Location: 1400 Saxonburg Blvd., Glenshaw. 412-767-4110
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m.; Sun. noon-11 p.m.
Prices: Sandwiches $7-10, entrees $11-17
Fare: Pub grub and pasta
Atmosphere: Neighborhood pizza parlor plus
Liquor: Full bar
Smoking: Designated sections
People often ask us how we find the restaurants we review. Sometimes, an establishment's reputation precedes it. Other times, a shiny new storefront or eye-catching sign, well, catches our eye. Then there are the times when everything you need to know about a restaurant can be gleaned from its parking lot.
Well, not everything, not really. But take the case of JD's, a nondescript, single-story brick building overlooking a prominent intersection near Hartwood Acres. Even more than the sign on the hillside nearby announcing pizza and wings, the fact that the parking lot is always packed proclaims JD's popularity. This alone was enough to send us to the nearest phone booth to change into our Super Reviewer disguises.
Sure enough, even on a Tuesday night, we were lucky to slip into the last available space in JD's lot. This made us wonder about the wait for a table inside, a factor we usually don't consider on a weeknight. But as it turned out, there were more empty tables than full ones in the dining room, a low-key patchwork of tables, chairs, mirrors and mini-blinds. The bar was busier, but even so, we could not account for the number of cars crowding the parking lot. Where was everyone?
A brief reconnoitering outside provided the answer: Of course, the crowd was over at the Cabana, JD's secret weapon for summertime crowds. Located in a corner of the property, the high-roofed, open-air pavilion offers kids 21-and-over pool and foosball tables inside, volleyball and horseshoes outside, and a full bar.
But there's no food at the Cabana, and it would be embarrassing to display our lack of foosball skills, so we stuck with the dining room. JD's menu is a comprehensive listing of familiar local restaurant fare. In particular, if you've ever had it at a Pittsburgh bar, you can get it at JD's, including sandwiches, burgers and hoagies. JD's also recognizes a distinct sub-category, pub sandwiches, which are also served on hoagie rolls, so we're not completely clear on the distinction. Entrees and pasta dishes, such as blackened shrimp and Cajun alfredo and portabella Florentine, however, suggest the kitchen has ambitions beyond simple pub grub.
We decided to try JD's self-proclaimed specialties, pizza and wings, for starters. JD's is justly proud of its homemade, thin and crispy crust. Traditional and gourmet toppings are available; we split the difference by ordering a margarita, the classic Italian pizza upon which the familiar American pie is based, with fresh tomatoes in place of sauce and plenty of fresh basil. Unfortunately, the cheese was standard mozzarella instead of the more authentic white buffalo mozzarella, which undermined the other, better ingredients.
JD's wings are available with a variety of dry rubs as well as sauces, and Jason was eager to try the jerk rub, anticipating an intense herbal and spicy flavor. Instead, the whole, deep-fried wings were lightly sprinkled with seasoning, and tended toward dryness.
A fish sandwich arrived on an above-average bun, but the breaded-and-fried cod within was, like the wings, dry and bland, without the flavorful seasoning that good breading can impart.
Angelique's bacon and bleu-cheese burger featured a satisfactory patty of juicy ground beef, several slices of salty, smoky bacon and a generous helping of tangy bleu cheese on a substantially crusty bun. It was an object lesson in The Essential Burger: no more, no less.
Jason was intrigued by the chopped prime-rib option on JD's roasted-red-pepper steak hoagie, a tantalizing upgrade, and ordered it only to be informed that the prime rib was out. No matter. Here at last was a satisfying item, its flavor balanced among tender, savory beef, plenty of melted provolone and sweet red peppers. The roll was hearty rather than soft, making a fine platform for the fillings. The fries were plank cut, a style that can err on the side of too soft or undercooked, but here again JD's succeeded with crisp exteriors and fluffy interiors.
JD's aims for the status of neighborhood hangout, offering something for everyone. In this, it has certainly succeeded. Our fellow diners ran the gamut from college students on the prowl to happy-hour professionals and a family stopping in for pizza after Little League. But perhaps our experience at JD's just goes to show that you can't please everyone all of the time.