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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Eddie Merlot's


Carpaccio

Eddie Merlot's has been open at the site of the old Palomino restaurant for the last year or so.  They did a wonderful job on the renovations. The space is very bright and roomy with a sprawling bar and a welcoming interior.You are practically obligated to dress up in order to sit at the bar.

Although the online menu advertises that the Pittsburgh location runs happy hour from 4 PM to 7 PM, the menu lies like a small time crook. The bartender informed me that happy hour ended at 6 PM and this is how things had been since the dawn of time.

If you are headed to Eddie's outside of the allotted time for happy hour, bring your checkbook. A domestic beer will run you upwards of $6. This means that if you work at a McDonald's in the greater Pittsburgh area an entire days pay will only get you slightly buzzed at Eddie Merlot's - which, of course, will be essential because you likely hate your job at McDonald's.

We tried a few appetizers to help us savor our expensive domestic beers. The smoked bacon and brussels sprout flat bread was a huge disappointment. The base was more of a fancy cracker than a traditional doughy crust. The toppings were also a let down. The flavors of the brussels sprouts and the manchego cheese were entirely overpowered by the salty sweet combination of the bacon and tomato jam.

The carpaccio was quite tasty but the dish was just trying too hard, like a beautiful woman covered in whore's makeup. Thinly sliced raw filet mingnon needs few accompaniments. For my money I like carpaccio prepared simply with some oil, arugula and parmesan cheese. The Eddie Merlot's version came with some wonderful potato chips, water cress, capers, truffle aioli and a thick balsamic glaze - all swimming in  a pool of oil. Although it was delicious, I'm once again very concerned about the status of my gout.

I should say that overall I recommend Eddie Merlot's as the service was fantastic and the interior was extremely lavish. However, try to make it during their incorrectly advertised happy hour so you can take home a portion of your hard earned salary.


 Eddie Merlot's on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 20, 2015

Fat Tommy's Pizzeria



X-Large Fat Louie

Fat Tommy's is certainly one of the stranger restaurants in Market Square. Their hours are seemingly by appointment or chance and most of the customers appear to be very well acquainted with the bar staff. By 7 pm they were basically chasing us out the door.

The offerings were standard for any pizza restaurant: pizza, calzones, subs and salads. If you want to order the sicilian style pizza, be sure to call ahead of time. They were unwilling to prepare one at 6 pm.

I thought the pizza was pretty good, but many of the other happy hour patrons mentioned that they did not find it remarkable. It had a thicker bread-like crust and was light on cheese and sauce. I ordered my pie with bacon and banana peppers. (This has become my go-to order for new pizza restaurants.)

Whenever I order bacon on a pizza I'm accustomed to receiving some thin burnt up garbage generally lacking in flavor. Much to my liking, Fat Tommy's used a nice thick cut bacon with a rich smokey flavor. It really added a lot to the quality and overall appeal of the pizza - causing me to consume roughly six slices.

Much like Fat Tommy's website, which does not have a menu or any pertinent information, the restaurant itself is lacking a general je ne sais quoi. Overall the pizza is passable and the employees were very friendly. I would certainly recommend stopping in for a quick bite.  Bonus points if you dare to explore the hidden bathroom or the perplexing art work.



 Fat Tommy's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hough's - Greenfield


Wingz

People are constantly talking about Hough's. For the last several years every beer snob in town has raised their nose at my ignorance as to Hough's and the Copper kettle. (If you are unfamiliar with the Copper Kettle they are located in the same building as Hough's and they make a variety of craft beer. They'll even let you make your own.)

The bar at Hough's is somewhat intimidating, very well lit and very clean. Entirely too sterile for my taste. I like my drinking holes to be warm, with low lighting and well worn furniture. Nothing is more inviting than a dark hidey-hole with  leather sofas.  Hough's has none of these qualities. It is a sort of super bright beer emporium with an outrageously large beer menu. (Comparable to the Sharp Edge but with some local flare and better price points.)

I inquired about the Hough's Hops chicken wings and the bartender suggested I order the hot wings with the hop wing sauce on the side.  He said that the hop sauce wasn't always a crowd pleaser.

The hop sauce was very bitter with floral aromas and a unique savory quality I'd typically associate with French herbs. The chef would not tell me what was in the sauce, but it seemed like a simple mixture of butter, oil and hops. The wings were excellent, they could have been crispier, but they had a nice smoke flavor and the hop sauce complimented the hot sauce quite well.

Hough's wasn't exactly my speed, but I'd certainly recommend it to any beer aficionado. Personally, I was a bigger fan of the Wingreen right down the street. You can't beat a smoking bar with $2 domestic drafts and an interior that looks like grandpa has been single since the late 70s. 

 Hough's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reyna's - Casa Reyna - Strip District

Tostada
Casa Reyna is located below Reyna's Foods in the heart of the Strip district. It is a nice little wood paneled restaurant with lots of fun junk on the walls and a tiny bar where it looks like you could meet a recent divorcee interested in re-bound sex.

Pictured above is the tinga tostada. Shredded chicken and sauteed onions with lettuce, avocado, queso fresco and sour cream. It was a fantastic dish with a fine array of flavors. The chicken was well seasoned, perfectly cooked and fresh. Although fresh well seasoned chicken may sound like something all restaurants would strive to provide, this is not always the case. For example, I recently had some tacos from a different restaurant in the Southside that tasted like cardboard garbage. #sadmex

We liked every dish we tried at Reyna's. Everything was authentic, reasonably priced and delicious. PS: I hate calling things authentic. It feels disingenuous.

TACO TIME

What the heck is a tostada you ask?  The word tostada is Spanish for, "toasted." Basically it is just a giant nacho. I guess it is probably a good way to use up the old tortillas that are starting to turn.

Although we loved the food, we had some trouble with the space worth mentioning. It was very hot. Like hotter than the devil's dick. Additionally, they started cleaning the grill with some type of caustic chemical as we were leaving. This made all of us cough and it was very unpleasant.  Somehow, I still feel that breathing toxic gas was probably less detrimental to my health than eating at Taco Bell. So all around, A-.


 Casa Reyna on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dive - Lawrenceville

Sliders and Pork Pancakes
I don't follow the concept of creating a bar called Dive Bar that is not a dive bar. Here are some of the reasons Dive Bar & Grille in Lawrenceville is not a dive bar: their happy hour special features wine, you can't smoke inside, there are no pool tables, they have many fancy light fixtures on the walls, the bathroom was clean, nothing was broken, the bartenders were actually helpful and you can't spit on the floor. Like I said, not a dive bar.

There is a silent dignity to hanging out in a real dive bar. At a real dive bar no one will talk to you and everyone just enjoys their cheap drink in isolation. Co-mingling is not encouraged. Dive in Lawrenceville had a much more convivial atmosphere. People were telling jokes, taking selfies, enjoying Tinder dates and talking about their families. It was enough to make a real dive bar patron vomit. Again, vomiting is a behavior typically encouraged by real dive bars but not by Dive Bar and Grille of Lawrenceville.

Interestingly, Dive had a large number of appetizers that were discounted for happy hour. However, the discounted appetizers were not isolated from the non-discounted appetizers on the menu. I wonder if bars consider what a huge waste of time this is and how frustrating it can be to patrons. I watched the bartender explain the specials at least five times throughout the evening. Watching his finger bounce around the menu while explaining the specials was like watching someone explain potential nautical routes in the 16th century.

Pictured above are the cheesesteak sliders and the loaded croquettes. Priced for happy hour at $4.50 and $5 respectively. (Not bad price points!) The sliders could have benefited from the use of a more interesting and less stale bread option, and were otherwise bland but passable.

The croquettes could have been a knock-out, but the potato pancake was more like a hush puppy than a standard potato pancake. This greatly detracted from the dish as there was a certain mushy quality to the potatoes resulting in many plates of unfinished potatoes throughout the bar. The pulled pork on top of the mush was fresh, well seasoned and delicious. 

I have to say that I found my experience at Dive bar enjoyable and I'd recommend stopping by.  I'm still struggling with the concept though. Would it make sense if I opened a three star hotel and called it Rat Nest Motor Inn? Perhaps in the age of hipsterdom it is just cool to be considered a dive bar even if you have an extensive wine list and an attractive and helpful waitstaff.

 Dive Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Yard Gastropub - Shadyside - the good the bad and the juicy

The Good
Now, I can't prove this, but I'm pretty certain the Yard used to be a fancy Italian restaurant.  In the space currently occupied by Yard Gastropub at 736 Bellefonte I can vividly remember an anti-pasta bar, white tablecloths and ordering some type of clay pot chicken. This was over twenty years ago though, so I might just be remembering a trip to an Olive Garden. It is hard for me to say, but the memory of that delicious clay pot chicken remains.

The Yard is one of Shadyside's newest beer bars. There seems to be this basic recipe for commercial success in Shadyside. Large draft beer selection + big televisions + postmodern decor + lackluster craft cocktails + contemporary food options = GREAT SUCCESS!

 I suppose for the most part that these are basic bar amenities, but there is a peculiar quality to the bars of Shadyside. There's something a little too vanilla right beneath the surface that you can't adequately describe. The bars lack genuine character which they attempt to mask with a veneer of mojitos and hot waitresses.

The best dish I sampled at the Yard had to be the prosciutto wrapped shrimp. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and benefited greatly from the saltiness of the prosciutto. I think they could have used more prosciutto, but the dish was only about $5 for happy hour -  leaving no room for complaint.


The Bad
This was supposed to be poutine. Poutine is a Canadian dish that typically is made with a light brown gravy, a smaller sized french fry and cheese curds. This poutine was made with a burnt dark brown gravy, soggy potato wedges and what appeared to be shredded cheddar cheese. This was probably one of the worst things I've been served at a bar in the last several months. I couldn't even give this dish away, nor could I get the taste of the burnt gravy out of my mouth. I'm pretty sure this poutine, as prepared by the Yard, is responsible for the unrest that has been occurring in Canada.

On the menu the Yard claims that the cheese is made in-house. If that is really the case, they might as well just go buy the low fat cheddar cheese at Aldi and save a few bucks.

The Juicy Lucy
On Thursday the Yard offers a decent special. For $10 you get a Juicy Lucy burger and a beer. Considering some of the beers you are allowed to choose from are in the $7 to $8 range, this really is a bargain. I have to be honest, I could not bring myself to order anything else from the Yard after indulging in their gut busting craptastic poutine. However, I did try a bite of a friend's Juicy Lucy and it was not bad at all.

Go for happy hour and the Juicy Lucy, skip the poutine! 

 The Yard Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 17, 2014

Southside BBQ Company

Brisket Nachos

Southside BBQ sits in the same location as the former 17th St. Cafe and is owned by the same folks. For years I've been saying that someone should bring basic BBQ to the Southside in a more accessible manner. Personally I find Doublewide overpriced, over-hyped and overextended in terms of menu selections. I'm a real stickler when it comes to BBQ.

When I left Cleveland in 2008 my little brother forced me to make a life altering decision. He was in a hurry to return to Pittsburgh and demanded I make an immediate choice as to whether I would move my barrel-drum smoker or my bed home to Pittsburgh. I threw my bed to the curb and returned to the Steel City with a giant smoker in tow. Every year I enjoy making ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, smoked game hen, Canadian bacon and basically anything else that can benefit from a thick smoke ring. BBQ is serious business. Serious as death.

Although I'm generally disappointed by the BBQ offerings in Pittsburgh, I was very pleased with the simplicity and quality of the food offered by Southside BBQ. Each dish I tried had a rich smoke flavor that paired well with their modest sauce selection. During their happy hour you can try chicken, brisket or pork nachos starting at $3.50 a plate. Sandwiches are not discounted for happy hour, but they start at $5 each. All of the meats we sampled were well prepared, fresh and very flavorful. When I go back I'll most likely skip the nachos and go straight for the meat. Why water down your BBQ?

Chicken wings are also discounted for happy hour.

By way of comparison, a pulled pork sandwich at Doublewide runs $10.19. In Doublewide's defense, that price also includes a side dish of your choice. However, I'd prefer to just have two sandwiches at Southside BBQ or order my sides a la carte. (Side dishes at Southside BBQ are $3 each or 2 for $5)

It ain't Memphis, Carolina or St. Louis. But it's nice to see some decent BBQ in Pittsburgh.

This is Pat, Pat is the man.
PS: There is also a Southside BBQ Co. food truck. If you see it out in the wild be sure to stop by and say hello to Pat.

South Side BBQ on Urbanspoon