There is nothing like a neighborhood pub. That is exactly what this town needs more of, the good ol’ neighborhood pub for every reasonable section of Midtown. We need more places that are within walking distance from our homes where the bartenders know our names and we can order “the usual.” We need a smart-aleck waitress with a heart of gold who can get us to tip 40 percent.
It’s what I have longed for because the bars in my neighborhood don’t serve food. Well, not the ones in safe walking distance, anyway. So when I heard that Cortlandt Inge was opening a neighborhood pub in the Spring Hill area, I was extremely excited for my friends in the ’08 ZIP code.
For Inge, opening a pizza pub is a bit of a departure from the finer dining usually associated with his name, but the turn is a welcomed one as no sane person would object to artisanal pizza and cold beer. It sounded like a happening place to me, so I gathered up a group of friends and we headed to “the hill” for what we hoped would be a couple of slices and a drink or two.
Three adults and a toddler, we arrived just before 7 p.m. and informed the waitress we would be dining with one more companion (my date) who would join us shortly, but in the meantime we’d love to start with a bottle of wine. Angeline pinot noir ($30 per bottle) was the unanimous vote from the table. She returned in a couple of minutes with three glasses and set the bottle on the table. She didn’t open it. She didn’t pour a taste. She just set it there like it was a Coca-Cola. Granted it was a screw-cap wine, which doesn’t bother me in the least, but I would have appreciated just a touch of the ceremony.
So we poured and perused the menu. Within a couple of minutes our final guest arrived and we waited to place our order. And we waited some more. At 7:41 p.m. my date takes it upon herself to approach the bar and ask our waitress if we can order our food.
So I ask what the soup of the day is. “It’s cream of mushroom. But we don’t have it. It’s not ready.” Okay, well, I knew we were having pizza so I wanted to branch out. “I’ll have the sliced chicken breast with gorgonzola cream sauce over angel hair pasta.” She replied, “We don’t have that either. It’ll be about two hours before it’s ready.” So here we are, 45 minutes into the wait on a weeknight, so we aren’t leaving, but out of an entrée list of pizza, pasta, soup and sandwiches they are missing half of it.
We settle on three salads and two pizzas.
At 8:23 p.m. our first pizza arrives. The Hook Up ($17.95) is a red sauce pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, Italian sausage and jalapeño peppers with a side of red sauce for good measure. I won’t argue over the pie. It was tasty. So we then asked for Parmesan cheese, red pepper, napkins and silverware. At this time we also inquired about our salads.
The salads came after our first pizza. We had two Caesar side salads ($3.75 each, $6.75 for dinner size) and one mixed green salad similarly priced. The Caesars were delicious, with romaine and croutons. The homemade dressing was fantastic, as were the croutons. The finishing touch was the Parmesan cheese and wedges of salami.
The mixed green salad was also a formidable “starter” with romaine and baby greens, chopped Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, bell pepper, croutons and another homemade dressing in the form of tomato/citrus vinaigrette. I’m a sucker for a Caesar, but this one may have topped it.
After our salads the second pizza came and was politely placed right on top of my buddy’s phone. This time the pizza was the Kicken Chicken ($17.95). A complete one-eighty from our first pizza, this one had a white sauce base with chicken breast, Roma tomatoes, roasted onions and sliced mushrooms and was seasoned with lemon zest, basil and Parmesan. If you aren’t into red sauce then this will do the trick for you.
About the same time as I was finishing my second slice of the evening, I noticed the table next to us receiving soup. Our waitress said, “Oh yeah, the soup is ready if you want some.” No kidding. What I really wanted was a beer but I didn’t want to push my limits. Instead I asked for a menu to go and received a different menu than the one I originally ordered from.
I was confused and we called it a night.
I asked the manager about the pasta. He said it’s made from scratch and wasn’t perfect tonight so they couldn’t serve it. My date chimed in, “May I make a suggestion that you take it off of the sidewalk chalkboard so people don’t get their hopes up.” He didn’t, but it didn’t hurt my feelings.
The question is, did I hit Cortlandt’s on an off night or is it par for the course to spend just shy of two hours for a couple of slices and a glass and a half of wine? Is this place a diamond in the rough or is it just rough? At one point someone at our table pointed out that the south side of the room looks decorated and the north side looks pretty plain. I’m not critical of these types of things but I’ll say they have this fantastically long bar with a couple of smallish TVs hanging behind it.
I have no problem with the food (except the absence of the two things I wanted to try), but between the décor, the copy machine menus and the service issues, I almost wonder if they opened a little prematurely.
I wanted a neighborhood pub. I paid my $120 tab and went to Callaghan’s.
4356 Old Shell Road