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Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Pittsburgh Happy Hour: A Year in Photos - 2015

We shared some fancy meals together - Smoke.

Burgers were consumed despite the looming fear of the gout.

There were podcasts.

 There was charity!
Many late nights led us to the streets.

Some of the bars we visited are no longer in business. Circolo Wood fired circa April, 2015.
Some white elephant gifts weren't very good and were subsequently re-gifted.
There were marriages.
There were engagements.

There were bratwursts.

Rashan got everyone flowers one night.

We had a lovely weather for outdoor seating month.

There were many warm embraces.

We howled at the moon.

MANY warm embraces.

Any  Kopy's.

And Bar Louie.

And pizza at the gay bar.

And a wonderful mardi gras celebration compliments of Riesa.

Mitchell's became one of our favorite downtown destinations.

Christy hung out with us a lot!

The Yard.

Fat Tommys.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bob's Garage

Fried Bologna
I'm extremely proud to be the first food blogger in Pittsburgh to review Bob's Garage. (That is, as far as I can tell.) The majority of bloggers seem to revel in reviewing the most trendy spots while neighborhood staples like Bob's are entirely ignored. The truth of the matter is that Bob's has been around longer than most of the hip spots in the 'Burgh and it will likely outlast many of those spots as well.

The online reviews of Bob's are quite humorous. People complaining that they weren't seated properly and that service was slow. Let's be clear about one thing, Bob's Garage is absolutely a dive bar. They may put extensive work into their holiday decorations (it looked like St. Nick threw up on a reindeer) but really the place is just a juke joint that is catering to the 50's-60's crowd in the burbs.

Despite the numerous online complaints, our bartender, Dino, did a great job and was very personable. He said that they have been putting up Christmas decorations for at least the last 16 years since he started working and that the decorating begins immediately after Halloween each year. I honestly believe that Bob's is worth a visit just to check out the decorations.

I really enjoyed my bologna sandwich for the price tag. ($7) It was nothing fancy, but it provided a nice base for heavy drinking with thick cuts of fried bologna, lettuce, tomato and onion. It also came with some unremarkable but edible coleslaw. Let's be honest, $7 won't get you an appetizer at many downtown bars these days. For example, we are slated to visit Station in Bloomfield in 2 weeks where there is not a single menu item for less than $8. 

Christmas forever.
I'd say that Bob's is a must visit for the cultural experience. Additionally, it is worth noting that I have never been to a dive bar with such clean bathrooms in my life.

 Bob's Garage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wine Room: Market Street Grocery

Having lived in Pennsylvania for the majority of my life, I am not accustomed to the luxury of enjoying a glass of wine when visiting the grocery store. Such an experience seems like an extravagance reserved for Parisians -- or, you know, people located basically anywhere else in the United States like say, New Jersey.

Eating an entire chicken by yourself has never been more classy or acceptable.
One of the really cool benefits of drinking in the Wine Room at Market Street Grocery is that you are allowed to go purchase and sample whatever you want from the grocery while you are downing the vino! In addition to all of the wonderful appetizers provided by Wine Room, we indulged in two rotisserie chickens and a number of tasty macaroons. There is honestly nothing better than paying grocery store prices for an entire chicken while you have some drinks with your friends.

So many meats.

The Wine Room at Market Street Grocery offers a variety of cheese and meat through a small menu available in the Wine Room. I believe we sampled some blue cheese, gouda, manchego and a soft sheep's milk cheese. All were fantastic and well priced for snacking. The prosciutto was the first to go, followed by our sobriety. The staff also graciously provided the entire bar with some soft pretzels close to closing time.

Don't whine, wine.

The wine at Market Street comes from Collefrisio Wines. The night we visited I had the opportunity to try a number of different montepulcianos. The wine menu itself is rather limited as all offerings are exclusively from Collefrisio. However, this is also works to the benefit of the casual wine drinker as bottles were very reasonably priced, with happy hour pricing many of the different bottles could be purchased in the $16-$25 dollar range. Although I do not pretend to be a wine connoisseur, I can say that I enjoyed the Collefrisio wine as I purchased several bottles.

Overall I highly recommend visiting Wine Room for the intimate atmosphere, the great staff and the wonderful opportunity to eat your groceries while you drink!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The South Paw - Southside

Pizza for days.
I've been hanging around the building that houses the South Paw for at least the last decade. I remember attending an Unlimited Magician show there once when it was a hookah bar called "H-khan" and I spent many blissful evenings there when it came to be known as the Blind Pig.

I was disappointed to hear that the Blind Pig didn't make it, but the South Paw is a worthy successor. Drinks are reasonably priced ($2 draft beers) and the food was great.

I was very impressed by the "Guido Gati" large pizza ($14 pictured above.) It came absolutely piled with toppings and cheese. Hearty heaps of sausage,  peppers, garlic and chopped tomato. I particularly enjoyed that they used a cheese blend as opposed to just mozzarella. As a side not, garlic may be the most underrated pizza topping of all time perhaps only surpassed by bacon.

The Guido Gati is easily one of the better pies on East Carson which myself and food economists have dubbed a recovering pizza desert. ( Google defines a food desert as, "an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food." A pizza desert is a much more extreme first world problem that the media is afraid to discuss.)


In addition to pizza, sandwiches and appetizers, the South Paw also specializes in smoked wings. Old Mendo was having a great time wolfing them down! I tried one myself and although I'm not really a smoked wing guy, I have to say they weren't bad. They even had a good 15 different flavors.

Overall a really great bar with some delicious food. Not much of a crowd though on a Thursday night, so be sure to bring some friends to help you finish the large food portions and listen to your sad stories about how you have been hanging around the same building on East Carson for the better part of a decade.

South Paw Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Yard - Market Square

Mayor McCheese

I am very happy to say that only one week after I had a terrible patty-melt, I had a fantastic hamburger at The Yard in Market Square. The place is located in a rather peculiar building close to NOLA on the Square. It used to be this strange old Italian restaurant that never had any patrons, now it is a vibrant hangout for bankers and office jockeys with several large televisions.  Also, I must mention that it is very loud. They really need to do something about the acoustics of the space. This was either an extremely serious issue or I am aging rapidly.  

On Thursdays The Yard runs a, "burger and beer" special that is pretty special. You get a Mayor McCheese hamburger and a draft beer for $10. Considering the burger typically runs for $11, I approve of this special. In addition to daily food specials, they also offer a half off appetizer special during happy hour. Again, I approve! 

The Mayor McCheese sports two four ounce beef patties, American cheese, greens, tomato, onion and garlic aioli on a brioche bun. I assumed they were going for a McDonalds Big Mac vibe.While the burger was remarkably tasty, it was not entirely in the style of a Big Mac. Where are the pickles? Where is the sesame seed bun and how about that middle piece of bread and the nondescript pink sauce?

In all honesty the brioche bun was better than a McDonald's bun. It was very fresh and wonderfully toasted with a buttery exterior. The beef was also considerably better than the beef you would find on any Big Mac. For my tastes, it was cooked perfectly. Medium with lots of pink in the middle. Considering I was not asked how I wanted the burger cooked, I was extremely pleased by the result. This gave me some concerns regarding consistency. I will be sure to investigate on my next visit.

                                                                                         SAVE THE MAYOR                                                                                 (This sonofabitch spawned a million dollar lawsuit when H.R. Puffnstuff came after McDonald's for copyright infringement)

I only have two complaints regarding The Yard. IT WAS WAY TOO LOUD! Get it sorted guys. I'm only reiterating this because it was deafeningly loud. Also, I had to send my check back so that my burger and a beer special would be honored. They were very apologetic.

 Below I've included a video of some absolutely crazy woman making Big Mac's at home! She's nuts but enticingly sexy in a strange way. Maybe I get turned on by food? Yep, probably.

 The Yard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bill's Bar and Burger

Garbage Melt

I hate disappointment. I would say that it is easily one of my least favorite emotions, second only to jealousy. Boy was Bill's Bar and Burger a massive let down. New York Magazine gave Bill's a glowing review and rated them 7/10. My esteemed colleague, The Steel Trap, said, "One bite of the burgers, and it's clear why they're so decorated with awards and recognition; the praise is warranted."

In addition to all the critical praise, the very stylish renovations and the reasonable prices, Bill's is located in a primo spot at the Westin hotel downtown. When a restaurant does so well in New York that they make it to Pittsburgh, I believe that high expectations are entirely reasonable. *Begin Rant*

Although the one bartender was extremely nice, service was disgraceful. At times it took upwards of 10 minutes to get a drink at a bar that was not even close to being  full. The space is easily equipped to handle well over 200 patrons, but the staff was ill equipped to handle 30.

Drinks were mislaid, tabs were mishandled and bar guests were forced into the shackles of sobriety. At the end of the night I even had to remind them to place an entire round of drinks on my tab that they had seemingly forgot about. (I know, I'm a total moron.)

THAT WASN'T EVEN THE WORST PART. My patty-melt was a garbage-melt. The greasy, butter-laden bread created the sensation of eating a sandwich dipped in vaseline. The meat was extremely salty and over-cooked and worst of all  -  I bit into a giant onion skin that I had to pull out of my mouth.  I don't say this lightly. I would rather eat at Arby's.

As a side note, the charred broccoli wasn't bad.  *End Rant*

 Bill's Bar & Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, October 16, 2015

Blush Sports Bar

The Steak
It probably only happens two or three times a year. But occasionally I am absolutely shocked by the quality of food I receive from some bizarre eatery located on this planet. In 2012 I did my first review of Blush. At the time the only choices on the menu were french fries, chicken tenders and pizza. All cooked in a microwave.  While the girls at Blush never change, the menu has certainly improved.

Blush recently opened a "sports bar" on their third floor. There are quite a few perks compared to your typical gentleman's club atmosphere. It is nice a roomy, there is no cover, there are several televisions, there are a few dartboards and the food is quite good and reasonably priced. This was a very unexpected surprise from an establishment that offers dishes with adorable names like: the "home wrecker", the "tip rail" and the "lap dance."

I have to say I was absolutely thrilled with my hanger steak. It was perfectly cooked, very flavorful and it had a lovely texture. I particularly enjoyed the horseradish cream sauce and the healthy servings of wilted arugula and crisp potato wedges. It was quite a bargain as well at $18. What an age we live in where you can get a steak dinner cheaper than a lap dance!

Now, you will notice that I described Blush's new venue as a "sports bar."  That is because they barely even played the game audio for a prime time Steelers game and there are naked girls dancing in the corner on a small stage. I'm not really much for strip clubs. I don't like the pressure of girls trying to make me buy them drinks or pay for private dances. (Feminists claim that such venues exploit women. I believe they are exploitative of both sexes.) I'm down with some casual "sports bar" nudity, but I would prefer to hear the Steelers game. Sorry girls. 

Crab Cakes

All around, I had a great dining experience. I don't think I've been so pleasantly surprised by a meal in ages. Drinks were a little on the pricey side, but hey, like I said, there was lots of nudity and the steak was cheap.