a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A must-read restaurant

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Every now and then, a kid with a book bag strapped to his back walks into a Pittsburgh restaurant with a stunned expression and expecting to see a librarian.

It’s as easy mistake to make because this eatery is named The Library in the Pennsylvania city’s trendy South Side district. The universal logo for library – a stick figure reading a book – is even included on the sign above the front door, making the place seem unattractive to a stranger looking for a beer and grub.

“It’s funny,” the bartender said today after I ask him if people actually come here to read.

“No, they come in for that,” he said, pointing to the row of beer taps behind the bar. “There is a library down the road.”

Someone who downed one too many pints of Pilsner might be responsible for misquoting W.C. Fields on a blackboard parked on the sidewalk to draw folks inside the business. The scribe, though, did come up with something similar to Field's funny line, "A woman drove me to drink and I didn't even have the decency to thank her."

There is a wide selection of books at this restaurant with a hammered copper bar, exposed brick walls and a chocolate leather couch in a cozy reading room.

The menu is even sandwiched between the pages of books, and its selections have witty names inspired by book titles and authors. I’m handed, “Pepsi-Cola: 100 Years,” by Bob Stoddard.

While flipping through its pages, I notice a photo of actress Joan Crawford and her fourth husband, Pepsi President Alfred Steele, and begin to lose my appetite over thoughts of her beating her daughter with a metal coat hanger.

The bartender returns and recommends the Jules Verne, a hearty hoagie stuffed with shaved prime rib, crimini mushrooms, red and green peppers, Spanish onions and provolone cheese. This is definitely not a meal pulled from the pages of "Low-Carb Dieting for Dummies.”

Executive Chef Steven Harlow also has come up with a dinner named The Fisherman and His Wife that includes pretzel-encrusted salmon. And then there is the Billy Goats Gruff that is a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with chipotle sauce. I like the sound of the Slaughter House Four that turns out to be four mini hamburgers.

Unlike most libraries that have staffs with personalities as dull as phone books, the servers are hip and funny at this restaurant at 2304 E. Carson St. that opened in March 2007.

And that bartender is surprisingly accurate about the Jules Verne.

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