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Cheers!

A tip of the glass to the Imperial Pint

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I often hear people talk of the legendary Stein Club. The dive bar that closed up shop in the summer of 2000 had a loyal following of writers, bike couriers, politicians, hard drinkers and other intown dwellers. Since its departure, Stein devotees have been looking for another grungy pub for late-night drinking and bonding. The Imperial Pint may just be that place.Located amidst new construction along Piedmont Road, the Imperial Pint looks like a double-wide perched on cinder blocks with a deck tacked on. But inside is a cozy bar of heavy wood furniture and wood paneling. It's far from a Derek Lawford cookie-cutter pub.

Service: On a weekday lunch there was nothing much taking up our server's time since only one other clutch of diners sat at the bar. Irish and friendly, our bartender/server made us feel right at home. At dinner we got the same great service.

The beer: I was happy to see Boddingtons on tap as well as the requisite Guinness. You'll also find the rest of your main imports and domestics: Bass, Newcastle, Paulaner, Stella Artois, etc. Just like the name states, all pints are imperial pints (based on the English system of weights and measures). So the $4.25 you pay for a Guinness gets you 20 ounces. You'll also find gimmick nights: Mondays, you get to keep the pint glass if you order the featured beer. Tuesdays, there are mixed drink specials; Wednesday nights focus on martinis. Still no trivia night.

What we ate: The menu is vast and stocked with excellent bar food. We tried the chicken Caesar sandwich ($5.95), a large chicken breast on a bun with romaine lettuce and just enough Caesar dressing. The appetizer of spicy Southwestern egg rolls ($6.95) seems a bit pricey unless eaten as an entree. Spinach and artichoke dip ($5.95), arrives piping hot with loads of tortilla chips. The Pint also has a hard-to-find item: fried pickles (5.95).

A bar wouldn't be a bar without a great burger and the Imperial Pint has one. The Imperial Burger ($6.95) is a simple, seasoned half-pound of beef with melted Swiss on a toasted roll, topped with lettuce, tomato and red onion. It's cooked over an open flame.

The 13th Colony is a classic Reuben ($6.95) packed with corn beef and sauerkraut. To go the traditional route, look for bangers and mash ($8.95). Mashed potatoes soaked with pepper gravy are flanked with grilled sausages (or soysage), sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Cheapest item: A cup of the house soup of the day is $2.25 (an entire bowl $3.50). So far I've sampled the chicken tortilla, Asian beef noodle and tomato parmesan -- all great warm meals in and of themselves.

Most expensive item: Fish and chips go for $9.95 and include beer-battered fried fish, a heap of chips (fries) and tartar sauce.

Who to take? It's a no-brainer: Your pals. Sit down and while away the hours with good beer and relaxed company.

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