Category Archives: Restaurants

Wing Wars:Morguen Toole Company

Although aware of the Morguen Toole Company, I had never been there before joining them for their Yuengs and Wings night this past Wednesday. I became aware of this wing night by stumbling upon their website, and although put off by the sloppy writing (there’s a difference between your and you’re) and punctuation, the photos intrigued me enough to check them out. Why would I, or you for that matter, care about grammar errors on a website? It’s relevant because when a restaurant sets a high bar of expectations, attention to detail becomes critical. In this case the website foreshadowed my entire experience.

Wing Wars:Morguen Toole CompanyMeyersdale, Pennsylvania is an old coal mining town best known today as the host of the Pennsylvania Maple Festival and for it’s location on the Great Allegheny Passage, a 135 mile hiking and biking trail. The downtown area is filled with late 19th century buildings, one of which houses the Morguen Toole Company at 130 Center Street. I approached the main door of the beautifully restored building and found it locked. After a bit of looking around, I found a sign directing me to the Alley Entrance, which is indeed back an alley. Unfortunately, once inside I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. It looked like a service entrance with no indication of where the bar was. I did hear some music, so I followed the sound to where I found what appeared to be a dining room with a sign instructing me to wait to be seated, so I waited, and waited, and after waiting some more, I wandered into the bar where I found the first indication of life, a bartender. Yuengling was advertised as the special so that’s what I ordered, and since I was the only patron in the bar, it naturally arrived fairly quickly. The beer was $3 and served in a pint canning jar, a hackneyed idea that makes no sense to me, especially in an operation that is attempting to be upscale. I guess the ceramic mugs below the bar were just for show.

The rooms are quite impressive, cavernous and loaded with original architectural details such as stamped tin ceilings, brick walls and wooden floors. Exposed utilities alludes to the industrial history of the building. The bartender informed me the pub side of the building had been a tool company and the dining room side a morgue, hence the name Morguen Toole Company. A menu was presented and I was informed that as they were conducting cooking classes that evening, the items listed would be all that would be available. I really didn’t have a problem with the limited menu as I was interested in the wings, but I was put off by the fact that the menu was a simple computer print out with no effort to present it as anything other than an after thought. Every bar I’ve visited has made the effort to at the very least add some graphics or color. Even laminating the menu would have been better than a plain sheet of copy paper. The menu listed 10 wing choices, with the “wet” and “dry” listed separately. The names “sounded” more interesting than many restaurants, but there were no descriptions and the prices were steep for an advertised “special”. The cut (1 section) wings were listed at $4.49 for 6 and $7.99 for 12, and that’s without celery or dressings. I ordered 6 of a dry rub listed as Mojo and 6 of a wet Chipotle-Sangria. The wings arrived quickly and I dug into a Mojo. Whoa! The wings were so salty I could barely eat them, and they exhibited none of the flavors I would associate with Mojo. Mojo is a Cuban marinade or sauce for grilling (primarily pork) where the predominate flavors in most versions are garlic (lots), cumin and citrus (usually orange). I picked up none of these flavors, though admittedly, it was hard to get past the salt to discern what flavors were there. If the chef was attempting to do something other than a Cuban Mojo, a description on the menu would have alerted the diner to that fact. The Chipotle-Sangria wings were better, though not what I had expected given the name. Chipotle peppers are smoked Jalapeños and although there were some smoky notes in the sauce, there was no heat at all. Also, Sangria is red wine with oranges and lemons, but the sauce offered no hint of citrus. The wings themselves were also a problem. Although not overcooked to the point of turning the meat into jerky, they were very dry. They had none of the juiciness of the better wingsin other restaurants, and I suspect this was due to using IQF wings opposed to fresh. Overall, this was a very disappointing experience. The owners have put a lot of money into this operation and they are trying to be upscale, but their lack of attention to detail will likely doom them to failure. I would like to think the Yuengs and Wings night was an anomaly since they were holding cooking classes, but I would have to think twice about making a trip to Meyersdale again based on this experience.

THE RATING
Cooking: The wings were edible but dry, likely frozen. 4
Varieties: The 10 varieties showed imagination but there were no descriptions. 5

Value: $7.99 a dozen with no celery and dressing for cut wings with $3 pints? 3

Enjoyment: The great atmosphere couldn’t overcome the substandard wings at a high price. 3
OVERALL: 3.8
Morguen Toole Company on Urbanspoon

The Alley-Central City, PA-Wing Wars

The Alley, located on the historic Lincoln Highway at the intersection with Route 160, was the next battle scene of the Wing Wars.The Alley gets its name from the fact that the building originally housed a bowling alley, and although the lanes are long gone, the sports theme remains. The huge building houses numerous pool tables, game machines and one of the few golf simulators you’ll see in the area. The bar was fairly crowded, mostly with wing eaters, but I managed to find a seat between two lovely ladies named Wendy and Wanda. And no, they weren’t twins, nor had they met prior to that evening. With no Labatt on tap, I ordered a 20 ounce Yuengling for $3. The friendly bartender quickly brought the beer, but unfortunately it was served in a flimsy plastic cup. I was a bit puzzled as there were numerous glasses on the bar, including one in front of Wendy. The bartender was a bit vague as to why this was, but it boiled down to that they “were busy”. If a bar wants to serve in plastic, that is their option. However, they shouldn’t pick and choose who gets served glass and who gets plastic. The Alley-signAnyway, along with the beer I was given a menu and informed it was wing night. Wing night at The Alley means half off the menu price of wings. Since the regular price is $5 for 6 wings and $9 for 12, this made the price of 6 FULL wings $2.50! Celery sticks and dressing are available for 50 cents each. Another pleasant surprise is that they have no minimum order. You can order 1 wing (for 50 cents) or six different varieties to get the half-dozen price. From the 16 choices on the menu, I ordered 3 each of cayenne and Alley BBQ. The wings arrived quickly, and I dug in. The skin betrayed the fact that they had been “double dipped”, but not to the point of turning the meat into jerky. The sauces were both good, though not remarkable in any way. I would have expected more heat from the cayenne and the Alley BBQ had well-balanced sweet and sour but had no real depth of flavor. Over all, these were very good wings at a super price. Getting to Reels Corners is a bit of a drive for me, but I wouldn’t hesitate in the future for this wing night.

THE RATING

Cooking: Very well cooked even though they had been “double dipped”. 9

Varieties: 16 varieties is a bit above average and the descriptions are good for extra points. 7.5

Value: $2.50 for 6 full wings is fantastic. Adding another buck for veggies and dressing drops it a bit to “very good”. 9.5

Enjoyment: Over all, very good wings and great service. Lost points for the plastic cups though. 8

OVERALL: 8.6

The Alley on Urbanspoon

Wing Wars: Mel’s Restaurant, Somerset PA

Mel’s Restaurant and Bar was the site of the second battle of the Wing Wars. Make no mistake, Mel’s is a old timey BAR in the truest sense of the word. It’s dark, smoky, crowded (with wing eaters) and loud, but I’m here to eat wings, and frankly, I’m not interested in eating them from plates on a white table cloth. Wings are BAR food! Mel’s does not have wings on their regular menu, serving them on Mondays only from 5:00 PM until midnight, or until they run out. The service was quick, but not cloying, and I soon had a draft Yuengling in front of me for only $1.50. The hors d’oeuvre was warm pistachios from dispensers mounted right on the bar. (Did I mention this was an old timey bar?) The menu presented listed 17 varieties with good descriptions so I didn’t have to guess what “Creeps Peeps” were. Of note are the XXX wings. If you eat six of these, the next six are on the house and you get your picture on the wall. Since there are only about a dozen pictures posted, I assume they are quite hot. The menu also noted the wings are whole (not split), a fact not often listed on menus. The prices are very reasonable coming in at $3.95 per half dozen and $7.95 per dozen. There is no extra charge for veggies, but you do have to ask for them. The wings arrived surprisingly fast considering how many wing eaters were at the bar, and they were huge. I had ordered the “Texas” wings which were the standard “Buffalo” variety with the addition of chili powder. My first bite revealed a wing cooked as close to perfection as possible. The skin was crisp, the inside meat was still moist, and they were easy to pull apart. When wings are cooked this well it almost doesn’t matter what sauce you put on them. The “Texas” added just enough of a twist to the traditional “Buffalo” to make it interesting. I usually try more than one sauce, but the six I had were big enough that I didn’t feel I could get down another six. A further exploration of the menu will have to wait for a follow up trip, but I guarantee I’ll be back.

THE RATING

Cooking:I’m reluctant to give a perfect 10 to anything, but these were as close as you could get. 9.5

Varieties:17 varieties is a bit above average and the descriptions are good for extra points. 7

Value:Considering the size of these wings, $3.95 per half dozen with veggies included is a bargain. 9

Enjoyment:Not the kind of place that will make Better Homes and Gardens, but the awesome wings, good service, and cheap beer is good enough for me. 8.5

OVERALL: 8.5

 
Mel's Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Wing Wars:Rock City Cafe, Rockwood PA

Rock City Cafe-Rockwood PAThe opening battle of the Wing Wars began in the old railroad town of Rockwood, PA at the Rock City Cafe. This is a bar I hadn’t been to since it was Henry’s Cafe , pre 2006 and since many people had recommended it for the wings I decided to give it a shot. It was Wednesday, which is wing night at Rock City, and the number of people already chowing down at 5:30 promised a good result. The service was quick and friendly and I soon had a bottle of Labatt Blue sitting in front of me for the reasonable price of $2. There were 14 varieties of wings on the menu, about average for most bars. The server informed me the wings were split and that 6 was the minimum order. I had her pick two of the most popular varieties and I soon had in front of me one half-dozen each of Double Rub ‘N Butter and Sweet ‘n Hot. The wings were quite small and the first bite confirmed my suspicion that they had been “double-dipped”. In fact, they were probably the driest wings I have ever been served. The flavor of the Sweet ‘n Hot wings were passable, but lacked any depth of flavor. The Double Rub ‘N Butter were coated with the “rub” so thickly I had to brush it off to make them palatable. There was a quarter-inch of spices left in the tray when I was finished.

THE RATING

Cooking: The wings were clearly “double-dipped”, dry and chewy. 2

Varieties: 14 varieties is about average. Although there was more than the standard Buffalo, there was nothing that really caught my eye. 5

Value: The regular menu price is 60 cents and they are discounted to 50 cents on wing nights. You have to pay $1 extra for celery and dressing. 4

Enjoyment: Pleasant atmosphere and servers, but lost points for the game shows on the TV. 5

OVERALL: 4
Rock City Cafe' on Urbanspoon