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Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 2: @BurgatoryBar @umi_Pittsburgh @spoonpgh @fiorispizzaria @Ds6Pax

Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 2: @BurgatoryBar @umi_Pittsburgh @spoonpgh @fiorispizzaria @Ds6Pax

Here we are at part 2 of my “Food for the Eatin'” series. Restaurant lists abound, and an experience can vary there due to service, the crowd, all kinds of different things. And of course, “best of” anything lists are a product of subjective taste, and therefore incredibly variable. But what the heck, my friends and I are continuing to share our favorite Pittsburgh dishes with you. And since I can’t find the time to sit and write out 10 favorites (dude, that takes well over an hour), hopefully I’ll get more of these done if I just do 5 at a time. Anyway, a the rubric for qualification is: you love it. Subjectivity all the way.

Here we go, round 2:

1. My favorite milkshake: Burgatory. When the burger fad was in full blossom a couple years back, I scientifically examined the various milkshake offerings, and readily concluded that they are the B-E-S-T at Burgatory. Burgatory does offer boozy milkshakes, but I don’t even bother with the booze. With all the sugar and fat and what have you, I don’t even feel the booze, so why bother. Also, a full milkshake is too much for me, so I usually split it with my kid (they give you the milkshake glass plus the mixing cup, so it’s plenty for two), and giving booze to a four year old is frowned upon. Also, when I opt for the shake that has espresso in it, I keep that all to myself, because dear lord no I am not caffeinating this already-insane child. Burgatory shakes are thick, with big chunks of the mix-ins, and topped with super-dense and indulgent whipped cream. They offer a special flavor each weekend, too, including the annually looked-forward to ScareHouse shake, for which they donate the proceeds to the Mario Lemieux Foundation. It’s hard to say what my “favorite” is there, because they’ve all been flat-out amazing, but the Burnt Almond Torte and the Coffee & Donuts shakes have a special place in my heart.


2. Mr. Beez eagerly added the Rock Shrimp Tempura at Umi to this list of favorites. Umi may well be the best restaurant in the city, the flavors, omg the flavors. Talk all you want about other sushi places, but Mr. Shu’s dishes are absolute perfection. Every time I think about Umi, hearts and starts fire off in my brain. You don’t even KNOW. I do love the rock shrimp tempura there, but my altogether favorite dish there is the miso blackened cod. It’s so delicate, so butter. It’s an absolutely beautiful dish.

We went to Umi for my birthday this past year. Umi’s about taste and quality, not about quantity, so even after laying down a fat chunk of change, you aren’t going to leave stuffed. But seriously. Worth it.


3.  The Bleu Cheese Souffle at Spoon is a pick from my foodie friend Christine.I personally haven’t eaten it, but when I emailed her to ask for her favorites, she responded like BOOM about the souffle. And she’s a picky, picky woman, so her recommendations are very reliable.

Spoon Bleu Cheese Souffle


4. The Steel Trip’s pick in the ever-contentious pizza wars is Fiori’s Pizza. Although Mineo’s has many an outspoken devotee, Fiori’s has a massive devoted following (I am a member of the small minority who picks an entirely separate pizza joint, not even within the City limits as my favorite, but we’ll get to that later). I have eaten at Fiori’s and agree they make a good pie.

5. My heartbeat quickens and my mouth waters even when I think about the Mac & Cheese dog from D’s Six Pax & Dogs. It’s a frickin’ good dog topped with frickin’ good mac & cheese at a frickin’ awesome neighborhood bar right outside Frick Park. Frickin’ amazing.

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Food for the eatin’ in Pgh, Part 1 @Kaya_Pittsburgh @4MeatnPotatoes @EatnPark @IndustryPgh @VerdePgh @notionPGH @thepubchipshop Apollo Cafe Noodlehead

Food for the eatin’ in Pgh, Part 1 @Kaya_Pittsburgh @4MeatnPotatoes @EatnPark @IndustryPgh @VerdePgh @notionPGH @thepubchipshop  Apollo Cafe  Noodlehead

I haven’t done a restaurant roundup in a while. My last one was a year ago, in fact (my post on Ten Pgh Kid Friendly Eateries was in February 2014). It is time to change that. So over the next several installments, my pals and I are going to share the foods we love around the ‘burgh. Some high brow, some low brow, some in-between unibrow. I didn’t use a rubric other than “tell me what you love to eat.” And boy did I collect a LIST. I’ll be publishing these in installments of 10, but there are a whole heck of a lot of them, and they are presented in no particular order (other than my whimsy).

1. Egg and cheese sandwich with potatoes form Apollo Cafe

Apollo is cash only and no-nonsense. The breakfast isn’t flashy, but it is perfect on those mornings when I’m like I NEED TO EAT A SUBSTANTIAL BREAKFAST AND I NEED IT TO BE PREPARED IN LESS THAN 4 MINUTES. Also, this breakfast costs like 5 bucks. It’s too bad they’re closed on the weekends, because this would make for a killer hangover cure.  (I just wanted to point out that I centered the below photo like 50x and it still won’t work. So whatever. Here it is.)

Apollo breakfast

2. Pulled pork quesadilla from Kaya. Mr. Beez loves this dish so much that we included it in the catering for our wedding. When I asked him for his thoughts for this series, he immediately brought up the pulled pork quesadilla, and then I had to twist his arm to get him to come up with anything else.

Pulled Pork Quesadilla at Kaya

3. Tempura avocado at Kaya. This isn’t a regular feature on the menu. I had it once ages ago, and my dining companion and I wolfed down the first one, and immediately ordered a second, it was so good. It’s exactly what it sounds– half an avocado tempura battered and fried, but it’s extra decadent with all the fat from the avocado.

4.  Steamed pork buns at Noodlehead. I had this on my list already and @ohhkatrina seconded this nomination. They are fab. The Noodlehead menu is extremely spicy so there isn’t a whole lot on there I eat (Mr. Beez, however, loves the place), but I would for sure go there just for the steamed pork buns.

noodlehead buns

5. Devils on Horseback at Meat & Potatoes. @The_Steel_Trap added this one to the list, as well as the Hudson Valley Duck Breast and Pot de Creme. I don’t think I have had those other two, but the Devils on Horseback are definitely delicious and memorable. They are chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, in some kind of a rich sauce.

Devils on Horseback

6. Eat & Park salad bar- as nominated by @GoBobbo The salad bar isn’t quite my thing, but Bobby loves it. You would not believe the enthusiasm this man has for the place. He’s a true believer. And I’ve got to say, E&P has its charms. We went there for dinner tonight, because I know my kid will reliably eat a waffle and bacon without me going out ofmy mind in the ever-losing battle of getting a 4 year old to eat. Also, E&P has chai milkshakes. And if you say you don’t like smiley cookies, you are lying.

Hello. I bring all the boys to the yard.

Hello. I bring all the boys to the yard.


I do not get why other milkshake places don’t regularly serve chai milkshakes, because they are rad. But E&P has them, and therefore forever has my heart.

Baby girl on her first birthday-- Eat & Park BACON!

Baby girl on her first birthday– forever enjoying her Eat & Park BACON!


7. Speaking of bacon, have you had the candied bacon at Industry? Heck yes. I did email my foodie friend, Christine, for her thoughts on this list, even though she avoids all things internet. She was right there with me on including the candied bacon on this list. It’s salty, sweet and perfectly fatty.

Oh Good God Glorious Candied Bacon at Industry

8. @OneSweetWriter named the white truffle risotto at @notionPGH as one of her hands-down favorites. I’m sad to say that I have not yet made my way over there, but she literally licked the plate clean in this linen napkin establishment. Her enthusiasm speaks for itself.
9. Being a Southern California native, I’m usually on the up & up on all the Mexican food options around town. Somehow the guacamole at @VerdePgh slipped by my radar. Both @TheFoodTasters and @WReynoldsYoung sang its praises. I’ve been there before and heartily enjoyed the Carne Asada, but it looks like I’ll have to make a trip back to check out that guac.

Carne Asada at Verde

10. Boxty Tots at @ThePubChipShop , and seconded by @WReynoldsYoung. The chili cheese boxty tots is the comfort food of my dreams. Will prefers the bacon cheddar option. Whatever you pick, it’s deep fried and smothered and heavenly. I would eat tots covered in chili and cheese every day if it wouldn’t give me a heart attack in short order, and the only thing better than making that lovely meal is having someone else make it for you. Hello, Pub Chip Shop. And their Welsh Cheddar sauce, omg. I can’t even.

That’s it for Part 1. Parts 2 through 507898796 to come shortly. I just wanted to point out that all the photos in this post were ones I personally took while eating at these places. Only to say daaaang that’s a lot of restaurantin’. And I’ve got plenty more snaps where those came from. Feel free to pass on your suggestions for the Pgh eats that make your belly happy! We can all do with some good recommendations!

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A Second Look: @CurePittsburgh @AlghnyWineMixer and @PageDairyMart

A Second Look: @CurePittsburgh @AlghnyWineMixer and @PageDairyMart

On our most recent date night, Mr. Beez and I revisited a much-celebrated favorite, Cure, in Lawrenceville. Cure’s chef, Justin Severino, was very early in the local, ethical foods trend. The cuisine at Cure is of the highest quality and care, and also reliable. Although I do like a good culinary adventure, when you go to Cure, you have a good idea of what you’ll be getting into, and you know it will be delicious. That’s not to say it lacks creativity. The dishes are creative, but we’re not talking anything off-the-deep end.
Cure

Cure’s hallmark is, not surprisingly, its cured meats. The salumi platter comes as a small or a large. The small is appropriate for 2-4 people to have a light snack before the meal. The last time Mr. Beez and I visited Cure, we had the small, and we enjoyed each bite, but wanted MOAR (in a big, roaring fashion). After all, the salumi is what we visited for. So this time, we went all out, and destroyed the large. It could have easily been an appetizer for 6. But don’t let anything hold you back from your dreams!

Cure giant salumi plate

The last time we were at Cure was before they had a liquor license. A part of me misses BYOB, because the mark-ups on alcohol in Allegheny County are inexcusable. However, the cocktails we had really were delicious, so I guess that makes the pain of the price a little less. I usually don’t like any kind of drink with cream or milk in it, but the server promised that the thing I ordered (can’t remember the name…) with egg whites in it was actually very tasty, and if I was grossed out, he’d be sure to get me something I liked. So I took the risk and ended up really enjoying it. The cocktails had the right balance of being sufficiently boozy, but also containing interesting and substantial mixers, so you didn’t feel knocked over the head with a Jim Beam bottle.

Cure Cocktail


Cure cocktail 2

Next up: more foods!


Nice little Spanish dish

My favorite dish of the evening was the salumi, because salumi. That’s what they do. But I also absolutely loved the “Nice Little Spanish Dish.” I ordered it on an impulse, and was so glad i did. It had grilled octopus and something green (parsley?) and this kicky little sauce. It was light and fresh and had all the right things to interest your palate but not bog you down so that you are incapable of moving on to the main course. It is, indeed, very nice.

Cure Hangar steak

I also had a little plate of carbonara pasta which was  very nice, especially the soft egg that I broke open and mixed all in the noodles. However, as it was carbonara, it didn’t photograph the best, so I skipped that photo opportunity. Mr. Beez ordered the hanger steak. This is usually a dish I just ignore on a menu, because bla bla boring boring. However, it is a mistake to ignore the hanger steak on Cure’s menu. It is exceptional. There are so many flavors all at once, and the steak just melts in your mouth. I wished I had ordered this for myself, but by the time I got to taste it, I was simply too fully to eat more. This subsequent visit to Cure certainly lived up to the fine impressions it created in earlier visits.

After our dinner, we still had a little time left with the babysitter, so we strolled on down to the Allegheny Wine Mixer. I love how that bar is fun, and funky, and always has a great selection of wines at reasonable prices. Also, a framed portrait of Vincent Price over the bar. Yesssss.

Allegheny Wine Mixer

We wrapped up the evening with a visit to Page Dairy Mart for their last open weekend of the season. Although they have many amazing choices involving cookies and brownies and all kinds of shakes and blizzardy things, my absolute favorite is the coffee soft serve with hot fudge and whipped cream. It’s that real, heavy whipped cream too. The best.

Page Dairy Mart Sundae

We love checking out new places, but sometimes a date calls for the comfort of old favorites. All three of these were A+.

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Unique eats at Grit & Grace and @PghRestaurantWk in full swing

Unique eats at Grit & Grace and @PghRestaurantWk in full swing

I went into Pittsburgh Restaurant Week planning to try a new restaurant every single day, but then the week got away from me. Thursday ended up being our only night out so far. It was a good one, and I’ll write about it soon. In the meantime, I’m sharing my lovely lunch out at Grit & Grace.

Grit is not for those with timid palates. Although they offer “dim sum” dishes, those words are in quotation marks because they all show decidedly nontraditional qualities. Grit loves contrast and the unexpected. it is essential to visit with an open mind. Such adventurous cuisine often comes with an adventurous check. This is where Grit wins me over– they offer moderately priced lunch service, which makes the dining experience even more accessible and appealing.

Grit & Grace Pork Belly

Lunch starts off with the option of picking dim sum small bites. Each day Grit offers 3 dim sum dishes, at $5 each. I picked the pork belly dish, which was fantastic. This was my favorite part of the meal. The pork belly, although generally fatty, was not drippy or chewy, but rather dense and flavorful.

Grit & Grace crispy tofu

My entree selection was the crispy tofu with baby bok choy, braised daikon, mushrooms, green onion, and “hot & sour mushroom essence.” There were large dollops of foam and some kind of cream thing, maybe that was the mushroom essence? It was decidedly different, but not in a bad way. It was filling but light, and did not give me that post-lunch food coma I’ve become so shamefully used to.

Grit & Grace roasted pork ramen

My dining companion opted for the roasted pork ramen, and reported that it was delicious. I must admit that I coveted that egg and seaweed. It looked crazy delicious. And although soup is usually a cold weather dish, Grit’s ramen does not at all seem out of place in warmer weather.

Grit is running a dim sum special for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, so this is a prime opportunity to swing by. I did like Grit and expect to return, but because it is so unique (and I often dine out with not-as-adventurous companions) I expect I will not be able to visit frequently. But when it comes to impressing out of town guests or foodies, I’ll be calling for a reservation.

Grit & Grace on Urbanspoon

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Gettin’ real at Sichuan Gourmet

Gettin’ real at Sichuan Gourmet

Although I’m not tripping over myself to devour scorpions and fermented shark meat, I do think I qualify as an “adventurous eater.” When encountering a new-to-me cuisine (or variation of a cuisine), I’m eager to pick random things on the menu, no idea what they are, and be surprised by the outcome. This is how I ended up paying 15 Euro for a plate of hash browns in Switzerland. “Roesti” sounded like something FUN, but no, it’s just potatoes. Good potatoes, but not 15 Euro potatoes.

The buzz on the street about Sichuan Gourmet is that it features “authentic” Chinese food. I find the description somewhat troubling, as China is so massive that there is certainly more than 1 “authentic,” and also, I’ve never been to China nor do I have any other such cultural exposure to qualify me to judge what is “authentic.” I noticed when we walked in that maybe 20% of the dining room was speaking English, so I took this as an auspicious sign for a good meal.

Sichuan Gourmet

I like that they’ve got 2 menus: a Sichuan menu and an American menu. The Sichuan menu has all kinds of traditional dishes. The American menu features the typical American “Chinese” dishes, such as General Tso’s chicken, lo mein, fried rice, etc. We, of course, ordered fairly blindly off the Chinese menu. I am pleased to say it worked out very well.

Chicken hot pan
Mr. Beez ordered a chicken hot pan, which sizzles and cooks right on the table top. It looked very good, but it was full of hot peppers. I am a wimp and can’t take the heat, so I didn’t eat any. He did report that he enjoyed it thoroughly.

Basil Chicken
The Basil Chicken was sweet and strong with garlic and basil. All around excellent.

Baby bok Choy and black mushrooms
I loved this dish of baby bok choy and black mushrooms. The bok choy was steamed and the mushrooms had a sauce, but were not heavy with it. It had the saltiness I expect from Chinese food, but without so much oil and heaviness.

Steamed Whole Fish

We also went all out and got a steamed whole fish, which was just fantastic. If I’m going to order fish, I want a head on my plate. I don’t eat the head, I just want the satisfaction of staring into my opponent’s eyes. This fish was flaky and flavorfully stuffed with ginger. The sauce was not overpowering. My mom and I shared the dish, but I am a glutton and probably could have eaten the whole thing.

The meal was more expensive than our usually Chinese take out bill, but the quality was high and the service attentive. The servers are all business and not very chatty, which is just fine with me. I like that they have some huge tables and also a private room, this could be a fun place to take a book club or just go out to dinner with a big group of friends.

Sichuan Gourmet on Urbanspoon