Friday, November 9, 2007

Weekend Damage: The Office Convention


Weekend Damage

This weekend the beau and I went to The Office Convention (yes, the NBC show with Steve Carell as the lead, playing Michael Scott- the bumbling idiot yet well-meaning boss of Dunder Miffin Paper Company). We love The Office and decided just a couple weeks before that it would be a good excuse for a mini-road trip (to Scranton, PA, where the show takes place) and an interesting people-watching affair. And of course, any road trip is a great opportunity to eat, this time, to visit some of the local favorites of the Dunder Mifflin staff.

Saturday, Lunch: Alfredo’s Pizza Café
In an episode from the most recent season (Season 4), the staff is deeply disappointed that Michael has ordered pizza from Pizza By Alfredo rather than Alfredo’s Pizza Café (APC). They claim that a slice of pizza from PBA (Pizza By Alfredo) tastes like ‘a hot circle of garbage’. PBA doesn’t actually exist (It exists on the Web at but the physical address of the shop is fictional), but in our opinion its pizza, or any other pizza we’ve tried for that matter, has to be better than Alfredo’s Pizza Café’s!!!

Dubbed ‘the good pizza’ by The D-M staff in the episode, the beau and I found APC’s slices far from. You would think that the people behind APC would have gotten their sh*t together for the deluge of Dunderheads descending on Scranton, either that, or the D-M staff has very low expectations of what a good slice is! The service was bad- I don’t think our waiter ever looked at us directly, nor was he able to produce a beer list (other than the 3 or 4 he committed to memory, two of which were Coors Light and Miller Light), claiming there was no list. We started with ‘Hot Shots’ as an appetizer- cherry peppers stuffed with provolone cheese and proscuitto, which sounded promising on the menu but ended up being a very oily mess. The peppers were doused with oil as were the cold proscuitto-wrapped chunks of cheese inside. I needed to drink a gallon of water after just the first few bites.

Then came our pizza- we ordered a half tray of Alfredo’s ‘famous’ thick (deep dish) pizza with extra cheese and pepperoni. APC was skimpy on the pepperoni (a carefully rationed row of 3 pepperoni circles was placed on each slice) and generous on the cheese, which under normal circumstances would be great, but was absolutely awful in this case. The cheese did not seem like good mozzarella cheese (if it was mozzarella cheese at all) and left a nasty slick coating/aftertaste our mouths. Granted, we did ask for extra cheese (but ended up scraping off about 75% of it before we could attempt to eat). The cheese completely outweighed the crust, is pretty difficult for deep dish pizza! We left more than half our order on the tray, then rushed to the adjacent drive-thru McDonalds for an order of fries and a Coke to wash down the memory of that meal. A warning to all you Dunderheads making the pilgrimage to Scranton--- avoid this place at all costs! But if you insist, try one of the strombolis (I had eyed one at a nearby table as we were waiting for our food- it looked like it would taste good) or one of Alfredo’s specialty pizzas (like the Bruschetta pizza) and let me know if I have been too harsh!

Saturday, Dinner: The Banshee

After the Cast Q&A at the University of Scranton (highlights were a reel of outtakes from this season and Ed Helms singing Abba and doing a dead-on Tom Brokaw impression), we hopped over to The Banshee, an Irish Pub and local favorite (I garnered the reco from When we went (around 7:30PM), the place was still pretty quiet, preparing for the Halloween festivities that night. Our server was Mouse (he insisted we call him Mouse), and he, unlike our waiter at APC, was able to recommend a beer to start from their Oktoberfest selection.

We were really surprised at how Scranton was not at overrun with crazed Office fans as we expected. I had imagined all the Office-mentioned and ‘local favorite’ joints to be packed… maybe because I’m a jaded New Yorker and waiting in line for anything popular seems to be the norm. The atmosphere and decor at The Banshee were very relaxed (low lighting, bronzed tin ceilings, library wall) and evoked ‘authentic Irish Pub’ at its most laid-back.

We started with a basket of seasoned fries with 3 different dipping sauces- one garlic, one dill, and another orange-colored one we couldn’t quite figure out, which the beau liked best. He had the buffalo chicken sandwich which came with a pickle and side of chips (Pennsylvanians really know their potato chips- among the best kettle chips I’ve had!), and I had a salad--- which, I admit, is not the most exciting choice (I was off-setting the bagel w/cream cheese I had for breakfast and extra cheese pizza for lunch), so I jazzed it up by adding the steak option for an extra $2. The salad was basically a mix of iceberg (seems like it could have come straight out of the bag), sliced almonds and dried cranberries, sprinkled with Pepperidge farm goldfish (charming). I expected a sliced steak and instead got four or five small steak cubes. In essence, it was no gourmet salad, but decent ‘light fare’ for someone trying to avoid gorging themselves.

For dessert the beau insisted we each get our own since we couldn’t agree. He got the uber chocolate chocolate cake (when presented with options, he always chooses the chocolatiest of them all). Torn between the caramel apple pie and the cinnamon apple crisp, I decided on the latter option (the one served a la mode- a key deciding factor). Like the salad, it was nothing amazing, but did the job. The sour cherries added a welcome tartness to the apple crisp. Thus far, the best dining experience of the weekend.

Nightcap: Poor Richard’s Pub at South Side Bowl
We were energized by the Scrantones’ rousing finale of The Office theme song after their concert at U of Scranton, so though it had been a long day, we were motivated to grab a drink at Poor Richard’s Pub (a favorite dive of the DM staff), housed in the South Side Bowling Lanes. Because it was Halloween weekend, there were quite a few people- locals, mostly-from what we could tell- who had come out for their Halloween festivities.

Beers were reasonably priced (we bought 2 bottles for $6 or $7) and we hung out just long enough to finish them, as more Dunderheads started to filter in post-concert. Between us we purchased maybe a dozen branded beer cozies (emblazoned with the Poor Richard’s crest on one side and the mantra “Ain’t No Party Like A Scranton Party ‘Cause a Scranton Party Don’t Stop”) on the way out- a cheap $2 a piece for our Dunderfriends back home who were unable to join us.

Sunday, Breakfast: Fairfield Inn Scranton (Dickson City)
(I would highly recommend this hotel if you are planning to visit Scranton. It is a newly renovated, completely non-smoking hotel, clean rooms, comfortable beds, and free Wi-Fi in the guest rooms. It’s about 5 minutes from Downtown Scranton on I-81. I booked a room with two queen beds for $49 using Priceline and considered it a major triumph!)

The free Continental Breakfast bore a pretty decent spread- pre-made waffle mix and a waffle iron (so you could make your own), assorted toasts and bagels, cereals, fresh whole fruit, yogurt, and microwaveable Jimmy Dean sandwiches. I’ve always found the Jimmy Dean commercials with the sun and moon engaging, and had just happened to see a bunch of those same commercials at the hotel (sheer coincidence?), so I had to try one. A short 45 seconds in the microwave and it went from frozen to piping hot, but to be honest, I could not distinguish between the bacon, egg, and biscuit in the sandwich--- it was all basically the same consistency.

Sunday, Lunch: Farley’s
After touring The Office wardrobe exhibit at the Trolley Museum (yes, that’s a museum about the history of trolleys), we popped by Farley’s for a quick lunch. Farley’s was mentioned in the Season 1 “Basketball” episode, when the sales team challenges the warehouse guys to a game and the warehouse guys basically bully Michael to giving them the win (after Michael tries to make an extremely unfair call in favor of the sales team, of course).

I believe Farley’s is known for its steaks, but being that we were just there for lunch, I went for the French dip and the beau, a burger with bacon and cheese. Farley’s has a special called the Michael Scott (a burger dressed up with with provolone(?) cheese, red peppers and ‘sweet Maui onion chips’ on the side)--- though I’m not sure what makes it a Michael Scott--- it sounds good (the chips, especially).

The French dip was lacking (served on a toasted roll- the kind of light and airy bread that reminds me of Subway sandwiches and how not fulfilling they are, and no cheese… is that typical of French dip, or am I just being picky?), though again, the potato chips were outstanding. I would have been content with a bowlful of those and a light beer for my last meal in Scranton, but we had to go to Farley’s so we could say we did it, and close the loop during our whirlwind weekend in The Electric City.

Alfredo's Pizza Cafe
1040 S Washington Ave
Scranton, PA 18505

The Banshee
322 Penn Ave
Scranton, PA 18503

Poor Richard's Pub (at South Side Bowl)
125 Beech Street
Scranton, PA 18505

Fairfield Inn Scranton
949 Viewmont Dr
Dickson City, PA 18519

300 Adams Ave.
Scranton PA 18503

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