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The Pour House moves past the liquid lunch

by Brian Clarey

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I am what the Italians call a “heavy fork,” which means I can eat like a man twice my size. I have taken down whole pizzas, sandwiches as long as my arm, entire trays of brownies. When I go to a buffet I’m looking to do five laps minimum. And once, at the office, I ate an entire chicken for lunch.

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So I hit up the Pour House in downtown Greensboro for lunch last week on a co-workers suggestion, which included the phrase, “They give you a lot.”

Most people know the Pour House as a nighttime drinkery for those who eschew the club scene but still want to hook up. But the place has been serving lunches out of its ample kitchen for more than a year now, with a menu that includes all the basics like burgers, salads, deep-fried apps and homemade soups.

But I’m here for the plate lunch, which rotates daily with selections like chicken and dumplings, baked spaghetti, chicken-fried steak and chicken-fried chicken. Today it’s the meatloaf. I’ll have it, with green bean casserole, cheesy broccoli and rice and a cup of chicken-noodle soup. Yes you get three sides with these plate lunches and a drink for $7.25.

The food comes out fast, and when it is dropped on my table with a soft thud I am a little intimidated by the sheer volume of it. There has got to be two cups of cooked rice on my plate, perhaps a pound of meatloaf graced with onion-y brown gravy and a couple slabs of Texas toast, not to mention the casserole and soup. More on them in a bit.

Meals are not judged strictly by portions — at least not by me; if the food’s no good, what’s the point? But I can tell by the aroma that this meatloaf is for real, and my first bite confirms this. It’s dense, meaty and flecked with bits of onion and bell pepper, the recipe seemingly cribbed from someone’s mom.

The chicken-noodle soup is also obviously homemade, heavy on chicken, light on vegetables. And the green-bean casserole boasts what appears to be homemade cream of mushroom soup and onion bits crisped on-site. Both are fabulous.

I’m not crazy about the broccoli rice, but I figure I’m still ahead of the game.

So I sit and eat in a booth in the barroom, a booth equipped with its own flat-screen television airing an NFL pre-season game, among the crowd which includes lunch ladies, cops, working stiffs and hungry lingerers like me. I’m carving off huge hunks of the loaf, swilling the soup, sopping the gravy with my Texas toast, and then a strange thing happens.

I’m getting full, and I’m not even halfway through with the meal.

This distresses me, and not just because it’s never happened to me before. It just seems… I don’t know… kind of shameful for a grown man not to be able to finish his lunch. And there’s no way I’m walking out of here with a to-go tray. No way.

So I soldier on, laying waste to the meatloaf as a point of pride and taking out the green beans as I’m starting to get the food sweats. I am unable to finish the broccoli rice or the chunks of goodness left in my soup cup. I can barely even drain the last of my sweet tea.

My server, Sara Denney, has some soothing words as she brings the check.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone clean their plate here,” she says, “but I’ve seen people come close.”

wanna go?

The Pour House 360 Federal Place, Greensboro, NC. 336.333.2226

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