1011 Broad St. tel: 386-1662 no reservations

When I was a teenager, Pag's was a hip place to hang out and drink coffee in the afternoon, and was well regarded for its lunch and brunch menus. While having made some minor menu changes over the years, Pag's is currently living off the reputation of a better time.

We were surprised to arrive at lunch time on a Thursday, to empty tables - Pag's doesn't take reservation and there used to always be a queue. After a little standing around, we were seated. The clientele isn't what it was. While some business people continue to linger, the 'pretty' people are gone, replaced by the early bird special crowd.

The menu has changed since I was last here. They've added a static, a la carte menu to their lengthy list of daily specials, but the theme remains the same - sandwiches, pasta and pizza.

Patty and I both ordered off the a la carte menu. I had the half meatball sandwich ($8.5) with soup and Patty had the 'Brooklyn,' a steak sandwich ($10.95) with a Caesar salad.

I like the way they serve the soup and salad as first courses. My minestrone wasn't terribly innovative, but it was fresh and the tomato-base rich and well seasoned. Similarly, Patty's Ceaser salad was crunchy with a generous portion of croutons and Parmesan cheese.

My meatball sandwich arrived and I was reassured by my decision to go with a half order. Two meatballs didn't look like a lot, but in the end filled me up completely. The tomato sauce was nice and rich and the foccacia bread, a Pag's speciality, was tender and flavourful. I was most pleased, that in line with the menu description it was a little spicy - not very, but a little. The meatball sandwich wasn't really a dish to get excited about, but it was tasty and well executed.

Patty's steak sandwich was a little more disappointing. The meat was considerably overdone - medium well, not medium rare and the meat portion incredibly small - we guessed 4 oz pre-cooked. The ciabatta loaf was good and the fillings fresh, but all in all, not really a winner.

To accompany our meals I ordered some wine - at least I tried. Ohmagawd - this is one of the worst wine lists in town, comparable only to mediocre Asian restaurants. The glass lists are the worst; with selections I would deem only appropriate for stew. I tried to pick the best of the worst - a Sangiovese, the server smiled, 'good choice.' It was drinkable, but I didn't really enjoy it and I'll drink a lot of crap. The bottle list was slightly better, but I wasn't impressed.

Our server was incredibly fast and friendly, but was dressed for a yoga class. I'm a bit createof a slob too and wear gym clothes all the time, but not when I'm serving people. Six inches of exposed belly flesh and a head band that matches your bra straps, might be sexy for someone, but it's not professional. Also, while speed of service is important at lunch time, I'd like to have my first course dishes cleared before having my main course put in front of me.

In the end, our tummies were full and nothing (expect the wine list) was unforgivable. It wasn't cheap, but it wasn't ridiculously expensive and we were in and out quickly. You could do worse than Pag's for lunch. That said, Pag's sure isn't what it used to be.

reviewed Dec 7, 2006