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Highwaters Grill, Mill Run PA

Low Tide at Highwaters Grill

Highwaters Grill, located on Mill Run Road (RT 381) between Mill Run and Ohiopyle would appear to be a winning concept. Casual barbecue located a few miles from one of the highest volume rafting rivers in the country seems like it should be a sure bet, but the only winners here are the owners at the expense of the customers. My first stop at this restaurant was for some quick take out on my way home one evening from Falls City Pub. The menu was a rather confusing chalkboard located to the side of the ordering window. I ordered a half rack of ribs ($12.50) and was informed that a choice of two sides were included. When I inquired what sides were available, I was told rather rudely to “look at the menu”. Now, if there were a dozen sides offered or if there were other people in line waiting to place orders, I could understand a bit of impatience on the part of the employee. However, only five sides were listed and there was no one else waiting. Menu at Highwaters Grill, Mill Run PAWould it really be too much to expect the girl to simply say “corn, slaw, fries, onion rings, or beans”? Anyway, the order arrived in a flash and I was off to home with the ribs, corn on the cob and cole slaw. The ribs were slathered with a nondescript commercial sauce, the brand of which I couldn’t identify. The ribs appeared to cooked okay, but were oddly lacking in taste. I thought at the time perhaps they were simply overpowered by the sauce. The corn was fresh and sweet, but I found the slaw to be as tasteless as the ribs. I was willing to cut some slack on the slaw as it had sat in a box with the ribs and had warmed up. I wasn’t happy with the meal, but it wasn’t so bad that I wasn’t willing to give them another shot. About a week later I made another trip down the mountain, arriving shortly after 6:00 PM. There was a server there, but she was busy talking to a table of friends. When she finally acknowledged me, I was informed that since “no one was in town”, no food was available, only ice cream. Needless to say, I wasn’t overly thrilled with this turn of events. I made one last attempt several weeks later, this time ordering the Combo which is a ½ rack of ribs with ½ a chicken at $22.50. For those of you a bit slow with math, that means they’re charging $10 to add ½ a chicken to the rib dinner! And this from a “restaurant” that is basically self-service. I ordered the meal sans sauce, so that I could taste the meat and took a seat on the deck where I noticed they were giving away draft beer, hence the “free Solo cup” on the sign out front. BBQ sauce at Highwaters GrillI also spotted the 5 gallon buckets of BBQ sauce, so the brand they used was no longer a mystery. My meal soon arrived, and naturally it was covered in the Ken’s Sauce, so I had to send it back. The corrected order arrived promptly and before even tasting it I could tell there were problems. It was clear from just looking that both the ribs and chicken had been cooked hours earlier and had been held in an overly moist environment. The ribs had been grilled off first, but the holding had completely robbed them of any residual crispness the charring had provided. Upon tasting them, it seemed as if they had been held in water as they were soggy and tasteless. If they had been rubbed or marinated, it was no longer apparent as all the flavor had leached out. In addition, the membrane had not been removed from the ribs. This is a mistake I can often live with, but in this case since the ribs had been charred, the membrane split and left unappetizing blackened shreds on the underside of the meat. The chicken was as tasteless as the ribs and also was totally lacking in crispness, which was a shame as I could tell that at one point it had been properly cooked. Both the ribs and chicken were barely warm, leading me to question how they were held prior to service. The slaw was as bland as the first time I tasted it and the beans appeared to be straight from a can. After taking only one bite of each item, I simply got up and left. I honestly cannot think of a single positive thing to say about this meal, and at $22.50 it is clear the customer is being taken. The best BBQ joint I know, Big Mike’s in Smithfield, charges $15.99 for the same meal, and at Mike’s it’s REAL BBQ. I really cannot even imagine a sorrier excuse for BBQ than what is served at Highwaters Grill.
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Berkey-2

The Venerable Berkey Creamery

Penn State University has certainly had more than their share of scandal lately. However, it is important to remember that for every Michael Mann or Jerry Sandusky there are hundreds of dedicated alumni who fill the world with good deeds. Two of these are the late Jeanne and Earl Berkey, formerly of Somerset, PA. In addition to their local works such as Laurel Arts, the Berkeys are perhaps best known for their $3M gift to PSU to aid in construction of the Penn State Food Sciences building which houses the famous Berkey Creamery. Previously known as the State College Creamery, it is the largest university creamery in the nation. The Creamery’s Ice Cream Short Course, first offered in 1892, has instructed generations of ice cream makers, including both Earl and Jeanne Berkey and a couple of obscure guys from Vermont known as Ben and Jerry. 4.5 million pounds of milk pass through the stainless steel tanks at the creamery and are turned into processed milk, cheeses and of course ice cream. The ice creamed produced here is of premium quality, with a butterfat content of 14.1%. All ice cream must have at least 10% butterfat and super premiums like Ben and Jerry’s can reach 16%. Berkey CreameryThe butterfat is what gives the ice cream it’s richness and mouth feel. On my recent visit, I naturally had the Paterno Peach, named of course after Jo Pa. The ice cream had the richness and mouth feel one would expect from a premium product. The chunks of peaches had enough acidity to keep the ice cream from being cloying. I was tempted to order a second cone, but my waist line forbid me from doing so. Keep in mind, it’s tradition that you cannot order two different flavors on one cone, a rule that has been broken only once, and that by a President of the United States, Bill Clinton. The ice cream can also be purchased in half gallons, packaged appropriately in plain blue and white containers reminiscent of the spartan uniforms worn by the football tem. The store can assist in packaging the ice cream for take home, even supplying dry ice to keep it frozen. I opted instead for several packages of cheese curd for the trip home, thinking it a better match for my Labatt. For the uninitiated, cheese curds are the solid part of curdled milk which is the first step in the cheese making process. They are milder and softer than the cheese which it would become if pressed and aged. The store also sells a limited selection of sandwiches and snacks if you’re not in an ice cream mood. If you visit State College the Berkey Creamery is a must stop, but if you go on game days be prepared for a long wait as they sell several thousand cones on these days.
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Breakfast at Befdord Diner

Bedford Diner, Bedford PA


My recent PSU road trip brought me through Bedford, PA and to the Bedford Diner for breakfast. They are located on Route 222 just off of the Bedford exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and are easy to spot due to the huge sign out front and equally huge letters on the building itself. Bedford Diner, Bedford PAAlthough the building is not of typical diner construction, the interior layout is, having counter seats, booths and lots of stainless steel. White boards above the back counter advertise the daily specials, most of which are “all you can eat” and feature local favorites like ham pot pie. The breakfast menu is a bit larger than most as evidenced by the four varieties of pancakes served. I spotted country ham on the menu and had hope that since the menu also offered a ham steak I might have actually found a restaurant with the real thing. I ordered it along with eggs over easy, home fries, and toast ($6.95) accompanied by a side of scrapple ($1.60). Alas, the restaurant was out of country ham, so I must continue my search for the real deal. I settled for sausage, lowering the price of the meal to $4.95. While waiting for the breakfast, I scoped out the array baked goods, all of which appeared to be house baked as advertised. The pie safe didn’t contain those impossibly high meringue pies traditional in diners, but there were numerous other pies along with some huge cakes garnished with fresh fruit. My meal soon arrived and I was immediately struck by the scrapple which was a massive, thick slab that had been deep-fried. I’d heard of deep-fried scrapple before but this my first experience of eating it. I found it surprisingly good. The outside was very crisp and it was cut thick enough that the inside remained moist and creamy. The rest of the breakfast was not quite as successful. The sausage had a good flavor, but it had been cooked ahead and it had dried out from the holding. I had ordered the eggs over easy, but they arrived medium and were on their way to hard. The potatoes, although fresh, were cut so thin they fell apart into tiny pieces. Overall this was not a bad breakfast, but they clearly need more attention to detail. Cooking an egg properly is a basic skill that no diner can neglect.
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Eggs Benedict at Kitchen on Main

Revival of Brunch at the Kitchen on Main

There was a time when the term brunch had a completely different meaning than it does today. If you go to a restaurant advertising brunch now, what you expect is a pig-out buffet which just happens to have a few pedestrian breakfast items offered in addition to the standard offerings. Previously brunch consisted of an á la carte selection of elegant egg dishes typified by the classic Eggs Benedict, and accompanied by libations such as Bloody Marys and Mimosas. This traditional version of brunch is getting harder to find, but a new restaurant in Ligonier has stepped up to fill the void. Kitchen on Main is savvy enough to use the term breakfast as opposed to brunch, eliminating the endless questions from confused patrons such as;”Where’s the buffet?” In addition to breakfast, Kitchen on Main also serves lunch, but it’s the egg dishes that makes the trip to Ligonier worthwhile. The restaurant has an open kitchen design, so I selected a seat at the counter where I could check out the action. Like their sister restaurant Out of the Fire Cafe, Kitchen on Main is a BYOB establishment.Bloody Marys at Kitchen on Main BYOB at Kitchen on Main means Build Your Own Bloody ($4), as they offer tomato juice and the ingredients to make your own Bloody Mary, or in my case a Ruddy Mary (made with Boodles Gin). The menu and Bloody Mary “fixin’s” were swiftly delivered by a friendly server and I immediately decided on the traditional Eggs Benedict ($10) from the four Benedicts offered. In addition, the menu lists several omelets, egg tacos ($11) and a smoked salmon hash ($11), which is made from the salmon smoked at Out of the Fire Cafe. The diner can also order standard breakfast items such as eggs, waffles and pancakes along with a few items for kids age 10 and under. My Eggs Benedict arrived in a flash due to the old restaurant trick of pre-poaching the eggs and then re-heating them to order. This process may sound strange to the home cook, but it is really the best method for volume cooking poached eggs. The supremely fresh eggs were perfectly poached and sat atop what was billed as country ham, but sadly was not. This is the second restaurant I’ve eaten in this month that appears to be unaware that country ham refers to a specific type of ham which is cured and has a distinctive taste. I was a bit disappointed, but the ham served was quite good and in no way detracted from the dish. The English muffin, which the eggs and ham were perched on, was clearly fresh-baked and instead of the usual toasting, it was browned on a griddle, giving a nice buttery crust. The Hollandaise sauce was nearly perfect, needing only a bit more lemon juice to make it so. The consistency of the sauce was perfect and it exhibited no signs of breaking. The Benedict was accompanied by “homefries”, a moniker which seems inadequate to describe what was served. These “homefries” were perfect, tiny rounds of fingerling potatoes fried with fresh sweet red peppers and onions, and were easily the best potatoes I’ve eaten for breakfast in this area. I think a different name should appear on the menu so the diner doesn’t assume they are getting what other restaurants call “homefries”. I finished my meal and was sorely tempted by the freshly baked Pecan Sticky Buns ($4 for 6) which had been staring at me all morning, but I didn’t think they would go well with the horseradish laden Ruddy Mary I was still working on. A few reviewers have suggested Kitchen on Main is over priced, but to make that statement a diner would have to be totally unaware of what they were eating. This was easily the best breakfast (or brunch) I’ve eaten in years and the 20 mile drive to Ligonier will pose no barrier to many return trips.
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Darlington1

Darlington Inn-Like the Loss of a Lover

When a restaurant experience goes bad a wide range of emotions can ensue. In my case it is generally anger or in some cases simply resignation. Rarely though have I felt the sense of sadness or loss as I did last night at the Darlington Inn in Ligonier. It was almost painful, akin to the loss of a lover. The Darlington Inn is one of those restaurants that has the reputation of being obscure and special. It is owned by a Hungarian expatriate who serves the food of her native Hungary and nearby Transylvania, cuisine rarely seen in a restaurant setting in this day and age. The restaurant is in a quirky, Italian villa like building on a quiet road behind Idlewild Park. It’s not easy to find, but at least the online map services were accurate in their directions. I entered the restaurant and took a seat at the bar between a large television playing “soft rock” and two rolls of toilet paper sitting on the bar. The toilet paper was bad enough, but George Michael and Wham! Is not my idea of “setting the mood” for a dining experience. It appeared there was no bartender on duty and the two servers (who were also manning the bar ) were running around in a frenzy, leading to a 15 minute wait before I was even recognized. When I say it “appeared” there was no bartender on duty I meant there was no one stationed there. There was one bozo in shorts and tee-shirt who several times went behind the bar and got drinks for himself or other patrons, but since he spent all of his time schmoozing I couldn’t tell if he was an employee or not. The Darlington serves a buffet on Saturday nights, so when I finally received service I went with that option in order to sample several of the dishes which also appeared on the regular menu. The chafing dishes at the buffet were nearly empty, but for the most part the food looked good and I managed to scrounge enough to fill a plate. When I say “for the most part”, there were a few exceptions. The salad was nothing but browned iceberg lettuce with one unlabeled squeeze bottle of what I assumed to be dressing beside it. In addition, the vegetables were clearly a frozen commercial “blend”, a shortcut that surprised me given the “home made” character of the rest of the meal. I returned to my seat to find the server had never brought me any silverware, so I waited another 5 minutes or so until I managed to flag her down to rectify that issue. As I had passed on the brown iceberg, I started my meal with a beet-sauerkraut salad. This version appeared to have been prepared with shredded beets, although I’m not sure as it was a bit dark in my corner of the bar. Regardless, it was quite good although it would have been more refreshing if served a bit colder. I next sampled a roast pork loin with sauerkraut. Personally, I wouldn’t have used a loin for this dish as it’s too lean, but the chef timed this roast perfectly which avoided the dryness a loin usually exhibits. Töltött Káposzta, or stuffed cabbage in sauerkraut, was next and it was also well prepared. My only complaint with the three dish I had tried so far was that I felt the kraut could have been a bit sharper, a result I suppose of not using a fresh product. The Hungarian Beef stew I sampled next had that great flavor of a good paprika, but like the pork, the cut of beef used was not the best choice. It was much too lean and as a result, the beef was dry. Csirke Paprikás, or Chicken Paprikas, was the only dish I was disappointed in. Although the sauce was flavorful, the chicken was improperly browned, leading to a flabby, undercooked skin. The side dishes for these entrees were mashed potatoes and spätzle, both of which were excellent. The potatoes were clearly made from scratch and were flavorful and of the proper consistency (i.e. Not over whipped). I’m not certain the Hungarians use the term spätzle as do the Swabians, but these little dumplings were prepared and cooked to perfection. This was an absolutely great meal, especially considering the price of $12.95, but it was completely ruined by the incompetence of the front of the house management. Darlington Inn, Ligonier PAThe sadness I referred to comes from this contradiction. To have the hard work of a talented chef go to waste is truly sad. It’s a lot like being in love with a woman you simply cannot get along with. At some point you simply have to walk away, which is exactly what I’ve done with this restaurant, leaving the two rolls of toilet paper still sitting on the bar.
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Lone Start Restaurant sign

Lone Star Restaurant: Classic Diner Food

On several recent research trips to the National Road, I have found myself eating at the Lone Star Restaurant. Located in Markleysburg Pennsylvania, this Lone Star was founded 65 years before the better known chain which bears the same moniker, and is more in the mold of a diner than a steakhouse. I first stopped in for breakfast in the middle of the week and was a bit concerned that there were only two other patrons seated. I prayed the lack of business wasn’t a reflection on the quality of food or service. A menu was presented and I immediately noticed country ham was listed, which is a bit unusual to see this far north. Not having enjoyed that southern specialty recently, I ordered it along with eggs (over easy) and home fries. The only regional specialty I noticed on the breakfast menu was buckwheat cakes which were available seasonally. While waiting for the meal, I took in the interior of the restaurant which had vintage stainless pedestal stools at the counter in alternating black and red tops. The floor tiles were a matching black and red and the red laminate counter showed evidence of the presence of many elbows over the years. The pie safe displayed a tempting array of house baked pies, but it was a bit early in the day for me to get into dessert. The food arrived in a flash, as you would expect with only two other patrons in the restaurant, and I noticed immediately that what they billed as country ham was in fact a thick ham steak. I was a bit disappointed that I was not going to get my country ham fix, but that feeling soon vanished as I dug into the meal. The ham was a REAL steak, nearly ½ inch thick with a nice marrow bone in the center, as opposed to the over process molded products many restaurants use. The eggs were perfectly cooked and exhibited no off-taste from “butter flavored” oil, nor were they marred by extraneous bits of carbonized food from an improperly cleaned grill. The massive mound of home fries filled the rest of the plate, and they were prepared with freshly cooked potatoes. My only complaint was the potatoes were not seasoned. Yes, I can add salt and pepper, but the judicious addition of seasoning in the kitchen is a much better option. As I paid my check, I noticed the restaurant offered fresh-baked sweet rolls for take out sales, but those would have to wait until I drop a few pounds. Overall, a very good breakfast, but I vowed to return to see if the Lone Star could repeat the performance when the restaurant was busier.

Lone Star Restaurant interior

Vintage counter stools at the Lone Star Restaurant

I next arrived at noon on a Saturday, and the Lone Star was much busier as I had expected. Every table in the restaurant was taken, but there were still seats at the counter. My goal this time was to determine whether the food was as “home style” as advertised and whether they could crank it out when busy. The second question was answered in the affirmative when my food arrived just as fast as it had on my first visit, even though the restaurant wasnearly full. I started with a cup of chicken noodle soup ($2.45) which was advertised as being made in-house, and it was. Although it was a basic preparation, the broth was well made and seasoned properly. All of the ingredients were well cooked, with my only complaint being that the soup could have been a bit hotter. I also ordered an egg salad sandwich ($2.95) with a side of pickled egg ($.60). I know, a side of egg with an egg sandwich? Well, I didn’t order them because they were complimentary, I ordered then as indicators of how the kitchen works. I confirmed the pickled egg was Amish style, being prepared with beets, and that the kitchen knows how to properly hard boil an egg (not as cut and dried as you think).

The egg salad sandwich was ordered as a test of freshness and service speed. Egg salad easily spoils and also has the property of picking up off odors from a refrigerator when it sits too long. I could tell by looking the salad was fresh, as the kitchen had used red onion in its preparation and there was no evidence of bleeding. This was confirmed by tasting, and I was pleased to notice the toast was warm indicating that the sandwich was served immediately after it was made. It doesn’t take long for cold egg salad to cool down warm toast. Cream Pie at the Lone Star RestaurantI topped the meal with a slice of Coconut Cream Pie ($2.75), long a staple of the diner trade. This version was as good as I’ve eaten, with the impossibly high meringue showing no signs of weeping and the clearly handmade crust exhibiting no sign of sogginess. Although there was nothing terribly interesting on the menu, The Lone Star Restaurant offers up solid comfort food at a fair price. To me it’s no surprise they have been in business for 90 years, and I have no doubt they’ll be there for many more if they just keep doing what they are doing.
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B21 Coffee & Food Depot

Bombers Over Uniontown at B21 Coffee & Food Depot

For those of you who have followed my reviews, I believe you’ll detect a certain philosophy of food which my writing affirms. I stand for honesty, respect and a lack of artifice in cuisine. I hold the simple roadside diner in as high regard as the haughtiest of haute cuisine palaces when the ingredients are respected and prepared with care. Opulent surroundings and complex presentations are meaningless if the underlying food is conceived or prepared poorly. I’ve had more memorable meals standing on a street corner in Baja than in many of the high-priced restaurants I’ve eaten in.

One new establishment which adheres to this philosophy is B21 Lunch at B21 Coffe & Food DepotCoffee & Food Depot in Uniontown. Their address is 2 West Main Street, but unless you’re familiar with Uniontown the address can be a bit confusing. I, for one, was confused due to the fact that 2 West Main Street is on the opposite side of the street from 30 East Main Street. I don’t recall ever being in a city that doesn’t adhere to the convention of having odd numbers on one side of the street and even on the other. An additional issue is that the entrance for B21 is actually on Beeson Street, not Main. The confusion is explained by the fact that B21 is located in the basement (bunker) of the First Niagara Bank Building which does front Main Street.

B21 was opened several months ago by Roger Clatterbuck, an experienced and accomplished chef, to bring quality coffee, breakfast and lunch fare to the Uniontown business community. Being business oriented, they are open Monday through Friday from 7:30ish to 2:00 PM with take out orders and delivery a large part of the business. The hours allow Chef Clatterbuck to also run a catering operation known as War Eagle Rations. Chef Clatterbuck is backed up by two experienced chefs specializing in pastry and garde manger. Desserts at B21 Coffe & Food DepotEntering the military themed “bunker”, the patrons are immediately drawn to the wares of the pastry chef which are on prominent display. An array of brownies, cookies and coffee cakes are displayed under glass domes with samples being offered for tasting. The baked goods along with a cup of the excellent Caribou Coffee (which B21 serves) is a popular breakfast on the go for the office workers streaming in every morning. For a more substantial start to your day, breakfast sandwiches are available and are offered on a choice of excellent breads, bagels and naan.

Lunch is basically soup and sandwiches, but as served by B21, they reach a whole new level. Many larger and “classier” restaurants don’t bother to make their own soups anymore, but here the soups are house made and funky. The offering on my recent visit was “Mushroom Beef and Biscuit”, a rich cream of mushroom soup with chunks of beef and biscuits. Definitely a bit unusual. Sometimes you can’t tell what the soups are by their names and you’ll have to ask Chef for the composition. I couldn’t even guess what “1,2 3 OMG Soup” is. The soups are available by the cup, pint or quart and are packed in microwavable deli containers for convenient reheating at the office or home.

Seven sandwiches (“Bombers”) are offered on the menu, but daily specials and the “You design it” option gives the diner a multitude of choices. Continuing the military theme, the sandwiches are named after WWII war birds (though I’m not familiar with a B21). The sandwiches are offered on a choice of breads notably a Pugliese roll, a crusty Italian variety “bigger than a babies head”. I opted for naan, a middle eastern and Indian flat bread, which was stuffed with the daily special chicken salad, Havarti cheese, shredded leaf lettuce and ripe Roma tomatoes. The chicken salad was supremely fresh, with my only complaint being that the pieces of chicken were a bit large to be eaten in the naan. The naan itself, although not prepared on-site, was a lighter, fresher and more flavorful alternative to pita. I’ll forgive them for not making the Naan, as a 900 degree tandoor would turn the small space into a literal oven. Other creative touches include the “gravy-mayonnaise” and corn succotash served with the “XB35 Flying Wind” (turkey and cheddar) and the poblano preserves served with shaved pepper roasted beef sandwich (the “B32 Dominator”). And where else can you get the childhood favorite fried bologna sandwich, serve appropriately on white bread with American cheese and yellow mustard? All sandwiches are priced at $7.50 for a whole and $4.50 per half. Side dishes available include the usual cole slaw and macaroni salad, but being freshly prepared, they far surpass the versions served by many restaurants. Hummus served as a side is a nice touch and several salads are available in two sizes. Since B21 is geared primarily for take out service, the food is served in disposable containers and wrappings which actually adds to the spartan military atmosphere.

Although having limited hours and seating, B21 Coffee & Food Depot offers simple food well prepared with enough creativity to keep it interesting. Uniontown native George C. Marshall would certainly be proud of these “Bombers” and I would have to agree.
B21 Coffee & Food Depot on Urbanspoon

Breakfast at Mostollers

Real Rural Fare at Mostoller’s Country Corral

After my post on the Summit Diner and the scrapple they served, I was informed that another local restaurant offers country food in general and scrapple in particular. Mostoller’s Country Corral and Restaurant is located just north of Somerset on Route 281 in the village of Geiger. For you non locals, Geiger is an unincorporated bump in the road which according to the USPS is actually Friedens, although Friedens as indicated on a map is several miles north of Mostoller’s.

Mostollers Country CorralThe interior of the restaurant looks very much like a diner with the addition of numerous wagon wheels and old cooking and farming implements. In fact, the interior is reminiscent of the Summit Diner before being renovated where the original Swingle Diner western theme was replaced. I took a seat in a booth and began to read the menu which was already on the table, although I already knew what I was going to order. The waitress arrived in a timely manner and I ordered the breakfast special ($4.50) which included two eggs, sausage, home fries and toast. I also ordered a side of scrapple and tomato juice. The meal arrived in a flash and, like in many diners, the check arrived with the meal. The scrapple was served on the plate with the eggs and potatoes instead of on a separate plate, which is annoying if you like syrup on your scrapple but not on your eggs. Also, there was no sausage served. Just as I was looking at the menu and the check to determine if perhaps the scrapple was substituted for the sausage, the waitress arrived with the sausage along with an apology for forgetting it. The eggs were as I ordered them (over easy) but as at the Summit, the scrapple was cut too thin and not properly browned. The potatoes were fresh, but were overcooked and cut so thin that they fell apart into mostly small pieces. The sausage was clearly made fresh and it had a good flavor, but there was only one pattie (as opposed to 2 at the Summit) and it had been left on the griddle too long creating a hard crust on one side.

On my table was a placard advertising a buckwheat cake and puddin’ special for the coming Saturday, so two days later I found myself back at Mostoller’s. The puddin’ (or liver pudding) served at Mostoller’s is the “loose” version intended to be poured over the cakes. It is basically scrapple before the cornmeal and flour are added. The buckwheat cakes were large and nicely cooked but lacked the yeasty flavor of the traditional recipes. I couldn’t tell if they were from a mix or if they were simply a non yeast recipe. The sausage was not the hand formed pattie of my previous breakfast at Mostoller’s but rather a link of a type which I had never eaten before. This was clearly not a commercial product. The texture was quite fine and there was a note of offal in the taste. I thought it was quite good and I’ll have to do more research into just exactly how it was made.

For those of you looking for a “real” breakfast, albeit with a few flaws, Mostoller’s Country Corral and Restaurant is worth the trip. It offers authentic food at a good price, qualities which are getting harder and harder to find in this world of cookie cutter fast food restaurants. Just remember to bring cash, because no plastic is accepted.

Mostoller's Country Corral on Urbanspoon

 

Baileys 219

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: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. There 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