a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A hot-selling poor man's sandwich

The tasty fried bologna sandwich at Elrama Tavern. (Scott Beveridge photo)

At some point when I was a kid an adult suggested we fry bologna for sandwiches when there wasn't much else in the refrigerator at home.

It was probably one of those days when my dad was walking the picket line during labor problems at his Monessen, Pa., steel mill and the strike pay wasn't enough to meet the bills.

I remember feeling poor until getting a taste of that cheap sausage and lard lunchmeat blackened in butter in a cast iron skillet and thinking it was delicious. It soon became a staple in our house even when times were good and until I grew up and eventually quit buying processed meats.

So it came to my surprise tonight when I discovered a fried bologna - pronounced baloney - sandwich on the menu at a tavern along the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh.

Elrama Tavern on Route 837 in Elrama churches up its version of this Great Depression-era delicacy by topping it with hot pepper cheese between two slices of Texas toast. The spicy cheese was an excellent compliment this great sandwich at the business in Washington County.

"We sell a lot of them," my server said, seeming surprised that I thought it odd that any restaurant would even have such an item on its menu.

The place with a mostly rustic decor around a 1930s Art Deco bar was filled with customers enjoying a Tuesday Margarita party. The staff wore matching blue floral Hawaiian print blouses, and one server's outfit was offset by a bright yellow grass skirt. A guitar playing man was singing beach songs on the back deck on an otherwise sleepy night in this coal patch.

My bill came to cheap $10.07 for a meal that included French fries and two large drafts of Yuengling. Now that was a throw back price to the days when cooks on a tight budget could make anything taste great.


Matt said...

If your ever at the trolley-barn eatery in castle shannon, they have the same thing...except it is called a fried jumbo sandwich. (Is there a difference?) It is a cool place with old 1930's Pittsburgh photos on the walls.

Scott Beveridge said...

jumbo, baloney, bologna - call it what you will....

shawnamcc said...

Scott, you just made me hungry for a fried bologna sandwich...