in, a car pulled in behind us and stopped right behind us. We were victims of evil glares and snarls from both the driver and the woman who got out of the car. Apparently, they thought we didn't qualify for a handicap parking space based on SP's looks (age) and hopping out of the car. I was very happy when SP yanked out the wheelchair and plopped it down right in front of their noses. It's not just people over 65 who might need a handicap parking space.
It was very humid outside, and I do not like humidity. I much prefer cool 'fake' air! It was a relief to feel the cool air as we entered and I felt relaxed and calm. But then we were subjected to the 'look over.' The hostess looked us up & down and took a rather snooty attitude with us. She asked if we had reservations. Ummm... no, not for a brick oven bar. I saw nothing on their web site saying anything about needing/suggesting reservations. Heck the whole reason we knew about this place (before the recent press reviews) was that they mailed out coupons in one of those mass coupon mailing envelops we get every few months addressed to 'current resident' - we don't usually get mailed coupons from really high end, reservations required dining establishments. We weren't a large group. Was it our attire? We weren't wearing jeans or tennis shoes. Was it the wheelchair? We have gone to places where employees look to SP to order for me, I assume they think I lack a brain.
Whatever it was, despite clearly not being too busy (we saw empty tables and there was not anyone else waiting), we were told we could either be seated immediately outside (no thanks; too muggy) or wait 20-30 minutes. We chose to wait.
We waited near the bar in the black couch area and SP got a beer from the bar. I wasn't in the mood for wine or a cocktail, so I just waited and looked around. After about 20 minutes we were seated. SP and I ordered iced teas and perused the menu.
We decided to share 'The Lawnboy' flatbread: flatbread topped with prosciutto, roma tomatoes, and arugula, drizzled with balsamic.We chose this flatbread over the 'Stinky Cheese' flatbread so that we could compare it to similar pizzas/flatbreads we've tried at other restaurants. It's a large portion - it could be a meal for one person. It was definitely a bit large for us as an appetizer, although we ate it all. The flatbread itself was very, very tasty. The tomatoes were red and juicy. The arugula fresh and not brown. My only complaint is the balsamic. It was very strong, and to me more vinegary than sweet. I could have used a bit less of it. Also, it is drizzled off the sides of the flatbread, which means that it also seeps under the flatbread, so when you try to pick it up and eat it like pizza, you get sticky balsamic all over your fingers. It was messy. I suppose I could have just used a knife and fork, but...
On the other hand, all the balsamic was mopped up with some tasty bread:The 3 rolls were warm and came with soft butter. We both thought there was something vaguely soft pretzel like about these rolls - maybe the slightly crispy crust but soft, warm inside?
SP ordered a side salad. We wanted to try the Spinach & Goat Cheese Salad with pancetta and walnut vinaigrette for the same reason we chose 'The Lawnboy' flatbread - to compare with other similar salads we've had when dining out. Unfortunately, the salad never arrived. The next thing we knew, our entrees were in front of us. I looked at SP and he shook his head 'no' so we didn't mention the forgotten salad, mostly because the flatbread and bread rolls had been so filling that in terms of food quantity, we didn't need the salad.
SP chose 'The Pork Shank Redemption' - "fork-tender, falling-off-the-bone braised osso bucco-style foreshank, boozy sweet Makers' Mark bourbon glaze, garlic mashed potatoes, vegetable."It was enormous! Very moist and flavorful - it just fell away from the bone:He really enjoyed his entree and brought some of it home.
I chose the 'Eggplant Lasagne' - "layered eggplant that's hand battered and gently fried, stacked with cheeses and marinara."I'm not sure how I really feel about this dish. It was tasty, but the eggplant was sliced so thin that at times I wondered if there even was any eggplant under all the breading & sauce. I couldn't really taste the eggplant. Also, this didn't look like a lasagna to me - I expected something more layered, not what I think were 2 slices of eggplant with cheese and sauce on top. I have a hard time with this dish being a $16 entree.Even after I cut it in half and tried to dissect it, I couldn't positively see the eggplant - it was so thin as to be non-existent. I ate it all - the sauce and cheese were tasty and breading is always good, plus I think I kept eating because I was trying to discover the eggplant!!! Surely it was there.
We were too full for dessert. When our server gave us the check, the missing salad was charged to us, so SP asked her to take it off because it never arrived. She did, no problems, but he and I disagreed about who was responsible for the missing salad. I say the server was. He says that since other people were actually bringing the food and she just took our order, refilled iced teas, and checked on us, it was actually the fault of the "food bringers." But I say our server should have been on top of things and made sure the "food bringers' brought all the food.
Missing salad and snotty hostess aside, our service was good. Someone cleared plates when they saw it was time. Our iced teas were always refilled. There were no long waits between courses but neither were we rushed.
The atmosphere... I have mixed feelings. I told SP I thought the place had an identity crisis! 'Brick Oven & Bar' says to me casual, no reservations atmosphere like Sharp Edge in McMurray, Atria's in McMurray, Stonepepper Grill. But the dimly lit interior, clubby atmosphere, black leather lounging furniture, black tablecloth covered tables topped with brown paper, big screen TVs at the bar, visible brick oven/able to see kitchen activity, servers in black polos and black pants, asking if we had reservations, no kids at all only adults - it just didn't seem to add up.
We would go again, but we're not in a hurry to go again, and maybe next time sit outside. I do like outdoor dining...