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Pondi’s is Lisbon’s hidden gem

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

By Anthony M. FUDA

BurgerGuyz@hotmail.com

One hundred years and only four owners. To make that boast, you must be continuing a strong, rich heritage.

Pondi’s lays claim to those credentials, with an interesting history. There was a factory across from where Pondi’s now stands. John Pondi would invite co-workers back to his house to enjoy his wife’s cooking. Word spread on how good the food was and next thing you knew, John and his wife, Annie Muntean, converted the bottom floor of the house into a restaurant in 1916, while continuing to live upstairs.

Business grew and survived prohibition when John would make “bathtub” gin, and because of his home-brewed spirits, he sometimes spent a few weekends in jails.

Pondi’s also made it through World War II, becoming a favorite restaurant of the locals. This was evident the Wednesday evening we went. Usually Wednesdays are pretty slow, but the evening we chose to go, there was a packed house, and current owner Matt Borza said if we would have arrived 30 minutes earlier, we would’ve been waiting outside.

Matt and his wife, Jessica, have owned Pondi’s since 1998 when they purchased the restaurant from Blair Lewis, and plan to continue the tradition for many years. Matt brings years of experience in the food industry. He worked with his father, John Borza, in the family-owned meat market and has been a consultant to other restaurants. But Matt always wanted to own his own restaurant, and in 1998 that opportunity came knocking – and Matt eagerly answered.

After hearing the story and seeing the multitude of plates of food float past us, we were ready for our own burger journey.

Our waitress, Miranda Lamparty, guided us every step of the way with full drinks, tasty food and friendly banter.

The menu was simple – a build your own burger, and one burger on the daily special menu.

The ‘Build Your Own’ starts with:

Picking the meat

Pondi’s Famous Burger – 100 percent Angus beef, ground fresh in the family-owned, local butcher shop, and cooked to order.

Chicken breast

Turkey burger

Portabella cap

Pick the toppings

Pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, salsa, sour cream, cajun seasoning

Pick the Cheese

50¢ each: Swiss, cheddar, American, bleu cheese crumbles, nacho cheese sauce, mozzarella

Pick Extras

50¢ each: jalapenos, green peppers, sauteed onions, sauteed mushrooms, black olives, bacon strips

Pick the Bun

Brioche roll, Italian bread, foccacia bread, grilled deli rye

The burgers are sided with fresh-cut fries or curly fries.

Matt says Pondi’s has the freshest meats in the area, and you can’t get any fresher than getting meat orders twice a day. When you have a butcher shop at your fingertips, that is a nice luxury. If Pondi’s needs 10 pounds of ground chuck for the evening burger rush, Matt can just call Borza’s Meat Market and have his dad grind it on the spot. Or if he needs six strip steaks and a couple of pounds of bacon, hit that Meat Market speed dial.

The burgers arrived, and we were down to business.

My Build Your Own started with a medium burger, which came out spot on – a nice pink strip between the top and bottom deliciously charred beef. I topped it with pickles, lettuce, tomato and Cajun seasoning. The toppings were as fresh as the beef and the Cajun seasoning always makes my taste buds happy. I had them put a nice piece of cheddar on with some jalapeno slices and bacon strips. The bacon was cooked perfectly with a crispiness and fantastic flavor. My only flaw was the Italian bread. It tasted great, but with all the fresh and juicy toppings, it had a little trouble staying together, but I made it last until that last glorious bite.

Eric said, “It was a pleasant change to see the burgers were of the Create Your Own variety. For once, I was going to shoulder some of the burden on how the burger tasted. I finally settled on the Angus beef cooked medium well, and pickles, onions, lettuce, homemade hot sauce, ketchup, Cajun seasoning, American cheese, Bleu cheese crumbles, jalapenos, green peppers, and bacon strips, all on focaccia bread. After the first bite, I knew I crafted a masterpiece. The jalapeños combined with the homemade hot sauce and gave me a nice bite back. Speaking of the hot sauce, it definitely can stand on its own especially, when used as a dip for the fresh cut french fries. The only downside was that my bun was not able to hold up to the bombardment of extras I had added. But on the other hand, I’m not sure of many buns that could.”

JT, adding his two pickle chips, remarked, “What do you get when you cross a butcher with a restaurant owner? A DGB [damn good burger]! Holy cow, no wonder this place is packed! The flavor in the fresh Angus beef patty was amazing. And holy pig! The bacon? Forget about it! THE best bacon I’ve ever had on a burger. Fresh-cut fries were done just right – crispy good. This meal gets high marks from me, across the board. The one thing I would suggest, maybe switch to, or offer as an option, a little more sturdy of a bun, as the brioche didn’t quite make it to the end of this juicy masterpiece with its ample toppings. But even with that, when we’re talking about Burger of the Year, Pondi’s is definitely on the short list.”

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