It was early on a Thursday evening in December when I looked in the refrigerator and realized that I had two choices: start defrosting something and have a late dinner or jump in the car and go to a restaurant. We headed for the car. After naming a dozen places, we agreed on the North Park Lounge, located at 8701 Babcock Boulevard, McCandless Township. There were several reasons I had for suggesting NPL: The food is usually really good, the staff is always friendly, and it wasn’t Friday. Finding a parking spot in their large lot on a Friday can be a chore and waiting to get seated on every Friday I’ve been there is something I would rather avoid. But like I said, the food is usually tasty, and it was a Thursday evening.
Upon turning into their lot, I was surprised to discover that finding a parking spot wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. When entering the restaurant we had to decide if we wanted to wait for a table in the section of the restaurant that had a fireplace or to take a table that was available immediately. We took the empty table.
As I looked around the interior, I imagined that this establishment started as a business with a large oval bar and a small section with tables for diners. Additions seem to have been made to take care of increasing demand. I believe the interior can be best described as rustic with an abundance of televisions. The perfect place to go if you forget to pay your cable bill. On that particular evening, the diners ranged from seniors to couples in their twenties, and lots of families. I noticed that about a third of the patrons were talkers, a third TV watcher, and of course, a third were locked into their smart phones.
I noticed the party that walked into the restaurant a few seconds before us were really enjoying the attention they were receiving from their server a minute after they were led to their table. It was a little annoying to have our food server pass by our table five minutes after we were seated while mumbling, “I’ll get your menus.”
I don’t think I would have noticed the wait, but to tell the truth, I go to restaurants to find good food and to write short reviews about the experience. Five minutes after promising us menus, our waitress returned apologizing for the long wait.
At that moment I realized that the place was busy, and I wasn’t the only one there.
“Long wait? I didn’t notice,” I lied.
With menus opened and our waitress to assist us, we placed our order in less than two minutes. The most time consuming part was selecting our beer. A decent number of drafts and a large variety of bottled beers made the decision difficult.
I only had a taste of my wife’s wedding soup. It was so much better than the wedding soup I had from a salad bar a few days before. She informed me that her meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli were very good, and I’ll have to take her word for it.
The salmon I ordered was delicious. It was baked with a crust of seasoned breadcrumbs and served on a bed of cooked spinach. My baked potato tasted like it was pulled out of the microwave oven before it was quite done, but that might be a personal preference. I don’t often finish all my vegetables, but I thought the broccoli was perfect.
We passed on dessert and spent our last few minutes at NPL finishing our beers and talking. I glanced around the restaurants and observed the variety of dishes folks were enjoying. Everyone looked pleased with their selection.
If the management’s goal was to have a trendy place with haute cuisine, I think they missed the mark. But if they’re pleased with running a friendly establishment where hungry diners can enjoy good food, they’ve hit a bull’s-eye.