My Lunch: Smiths Restaurant|Lounge

No, that’s not my lunch up there, but it’s the only photo I could find for Smiths Restaurant|Lounge, the new(ish) resident of 19th Street’s tumultuous restaurant/bar collective.

I think there used to be a pizza place in the Smiths spot, but it’s gone now. As is Bootsie’s, another bar across the street. Only Matyson, buoyed by great reviews and a fanatic customer base, seems to thrive in this dead zone between Market and Walnut Streets.

Can Smiths make the case to stay here for a year or (gasp) more?

As its name suggests, the answer is a concrete maybe. Smiths is a good place – not terrible, not great… just average. The space itself is very open, despite having two bars and (at least at lunch) a burgeoning clientèle. I was also impressed by its cleanliness, both in terms of design and the lack of clutter. With its unassumingly simple decor, one could make the case for Smiths being the anti-Continental.

The menu consists of a somewhat elevated take on bar food, as illustrated by the above picture of crabcake sliders. The cooks get all of the staples right – the angus beef burgers were big and juicy, the sandwiches highlighted some novel flavor combinations, and the thin-style fries were a perfect match of crunchy and chewy. The appetizers we ordered – quesadillas and crispy crab wanton rolls – were only decent, though the flat bread pizzas and crocks looked quite adventurously prepared.

There were some distractions, however. The flat panel TVs that adorn every wall (seemingly in lieu of any real decorations) struck me as overkill. I understand how these kind of places want to attract both the foodie crowd and the beer crowd, but the pairing just didn’t seem organic here, especially for a location known more for its proximity to downtown businesses than its sports bar crowd.

Also, and I feel this is a bit of an anomaly, we were seated close to the kitchen, meaning a lot of server foot traffic. The thumps of a flat-footed waitress with thick heels combined with a weak floor made it seem like Andre the Giant was crossing behind my chair every five minutes. I swear I could feel my chair shake a little bit each time she passed.

Aside from such issues, I would definitely visit Smiths again. It has all your bar basics and better-than-average food, though it still has a lot of work to do before it’s considered a “destination” for out-of-towners.

Enjoy it if you get there, don’t worry if you don’t.

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