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Olive's in Clifton a popular neighborhood hangout

When Olive's opened a couple of years ago, many residents in the neighborhood doubted it would survive. One wag dubbed it "dead restaurant walking" because the crowds were so sparse and the kitchen so inconsistent. But surprise -- Olive's is still hanging in there, no doubt because it's learned to do a few things well.

The upstairs bar area with its windows overlooking the sidewalk scene on busy Ludlow Avenue stays fairly full, especially on weekend nights and at happy hour. The owners offer drink specials every weekday, such as two-for-one martinis on Friday night, which keeps the joint jumping. In addition to the bar stools and several tall tables with stools, there's a back room off the bar with a few regular tables for those who want to be apart from the bustle of the sports-on-TV scene or who don't want to sit on a high chair.

The menu is wide-ranging and includes fatty appetizers (wings, dips, fried foods), salads, sandwiches and "house specialty" entrees. Portions tend to be large and the prices are moderate.

Healthy choices are fairly limited, though, and the cooking is nothing to get excited about. Soup specials might provide a hearty, filling but not too heavy choice, such as the black bean and red pepper soup.. Pasta romesko listed as an appetizer is a giant portion of vegan ingredients including tomatoes and eggplant, with a but of a kick from cayenne pepper. The individual flatbread -- pictured -- hits you with a fair amount of cheese but the crust is so light that the overall dish can be a relatively healthy choice, if you don't add sausage or pepperoni but stick to veggie toppings.

The restaurant at 342 Ludlow Avenue is open seven days a week, with lunch and dinner every day and a special brunch menu on Sunday mornings.

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