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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ki Ramen Versus Yuzu Kitchen - Who Has the Better Ramen

Ki Ramen
Within the last several months both Yuzu Kitchen and Ki Ramen have opened in Pittsburgh. Prior to their arrival it is hard to say that Pittsburgh had much of a ramen scene. Ramen Bar has been open in Squirrel Hill for the last several years and the now defunct Salt of the Earth once had a Ramen brunch, but the dish does not seem to get a lot of love from native Pittsburghers.

If you break ramen down to it's most simple components it consists of a broth, Chinese style noodles, some type of protein and toppings. The real magic of ramen is it's simplicity and elegance as a comfort food.

Between Yuzu Kitchen and Ki Ramen, Ki is easily the more celebrated of the two establishments. Lawrenceville currently has this aura surrounding it that seems to draw the majority of the media attention. Basically, everyone writing about food in Pittsburgh has a hard-on for Lawrenceville.

My Shoyu ramen at Ki had soy braised chicken, kikurage, scallion, egg, cabbage and bean sprouts. I also added the shitake butter bomb and  chili paste.

The noodles at Ki Ramen were my favorite out of the two restaurants. However, I was disappointed by the flavor of the chicken and the broth in general. It's worth noting that Ki Ramen is currently undergoing a soft opening and they are yet to announce a final menu. They were also offering a few different appetizers during our visit, but we felt that their menu could greatly benefit from a few additions such as some lighter appetizers, some grilled meats and some salads. Also, we would love to see a happy hour special.

My friend old pappy Bucklaw loved the inferno Ramen and mentioned that he was still thinking about it several days after our visit to Ki. The steamed pork bun I tried was remarkably good and was in and of itself worth the visit. Also, it is worth mentioning that Ki Ramen had a great staff that accommodated us without hesitation.

Yuzu Kitchen
Yuzu Kitchen currently presents a much more polished concept than Ki Ramen. (Ki has not announced an official opening date.) Yuzu offers a full menu, happy hour discounts, a special happy hour menu and a less crowded atmosphere. You can expect discounts on some great appetizers such as tempura, gyoza, and fried chicken and squid. 

If you put the two restaurants next to each other, I think Yuzu would put Ki Ramen out of business in about six months. However, this is Pittsburgh. People will give Ki Ramen a higher level of deference due to it's location and the notoriety of the owners.

Miso Paitan
Overall, Yuzu had the better ramen despite Ki having the better noodles. At Yuzu I had the Miso Paitan and added some mushrooms. Their Miso Paitan came with pulled chicken, pork marrow/chicken broth, 30 minute egg, bean sprouts and scallions. The dish worked in a more harmonious manner than my ramen at Ki. The ingredients seemed fresher, and I thought the overall dish just had a better flavor.

I expect good things from both restaurants moving forward. It may be unfair to compare the two restaurants in their current state of infancy, but Yuzu is the clear winner.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pgh Pierogie Festival - Kennywood

So, let's talk about pierogies. I love mentioning the damn things as they currently are not included in your computer's spellcheck library. There are so many accepted spellings, just look at this stupid Candian Article about my favorite tasty treats.

"Perogy, pyrogy, perogie, perogy, pirohi, piroghi, pirogi, pirogen, pierogy, pirohy, pyrohy: whatever the variant, the root word is Slavic, meaning “festival”" - according to the Canadians. 

Pictured above is the pierogie mac and cheese from our great friends at Scratch Food and Beverage. As always, Scratch did a nice job and we were very pleased by their generosity with the sour cream. Superior Motors was actually offering some strange type of potato pie/bread right next to Scratch which we also adored. 

The biggest disappointment about the Pittsburgh pierogie festival is that there were literally too many pierogies to try. I attended with the goal of sampling every pierogie at the festival - this goal was insurmountable.  It made me feel like an indecisive fat child at a candy store. (Which is something that has actually happened to me in my childhood.)

Mrs. T's Best Mr. T


Kaczor was easily one of our favorite vendors, despite their outrageous attempts to influence votes for best vendor. They offered apple, cherry, blueberry, lemon and a classic savory pierogie. Their offerings were outrageously tasty. Michelle's Mobile Meals also served up some lovely potatoes. I'm talking about a mug of pierogies with cabbage, sausage and cheese. The only pierogie we did not like was the beer and bacon from Dorothy 6. Come one Dorothy 6, this is the Pittsburgh Pierogie Fest! Where's your A game?

Look at this clown drinking iced tea on Noah's Ark! If you are considering going to the Pierogie Fest - just do it. Your soul will thank you.  #CityOfDumplings

Scratch Food & Beverage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pittsburgh Bar Hopping

Planning a bar hop or pub crawl in Pittsburgh can be overwhelming when you consider all of the choices out there. Plus, there are always new establishments in the mix! With all you can choose from, putting together an itinerary that the whole group can enjoy doesn't have to be difficult. Here are some suggestions to throw into your list to ensure your bar hopping in the 'burgh is the best that it can be!

Spirit Lounge
This destination in Lawrenceville has been listed as one of the best bars in the country by national magazines, so you can trust that it's a worthy option for your night out with friends. With live music, especially delicious pizza, dance night entertainment, and a hipster ambience that attracts a diverse crowd...there's quite a lot to take in here! There are unique drink options to choose from such as the tomatillo margarita and hot cider, so come on by!

This restaurant is perfect for high quality dining and drinking in Shadyside! The wine and cocktail selection is pretty extensive with top contenders such as the Riviera style cocktail. Everybody who comes here can't get enough of the bread basket that includes freshly baked corn muffins, sourdough, and cheese biscuits. Save room for entrees such as Octopus Empanada, Lamb Shank Gnocchi, and Blue Cheese Souffle.

Piper's Pub
Piper's in the South Side has notable British and Irish influence on the menu with options like Fish and Chips, Shepherd's Pie, and Scottish Eggs. There's a warm, inviting interior that feels that makes you feel at home.  This is the perfect place to enjoy an Irish Coffee or authentic Guinness pour, but there are also countless other options to choose from if that's not up your alley.

Any time you plan on drinking with friends, you're going to want to account for safe transportation! It's the responsible thing to do. It's easy to reach for your phone to call for a taxi or swipe to an Uber, but there are much better options with a Pittsburgh Transportation Company It often works out to be around the same price per person when split up evenly, as well. However, this mode of professional transportation has many more features and space to socialize with friends. You'll be glad that you prepared for your Pittsburgh night out this way!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Luau at Biergarten - Hotel Monaco

By Guest Author Tuna Salmondarez

Earlier this summer Hotel Monaco's Biergarten put on an awesome Luau to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. If you've never stopped by Biergarten, you've got to check it out. They offer a great beer selection in addition to a wide variety of German food. Biergarten goes out of their way to do a fantastic job with all of the special events they host.

Unfortunately I was away officiating a wedding for the heir to the Coors Light fortune on the weekend of the event, so I sent my good friend Tuna to cover the festivities. According to Tuna the Kalua pork and cabbage were extremely flavorful and had a wonderful texture with a coconut finish. She enjoyed the comedians, music, live art and demonstrations - all of which made the event unique. . 

Although she was not a huge fan of the mahi mahi, Tuna loved the shrimp. She described them as buttery, well seasoned and well sized. (In case you are wondering, tuna actually do eat shrimp as reported by this wonderful maritime blog.)

In general, Tuna said it was a wonderful family friendly event with lots to offer. She also loved the fresh fruit and colorful clothes sported by the entertainers. I cannot come up with a reputable source as to whether or not tuna will eat fruit, so I guess we will just have to roll with it! Be sure to watch out for the third annual Endless Summer Luau for the Ronald McDonald house which should be scheduled in 2018.

Biergarten Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Let's talk about BBQ brisket. Until recently, I couldn't even recommend a restaurant in Pittsburgh where you could get some decent brisket. (Sorry Squirrel Hill, I'm not talking about corned beef.) Within the last few years quite a few options have emerged, but I was shocked at the high quality of the brisket and other BBQ offered by Spork.

Now, there is an on-going debate in this country as to whether or not many of the items on my plate  can be considered BBQ. American purists argue that only pork constitutes real BBQ and the rest is just food you happen to cook on a grill. This is, quite simply put, outrageous. Any meat smoked on a grill is BBQ. Trying to craft narrow parameters for the definition of BBQ based on the prevalence of the hog in the American south two hundred years ago is just pompous.

Pictured above is the pulled pork, ribs, brisket, smoked turkey, greens and potato salad. While the pulled pork was excellent, the brisket really stole the show. My second favorite item was actually the smoked turkey and I have to say that the greens were very good as well. On Wednesdays and Saturdays Spork opens their backyard to serve BBQ. Even though the full BBQ menu is only available certain days, many of the items on the normal menu are clearly inspired by the awesome custom built BBQ rig you can check out in their backyard.

Spork has an extremely well rounded menu. In addition to the wonderful BBQ food I was very impressed by their charcuterie. In my photo collage you can check out the pate plate which came with pork rillettes, country terrine and chicken liver mousse for a paltry $8! That's a good price for offal.

Some of our other favorites were the meatball, the honey glazed pizza, the smoked wings and the brisket. (Yes, I really got to try all of those items. What's the point of starting your own happy hour if you can walk around the bar with a fork trying all of your friend's snacks.)

A few notes, Giles really liked the sauce coverage on smoked his wings, which we all know is essential to his inner happiness. I'm more focused on texture and flavor when I sample wings, both of which were outstanding.

Momo loved her brisket. So much, in fact, that she ordered it two separate ways.  Spork had a brisket, rice and beans plate on their happy hour menu for $8 and a brisket ravioli as an entree.

My recommendation is to be sure to stop for the happy hour as their small plate prices are unbeatable for the quality. 

Spork Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Huszar - North Side

Huszar opened recently in a part of town that I believe may be the edge of the world. (It used to be a local dive called Recovery Room.) Basically Huszar lodged up against I-279 in between the North Side and Deutshtown, or as I like to call it, East Allegheny. There's a wonderful view of Pittsburgh rush hour traffic only steps from your bar stool.

There were so many dishes that I wanted to try on the Huszar menu that I basically gave up and ordered the most expensive item listed in order to appease my foolish sensibilities.

Pictured above is one of the most intimidating happy hour meals I've been served in ages. The Transylvanian Wooden Platter comes with chicken, pork, and steak served with fried potatoes and a couple of side salads. I shared this entree with four people and still had more than enough for dinner. It was a real bargain at $24.95. Out of the three meats the steak was my favorite, quite tender and flavorful.

On my next visit I would be interested to try the goulash, the taste of Huszar appetizer platter, the Hungarian burger, the chicken paprikash or the beef stew. Essentially every item on the menu is my soul animal. My experience at Huszar reminded me of my wonderful time in at Apostila in Prague several years back.

Gypsy Stringz

If you really want to explore all that Huszar has to offer, go check out one of their special events. Currently, the Gypsy Stringz band plays there once every other week and the bar gets packed. Start slowly with one of the Czech pilsners and work your way up to some slivovitz. Also be sure to make a reservation.

Huszar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Best of 'Burgh Party

These hats are outrageous.

Every year the readers of Pittsburgh Magazine vote on an enourmous variety of categories in order to determine who ranks amoung the best of the 'Burgh. The categories range from best trivia night to best bridal boutique with plenty of room inbetween for restaurants, clothing stores and bars. (They actually select over 100 winners according to their website.)

Below I have outlined what I consider to be the Best of the best of the 'Burgh. These were the highlights from Pittsburgh Magazine's annual party featuring the city's favorite establishments. I have to start by saying that if you are considering attending the event - please go. For $35 the ticket price is an outrageous steal. You can expect live demonstrations, free swag, tons of food and an evening of fantastic entertainment. Personally, I loved the ice carving demonstration.

Monterey Bay
I'm never suprised when I see Monterey Bey at any type of 'best of' event. They routinely serve up an excellent product. At the Best of the 'Burgh event they were absolutely killing it with some lobster rolls. Due to the portion size and the amount of lobster I'd say it was easily one of the most generous offerings at the event.(Not to mention the lobster rolls were incredible.)

Nakama offered a really great tuna taco which was easily the best of the best of the 'Burgh. I thought the tuna was so good that I actually went back and asked for a second serving even after they were out of the taco shells. I'm not above eating sushi out of my hand.

Mad Mex
Mad Mex is truly a restaurant group known for departing from traditional norms. If you've never had a Gobblerito, make a point to stop by and grab one this year. They are generally available starting in November. The best thing about Mad Mex is that they use Mexican food as vehicle for gastronomical innovation. Great work team!

Taj Mahal
The Chocolate Man

Taj Mahal was actually my favorite food vendor at the event. If you've never visited their buffet on McKnight road, I suggest that you make the trip immediatly. They were serving four different dishes at the Best of the 'Burgh party and I'd say that their presence alone justified the ticket price!

Taj Mahal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato