My lunch at Coda (1744 Broadway) didn't start off very well. Although it certainly wasn't the fault of the Crossroads bar and grill. I couldn't open the door. But just as I was casually going to walk away and pretend that I hadn't been tugging fruitlessly on the handle, a face appeared in the window and waved me in.
"We usually have a sign up," explained the cook, who graciously opened the side door for me. The front entrance, you see, is on 19th Street, not Broadway. It's a point I'll be sure to remember the next time I eat there.
The former home to Jilly's on Broadway has faded, exposed-brick walls and black vinyl bar stools. It's the kind of neighborhood bar that makes you stay for one more beer than you planned to drink.
The menu is reflective of the griddle behind the bar -- it's an unpretentious mix of burgers, sandwiches and fried pub fare. The quarter-pound Coda Burger is the most popular choice on the seven-item $5 lunch menu (fish and chips, a barbecued pulled-pork sandwich, and a bowl of chili are among the options). Cheese is 50 cents extra, although a healthy side of skin-on, crispy french fries is included.
The burger I ate was solid, like a downtown cousin to the hubcaps at the Westport Flea Market. I recommend splurging on lunch and going for the $8.99 Coda Cheese Steak. While I'm not sold that it's an authentic Philly version, despite the waiter's charming story about a former Philly resident who has signed off on its tastiness, the steak was thinly sliced and properly smeared with Cheez Whiz. The grilled onions and peppers are as melty as the thin layer of provolone, while each bite releases a stream of oniony juices waiting to escape the warm hoagie and land on your white work shirt.
The food is approachable, just as long as you can find the front door.
Coda is open Tuesday and Wednesday (11 a.m to midnight), Thursday and Friday (11 a.m. to 1 a.m.) and Saturday (6 p.m. to 1 a.m.). Call ahead at (816)-569-1747.