Brother Paul's Pub & Restaurant
3300 Ridge Pike
Brother Paul knows how to party. You enter the restaurant via the rear parking lot - if you can find a spot - and come face to face with a bustling bar scene. Flat screen TVs abound here& thankfully, without benefit of sound. Egregious locals, fetchingly garbed in "gimme" caps, hold court with chunky used car salesmen. Periodontists, proudly displaying cell phones on their belts like old war wounds, struggle (without success) to look suave and debonair. Office underlings attempt (equally without success) to put the make on overdeveloped administrative assistants. Welcome to the quintessential "happy-tappy."
But a word with regard to libations& In case you hadn't noticed, you've been time-warped into the "Bud Light Zone." If you attempt to order some preposterous preprandial potion that recently graced the pages of Gourmet or Bon Appétit, you will undoubtedly offend the bartender's delicate sensibilities (in other words, he/she won't have the vaguest idea what the hell you're talking about). Your most expeditious course of action is to keep it simple. Order a brew or a glass of the house red or white. Why risk incurring the wrath of the natives? Save your rapier-like oenological repartee for a more propitious time and place.
If this is not quite your scene, prevail upon one of the young, nubile - and usually preoccupied - hostesses to seat you in the dining area. But be forewarned. Here you discover yet more TV screens and a plethoric variety of rambunctious progeny& along with their equally rambunctious progenitors. So be prepared for spilled soft drinks and a cacophonous assortment of unholy screams and screeches. My advice is to seek sanctuary on the enclosed porch, which is (comparatively) more sedate. As you have undoubtedly surmised, should you be on the prowl for a quiet spot in which to enjoy a relaxing repast, you've obviously stumbled into the wrong address.
And service, to put the matter as charitably as possible, can be variable. Don't be surprised if you draw a pretty young thing, a recent graduate of the "You Guys" school of culinary comportment, who is subjecting you to her first evening as a questionable representative of the illustrious food service industry. So don't dally about debating the fine points of menu esoterica - you may have to send out a search party. Oh& and one more little annoyance& Members of the kitchen staff, and servers alike, tend to ignore certain little niceties, such as proper pacing of your meal. A mere three bites into your appetizer and the main course is likely to put in an unwelcome surprise appearance.
Despite the above misgivings, however, the food, for what it is, isn't bad at all. One thing is certain& it surely beats the bejeebies out of the eminently forgettable fodder usually turned out at most of the chain chophouses in the area. What you have here is "pub grub," pure and simple. Stick with the appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and simple platters - order with a wee bit of circumspection - and you won't be disappointed. On the other hand, start meandering about with the blackboard scrawled "Daily Specials," and your palate, to say nothing of your delicate peristalsis, may be in for a rude awakening.
So much for prolegomena& What's worth the price of admission? The "Sinful Fries" ($7.99) are just that& crispy wedges gussied up with a tempting tiara of melted cheese, crumbled bacon, and chopped scallions. First-rate. And the same fries also adorn the excellent rendition of fish and chips ($9.99). The beer batter is judiciously applied, done up to a golden brown, and the cod is pristinely fresh, moist and flaky. Forget the accompanying coleslaw, which is imported from off campus and suffers from an overdose of industrial strength vinegar.
The mozzarella sticks with marinara ($5.29) are strictly pedestrian& ditto the vegetable springs rolls ($6.59). But the buttermilk-battered crispy calamari served up with a zippy chipotle remoulade is certainly worth a shot, as are the nachos ($6.99 & $9.99) and quesadilla ($7.59).
Salads are notable - not for their innovation but for their freshness. The Cobb salad ($6.99) - chopped romaine lettuce, avocado, tomato, bacon, crumbled blue cheese, and crispy tortilla strips - is obviously prepared minutes before it hits the table and may be adorned with the dressing of your choice. The crispy chicken salad ($7.99), which includes golden brown chicken nuggets, romaine, diced tomatoes, and shredded cheddar is also recommended. Both are entrée-size or will easily satisfy two as an appetizer.
Sandwiches, accompanied by a small bag of chips, are also quite good. The Reuben ($7.49), headlining lean corned beef, is excellent; the tuna club ($7.99), which features white albacore, not the usual tasteless generic paste, is also worthy of consideration. And the grilled vegetable panini ($6.49) - comprised of yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, fennel, red onions, red pepper, and goat cheese - gets top marks as well.
Side dishes are reasonably priced ($2.00 - $3.00) but are very much a mixed bag. As noted above, the fries are first-rate& the coleslaw beneath contempt. The garlic mashed potatoes are down-home lumpy but the bland leading the bland. Any trace of flavor - including garlic - is purely coincidental. The grilled asparagus, sautéed spinach, and potato salad, which I have not sampled, all sound like iffy propositions.
If you're on the prowl for a casual, inexpensive meal, Brother Paul's certainly represents a viable option. Maintain modest expectations, peruse the menu with care, and you probably won't be disappointed& And my advice is to go at lunch, when, chances are, rowdy small fry will be conspicuous by their absence.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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