An affordable night out. Or a lavish special occasion. An elegant business lunch. Or a no-fuss meal on-the-go.
I can't recall ever eating at such a versatile establishment. I struggle to think of the right metaphor to describe it. Is it the Swiss Army Knife of dining? The utility infielder?
Both lame jack-of-all-trades comparisons would sell Bistro 19 short.
A Swiss Army Knife can't replace a good screwdriver, and most utility players can't hit.
This restaurant thrives within each of its multiple identities and appears to blend its diverse menu options seamlessly.
Executive chef and co-owner Troy Sweitzer embraces the eclectic and strives for "food with a twist.
Examples abound on Bistro 19's wide-ranging menu, a reflection of the American melting pot. Sweitzer's culinary style veers from American homestyle/comfort food, to regional favorites, to Asian, Italian, French and a lot in between.
The crab bruschetta appetizer ($8), for example, is a traditional crab dip baked into a French loaf topped with cool chunks of tomato, garlic and basil. He finishes his meatloaf ($17) - made with ground beef, pork and veal - with a semi-sweet blackberry gravy.
And who ever heard of a Philly cheesesteak egg roll?
I now regret keeping my order so simple when I visited. But I was in the mood for a burger, so I went with the bistro stack ($9).
It still offered pleasant surprises. The mushrooms and onions weren't just sautéed, but caramelized to their peak flavor.
A grilled tomato made the sandwich nice and juicy. You have your choice of cheese, and I opted for Pepper Jack.
A smoky half-pound slab of beef, a sweet tomato and some spicy cheese - can you ask for a better burger?
My fellow cheap eater selected the bistro salad with French fries and grilled chicken, similar to a Pittsburgh salad.
She marveled at the variety of fresh, colorful greens.
We both ordered off of the "light fare" menu, which is a available all day, every day. Most items are less than $10.
The dinner entrées are in the $17 to $30 range, but a new "comfort food" menu coming soon will have more offerings between $10 and $20.
The options don't stop there, amazingly. The "bistro bag" meals sound like a brilliant idea for the restaurant's location near the courthouse and other downtown office buildings.
Made to go, the breakfast bag ($4.95) includes a breakfast sandwich, fruit and coffee or tea, and the lunch version ($6.95) has a sandwich, chips, pickle and a drink.
This savvy business move makes me think Bistro 19 will succeed where others at this location have failed in the past few years.
The eatery has a creative chef and the financial backing of owners with diverse business experience. And the building felt as welcoming as it is beautiful.
The only thing missing: a liquor license.
The owners hope to complete the transfer by the end of the summer. In the meantime, the place is BYOB.
Cheap Eats is a biweekly column on local restaurants' meals for less than $10. Suggestions are welcome. Reach Wade Malcolm at 771-2101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
LOCATION: Bistro 19, 19 N. George St. in York
CUISINE: American and French
WADE'S PICK: Bistro stack burger
PARKING: Metered on-street parking
HOURS: 7 a.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday; 7 a.m.
PRICE RANGE: $6.50 to $12 for light fare, available any time; $17 to $30 for dinner entrees.
ALCOHOL: Currently BYOB while awaiting liquor license transfer
ACCEPTS: Cash and major credit card
KID'S MENU: Mac 'n cheese, grilled cheese and other options available on request.
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