WHY WE WENT:
It's new, and it's downtown. Always happy to try the place willing to give downtown a go. Ballina, by the way, is the name of a town famous for fishing, particularly salmon fishing, in County Mayo, Ireland.
STYLE OF FOOD: Quite an ambitious menu for a small place, offering everything from breakfast (breakfast paninis, egg sandwiches, omelettes, etc.) and lunch (salads, hoagies, wraps, burgers, etc.) to appetizers (steamed clams, mozzarella sticks, buffalo bites, nachos, etc.) and dinner (pasta, platters, steaks and seafood).
DRESS & DÃ?COR: Casual. The small place with high ceilings and comfortable chairs is decorated to recall the Old Sod. Wall art reflects lovely seaside spots in Ireland, from which the owner's family hails.
SERVICE: Friendly. Not speedy but not necessarily necessary.
A steak panini was a delightful, perfectly sized lunchtime treasure. Thinly sliced steak was exquisitely tender and shared space under a lovely grill-marked bread pocket with lots of melted cheese and a generous array of fried onions and sautÃ©ed mushrooms. Hand-cut fries on the side were fresh, hot and fantastic, with visible salt, which we'll guess was sea salt. We didn't need to pick up a shaker even once.
OTHER MENU HIGHLIGHTS: House-made soups were a hit. We had sausage tortellini, which was just a wee bit scant on the sausage, and a vibrant gumbo. Potato and bacon is a next-time option, though, that we were sorry to miss.
Cheesesteaks, with prime rib and cheddar, are swell, too, with a garlic cheesesteak representing an interesting option. We also liked the choice of price and size: $5 for a large-enough half and $7 if you're hungry and want the whole thing.
For the future, certain pastas especially intrigued: tortellini in a basil pesto cream sauce ($11), rigatoni with red clam sauce ($12) and shrimp, scallops and clams in a sweet sherry Alfredo ($12), to name just a few. A hot roasted-pork hoagie also sounded tempting.
Desserts are sweet, too. A tiramisu ($3.50) was a creamy delight, and a cheesecake ($3.50) hit just the right textural notes. A hot apple blossom complete with ice cream sounded like a scrumptious dessert of the day.
Traditional, but the raspberry iced tea from the fountain was especially good, and tea-lovers will rejoice to find the famous Bewley's on the menu here.
HOURS: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday.
PRICES: $5 to $7 seems to be a popular breakfast and lunch price point, with most seafood and pastas going for $10 to $12, dinner platters getting $7 or $8 and steaks topping out at $26 for filet mignon
THE LOCATION: 10 W. Northampton St., Wilkes-Barre
Call 970-0150 or fax 970-0151. Delivery is free, and catering is available.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Comfortable, cute and lots to love. Let's hope this one sticks around.