At Hartwood Restaurant, customers get literary treats with eats

| Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010

Whether you're looking for a white tablecloth lunch place to catch up with friends, a casual pub to chow down on burgers and beer or a secluded nook for a semi-private rendezvous or an opportunity to combine browsing and grazing, there's a table for you at Hartwood Restaurant.

Located on Hart's Run Road near Hartwood Acres, Hartwood Restaurant's multiple dining areas offer a choice of moods and ambience.

Originally owned by the Harmar Coal Company, the space became Bookworks, bookstore and coffee shop, when Don and Molly Montgomery bought the building in 1988.

In 2000, the Montgomerys added Hartwood Restaurant, where chefs Eddie Myers and Alyson Crispin continue to whip up an eclectic mix of Pacific Rim dishes, pub-style. Now, Kate and Jeff Fenton and their friend, Robin McCarthy, are in the process of joining the ownership team, which should become official in April.

"Don is still doing his architectural magic and maintenance and still owns the building," Kate Fenton says. "Robin and I manage the restaurant and the customer experience."

Renovations are planned for the space that will alter arrangements in the former coffee shop area. But there are no plans to tamper with the restaurant's eclectic style and menu.

"The concept works. People like fine dining and the ambiance of the pub," Kate Fenton says. At the moment the two sides and sections are completely different. Soon, says Fenton, "We hope to mix the best of both worlds. ... When we renovate the coffee shop, we will do a mix of the two, so there's a little bit of both."

For now, guests enter through the Whispers Pub, which is properly dark and casual-looking with big booths where lunchtime customers tend to order sandwiches such as Grilled Salmon Kaiser Roll ($8.50) served with Whispers Tartar Sauce, or Vegetarian Black Bean Cheddar Kaiser Roll Burger ($7.50), which comes with coleslaw and potato chips.

A turn to the right and down the steps leads into a larger, brighter high-ceiling dining room, which, were it not for the abundance of white cloth-covered tables and the full-sized tree at one side of the room, might be mistaken for a library in a country home.

Bookcases and shelves line the walls, a relic of the earlier bookstore. Customers are still welcome to browse the shelves.

The bookselling aspect of the operation is gradually phasing out, though Fenton says she can't imagine eliminating the books and bookcases, which have become so much a part of the surroundings. Proceeds from sales now go to the Epilepsy Foundation.

Intimate dining can be enjoyed in alcoves tucked into corners or up a flight of stairs or at a hearth-side table.

Lunch customers on this side find the same burgers and sandwiches on the menu -- Classic Turkey Bacon Devonshire ($9), anyone• But orders here tend to lean toward the salads that Crispin creates such as Roasted Butternut Squash Salad ($8), a colorful, crunchy mix of tiny cubes of squash with feta cheese and toasted pine nuts on tender baby greens, and appetizers that include crisply fried Shanghai Pork Potstickers ($6) accompanied by a fragrant Spicy Yellow Garlic Chili Curry Aioli.

The waitstaff is relaxed but welcoming, accommodating, confident and knowledgeable.

That mood carries over to the customers creating a place that encourages them to linger over food with good companions.

Additional Information:

The Hartwood Restaurant

Location: 3400 Harts Run Road, Indiana Township

Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; dinner, 5:30 to 8:45 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Whispers Pub hours: 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Details: 412-767-3500 or Web site

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