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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mix Tape

Mix Tape is the most peculiar little spot that I've visited in many months. Here are some of the various oddities you can expect to experience.  Tips are not accepted, bean bags are used as actual chairs by semi-grown adults, orders are only taken at the bar, the menu is very limited, there is an outrageous selection of board games, and reservations are not possible. 

Mix Tape is a socialist experiment hell bent on serving healthy vegan food in a nurturing environment. The night we attended Mix Tape there was a dream board workshop. I'm disappointed to say that after nearly 60 days I have accomplished none of the items on my dream board. My trip to Mix Tape will always serve as a reminder of how I am a massive failure as a human bieng.

In the off chance that your are actually curious, my faux pepperoni roll was quite good and my livin' la vida mocha smoothie was also just fine. (Also, you cannot play MEME THE GAME by yourself. It is a 3-4 player game.)

Dream Boards

I highly doubt that bars like Mix Tape will ever displace the dive bars of this world. However, I think that they have accomplished a unique feat in that they have created a bar that seems perfect for people who do not like bars. This is what a safe space looks like.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Or the Whale

Or the Octopus
This review must be prefaced with the statement that this restaurant is prohibitively expensive, and they know it. If they have not priced themselves out of the Pittsburgh market, perhaps I am just unaware of what good food costs. I worry that I am almost certainly becoming my father. A man that thinks all sandwiches should cost less than 6 dollars because he has failed to keep up with the times. I have to constantly remind myself that good food is expensive and the cost can be justified.

That's just the thing about Or the Whale though - the food is great. The above pictured octopus with fingerling potatoes was in fact so good that I went out and purchased my own fingerling potatoes to make at home, fell asleep cooking them, and nearly died of asphyxiation.

 I've never had octopus served with chimichurri sauce and potatoes. It was exquisite and prepared flawlessly. The octopus had just the right amount of char and a great mouth feel. 

Or the Trout
The smoked trout rillettes are really the only bargain item on the menu at a paltry $11. I thought it was quite nice that the dish arrived with a small salad to help me justify my existence. After all, I spent over $50 on two drinks and two appetizers. (I mean, god damn, I could buy like 70 pounds of bananas with that coin.)  Maybe that doesn't sound bad to you, but I think it is outrageous.

Here is a list of some menu items and their respective prices so you have an idea of what you are getting into.

Seafood Tower - $180
16 oz Ribeye - $65
Duck Burger - $45
Side Salad - $9

Getting old sucks, everything seems expensive.  Also, I'm pretty sure that Or the Whale has the most expensive hamburger in the city. Please prove me wrong in the comments.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Zone 28

Garage Door Access!
Zone 28 recently opened in the far east part of town near Oakmont. Let me tell you, for a kid friendly joint they threw a hell of a grand opening party. Here are some of our favorite magical moments from the opening.

Appetizers! And lots of them. Zone 28 offers a full menu and has two separate bars. The End Zone and the Railhouse.  (If you've ever been to State College you would know that their local establishment called the End Zone is quite a different beast. NSFW.)

Costumed characters! They have a remarkably well crafted beer list for a bowling alley. Their sports bar is the perfect place for dads. Honestly, they should change the name of the sports bar to, "Dads Only."

SNACKS! So many snacks.


This lady won a golden ticket.

This friendly janitor met the Pittsburgh dad! Everyone loves the Pittsburgh dad!

Add caption
And Santa made an appearance! Overall, an awesome place. In addition to bowling and the restaurants they have a full arcade, laser tag and bumper cars!

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Threadbare Cider

Threadbare Cider is easily one of the most exciting places I've visited in 2017. The new space  belongs to the owners of Wigle Whiskey. Threadbare is actually located just right down the street from the Wigle Barrel House - I guess the price of real estate is going up in Spring Garden!

One of the more enticing features of the space is the marvelous job they've done of exposing the production facilities. The massive renovations to the old building allow patrons an intimate view of the innards of the cider facility from the comfort of the dining room.

The cider house stands as a tribute to Johnny Appleseed. (Would you believe that the rapscallion is both real and associated with Pittsburgh?) Threadbare currently offers three separate varieties of cider: a dry, a dry-hopped and a farmhouse.  While I enjoyed sampling all three ciders, there was no contest for my affection. The dry cider almost resembled a dry white wine in it's robust magnificence. I'm no cider expert - but I've had a lot of Jack's Hard Cider in times of desperation and need. Threadbare is considerably better the typical American ciders you see on tap at many bars. Their products are absolutely comparable to the offerings at Arsenal Cider.

Silver Dollar Pancake
Pictured above you can see some of the various offerings from the Threadbare brunch menu. My favorite item was the silver dollar pancakes, but the breakfast pizza and cheese plate were a close second. I should also note that they offer a variety of gluten free dishes as they are attempting to placate the no-beer crowd. I'm looking forward to visiting again! It was an excellent experience.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

An Autumn of Happy Hours

Draai Laag

I think Draai Laag is one of the coolest breweries in Pittsburgh. Their beers are remarkably unique and a testament to how far Pittsburgh has come since the days of Iron City and Rolling Rock. (Side note, Iron City is no longer brewed in Pittsburgh and Rolling Rock is no longer brewed in Latrobe. Iron City is now made at the site of the former Rolling Rock brewery in Latrobe and Rolling Rock is made in Newark, NJ by Anheuser–Busch InBev which is based in Belgium.)

Draai Laag, however, is actually brewed in Pittsburgh. Their beers are developed through a spontaneous fermentation process and are probably unlike most beer you've had in your life. (Unless you are a fancy beer snob.)

Their taproom in Millvalle offers some fantastic food. Pictured above are the "Bomb Mi" Tacos - a take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich and the walking taco - your standard taco ingredients haphazardly thrown in a bag of Doritos. The walking taco is basically the perfect food for the modern slob on the go.

Check out Draai Laag and be a part of the Pittsburgh beer renaissance!  (You can even walk home with a taco.)

Full Pint Wild Side Pub

I've been familiar with Full Pint's beer for many years.  They've been making some excellent products at their brewery in North Versailles for quite some time, but they just recently opened their Wild Side Pub in Lawrenceville. It actually has a separate dining room and bar, I walked into the dining room and was pretty confused at first.

My favorite Full Pint beer is their Belgian white that they market as White Lightening, but I also like the Milk Plus milk stout and the Rye Rebellion imperial stout. At their Wild Side Pub they offer a nice happy hour discount on their drafts as well as a number of flatbreads and sandwiches.

I ordered the Mexican pizza with chorizo, brown ale queso, provolone, jalepeno and onion. It was not shabby, but it's hard to imagine that anyone would go out of their way to eat at the Wild Side Pub with the plethora of dining options available in Lawrenceville.

Full Pint Wild Side Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burgher's Lawrenceville

Burgher's just opened in  a very shiny new space in lower Lawrenceville. Their original location is in Harmony and I can only imagine that they are looking to expand further. I've been told for years that they have some of the best burgers in the city and I've always wanted to check them out.

Somehow, I blew it and didn't manage to order a burger. Burgher's offers a very nice happy hour menu which included sharp discounts on their fried chicken and their everything bagel dog.

I couldn't tell you exactly why I ordered the "everything bagel dog." Let's call it a morbid curiosity. Boy, was it delicious. I don't think I've ever enjoyed the combination of cream cheese and avocado, it is heavenly. The bacon also added a nice texture in addition to the "everything" seasoning.  I never knew I could like hot dogs, thank you Burgher's of Lawrenceville.

I should also note that their fried chicken is a steal at $2 a piece during happy hour!

Burgh'ers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The historic South Side of Pittsburgh does not want for Mexican options. There's La Palapa, Doce Tacqueria, Steel Cactus and Emiliano's. Emailiano's is actually the owner of Tres Rios.

I love the taco shells at Tres Rios. They offer a think homemade softer shell that is quite unique. Tres Rios is meant to be a more upscale option. Some of our favorites were the barbacoa, the duck tacos and the ceviche.

By the way, in case you wanted me to rank the Mexican restaurants in the South Side, here you go:

1) Doce
2) Emiliano's
3) La Palapa
4) Tres Rios*
5) Steel Cactus

*It should be noted that although Tres Rios appears next to Steel Cactus in my rankings, they are magnitudes apart in terms of quality.

Tres Rios Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Pittsburgher's Guide to Dining in Tokyo

Dining in Japan was easily one of the most unique experiences of my life. Some of my favorite meals were items I stumbled across in the street or in a 7-11. (Yes, 7-11 is huge over there and offers a variety of amazing treats.) Pictured above you can see some ramen noodles from my first day in Tokyo. On the right you can check out the vending machine we used to order our ramen. You place your order and then print a ticket and lunch arrives almost immediately. This particular ramen spot was so good that the nice Canadian man-child behind me in line said that he had already been there three times even though he'd only been in Tokyo a week. I cannot even begin to describe just how flavorful the broth was nor are there words to describe the flavor and texture of the pork. I was also interested to learn that I was unable to order my ramen with roast duck. I guess that is a more Americanized ramen style. 

On the bottom left you can see what I believe to be a small bowl of tripe or some other type of sweet bread. It was ordered for me by some very nice Japanese business men who I met on my first night in town. When I attempted to explain that I was a food blogger and asked them to order some snacks for me, they were very amused. They took it as an opportunity to grab and vigorously shake my stomach while yelling, "foooood bloggggeerrrr" in the style of Japanese-English often impersonated by South Park. I cannot be sure if this was due to some type of failed translation or if these men were just extremely amused by my magnificent American belly. 

On my second day we ventured to the Shimokitazawa Curry Festival   - it was a magnificent event featuring over 150 restaurants with various types of curry dishes. The tagline for the event is, "Spicy Cruising"  which draws an allusion to a crude reference for a bowel movement.

We sampled a traditional Japanese style chicken and vegetable curry served in a wooden mug as well as curry from a Sri Lankan establishment that served a hot honey cheese naan. (I could eat hot honey cheese naan for every meal.) By the way, if you've been following along with my food adventures you would know that honey on pizza is totally a thing and you can try it out at Spork.

In this photo you can see us sampling some expensive Japanese beef as well as some sushi from two separate establishments. While the yakiniku we visited did not have kobe, there are many different expensive cuts of Japanese beef that are just as good. I'm embarrassed to admit that I do not know the names of the cuts we ordered as one of my AWESOME tour guides was in charge of ordering.  (Maybe someone can translate the placards on the image for me so I can make an update!)

Keep in mind that you have most likely not tried expensive Japanese beef in the US unless you have paid a high premium. Check out my review of Church Brew Works from several years ago that explains why there is no chance in hell that the $11 cheesesteak on a menu described as a ,"Kobe Beef Cheesesteak" is legit. Hell, even if it is wagyu, that's just a waste of good beef.

It's also worth mentioning that I tried nato (smelly fermented soy beans) for the first time at one of the sushi restaurants we visited. I wasn't nearly as disgusted by it as most westerners tend to be, but I won't be clamoring to order it again anytime soon.

Here's a nice photo of us cooking our fancy beef. One of the above food models is an employee of the Irish embassy in Tokyo. One of my favorite moments during my trip was at a Japanese whiskey bar when my friend Naoko innocently asked him if they had whiskey in Ireland. The fucking Irishman nearly shit his pants, it was amazing.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

Our fanciest dining experience in Tokyo was at the three star L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Quite frankly, I think this was the fanciest meal of my life. We opted for the six course lunch, but we also added a cheese plate and some foie gras because life is just too short to under indulge. One of my favorite dishes was the smoked salmon with gravelax sauce and potato galette. I also quite enjoyed the simmered pork cheek with carrot puree (not pictured) and the roasted lamb with eggplant compote. Every course looked too beautiful to eat.

If you want to hit up a Michelin star restaurant while you are visiting Tokyo, be prepared to call several months in advance. Thanks to our friend Naoko we were able to sneak in to one of Joel Robuchon's restaurants without much fuss, but I doubt they would have let us in without knowing someone. It's also worth noting that you do not need to go to Tokyo to check out a Joel Robuchon restaurant. He has establishments all over the world. In addition to being a freemason, Mr. Robuchon apparently was the youngest chef to ever receive a Michelin star and he currently holds more Michelin stars than any chef in the world. What a fancy dandy.


It's all about that omakase baby. Even as a departed Japan I was able to grab some killer grub at the Narita airport. According to Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit Sushi Kyotatsu near gate 34 in Terminal 1 of the airport is the best airport restaurant in the world.  I have to say that I was very impressed by the omakase and I was remarkably excited to enjoy a meal at an airport that was not terrible. I'd even venture to say that it was fantastic.

An interesting note about Sushi Kyotatsu is that the waitress came over at times and explained which items were not to be eaten with soy sauce. She did however provide me with a precious little plate of salt and explained that I could use it on the pieces that were designated as non-soy-saucable. As a true gaijin I can admit that the subtleties of dining etiquette are foreign to me both abroad and at home. Just eat what makes you feel good and do it however you like - that way Japanese business men will come and give you a hilarious tummy rub.

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.