Short Orders: State & Allen Lounge

State & Allen Lounge
2400 Allen St.

How can you not like a place that looks--from the outside, from the awning down--so damn Parisian? One set on a neighborhood corner so walkable?

You don't even have to like their menu to be drawn from your car and onto the patio for a drink. Except for the presence of two all-American flat screens, the setting feels very old world: corner bar, brick crosswalks, people walking their dogs. But for the baggies folks carry to clean up after the mutt and the absence of striking workers, you just might think you're in France.

Until the food arrives, of course.

Brisket chili just isn't the sort of thing you find overseas. For one thing, they'd probably call it beef stew--and minus the constant pounding of a chili powder-like substance seeping from the meat, it is very much like stew: a little liquid but a lot of tomato pulp, beef and onions. Although the brisket can end up stringy if they hurry the cooking process, it's a satisfying bowl.

State & Allen lists burgers and a number of sandwiches. On my most recent visit, however, the waiter steered me away from the pulled pork version with an "it's good, but..."

Pizza is the way to go, he said, finishing the thought.

Well, their pepperoni features large rounds of thin-sliced sausage. The cheese holds a nice tang, which a thin stream of tomato sauce undermines with a striking herbal sweetness. It's classic in profile, but if it really is the way to go, give credit to the crust. Yeah, it sags in the middle, where all the wet stuff sinks in. The edges, however, are downright ethereal--like puff pastry, collapsing on your tongue--and the whole streaked by bitter marks from the oven.

Best pizza in the city? Nah, but it's not bad. Makes me wonder about their attempt at pulled pork barbecue, though.

Guess I'll have to go back another day. A pleasant afternoon, when the patio and a martini (make that four) beckons.

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