I’ve always done my best to avoid the nine-to-five, and after a brief stint as a legal secretary in 2003, I’ve been largely successful. For the most part, I enjoy doing things at off hours; being at work or asleep during both sessions of rush hour traffic has undeniable appeal; grocery shopping is a breeze at 11pm. However, the one persistent difficulty I’ve found since the advent of a 10pm quittin’ time is restaurant patronage.
Sure, most bars are open and welcoming when I get out of work, but even those with restaurants attached stop offering food past a certain time. Too often kitchens close at 10pm, sometimes at 11pm (which is doable but can be a tight squeeze), and more rarely at midnight or 1am. I understand that it ceases to be advantageous for most restaurants to offer food after popular dinner times, and that a small number of restaurants will cater to the late night crowd, but finding those restaurants has proven more difficult than I expected.
A couple weeks ago I went to the Pleasure Bar after work on a Friday night. The Pleasure Bar is a venerable Pittsburgh institution located in the heart of the Liberty Avenue business district in Bloomfield. I’ve often dined there and drank there in the past, and it’s one of the few places in the city where I’ll go for Italian food (most Italian restaurants violate my primary law of eating out: Don’t eat food at a restaurant if I can made it better, easier and/or cheaper at home). It had been a couple years, however, since I’d eaten at the Pleasure Bar, and I had never attempted to grab a late night bite there, so I did some research ahead of time.
Despite being a venerable Pittsburgh institution in business for over three decades, the Pleasure Bar does not have a website, so I had to pester their hard-working staff with a call to ask how late the kitchen would be open. I was told “Probably until 11:00″… which might help explain the lack of website, probablys being difficult to express in print.
And so, I made a point to leave work at ten on the dot, and put the pedal a little closer to the metal than usual in effort to arrive in Bloomfield by 10:30. On street parking was a breeze, and I was sitting at the bar asking if the kitchen was still open by 10:31. I was told: “For about two minutes.” Luckily, I had found amidst my research earlier that day a menu of their pub food on allmenus.com and so I was able to squeak my order in under the wire.
While I did not receive my order in the aforetold two minutes, service was swift and I quickly found myself with two piping hot appetizer plates and a chilly beverage. First up was an order of fried provolone that exemplified everything a gal could ask for in a plate of fried cheese: crisp breading, gooey center, hearty marinara on the side, a dusting of parmesan. The provolone wedges more than met my criteria for restaurant food, as I would never attempt to make fried cheese at home when such an ideal specimen is readily available at the Pleasure Bar for under five bucks.
My second appetizer was tasty, but mildly disappointing. The crab stuffed mushrooms came full of promise; sizable mushroom caps filled with quality lump crabmeat, baked in alfredo sauce and bubbling with baked cheese. How can you go wrong, right? While I was duly impressed with the quality of the crabmeat, I found that it lacked any sort of zip. A squeeze of lemon, a whisper of garlic, a dash of spice would have gone a long way to making these stuffed mushrooms delectable, but as it was, I found the dish a bit lackluster. Would I be able to make it better myself at home? Maybe. But would I have been able to make it cheaper? Definitely not. At $7.50 for a dish teeming with sweet lump crabmeat, these mushrooms are a great deal.
In fact, the Pleasure Bar proved to be an excellent bargain. Two quality appetizers and a couple of well drinks came to a total of $18, showing the Pleasure Bar to be a great option for starving creative types like me to find after work refreshment. Now, if only I had a better idea of how long the kitchen would “probably” be open, I would name the Pleasure Bar a prime spot for late night eating. As it is, this restaurant is a great spot for inexpensive Italian food, provided that you don’t incur any speeding tickets on your way to place the last order of the night.