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Woodbridge, NJ

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Venue Review: The Keg Lounge

The Keg Lounge
The Gazette

Marilyn’s fresh, crisp slices prove capable of seduction

When asked what she had on during the photo shoot that landed her in the first issue of Playboy, Marilyn Monroe famously said, “the radio.”
The slices ($2) passed through the window at Marilyn’s Pizza House on sweaty summer sidewalk days are the same: naked (or with pepperoni, and we’d just as soon not get into any symbolism here).
They waltz out the window as a glistening veneer of blended cheddar and mozzarella, sauce, and a thin crust served on a paper plate. And they’re seductively good folded and scarfed down as a quick street snack. I’ve enjoyed them a number of times on busy days, but I had never actually ventured inside to check out this longtime Manitou Springs pizza nook’s full menu.
This week’s GO! cover story on the Marilyn Monroe exhibit at the Fine Arts Center gave me an excuse.
The food at Marilyn’s doesn’t quite live up to the name. It’s more starlet than star, good enough to make it but without the rich depth to really become a sensation. Still, it’s a good place for lunch or something cool on a hot day.
Inside, the restaurant has old-fashioned wooden booths running down one side to a bright alcove not just overlooking, but literally over Fountain Creek. On the other side, a few rotating diner-type stools nestle against a counter that serves both as a soda fountain (cones, floats and shakes) and a bar (Fat Tire Amber and 5 Barrel Pale Ale). It’s fun for the whole family.
Just to the side, a narrow galley serves a variety of 10-inch pizzas that are decidedly less pedestrian than the naked slices sold through the window on the street.
We ordered the Manitou — a white garlic sauce pie in a gorgeous ensemble of pale artichoke hearts, bright-red sun-dried tomatoes and strands of fresh-chopped basil ($9.35) — and another pizza with slices of chicken breast and fresh wheels of tomato ($9.15). We also ordered a Reuben sandwich ($7.75) from the Ancient Mariner next door, which has a slot in the wall through which food is passed. The Mariner has a sign outside that claims the place has the “Best Reuben this side of anywhere.” We’ll see, I thought.
We sat down. The restaurant is slammed in the summer, but still quiet now. The walls are covered in different Marilyns: Warhol’s pop Marilyn, Marilyn with her skirt blowing up, Marilyn in big, dark glasses, Marilyn smiling, Marilyn pouting, even brown-haired Norma Jeane. For good measure, the tables are shellacked with Marilyn pinups.
“They’ve gone too far,” a friend said. “There are so many Marilyns on this table that I can’t find a place to put my drink.” He respectfully moved his soda off Marilyn’s pointy brassiere and onto her face, then back.
The pizzas arrived. Both had a very thin, almost crackerlike crust. It had a good crisp bite, but seemed to lack the complex, yeasty allure of a mature dough.
The toppings and sauce are both fresh and made in the shop. The cheese walks the line well between too much and too little. While no one at the table raved about the pizza, they gave tacit approval by cleaning their plates.
Then we waited for the Reuben. And waited. Apparently, the two kitchens don’t put much stock in coordinating. But, hey, a good Reuben is worth hanging around for.
Finally, the sandwich arrived, and the “best Reuben this side of anywhere” was . . . not bad. The thin-sliced pastrami was mounded between two very thin pieces of bread with a blond cascade of sauerkraut and melted cheese over the top.
Best side of anywhere? I know some folks at Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side who might kvetch about that. It’s not like the Mariner is making its own pastrami, but it’s probably the best Reuben this side of the Manitou arcade.
Besides, not everything needs rise to the level of timeless pop icon like Marilyn to be good.
Sometimes, a cozy neighborhood place with good pizza through the window is enough.

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