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Serious Business: #Oscars2014 Provisions

Folks, the Oscars are serious bzness in the Beez house. I try to see all the best picture nominees before awards day, but this year the only one I’ve seen is Gravity. I wanted to hate it, but it was actually pretty good. Not quite best picture material though.  Luckily I didn’t pack this weekend full of activities, so I may be able to watch a couple more on OnDemand before the big day.

But the even more vital preparations for the big day: Snacks and beverages!

We’ll be sipping champagne for sure, but I need to square away the snacks situation. Pittsburgh Popcorn’s got Spicy Bacon Cheddar on the menu this week, so that may be a “must get.”  I’m low on ideas for other things. I suppose I could cook, but I’m not much in the mood to, so take-out may be the way to go.

What are yinz snackin on during the Oscars this year?

What are your picks for the awards? I haven’t followed closely enough to have solid picks this year. I am just excited about how Baby Beez is going to LOSE HER MIND when Idina Menzel comes out to sing Let it Go.

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Ten Pgh Kid Friendly eateries @PipersPub @MadMexShadyside @HoughsPGH @WafflesINCaffein @MartysMarketPGH @EatnPark

Ten Pgh Kid Friendly eateries @PipersPub @MadMexShadyside @HoughsPGH @WafflesINCaffein @MartysMarketPGH @EatnPark

Before having a kid, I never wanted kids in my presence. Restaurants were not places for kids. Ever. Can’t they just get a babysitter. Now that I have a whippersnapper, my perspective has softened a little. There better not be an anklebiter in sight when I visit somewhere quiet, fancy and expensive. Everywhere else, though, as long as kids aren’t in my face, they can do whatever they want (and really, there are plenty of grown ups as obnoxious as adults).

In determining whether a restaurant is good for kids, I consider:

1. What’s the noise level? You want the answer to be “loud.” Because kids are LOUD. If everyone else is loud too, it’s not too big of a deal.

2. What’s the menu like? They don’t absolutely need to have chicken fingers and fries, but taking your kid to a place that only offers oysters and filet is bound to result in tears from everyone.

3. Do the servers have experience with kids? There are little things that a server can do that can transform dining out with a child from tolerable to awesome. These things include: taking the order for the kids meal as quick as possible, bringing the kid’s food as fast as possible, removing all kinds of breakable and sharp things from the table, bringing extra napkins, serving the kid’s drink in a kid-friendly cup, and smiling.

With those qualities in mind, some of our favorite kid-friendly Pittsburgh restaurants are:

1. Piper’s Pub.

Piper’s is awesome for the whole family. With a focus on Scottish, English and Irish food, you can expect lots of meat, potatoes and cheese here. Who DOESN’T like that stuff? They have an awesome beer selection, including all kinds of great local and microbrews on tap. Yes, it’s basically a pub, but their staff is all around some of the friendliest and kindest restaurant staff in the City for dealing with kids. Also, if you’re a soccer fan, Piper’s is the place to be. They broadcast all kinds of games from all over the world.

2. Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal on McKnight Road does have a normal menu, but it’s best to visit on the nights they have a dinner buffet. You may think that Indian food might be a little exotic for American toddler palates, but look at the individual dishes: kids love rice. Pakora is deep fried veggies, and kids love everything deep fried. There are meats and veggies and puddings. Taj Mahal is a favorite destination for outings with the Orange Chair Blog family, and we put dishes of food out for our kids and haven’t had a problem. They do have a liquor license, but you can also BYOB with a small corkage fee. The place is always tightly packed with families, and the atmosphere is very welcoming to small kids.

3. Mad Mex

It’s always ear-blastingly loud in Mad Mex, and no one even noticed when we went there for my birthday dinner our first year with Baby Beez and she would  NOT stop crying. Under most other circumstances we would have gotten the stink-eye and had to pack right up and head home, but at Mad Mex no one even noticed the noise. I was able to enjoy my Gobblerito and margarita while Mr. Beez walked around with the cranky litltle one. As Baby Beez has gotten bigger, Mad Mex has remained on our short list of favorites. They have some kids options, but we usually just get her an order of black beans and an order of rice, and she’s pleased.

Mad Mex Gobblerito

4.  Houghs

Houghs is the only bar in Greenfield that doesn’t scare me. And it’s a pretty cool place in its own right. The seating is a free for all, so you do need to get there early to get a table. They have a kids menu, but their menu also focuses on typical bar food (lots of fried things), so there are plenty of kid-friendly options. Their beer selection is unbelievable, and the last time we were there, I had a grilled veggie sandwich that was just fantastic.

photo(8)

photo(9)

5. Max’s Allegheny Tavern

Max’s has been around for ages and doesn’t get a lot of buzz, but it’s fantastic. It’s in the Deutschtown section of the Northside, and it’s simultaneously got the laid-back feeling of a local bar, but a great belly-warming menu of German food. Sausage and potato pancakes are menu staples, so again, they’ve got a selection that is pleasing to the small people. Bonus- because it’s on a side street, it’s pretty much the easiest place to find on-street parking ever. They also have a great but totally random brunch. It’s like they think of everything in the kitchen and make it all. The last time we went (several years ago, admittedly), they had waffles, sausage & sauerkraut, lasagna, and breakfast pastries. Also, get the pretzels. They are the BEST.

6. Green Pepper

Green Pepper does not have the typical loud atmosphere that I would attribute to being “kid friendly.” However, every time we’ve been there, we’ve been dining early, and the place is pretty empty so we’re not disturbing anyone. Their food is awesome and their bar prices are very reasonable, and you can even BYOB for a small corkage fee. Their website and menu are kind of goofy with all kinds of strange disclaimers, but don’t let that deter you. Green Pepper is great, and we’ve been consistently happy with their food, service, and atmosphere. Although we’ve never taken part, they DO have karaoke in the back room. Baby Beez is a little young for this now, but when she gets a little bigger, dinner and a few songs would be a fun family outing.

Bibim bap at Green Pepper in Squirrel Hill

7. Waffles INCaffeinated

What kid doesn’t like waffles? BOOM.

WafflesINC

8. Burgatory

Their infamously long waits and refusal to take reservations makes this option a little dicey, but we’ve always gone to the Robinson location (usually as a special homecoming treat after returning home from the airport) and have not gotten stuck with a wait. This place has burgers, fries, and plenty o’ noise, so it’s a good pick for kids. Also, the shakes. Ohhh the shakes, so delicious.

Milkshake for dinner, awwww yeah @burgatorybar

9. Marty’s Market Cafe

With this being a cafe inside of a grocery store, it’s a more flexible atmosphere if your little one gets squirrely. They have breakfast and lunch options, all of which are fresh and tasty, and plenty of options that are recognizable to the young palate. Their coffee bar is, quite frankly, rockin. I love that I can get an expert brew, feed my kid, and pick up a pint of Jeni’s all in one fell swoop.

martysmarket

10. Eat N Park

Because what would this list BE without that Pittsburgh institution? Say what you will about EnP, but grilled stickies a la mode are amazing, and there’s just something great about reliably being able to go to a place where it’s totally OK if your kid is melting down, because someone else’s kid probably is too. The food is not haute cuisine, but there is plenty of stuff there that kids love, it’s cheap, it’s easy, there are smiley cookies, and the old lady servers always love to fawn over little kids. So yes. I do love you EnP.

eat n park

Where do you like to take your kids to eat in the ‘burgh?

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A Spot of Tea with Dobra Tea and @missbritt

A Spot of Tea with Dobra Tea and @missbritt

The late afternoon calls for a shot of caffeine, whether it’s coffee, tea or (my favorite) chocolate, and this is best enjoyed with some friendly conversation. Britt Reints, the happiness advocate behind An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness, and I had been running into one another at recent events, and decided it was time to sit down and get to know one another better.

I suggested Dobra Tea in Squirrel Hill, mostly because I’d driven by it and never been inside. I expected a basic coffeehouse style outfit, just with tea. It turns out, Dobra is something quite different, in a unique and special kind of way. First off, Dobra’s tea menu is huge. It’s not just a menu, it’s a whole book. There is also a good selection of food, including PIE! Who doesn’t like pie? The pies are supplied by the Pittsburgh Pie Guy, and the featured pie is chai pie. I had never had chai pie before so I tried it out, and it was really good. The filling is a sweet but mild custard, and it’s topped with lovely candied nuts. The graham cracker crust was especially delicious, as it was very chunky and perfect to pair with tea.

Dobra Tea

I had oolong tea and I think Britt had green. Both of us like tea a lot, but we are not highbrow tea sippers. We are both proud to report that we liked our teas quite a lot. We were flying a bit blindly when we picked them, since the menu offered a selection beyond our zone of familiarity. For those who do not enjoy the “pick the option with the funniest name” approach as much as I do, the back pages of the menu contain a number of house recommendations. The staff also seemed pretty friendly, and would likely give you their take on good picks.

Dobra is an excellent option for hanging out, sipping tea and casual conversation. We did not feel at all rushed, and all the pillows and comfy seating make it welcoming for a leisurely visit. The architecture of the space was my favorite thing about Dobra. The space is separated into little semi-private alcoves with all kinds of seats and pillows. It has the feel of a hookah lounge without all the hookahs. Does that even make sense? Anyway, I’d love to show up with a bag with magazines and hang out there for a few hours of reading alongside a piping hot mug of chai.

Dobra Tea on Urbanspoon

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Weekend Update.

Weekend Update.

Once again, I managed to jam-pack the weekend so full of things that Monday is here and omg I’m already exhausted. Mr. Beez has officially cut me off from adding any more things to the calendar. I’ll see yinz when I’m out from being grounded. Relatedly, by that point, I will probably no longer be losing my mind because I’ll be getting more than 5 hours of sleep a night. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Friday kicked off with some musical festivities– Billy Joel at the Consol Arena! And to make things even greater, Gavin DeGraw was the surprise opener!

Gavin DeGraw in Pittsburgh

Gavin DeGraw wore very tight pants.

Billy Joel in Pittsburgh

The Piano Man entertaining us in Pittsburgh!

Saturday brought Baby Beez’s ballet class and an outing with the Orange Chair family for ice cream and Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater’s Teacher from the Black Lagoon (which received lots of smiles and thumbs up). I also had a bunch of work to do, so there’s that. And I squeezed in some TV time with Broad City which I LOVE OMG SO MUCH I CAN’T STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.

Due to the terrible weather and my treadmill-induced injuries, I’ve been logging far fewer miles than I really should. I was feeling nervous about the upcoming Cherry Blossom 10 miler. On Sunday, the weather was finally mild and dry enough for me to get outside for a run, and a long run at that! I logged 7.33 miles, and even though I’m a bit sore today, that run felt so good.

Baby Beez had her kids-yoga adventure class on Sunday, which pretty much goes like this every week:

photo 3

On Sunday night, we ventured to Ten Penny for cocktails and dinner with friends. I was impressed with the venue and the food was overall very good (separate post about Ten Penny to come). We also saw Alton Brown’s show at the Benedum Center. I didn’t know what to expect, but the show was very funny and entertaining, with music and crazy science experiments.

From @altonbrown on Twitter

Alton cheesin’ it up at the Benedum Center, from @altonbrown on Twitter

This was a good weekend to be around the ‘burgh. Now if I could just get a nap…

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Nu Modern Bistro, or OMG THAT SANDWICH

Nu Modern Bistro, or OMG THAT SANDWICH

For once, I let Mr. Beez pick a restaurant. His selection: Nu Modern Bistro, a Squirrel Hill Deli with a contemporary twist. My attitude was ambivalent, but hey, a sandwich is a sandwich, so I went along without complaint.

Nu Modern Jewish Deli

Our outing was on a snowy winter night. I can’t remember a night in these parts when it wasn’t snowing, but the old folks tell me there was a time, long ago, where the temperature was above 40 degrees. Seeing as we have descended to the next ice age, soup was a necessity, and we selected Nu’s signature “Jewish penicillin.”

Nu Modern Bistro

A couple local dining reviews have raved over the soup. I thought the fried wontons were a fun twist, but overall it was good enough. I was brought up with matzoh ball soup that is full of chunky vegetables and chicken, so Nu’s version felt sparse. Still, I considered it decent.

Nu Modern Bistro Latke Tots

We ordered the Latke Tots for Baby Beez, because she has been very three lately, and three year olds will (usually) reliably eat fried potatoes, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, chocolate, and the tears of their frustrated parents. On this particular evening, Baby Beez was only interested in the tears, so we invited ourselves to sample her Latke Tots. I found them to be fairly typical fried potatoes. They were more latke than tot (meaning that the texture was shredded, not chopped), but otherwise they were salty and greasy and exactly what you expected. That is a good thing, but not a particularly “modern” thing.

This review so far has been rather boring, but then we got to my main course:

Nu Modern Bistro

DANG THAT’S A GOOD SANDWICH. I got the Upstreet Dip, heavy with brisket, caramelized onions, horseradish sauce and jus for dipping. The bread was soft but crusty. The meat just the perfect level of salty and fatty and so full of flavor. OMG THAT SANDWICH. I didn’t even bother with the pickle or coleslaw, because I was enjoying that sandwich so stupid much that I did not want to sully my tastebuds with any other flavor.

Would I return to Nu? It wouldn’t be the place I’d use as a Pittsburgh introduction for out of towners, but I sure as heck would stop in for that sandwich. Their Montreal-style brined meat also seems like it could be good, and although I usually like to try all different things on a menu, I loved the Upstreet Dip so much that I can’t see myself straying from it. Nu has some work to do to get itself more widely on the dining radar. There were several aspects of the experience that I found to be just “ok”, including the service and the ambiance. But even with those weaker aspects, if they can get a following for a few of their excellent and special menu items, the place could have long-term promise.
Nu Modern Jewish Bistro on Urbanspoon