The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Monday, August 03, 2009

two Pittsburgh beer restaurants

I don't know about the South Side Works. What I initially feared was that it was going to be "The Grove," a nasty development in central LA near where we used to life. The Grove is a big outdoor mall right next to the Farmer's Market, but it's set up to be a sort of Disneyfied streetscape. It's got a little tram, a fountain, "street vendors," etc. All of this is entirely enclosed, of course; the outside wall running along Third Street is just as ugly as any exterior mall wall, faceless and windowless and giving the lie to the faux-pedestrian-friendliness of the Grove. It's really too bad, because there is a real potential for Third Street to be much more pleasant. It's got a park right there, a Whole Foods and (what used to be, at least) the foulest-smelling K-Mart in existence, and the Grove's other borders are essentially Fairfax and Beverly, two of the most pleasant streets in LA to stroll.

So as we watched South Side Works sprout up, and see the cutesy names for the coordinated parking garages and the streets and pseudo public park next to the Cheesecake Factory, I feared the worst. Fortunately, it hasn't gotten that bad, but there is a massive amount of street construction going on right now that might change things. It's still a pretty contained area--you definitely know you're in a mall kinda place. But there's an escape to the south (across Carson it's the gloriously shabby South Side Flats and wonderful Nadine's) and to the north, the South Side Trail is coming along after being interrupted by construction for several years.

Right along that trail is the first place we went, the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh, which bills itself as one of the few foreign outposts of Munich's famed Hofbrauhaus. It's a beer kinda place, but it doesn't double as a sports bar: it's got a series of cavernous areas (quite loud) where people drink liters of beer. There's also several levels of porches and patios overlooking the Mon. We took the boys there a couple months ago, when they were still getting things together. It wasn't at all bad. The beer was excellent, and the food was quite acceptable. It's German food, of course, so it's not all that light. But the pretzels and cheese were perfect, and the sausages and such were essentially what you would expect. Thumbs up.

Sadly, the same wasn't true about another similar place that had received good reviews from the P-G and the Trib. Robinson--that strip-mall area you have to pass to and from the airport--is a desert for restaurants, which is always too bad when you get back from a long flight. I was quite happy to hear that there was one good place out there, and that it wasn't a chain like the craptastic Max & Erma's. But sadly, Bocktown was pretty poor. I hope that it's just getting its sea-legs, because it clearly had ambitions beyond being a TGIF. The menu had some really interesting stuff on it, but let's just make this thing clear: the "pretzels and cheese" plate was literally a bag of pretzels emptied into a basket. They take their beer seriously, and the selection was great, but the food (beyond the pretzels) wasn't. It wasn't awful, but it was just not done well. There was also some sort of serious service glitch, because it took us forever to get our food--45 minutes or so--and by the grace of god or someone we had just gotten the boys new toys that entertained them (potty-training reward for the young one). Bocktown seemed like a good place to go for after-work beers, but I'm not driving to Robinson after work, so I hope there's a clientele out west of town.


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