Summit Diner-Somerset PA

Summit Diner sign-Somerset PAHaving traveled all over the country, I can tell you from experience that the best place to find examples of true regional cuisine is in local diners. My first taste of Linguiça, country ham and grits all occurred in diners. Haute cuisine palaces give lip service to regional specialties, but usually they are introduced only as one ingredient in a chef’s “creation” or to provide “inspiration” for some fancy dish. True regional cuisine is found in the humble homes and diners of middle America and not in cities and fine dining restaurants.

One such regional specialty in Pennsylvania is scrapple. Born of the frugality of the Pennsylvania Dutch, scrapple is made by cooking down all of the “scraps” of pork after butchering and adding cornmeal (and often other starches) along with seasonings. The thickened mixture is poured into loaf pans, chilled ,and then sliced and fried. It is generally served with maple syrup or as a side dish for eggs, to be mixed with the yolks.

The Summit Diner, located in Somerset, is one of the few restaurants still serving scrapple. This classic stainless steel diner has been a fixture in Somerset for over 50 years and is still THE place for breakfast and, of course, scrapple. A recent renovation has transformed the diner’s original western décor with a harder edged black and stainless steel theme. Murals add the the ’50’s flavor of the diner and the servers even sport duds which echo the ’50’s theme. In the summer months the diner even hosts a monthly car cruise.

On my most recent visit I ordered the $4.99 breakfast special which included two eggs (over easy), home fries, sausage, and toast. I also ordered a side of scrapple and a tomato juice. The juice arrived almost immediately and was served in a Coca-Cola float glass that must have held nearly 12 ounces, and cost only $1.99. I could barely finish it. The rest of the meal came out soon after and I was not disappointed. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the home fries were made from fresh potatoes with the skin on. The potatoes were nicely crisped but could have been better seasoned. The sausage was especially good. The menu stated the sausage was freshly ground every morning and I have no reason to doubt them. The hand formed pattys were nicely browned and were a far cry from the frozen machine formed patties you find in most other restaurants. I was a bit disappointed in the scrapple but not overly so. The three slices were very thin and were just heated through with no crispness. The cook apparently doesn’t know to flour the slices before frying to achieve a nice crust on them. They should also cut the scrapple thicker. I would rather have two thicker slices as opposed to three thinner ones. Although the scrapple could have been better, for $2.69 I was happy with it. Whether you’re a fan of scrapple or not, the Summit Diner is a great place for breakfast.

Summit Diner on Urbanspoon

Wing Wars: Baileys Circle 219

Despite hearing numerous bad reports about Bailey’s Circle 219, I decided to check out their wing night, which had been advertised for Tuesdays. I arrived about 4:45 to find the restaurant closed. The only signs visible were a For Sale sign out front and the original Circle 219 sign was laying in the weeds behind the restaurant. They didn’t even have hours listed on the door, so naturally I assumed Bailey’s had gone out of business and I headed off to another bar. A short time later, I was driving by Bailey’s again and noticed a car in the lot and a lighted beer sign in the window, so I stopped. They were open, but barely, with only one other patron at the bar. The tap head in front of me had no handles on it and the bartender confirmed that they indeed had no draft beer. I opted for a Labatt Blue in a bottle and requested menu. The ratty single sheet of paper arrived and I was informed they were offering only a limited menu that evening and that although it was wing night, they had no wings. Since it appeared the highlight of my evening would be the rubber ducks in the vintage Crane urinal, I declined to order and simply left. As a rule, I rarely return to a restaurant after a bad experience, but in this case I had a feeling the trip may have been an anomaly. I arrived for the second attempt at about 6:30 PM the following Tuesday, and again there was only one other customer in the bar. This time the bartender was the owner, so I anticipated a better experience. There was still no draft beer, so once again I settled for a bottle of Labatt Blue. I also noticed they were once again using bagged ice, so we have a bar here with no draft beer and no ice machine. Instead of the pleasant smell of food cooking, I was assaulted by the overpowering scent of Lysol. The owner spent the entire time smoking cigarettes and talking to the lone customer in the bar, and having her back turned to me, never noticed when I drained my first beer.Baileys 219 sign I’m not a smoking Nazi, but it’s considered bad food handling practice for a server to smoke or eat while working. I requested a menu and once again received a single ratty computer generated sheet, although this time it was larger. The wings were available this time and I was informed that on wing nights there was no minimum order required. I wasn’t very hungry, so I ordered three Butter & Old Bay and three Sweet & Hot, passing on the included veggies. It turns out the owner was also the cook, so she disappeared into the kitchen to prepare the wings. I was thankful I had received another beer before she left so that I wasn’t sitting there with nothing while she was gone. The wings arrived in a reasonable amount of time and I started on the Old Bay first. The single section wings were badly overcooked and reeked of stale oil, but the seasoning was surprisingly good. Most of the dry rub wings I’ve had in other restaurants were nearly inedible due to an over abundance of seasoning, but these were properly seasoned. The Sweet & Hot sauce was even better, with a depth of flavor rare in wing sauces. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the ingredient which gave it the depth but it brought to mind Bourbon. I would love to eat this sauce on a properly cooked wing as it was easily one of the best I’ve eaten. This bar appears to be on its last legs, so I suggest calling ahead if you’re planning on visiting to make sure they’re still in business. However, you’ll have a better experience at just about any other bar in the area.

THE RATING

Cooking:The wings were over cooked and tasted of stale oil. 3

Varieties:14 varieties is above average and the 2 I ate were quite good. 7

Value:$.50 each with veggies and dressing is a decent price but not great, especially considering the quality of the wings. 5

Enjoyment:Lysol smell, no draft beer, sitcoms on TV and poorly cooked wings doesn’t make for a great evening. 3

OVERALL: 4.5

 

NOTE: Bailey’s Circle is now permanently closed for business.
Bailey's Circle on Urbanspoon

Wing Wars: Bull’s Tavern, Ligonier PA

One of the joys of bar hopping is discovering how some bars have developed a personality over time and others seem souless regardless of how long they have been in business. The most recent site of the Wing Wars was happily an example of the former.

Bull's Tavern, Ligonier PAThursday evening found me at Bull’s Tavern, located on the historic Lincoln Highway in Ligonier. Bull’s is a small bar, but they manage to pack a lot into the space, including a pool table, dart machine, a couple of other game machines and three flat screen TVs. I’d be willing to bet this tiny bar has more square inches of TV screen per customer in the area, making it a great place to watch sports. There clearly is not a bad seat in the house. In addition to the usual beer signs, the walls are covered with loads of photos and memorabilia giving the interior a clubby atmosphere with its own unique history. I even spied an old metal Kennywood sign, the likes of which I haven’t seen for a while. I took a seat at the bar and was immediately greeted by the bartender and the customers, making me feel almost like a regular. Nothing fancy on the beer front so I settled on a draft Yeungling served in a pint canning jar. I’m not a big fan of canning jars as beer glasses, however they fit in at Bull’s better than in upscale bars who try the same idea. A large white board announced the wing special so I didn’t request a menu. The bartender explained the wings were 35 cents each with a minimum order of ten but I could split the order to get two different sauces. He aptly described the five sauces available and I ordered five Buffalo and five Sweet and Hot. The wings arrived quickly and I started on the Buffalo first. They were perfectly cooked, being crisp on the outside and moist on the inside and the sauce was rich and buttery, as you would expect from a traditional Buffalo sauce recipe. There was no breaking of the sauce that I have found in some other bars. The Sweet and Hot were a bit more mild than I would prefer, but still had a good flavor and a nice balance of sweet to sour. I had declined the veggies and dressing and not having read a menu I’m not sure if they charge extra for them or if they were included. Overall, a very solid experience and I’d certainly go back again. Bull’s looks like a great place to catch a Steeler’s game.

THE RATING

Cooking: Crisp outside and moist inside. 8

Varieties: Only five choices, but the two I ate were great. 5

Value: $3.50 for ten cut wings is pretty good considering the quality. 6

Enjoyment:Authentic sports bar atmosphere with personable staff and customers. 8

OVERALL: 6.8

NOTE: Bull’s Tavern has closed.
Bull's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wing Wars:Falls City Pub, Ohiopyle PA


Monday last found me in the Youghiogheny River town of Ohiopyle. Long known as a summer hotspot for outdoor sports including white water rafting, bicycling, and hiking, it had also been known as a desert for food and libations. Happily this situation changed in 2002 with the opening of Falls City Restaurant and Pub. Falls City signTucked behind Wilderness Voyageurs Outfitters Store on Garrett Street, Falls City is located in a building which could have been constructed as a commercial garage. It’s a bit cavernous and loud and is appointed in a style that could best be described as “Early River Rat”. Grabbing a seat at the bar, I noticed that premium and craft beers were well represented. I ordered the first ale I spied on the draft rail (the name of which escapes me) and it turned out to be a rather unremarkable brew. But even more disappointing was that it was served in a plastic cup. Glancing through the regular menu I found it more ambitious than I would have expected, but I was here for the wings and concentrated on that menu. It was a single sheet with 17 varieties listed, but with no descriptions. Luckily most were self explanatory and at least they went to the trouble to encase it in plastic. The wings were sold only by the dozen and no splitting of varieties was allowed. I followed the recommendation of the gregarious and efficient bartender and ordered the Hot BBQ Garlic. Just before the wings arrived my ale was drained and the bartender recommend a different one, stating it was great with wings. Wow! A bartender that can recommend beer with wings? lagunitas_logoThe brew turned out to be Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale from the Lagunitas Brewing Company, a double India Pale Ale and this time it was served in a glass. The ale had a huge citrusy nose with some under notes of pine and finished long and clean with only a touch of the bitterness that some IPA’s exhibit. The wings arrived and indeed the ale was a great match. They were single section wings but were large and meaty, leading me to believe they were not the frozen product many restaurants resort to. The cooking was pretty good, with the insides being juicy, but the skin could have been a bit crisper. Celery, carrots and dressing were included in the $5 price, but having the veggies on the bottom of a pile of hot wings is never a good idea. The BBQ sauce appeared to be a commercial product (a suspicion the cook confirmed), but was doctored enough not to be as cloying as most commercial sauces. Interior of Falls City PubThere was a nice balance of sweet to sour with enough smoke to give it a nice aroma. It lived up to the “hot” part of the description and was just right for me, but I suspect some might find it a bit too hot. Another IPA finished off the meal nicely by being a good palate cleanser. The bill arrived, but unfortunately it was not itemized so I can’t report on precise prices of the ales. They averaged out to about $4 which isn’t too bad for a premium craft beer. Overall it was an enjoyable excursion and seeing some of the other food that came out of the kitchen leads me to believe a more complete review is in order.

THE RATING
Cooking: Pretty well cooked but the skin should have been crisper. 7
Varieties: 17 varieties is above average but I always like seeing descriptions 6

Value: $5 per dozen for cut wings isn’t bad when it includes veggies and dressing, but can’t compete with other “wing nights” in the area 7

Enjoyment: Decent wings, friendly and knowledgeable service and fantastic beers makes for a nice evening. Lost points for the plastic cups though. 7
OVERALL: 6.8

Falls City Pub on Urbanspoon

Wing Wars:The Main Event Sports Bar-Donegal PA

Located a bit over 1 mile west of the Donegal exit of the turnpike, The Main Event Sports Bar resides in a building that for many years was The Ponderosa Bar. A complete renovation has cleaned up what was previously a dive, but did so in a manner that was totally nondescript and lacking in character. The décor turned out to foreshadow perfectly the evening.

Main Event Sports Bar signI started the Thursday Wing & Karaoke Night with a draft Newcastle Brown Ale at $4 which was even served in a Newcastle glass. Newcastle is a hugely successful brewer from England and their product is widely available. It’s an OK example of a brown ale but lacks the nuttiness in the nose and finish you’d expect from a brown ale. The menu listed 19 varieties of wings but with no descriptions. The minimum order is six and were priced at $.45 each for wing night down from the $3.75 per six regularly. Veggies and dressing is $.75 extra. I can’t explain why the wings are priced by the piece but that you are required to buy six. Why not just say they’re $2.70 for six? After being informed the wings were single section, I ordered six “Buffalo” and six “Sweet ‘n Sassy”. They arrived quickly, served in two separate baskets, along with a plate for the bones and wet wipes. I could tell right away they were likely IQF (individually quick frozen), an impression that was confirmed with the first bite. They were cooked OK for a frozen wing but lacked juiciness and were not very meaty. The “Sweet ‘n Sassy” sauce appeared to be simply Thai Chili Sauce straight from the bottle. If it wasn’t, I’d like to get the recipe from the cook as it’s a great knock off. Without menu descriptions I wasn’t quite sure what the difference was between the “Buffalo” sauce and the other “Hot” sauces on the menu. I suspect it was the addition of butter (or butter substitute), although I’ve always made all of my “Hot” sauces with butter. There was nothing wrong with either of the sauces I ate but like everything else I experienced they were just OK.

I get the feeling the management has lost their passion for the business and have simply given up. Surfing the internet, I noticed they used to have a website but no longer do. They had also previously used Twitter but haven’t for nearly two years. One thing they will learn the hard way is that if management isn’t excited about their own restaurant the public won’t be either.

THE RATING

Cooking: Cooked decently but IQF wings are never great. 5

Varieties: 19 varieties is above average but nothing exciting and there were no descriptions 6

Value: OK price at $2.70 per six but the wings need to be better to get a good value rating 5.5

Enjoyment: Everything was just OK. They should just rename it the OK Corral. 5.5

OVERALL: 5.5

Main Event Sports Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Out of the Fire and Into the…?

Having long heard of Out of the Fire Cafe in Donegal, I decided an extensive review was in order. Their proximity to Seven Springs Resort seemed to position them as an off resort dining alternative, and I had planned to make several visits to thoroughly check them out. My thought now is that one visit will be quite enough.

The restaurant is housed in a large lodge like building which sits a bit off Route 31 in Donegal and can be a little hard to find if you’re not sharp-eyed. The renovation resulted in a dining room that is sophisticated and a bit rustic. I arrived at 5:00 (opening time) on a Sunday and the restaurant was already filling up. A seat at the counter of the semi open kitchen afforded me a view of the back scenes action. The restaurant is BYOB, and not having planned ahead by purchasing a bottle of wine, I settled for a Labatt Blue which I just happened to have in my car. The menu is not huge and seafood is well represented, as you would expect from a restaurant that bills itself as Fresh Fish Fine Dining. Since this was planned as a multi visit review, I decided to graze on several appetizers for my meal, figuring this would give a nice overview of several dishes.

First up was the Hummus Tasting ($10), three different hummus recipes served with warm Herb & Manchego Flat-bread and a Greek cucumber salad. The standout of the trio was the Roasted Garlic, Basil & Artichoke Hummus. The roasted garlic gave the hummus a richer, deeper flavor than the usual raw garlic version. The flat-bread was served properly warm and the herb oil it was brushed with had a nice nose of basil. However, the manchengo seemed missing in action and the salad was totally flat unless a good chunk of feta or one of the Kalamata olives was in the bite.

House Smoked Salmon Platter ($13) was served next. The salmon was perfectly smoked but I was puzzled by the glaze. It appeared to be Balsamic but it was lacking in acid and aroma and instead just came across as a nondescript syrup. If indeed it was supposed to be a Balsamic reduction, perhaps it was due to using a commercial product that I spied in the kitchen as opposed to making it themselves from a high quality vinegar. The salmon was served with a crispy flat-bread, haphazardly cut chunks of pineapple, sliced strawberries, strips of sun-dried tomatoes, and a creamy dill sauce. I failed to see the logic of the sun-dried tomatoes and the fruit was pedestrian. The dill sauce was marginally successful in providing some needed acid for the salmon, but it lacked any herbal note, possibly due to using dried dill. If it had been prepared with fresh it probably sat too long as there was no brightness in the sauce at all.

The final appetizer was Seared Sea Scallops ($10) with Ginger Infused Bamboo Rice, Spicy Pickled Carrot Salad, Sweet Thai Chili & Mandarin Glaze. The sea scallops were perfectly seared and seasoned and were served on a lump of glutinous rice. I’ve never understood the fascination some chefs have with sticky rice. In my opinion, its major virtue is that it can be molded into shapes. It has none of the perfume of Basmati or Jasmine rice unless you add flavor to it, and in this case I failed to detect the “infusion” of ginger which would have accomplished that goal. The Spicy Pickled Carrot Salad was insipid and could not be called “spicy” in any sense of the word. The Thai Chili was a bottled preparation available off the shelf and the Mandarin Glaze appeared to be the same basil heavy herbed oil which brushed the flat-bread served with the hummus.

I was seated next to a nice older couple from Chicago and observed their meals also. The Seared Sea Scallops & Jumbo Lump Crab Angel Hair Pasta looked palatable but appeared pretty light on the promised yellow and green squashes, and the roasted tomatoes. The gentleman did seem to enjoy it though. The lady was served the Pan Roasted Jumbo Lump Crab Cake which appears on the appetizer menu. I swear, I have never seen a more monochromatic dish served in my entire life. Picture a brown, spherical crab cake served on a brown roasted corn puree surround by brown spherical sweet potato hush puppies. Simply unbelievable!

Additional observations left me even more disillusioned with this restaurant than the food I had already been served. For example, I noticed even though they have white tablecloths, they top them with paper! If a restaurant can’t afford to replace a tablecloth between turns they might as well dispense with them altogether. It reminds me of covering the “good” couch with plastic slip covers. It was also disturbing to see the grill cook using the same holding rack for seafood as he used for meat. Even forgetting the potential for cross contamination, there is no way the lamb rack won’t pick up a hint of fishy odor through the course of the evening when placed in the same spot as raw fish. Another health code violation is the handling of raw food with bare hands unless it will then be cooked. Personally I’ve never been a stickler for this rule, but it is pretty stupid to do it in an open kitchen in front of customers. One of the more popular dishes leaving the kitchen that evening was the Grilled Crab Stuffed Maine Lobster Tail. No amount of micro greens, chutneys or whatever could disguise the fact that this was simply a frozen rock lobster tail filled with crab cake mixture, a “dish” you can find in a mediocre seafood house in the country. I’d be embarrassed to put this on the menu of a restaurant that bills itself as Fresh Fish Fine Dining.

One further incident reinforced my decision never to return to this restaurant and it concerns the subject of corkage fees. Corkage fees were originally designed for customers who wished to bring a special bottle of their own wine into a restaurant which served wine. The restaurant would charge a fee partly to make up for the lost revenue and partly as a charge for the labor involved in serving the wine, providing glasses, etc. I was discussing this issue with the gentleman sitting next to me and I made the point that I thought it was “cheap” of Out of the Fire to charge me the $2 corkage fee for my beer when they had provided no glasses or ice in “service” for that fee. I was not complaining, simply observing that after spending $33 on food, the additional $2 for “allowing” me to drink my beer was a little “cheap” Unfortunately the saute cook had to mutter under his breath “Yeah, it’s cheap”. I don’t know if he was agreeing with me or if his meaning was that it’s only $2. To me, it doesn’t matter. If he was agreeing with me he should be reprimanded for bad mouthing his place of employment. If he disagreed he should have remained silent. Either way, it’s highly unprofessional for an employee to interject a comment into the conversation of the patrons. Overall, this is one more restaurant in a long list which aims too high and misses by a wide mark.

Out Of The Fire Cafe on Urbanspoon

Impromtu Rainbow Trout

Planning the perfect meal is half the fun of cooking. Finding a recipe, shopping for the best ingredients and choosing a wine is to me as enjoyable as the meal itself. However, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of meticulous pre planning and must improvise. Yesterday was a case in point. While at work, my friend Jim brought me two beautiful freshly caught Rainbow Trout of about twelve inches in length. Normally I would have taken the trout home, planned the meal and prepared them the next day. However, I had plans for dinner the next evening (review to follow) and  since there was no way I would let those trout sit more than 24 hours (or freeze them) I decided to prepare them with the ingredients I had on hand. Unfortunately, the pantry was pretty bare and I had none of the items you would initially think of when preparing a mild fish, as for instance fresh herbs and lemon. What follows is the result.

 

Impromptu Trout

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 Rainbow Trout
  • 6 Scallions
  • 2 TBS Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Orange
  • 2 tsp Herbed red wine vinegar*
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Gut and clean the trout, leaving the head and tail on. Wipe dry.
  3. Clean scallions, mincing about 2 TBS of the green tops, leaving the remainder whole.
  4. Cut 6 half circles of the orange, reserving the remainder.
  5. Squeeze the juice from the remaining orange sections into the cavities of the trout.
  6. Place the minced scallions and orange slices in the fish cavities.
  7. Coat the trout on all sides with the olive oil and place on a bed of the reserved scallions on a baking sheet.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Bake the fish according to the Canadian Cooking Method**, 10 minutes per inch of fish thickness, measured at the thickest part of the fish.
  10. Sprinkle the fish with the seasoned vinegar and serve.

 

 

 

* The herbed red wine vinegar is one I make myself. It is flavored with orange peel, garlic, fresh rosemary, black peppercorns and hot peppers. I will post the recipe or the version I make is available for sale at Route 31 Bike, Board & Ski, Somerset, PA.

 

** After 35 years in the restaurant business, I rarely time my cooking, rather I cook “till it’s done”. However, the Canadian Cooking Method is very reliable and I often use it in recipes or when I cook whole fish. In 1959 the Canadian Department of Marine Fisheries started publication of the Canadian Fish Cookbook, a mostly forgettable tome except for the technical aspects of cooking fish. James Beard, a veritable god in culinary circles, often quoted the book and he brought the method to my attention through his writings. The method is simple. Measure the fish at it’s thickest part and calculate 10 minutes of cooking time per inch of thickness. Calculate exactly, neither rounding up or down. For example, a fish 1 ¾ inches thick will take 17 ½ minutes to cook. It doesn’t matter if the fish is baked, broiled, fried, or whatever. It will take 10 minutes per inch to cook it perfectly. Naturally, if you’re cooking a thicker piece of fish (½ “ or larger) and the heat source is from one side (broil or grill) the fish should be turned half way through the cooking time.

 

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

 
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