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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

A Lack of Sense and Sensibility at Sisters Cafe

Sisters Cafe-Confluence PAConfluence is one of the hidden gems of Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands region. Although a bit isolated today, in earlier times it was an important travel hub due to its location on the Turkeyfoot road and the Youghiogheny River. The Yough meets with the Casselman River and Laurel Hill Creek here, hence the name Confluence. The configuration of this confluence led to the name Turkeyfoot, which is how George Washington referred to the area as early as 1754 on one of his many trips through the area. Today Confluence is known primarily as a tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s location on the Great Allegheny Passage brings many cyclists through the town and the Yough is famous for water sports. The damming of the river created the Youghiogheny River Lake, a popular boating destination and the sections above and below the lake offer whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking. The area is also known for its hunting and fishing. With all of the travelers to the area, I thought it might be time to check out some of the culinary options in town.

Sisters Cafe-Confluence PAFirst on my list was Sisters Cafe on Hugart Street in the middle of town. They bill themselves as “Specializing in home style-cooking” and that they serve breakfast all day. The cafe is located in a ’30’s era building with the original stamped tin ceilings, a fact which they note on their website. It’s too bad they installed banks of industrial fluorescent light fixtures on those vintage panels which completely negates the charm the ceiling may have added to the décor. In addition, nearly every surface of the interior is beige which further adds to the feeling of sitting in an office rather than a restaurant. Even the vintage cast ice cream stools at the counter were beige.

After seating myself, a friendly server arrived with the menu in a timely manner. The only item of a regional nature were the buckwheat cakes which were available seasonally. In addition, real maple syrup was available for an additional 75 cents. I also noticed a sign on the wall indicating they would not make pancakes during “peak times”. Really? You offer something on the menu but if you get too busy you won’t make it? I would suggest that if you can’t produce an item all of the time it shouldn’t be on the menu. I didn’t know whether it was “peak time” or not, so I just ordered the “#1 Hearty Breakfast” for $5.50 which included two eggs, home fries, sausage (links or patties) and toast. Although not excessively so, the wait for my meal was longer than I would have expected, indicating that perhaps they do have production issues in the kitchen. I could have excused the wait if the food was good, but I was sorely disappointed. I ordered the eggs over easy but they were almost hard with only the slightest amount of liquid yolk. In addition, they were crisp on the edges and had bits of carbonized food on them from a dirty grill. The sausage was three small links of a nondescript commercial brand that also had crunchy bits of grill scraps on them. The home fries were under seasoned but passable and the toast was your typical bland commercial variety.

There are several ways that restaurants can screw up food. Simple mistakes can happen, such as overcooking a steak or in this case eggs. Those kind of mistakes can be forgiven and won’t necessarily keep me from returning to a restaurant. However, when I’m served food with bits of burnt food on it, that I cannot forgive. Those mistakes are pure carelessness and demonstrate a lack of caring on the part of the restaurant. And if the restaurant doesn’t care, why should I?

Sisters Cafe on Urbanspoon

Scrapple Screw Up at Zambos

My search for properly cooked scrapple recently found me in the hamlet of New Centerville at Zambo’s Country Cottage, a well maintained restaurant on New Centerville Road (RT 281) just north of town. With the exception of a pizza shop/bakery, Zambo’s is the only game in town and usually has a respectable crowd, but on this day the restaurant was empty. Zambos Country CottageThe menu confirmed that Zambo’s did indeed serve scrapple and they also offered mush, which is even rarer on menus these days. For those unfamiliar with mush, think fried polenta. Although some attempt to make a distinction, there is absolutely no practical difference between polenta and cornmeal mush. I was tempted to order both the scrapple and mush, but not being very hungry I stuck with the scrapple, two eggs (over easy), home fries and sausage. One very nice touch was the option of getting onions in the home fries, which I took. Since I was the only patron in the restaurant, the food arrived quickly. As illustrated by the photo, the scrapple was a mess. Although it was crisp (unlike The Summit Diner and Mostoller’s), the scrapple was nothing but crumbles on top of the eggs. It looked as if it had stuck to the griddle and had to be scraped off. I also wasn’t thrilled with the sausage. Two paper-thin patties were served that were clearly not hand formed. The seasoning was a bit unusual for a commercial product leading me to wonder if the restaurant had used a press to make their own patties or if perhaps they had been produced in a small, local shop. Either way, the restaurant gets a failing grade for serving a product that if not commercially produced certainly appeared to be so. And although I’m used to it, I’m always disappointed with the toast served. It would be nice once in a while to be served a freshly baked, in-house product or at least a premium commercial brand. The rest of my breakfast was acceptable with the eggs being properly cooked and the home fries nicely crisped and flavorful with the addition of the onion. The transferware plate on which the food was served lended a nice country touch to the meal, but overall it was a disappointing breakfast. I really can’t figure out why I can’t get a good order of scrapple as it is really not difficult to cook. If you’re looking for scrapple, I wouldn’t recommend Zambo’s and the rest of the breakfast I grade as simply OK. In other words, if you’re in New Centerville I wouldn’t drive 12 miles to avoid Zambo’s, but neither would I drive 12 miles to get there.
Zambo's Country Cottage on Urbanspoon

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

 

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: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

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