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Thursday, April 16, 2015

William Penn Tavern

Wade is an amazing food model.
The William Penn Tavern is a staple of Shadyside debauchery.  Unlike many of the larger and more corporate Shadyside establishments, the William Penn is more of a neighborhood bar. The staff is friendly, helpful and often extremely busy. (Good luck getting a drink on a crowded night.)

The William Penn is known for their chicken wings. I have no problem calling them the best wings in Shadyside, as it is actually quite difficult to think of another serious contender in such an upscale anti-chicken-wing neighborhood.

The go to William Penn Tavern wing sauce is one of those everything sauce varieties they call, "kitchen sink." Kitchen sink sauce tastes of garlic, celery salt and onion powder. There are probably lots of other ingredients as well, but they were hard to discern. The sauce has just the right amount of kick and the wings are almost perfectly crispy every time.

Thursday happens to be taco night and these tacos were worth exactly what I paid for them. (Maybe a little bit more.) They reminded me of the tacos my mother made in the 1980's from the Ortega kit. Cold tortillas, salty meat, iceberg lettuce, mild cheddar and some limp tomatoes. Not great, but absolutely worth $1.25..


William Penn Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Claddagh Irish Pub

Spinach Chicken Melt

I think Irish food and English food get a bad rap. I always had the impression that the food of the Isles was lousy. It is my belief that this American view is largely manufactured based on perceptions from WWII. The BBC America tends to support my point of view and states that, "Many observers say that British cuisine’s fall from grace had much to do with the residual effects of two world wars and strict rationing."

When I was in Ireland last year I was shocked by just how much I enjoyed many of my meals. Lots of hearty bread, well prepared seafood platters and wonderful curries.

Similarly, while I expected to be disappointed by Claddagh, I was somewhat impressed by the quality of the food. (I always expect to be disappointed by chain restaurants.)

Against my better judgement, I allowed the waitress to talk me into the spinach chicken melt over the monte cristo.  Grilled chicken breast layered between house spinach dip with cheddar, roasted red peppers and tomato. The chicken was very well prepared and the spinach dip and cheese provided that extra flavorful cheese kick that gets me out of bed in the morning.

My favorite part of the Claddagh dining experience was that they allow you to substitute your french fries for any side of your choice - including some fantastic roasted brussels sprouts with bacon! The sprouts were so good that I'd expect to pay about $7 for them at a nicer restaurant downtown. 


The night we visited Claddagh was offering this fancy tasting menu which was paired with various shots of whiskey. I'm woefully sad that I could not partake.

Claddagh Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cultural Trust: Arts & Drafts

Guest Post by: Melinda Urick -
Special thanks to Melinda and Alex.

I’m a sucker for a weekday happy hour, especially when it takes place near my office downtown and I can still walk home during the last moments of daylight (thanks, Daylight Savings Time). This Monday, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust hosted the first happy hour of a new series called “Arts & Drafts.” These happy hour events are meant to connect people with up and coming artists, with proceeds benefiting the organization. The purpose of the event is to help people realize downtown Pittsburgh as a vibrant work-play destination. 

Arts & Drafts admission cost $25 per person, and I purchased tickets in advance online anticipating a sell-out (for this night, there were some tickets still available at the door; I don’t anticipate that happening again). Held at The Cabaret at Theater Square, the ticket price included light bites and two free drafts (or cocktails, for those of us non-beer drinkers) AND a one-year Partners membership to the Cultural Trust (which can get you discounts at future shows and other member benefits and invites to other cool parties (and I’m pretty sure I received some other “freebies” coupons in my membership packet).

The space was immediately energized from the lively electronic-meets-jazzy local group Beauty Slap – a trombone and trumpet quartet complemented by a lead guitarist and DJ-like production and mixing. Even more awesome: while the band played, live art was created on-stage in the background courtesy of Baron Batch – an impressive and colorful piece was later raffled off to a patron. 

Batch also spontaneously painted one of the musician’s jackets. These two elements together (and you know, the “drafts” part of the theme) made for a seriously fun happy hour. The Cabaret space is great for this type of event too, aside from having to get my drinks at the bar. Tables were set up around the perimeter of the space with a substantial place for dancing in the center – too bad the crowd didn’t use it much until the encore. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely thinking about dancing. But you know, Mondays.

Appetizers were provided by Mad Mex and looked to be heavy on the salsas but there were a few other chafing dishes of food available; unfortunately, I was preoccupied with redeeming my drink tickets among the crowds gathering at the Backstage Bar and pretended not to see the growing buffet line behind me. Maybe a better placement for the food next time?

I look forward to checking out upcoming A&D events to see how well the Trust combines art and music (and, naturally, the drinking) for growing its membership base. 

Links to other #pghGBE posts below!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cappy's Cafe

Chicken Cheese-steak

Cappy's Cafe is a charming little bar right in the heart of Shadyside. The locals swear by the place due to the no-frills atmosphere and the extremely well priced drinks. For example, on Thursday you can enjoy a limited wine bottle selection for only $15. Seating is limited though so arrive early.

I'm not entirely shocked to be the first blogger on Urbanspoon to post a review of Cappy's. It is not exactly a destination eatery. If you have an indecisive friend who makes stupid statements such as, "I don't care, I will eat anywhere." Take them to Cappy's. The "anywhere" of basic bar food.

The menu consists of wraps, hoagies, pizza, wings, sandwiches and some modest appetizers. The french fries are not fried, but baked. Cappy's does not have a deep fryer. Nothing is particularly bad nor is anything particularly good. The purgatory of bar food.

I had a chicken cheese-steak that was outrageously unremarkable. It was under-seasoned but otherwise well prepared and arranged. I have no complaints and I have no words of praise regarding my sandwich. I guess it was like kissing my sister.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm regarding the food, I must praise the staff at Cappy's. The bartenders were extremely friendly and accommodating and the waitress even discounted my sandwich after spilling a glass of wine on me.

PS:  happy hour patrons said they really enjoyed the chili.

Cappy's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Eddie Merlot's


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


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