Thursday, November 22, 2007
There was a good spirit in the room as old friends and new gave thanks for God's many blessings.
I first learned about Steel City early in the summer when some young people were passing out menus/fliers in Riverview Park in Tarentum. They explained that Tarentum was part of the area to which Steel City would deliver. I learned that Steel City was at that time in the same place locals had come to know as Portofino Pizza (that had a reputation for a great place to get a gyro). "Steel City Pizza and Wings" (as it was named on the sign out front) was being run by the same family that had operated Portofino for 16 years. I found that Steel City was a great place to order pizza, wings, or gyros earlier in the summer.
A few months later a banner appeared in front of the former Babe's Restaurant at 2709 Leechburg Road in Lower Burrell, announcing that "Steel City Pizza and Grill" would be there. Once they opened I paid a visit for dinner, and was not sorry.
I can't make any comparisons with the former Babe's Diner (that closed just before I moved to the area). The gyros are still great at the new restaurant, as are the pizzas and sandwiches. It is also a good place to go for an evening meal. They offer a few very nice pasta entrees.
I am only mystified by the constantly changing name. In addition to the banner out front they now have letters on the high illuminated sign, naming the restaurant the "Steel City Grill House." I am sure that eventually they will settle on one name. But in the meantime I just like the fact that the food is great.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The parade was a lot of fun, as I described in the last post. When the parade ended the children who had been on the float went on to the other events happening in Tarentum, while some of us set to work taking the float apart so that we could return the trailer to the person who let us use it. In the middle of our work I received a text message that our float had won Second Prize among the floats that had been in the parade.
This was really funny because all the people who had been involved in the project had not been aware that there would be any judging of the floats. We just went into the parade as an opportunity to participate in a community event and show a little bit about what our church was like.
The kids who went to receive the trophy were just delighted.
I've been told that our church does have a few trophies from various events over the years, but we have no trophy case. We probably don't need one. I hope we'll continue to be involved in events around Tarentum without feeling that we have to compete with other organizations.
There is a full list of the prizes awarded for the 2007 Tarentum Brackenridge Holiday Parade here.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
While I was waiting for the parade to start, the Highlands Education Association was giving out free cups of hot cocoa and hot apple cider.
The parade had a number of marching units.
There were lots of local fire departments in the parade, and it seemed that some came from further than the previous year's parade.
There were floats from a number of organizations.
In addition to all the politicians who made an appearance, we even had a meteorologist in the parade. But with the weatherman busy riding in the parade I was wondering who was making sure the rains would hold off?
And there were mascots of all sorts:
And of course the parade concluded with the arrival of Santa.
Friday, November 16, 2007
This is the kind of lawsuit that I think will give lawyers and litigation a bad name among the public. (HT: Pittsblog for writing about the suit and some of its anticipated problems.) The notion that a company can claim an exclusive right to draw a facial expression that is at least as old as the human race on a cookie seems absurd. Although lawyers can picture how the case might go either way, I think the public is going to see through it all to recognize the fierce greed that motivates a lawsuit like this.
If you give someone a smile you lose nothing, and can gain so much. If you sue to defend a claimed exclusive right to draw smiles, there is nothing to gain but perhaps a lot of money. I am likely to remember the obvious greed behind the smiley the next time I dine at an Eat'nPark and see the display of cookies at the counter as I leave.
Those aren't friendly smiles on the cookies. They are just the distracting smiles of someone who is eyeing your wallet.
As someone who drives past the site twice a day, I was impressed by the speed with which the new restaurant was built, and the coordination of the workers who accomplished so many different tasks simultaneously on a small piece of land. They worked quickly and efficiently from the time ground was broken for the new restaurant, to the time the old restaurant was closed and its demolition began, through the time they paved the parking lot and finished the new restaurant. I don't think there was a day when I did not notice big changes on the construction site.
There was a crowd in the new restaurant yesterday, eager to see what it looked like from the inside. I thought the dining area was attractive; the large windows let in more sunlight than there had been in the old restaurant. There were two flatscreen TV's mounted to the wall, and a variety of possibilities for seating in booths or at tables with different sizes.
Outside, there was a lot of fascination with the drive-through window. The new restaurant has a double drive-thru lane. It is easy to see how two drivers can be placing orders simultaneously. What is not yet obvious to me is how people in the two drive-thru lanes pick up their food.
It's good to have the McDonald's back.
And have I mentioned that McDonald's is socially responsible in working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to ensure better wages for the people who pick their tomatoes?
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
They described their dream of having an upscale biker bar -- a place where doctors, lawyers, and bankers who ride motorcycles could bring their families for dinner. They pointed out that there was no restaurant in the borough of Tarentum where one could go out for supper on a Monday night, and that Choppers would make Monday night dining a possibility in Tarentum. A dining area out along the sidewalk was going to be another draw for their desired upscale clientele.
Meanwhile, people who lived in the neighborhood on streets uphill from the bar wondered whether Choppers was going to be a new manifestation of the previous nuisance bar.
As the renovations and decoration of the space proceeded, ambivalent messages kept the question unresolved as to what kind of establishment Choppers would be.
In June a sign announced that Choppers Bar and Grille was opening soon "under new management". According to what had been told to the Borough Council, Choppers was brand new to Tarentum, and was to open under its very first management in Tarentum. The phrase "under new management" does point to a new reality and a new way in which things will be done, but at the same time, it hints at some degree of continuity with something in the past. The only explanation I can imagine for this phrase is that Choppers wanted to communicate something to the customers of the former Hog Heaven, hoping to get them in the door.
In any event, it is not clear whether Choppers is a new business in Tarentum or just an old business with a new name and new management.
When Choppers opened, the Valley News Dispatch carried a review of the "upscale biker bar", describing in very positive terms a visit by the paper's Lunch Bunch. I visited it on a Monday evening, and did not post anything about my experience, which was not as good. I thought the food was adequate and appropriately priced. The service was extremely slow -- I waited over a half hour for a sandwich. They did comp my beverage, which was a soft drink. It might just have been a problem of getting the kitchen up to speed shortly after opening, but I am not likely to go back. I did not observe any delays in serving drinks, but I saw other people waiting a long time for food as well. Better staffed to function as a bar than as a restaurant, the setting did not feel comfortable to me as a place for family dining.
According to a neighbor two streets away from Choppers, the noise from the bar is very disruptive through the evening and into the night, getting even worse right after closing at 2:00 AM when the customers leave and warm up their motorcycles.
I understand that Choppers has a bouncer carding people on weekends. On the one hand, this points to the clear intention of the owners for the bar to be a place where problems do not occur. On the other hand, it also points to the potential for problems to occur, and raises the question whether Choppers genuinely intends to provide bikers with a family restaurant where liquor is served, or whether it is just a biker bar that occasionally serves some items of food. After all, this is the only restaurant in Tarentum that has or needs a bouncer while claiming to be an option for family dining.
I am interested in how other people see this. I started a poll on Topix.com, asking the question "Did Choppers in Tarentum turn out as advertised?" You are welcome to vote there. What was promoted to the Borough Council back in May was a restaurant that would play a role in the revitalization of Tarentum. I wonder whether Choppers will have that positive influence.
Friday, November 09, 2007
I thought normally the cliche was to "stand up to be counted", but something is lost when it is mixed with other ideas like speaking out in order to be heard.
So here I am standing up as loudly as I can, but not even I can hear my own joints creak. Can you hear me standing?
Some other turns of phrase can lose a lot when elements are dropped out of the middle. The other day I overheard one worker warn another: "Be careful when you handle that glass or it will slice your hands like hot butter."
And yet ... no restaurant that gave me a dish of melted butter ever warned me of the dangers of being sliced by my food.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
This Saturday, November 10, we have our last ham loaf dinner of the year. These dinners are the fundraisers that have a real following in the community, and when this one is past I anticipate a few months of people asking me through the winter when the next one will be.
The next day, Sunday, November 11 will be Veterans Day, and the people of the church have been going all out to plan a special observance of the national holiday during our main worship service. Some new and old voices have been recruited to augment the Westminster Choir for a special anthem, "Hymn to America", being planned for the day. We have collected photographs of war monuments and honor rolls from many of the communities in the Alle-Kiski Valley, and the slide show will be projected during the anthem. Following the service, our deacons will provide a luncheon.
The very next Saturday, November 17, will be the Tarentum Brackenridge Holiday Parade. This would not normally be a church event, but this year some of the creative people at Central have been working on having a float in the parade. This will be the first time in many years (if ever) that Central has participated in a community parade in this way. I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
And later during that week Thursday, November 22 will be Thanksgiving, when Central Church will host a Community Thanksgiving Dinner. We have done it five years in a row, and a few times before that -- and it has been a blessing every time. The free dinner has been deeply appreciated by many of our neighbors and friends in the community.
Many volunteers will be needed to help prepare and serve the dinner, and to donate food items for the dinner.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Given that warmer temperatures are being predicted for the weekend, there are a number of people I know who will be glad to have a place to skate.
File under: Tarentum, skateboard park
Sunday, November 04, 2007
"If you shop at the Giant Eagle in New Kensington, remember that the ground could open up beneath your feet and swallow you whole."
This morning I opened my door to pick up my Sunday Valley News Dispatch, and the top story with a headline in a font I thought they were saving for the next time the Steelers go to the championships was "Giant Eagle ground beef recalled". And I thought to myself, "that's a new way to put those words together."
At various times during the summer the sinkhole repair site has had equipment positioned such that it was hard for anyone outside to see just what was happening. In recent weeks a huge pile of dirt appeared between the sinkhole and the Clarion Hotel parking lot. And the pile is so high that it obstructs the view of the hole from the higher ground. I have been wondering whether all that dirt actually came out of the repair site, or whether it was brought here in order to keep filling the sinkhole.
Near the end of this week it became possible to see into the repair site again. It seems as if the contaminated meat scare pulls attention away from the unexplained hole in the ground. The story that there is bad meat that you can throw away or return to the store gets headlines. The story that there is an unexplained hole in the ground that has grown since it first appeared in mid-July gets yawns -- as big as the yawning hole one can now see through the fence.
This is such a strange place to live.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
The religious were hard at prayer during the Grandview Halloween Parade.
There were superheros to keep the vampires in line.
There were lots of versions of Batman out keeping evildoers at bay.
Food can be non-threatening, sometimes.
The exotic and beautiful, the strange but harmless were all out on the streets.