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Starters: Mezza gets gastropub makeover as new Nine29

Mezza is no more, as Nine29 moves its textbook continental menu into the former Middle Eastern restaurant at its namesake location of 929 Elmwood Avenue.

Open seven days a week, the late-night kitchen has left the ethnic fare behind in favor of done-up but affordable bar staples with surprising housemade touches.

Like its sister restaurant Hearth & Press, Nine29 boasts a slew of handmade pizzas, though I’m told the oven styles aren’t exactly alike. Options include classic margherita ($14), cheese ($12), white ($13) and pepperoni ($14) pizzas.

The feature image of this article is their cup-and-char pepperoni pizza, thin and crisp at the center while light and fluffy at the crust. It’s a simple but satisfying six-slice pie that’s a great match for a draft beer as either an entrée or a starter if you’re dining with a crowd.

The “snacks” section of the Nine29 menu weighs in a little lighter than expected. Options include a meat & cheese board ($15), a fresh-cut Belgian fry sampler paired with assorted aioli ($8) and basil hummus ($8), which is more or less the only remnant of Mezza, apart from select pieces of the décor.

Wings are available in the standard variety of sauces, apart from the signature Nine29 style that are sticky, savory (think teriyaki sauce), and finished on the barbecue pit. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

Wings are also of course on the list at $12 for an order of 10 in the standard assortment of sauces, notwithstanding the “Nine29 Style” for a $1 upcharge. Boasting a sticky, savory sauce reminiscent of a teriyaki glaze, the signature wings are finished on the barbecue pit and paired with housemade blue cheese dip that’s light on mayo, big on flavor, and blended to a thick uniform consistency.

Hand-breaded chicken fingers set this sub apart from the herd at Nine29. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

The sandwich section is another bar-blessed, all-star lineup sporting a trio of burgers including a veggie “beyond burger” ($12), steak and chicken hoagies ($14), a fried chicken sandwich ($10), and an ever-present icon, the chicken finger sub ($12).

The rare sighting of housemade chicken fingers is what drew me to the otherwise boilerplate item. Fried crisp but juicy throughout, these tenders contribute to an exemplary version of the staple sandwich that’s worth ordering to appreciate the added effort.

The Nine29 burger drenched in blue cheese dip, Nine29 sauce, and topped with crispy bacon. It may be a mess, but it's a delicious mess. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

From the succinct burger options, the house specialty Nine29 Burger is an 8-ounce steak burger topped with bacon, blue cheese and Nine29 sauce served on a brioche bun ($12). The bacon is shatteringly crisp, balancing the softness from the blue cheese, tender beef and brioche bun.

Cooked to a perfect medium-rare and served with a side of fresh-cut fries, it’s a hell of a burger at a great value to boot, albeit a little salty.

Though the sign may still say “Mezza," the hookah smoke has long wisped away, leaving room for the burgers, pizza and beers of Nine29.

INFO: Nine29, 929 Elmwood Ave. Phone: 768-4985. Hours: Kitchen 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Lunch runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The sign may still say "Mezza," but that and the basil hummus are the only remnants of former Middle Eastern restaurant. (Phil Wagner/Special to The News)

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