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Cheap eats

Wiechec's Lounge is old school. Booths with worn red leather seats. Dark-paneled walls with buzzers. It's like a pair of worn shoes -- ones you cringe to see in your closet, yet haven't the heart to toss. Comfortable. Familiar.

I have a soft spot for this joint. It's in my dad's former "hood" -- Kaisertown. He'd bring us for lunch and let us shoot pool in the bar. Years later, the pool table hasn't moved and the food is still good.

Fridays are a mob scene. It's the only day you can get fish and the "Friday only" items on the menu. Booths and long banquet tables are usually filled with folks laughing and talking. There's a yellow legal pad hung by the kitchen door. Sign in and wait.

They come for the colossal fish fry ($8.95) pumped out of the kitchen and carried by harried waitresses, older women who mean business. Piled under the fish are macaroni salad, coleslaw, potato and a classic -- two slices of rye bread, already buttered. A half fish ($7.25) or fish sandwich ($6.95) are just as giant. Beer battered or breaded, either way, the fish comes out piping hot and flaky.

I come for the chicken soup ($2.25/$2.75), served all the time, scalding hot and delicious with tons of kluski noodles. The clear, rich broth with carrots and chicken never disappoints. On Fridays, the spicy seafood gumbo ($3.25/$3.75) is rich with a kick to it.

As a general rule, where there's kluski, there's bound to be pierogi. Fridays only at Wiechec's, you can order them individually ($1.95 each) or get the dinner ($7.25), which includes the same sides as the fish. Both the cheese and sauerkraut pass the test. Served with a nicely browned exterior, the cheese is light and slightly sweet, while the sauerkraut had the perfect amount of tang, along with the pleasant surprise of bacon. Satisfying.

Check for specials on Friday, like beer battered chicken dinner ($8.95) or 10-ounce strip steak ($14.25), but don't forget to try the chicken soup.

-- Emeri Krawczyk, Special to The News

Wiechec's Lounge

1748 Clinton St.

823-2828

Review: 3 pennies (Out of 4)

"Old-school feel."

Wiechec's Lounge is open from 11 a.m. to about 2 p.m. and from 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays; the rest of the week it's open from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. There are a couple of steps at the front door.

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