I'd thought I might have discovered a gem. PID and I searched for something very specific for this week's date night. Inexpensive and on our side of town. I used the Urbanspoon application on my iPod Touch to try to find the perfect spot. I must have spun the reel about 105 times before I landed on the Moonlite Cafe on Brookline Blvd.
I read a number of reviews that all said the same thing: don't judge a book by its cover, it has a dive appeal with delicious cuisine.
I was excited to experience it for myself and tell you all about this hidden treasure in the South Hills. But sadly, I was far from impressed. We walked in to a half-full dining room. There were many empty tables throughout and we were seated in a booth adjacent to a family with two screaming crawling children. Really? We couldn't have had one (or two, or three) booths in between?
Sean looked at me the moment we sat down and abruptly admitted "It smells like the 70's in here." Which oddly enough, he was right. It did have a Partridge-Family aroma.
But I was still overly optimistic. Our waiter, Robert, was prompt, polite and adorable. Our drinks came in a flash. And then it was on to the wine...
And then (very quickly) came the bread.
Your typical Italian bread. Possibly bought at one of the local markets on Brookline Blvd. Very light and fluffy, not too hard. But nothing to write home about. Or keep writing here for that matter.
We then moved on to the appetizer...
We chose the Crab Cakes. Are you shocked? I didn't think so. But we were. When two chicken-patty wanna-be's were placed down right in front of us.
We moved on to the soup and salad after that...
I was pleased to see that the the Chicken Noodle Soup looked authentic. Big, hearty noodles and a foamy broth made the soup pretty tasty. The salad was made of (GASP!) iceburg lettuce and I only received two olives, two tomatoes and one pepper. Yikes.
And finally it was on to the entree. I was hoping -- HOPING -- this would be Moonlite's saving grace. I'd ordered the Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo. Many of the user reviews I'd read had praised Moonlite's alfredo. It was my time to decide.
Upon delivery (which Robert assured happened in a very timely fashion as we'd happily discovered was his MO) the dish looked promising. Shrimp looked cooked to perfection with a slight pink hue. However I noticed a poor ratio of pasta-to-alfredo on the plate. The shrimp seemed right at home swimming in a sea of sauce. One of my biggest pet peeves is a shrimp pasta dish where the shrimp tails have not been removed. There's nothing more messy and difficult than attempting to remove the tails from a shrimp when they're already in a pasta...especially THIS pasta. I had to hold my shrimp over the plate for 45 seconds to let the excess sauce drip off before pinching off its tail.
Once I got the tails off it was finally time to dig in. This was it. The moment of truth. I took a bite and couldn't quite make out what the flavor reminded me of... so I asked PID. He didn't even finish chewing before he blurted out "popcorn." And...once again...he was right. It tasted just like popcorn. Mostly because of the outlandish amount of butter that had been incorporated in to the sauce. It was overwhelming. There was a slightly chalky aftertaste as well which made me wonder if the sauce had been birthed from a powder mixture which was not properly executed. I was devastated.
I asked PID how he felt about his meal. He definitely had a better experience than I did. He chose the New York Strip steak at a very reasonable price.
But it was only juicy on the fatty end where it rendered in to the meat. He said after that it was stiff and chewy. He was pleased with the flavor the mushrooms added, and his Italian green beans were soaked in a very delicious herbal marinara sauce, but the star of the show seemed to forget it's lines.
Drinks: 2 Diet Pepsis @ $2.25
1 Cabernet Sauvignon @ $5
Appetizers: Crab Cakes @ $4.50
Entrees: NY Strip Steak @ $16.95
Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo $13.95
Tax: @ 7% (Allegheny County only) $2.79
Tip (the service was the saving grace): $9
Total for 2: $56.69
I wanted so badly to deliver the happy news of a new found favorite. But instead I'm like Fox News. Delivering earth shattering news to the public without a glimmer of hope. I will say the service was outstanding. Very quick and my drinks were refilled (without me asking) without my ever noticing they were gone. The prices were more than reasonable and had I have to believe that if we would have tried for something slightly more traditional, it would have been an OK trip. I won't be back, but if you live in the Overbrook/Brookline area, go in and give it a shot if you're looking for an inexpensive break from cooking. Let me know how your experience went! I'd love to be proven wrong!