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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sly Fox

Don't get the chips.
Sly Fox is a dump. Their beer is just awful, their food is gross and you need a door code in order to use the restroom. If I wanted to use a door code to access the restroom I would hang out in a public park in Europe. Shame on you Sly Fox.

Pictured above are the world famous Sly Fox "chips and salsa." For only $5 (or $2.50 during happy hour) these delicious chips could be all yours. We are talking about some Costco bargain chips served with roughly 2oz of flavorless salsa and way too much sour cream. I cannot earnestly recommend these chips and salsa, even at the happy hour price point. 

Happy hour at Sly Fox really isn't a bad deal as all of the appetizers and beer are discounted. However, everything kind of sucks so it isn't really a good deal either. Rashan had this sausage for $9. He said it wasn't awful, but I thought it was odd that they couldn't be bothered to bring him silverware or napkins with his meal.

The hefeweizen I tried tasted like bubblegum and the stout I tried was similarly lackluster. I think they should just stop making beer and sell Miller Lite.

The saddest thing about this whole ordeal is that Sly Fox is apparently opening a second Pittsburgh location right by my house. I hope that they learn how to make beer before they open the doors.

I usually agree with City Paper. Their review of Sly Fox says, "Go to the Sly Fox at the Point for the craft beer that’s been around since 1995. Don't expect much from the food." I would politely add that you should also not expect very much from their craft beer.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Mad Mex - Shadyside

Three sizes of inconsistent margarita specials.
When your grade school teacher told you that math would be important throughout your life, she was not a liar. Mad Mex in Shadyside runs a daily happy hour from 4:30 until 6:30 that features margaritas and discounted drafts. I immediately noticed that the margarita pricing was wildly inconsistent.

I've done the math for you below so that you won't have to bother, but it makes the most sense to order the smallest size margarita. The special has diminishing returns as you order the larger sized margs. The three different sizes of glasses and the advertisement for the special are pictured above. It's worth noting that they don't even tell you the size of the "Big Azz Margarita" - but I'm pretty certain that is a 22 oz glass. What a fucking scam.

$3 12 oz   - 25 cents per ounce
$5 16 oz - 31 cents per ounce
$7 Big Azz margarita - 22 oz - 32 cents per ounce

My friend Paul provided the plausible explanation that even with this knowledge some folks might still be inclined to order the larger size so as to be considerate of the staff. I personally recommend that you just order two 12 oz margaritas at a time so that you are getting the best rate.

A few notes about Mad Mex, they offer half off all drafts during happy hour. Unlike several clown bars around town whose beer selection consists of 42 different IPAs, Mad Mex usually has at least a few different styles of beer to choose from. 

I highly recommend the boneless chicken wings. Mad Mex is one of the few places in town that has a bonafide de-boned chicken wing as opposed to a sauced up chicken tender.

Mad Mex Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Fet-Fesk - Organi Osteria - Dish

Organi Osteria

I'm starting to think that I've lost relevance as a food blogger. After all, food blogs haven't been popular since 2010. It would seem that podcasts and vlogging are the wave of the future. (I'm not even sure the kids call it vlogging anymore.)

The perfect proof of my insignificance is that I've somehow never heard of Fet-Fesk.  Fet-Fesk is a testament of the Pittsburgh restaurant scene transformation. They are a pop up dinner collaborative that takes place at an undisclosed location semi-regularly.  I also do not believe that they disclose the menu prior to their events.

From their site:

"we are not a restaurant. we are a group of friends who currently work in or have worked in restaurants, and we are kind of bummed on restaurants. 

we are a group of friends who want to bring other groups of friends together over delicious food, so we throw pop-up dinner parties. 

our dinner parties are recurring, and one-of-a-kind. our location changes. unique to each event, our menus highlight fresh seafood and regional produce. 

it is important to us for our food to be valued accessibly, and to include satisfying options for diets and restrictions. delicious food is important at FET-FISK.

FET-FISK means ‘greasy-fish’ in swedish"

I'm shocked that these guys could slip under my radar for so long. I really mean it when I say that I must not be cool anymore. Special thanks to my friend Katie for making me cooler. After taking a peek at their Instagram, it appears that Fet-Fesk has been around for about one year.

The Fet-Fisk I had the pleasure of attending was at Dish Osteria and was an all organ/offal dinner titled, Organi Osteria.  Although they have been closed the last couple of years, Dish recently reopened their doors in the historic South Side of Pittsburgh. I highly recommend checking them out, their food is fantastic.

In total we were served nine highly unique courses for $85. Honestly it was not a bad deal but it got expensive quickly as the drinks at Dish were about $10 a pop. Also, we ended up having quite a few drinks as the dinner was slow! The dinner was supposed to run from 7-10 pm but it ran past 11 pm. I'm not a European, I don't like 4 hour dinners.

Some of the amazing dishes we got to try incorporated  head cheese, eyeballs, gonads, tendon, heart, blood and liver. This was not a dinner for the faint of heart and both the menu and the location were not disclosed ahead of time. I've posted the full menu below for your viewing pleasure.

My favorite courses were numbers 8, 4 and 6. Respectively, veal brains with tagliatelle, brown butter and iberian pepper - beef heart with foccacia and bitter greens and calf liver with guanciale and potato.   I can't wait to go party with these folks again.

Full Menu

Dish Osteria & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Western PA Lamb Cook-Off 2019


Lamb Fest has grown massive within such a short span of time! From humble beginnings the Western PA Lamb Cook-Off is now an all out lamb extravaganza. By my count there were over 20 different lamb dishes you could sample. Unlike in previous years, vendors were extremely well stocked and there was no rush to try and get to all 10 stations. Guest chefs included:

Jennifer Girasole (Girasole), Jessica Lewis (Spirits & Tales), Kristin Butterworth (Lautrec), Julio Peraza (Floor 2 at Fairmont Pittsburgh), Will Randall (Meat & Potatoes), Justin Steel (Bar Marco), Chris O'Brien (Scratch Food & Beverage), Brian Hammond (Siempre Algo), Curtis Gamble (Station), Jon Sterrett (Senti), Derek Burnell (Round Corner Cantina and Umami Pgh), Roger Li (Umami Pghand Ki Ramen Pgh), Dan Kern (1201 Kitchen, Bird and Noosa in Erie), Lily Tran (Soba), Sam DiBattista (Vivo Restaurant). Dom Branduzzi (Piccolo Forno and Grapperia), Justin Severino (Morcilla), Michele Savoia (Dish Osteria and Bar), Anthony Falcon (Gaucho Parrilla Argentina) and Nate Hobart (Morcilla). For more on the participants see PRNewswire.

I have to say that I was slightly disappointed by the judges. Usually I think the professionals get it right, but based on my tastes I just have to disagree. I've posted the top three winners below. By and large the judges tended to favor the chefs who made tacos.

In particular I thought that Team 7 was overrated this year and I'm saddened that they are now the three time champions. I just could not get on board with their Lamb Robtaaki (lamb kebabs with various offal.) However, their taco was one of the better ones presented at the event.

Personally, I thought the best dish of the day was the delicate lamb dumpling presented by Team 1. It was perfectly seasoned and just did such a nice job of showcasing the delicious lamb.

This is a top notch Pittsburgh culinary event. I would highly recommend it to anyone! This years winners are posted below.

Team 7:
Roger Li Umami Pgh & Ki Ramen Pgh
Dan Kern of 1201 Kitchen Noosa North East & Bird
Derek Burnell of Round Corner Cantina & Umami Pgh
AKA The Most Hated Players took home the 1st place title for their third year in a row. This undefeated team served three different lamb dishes including
- Lamb Robatayaki
- Lamb Tacos
- Crispy Lamb

Team 5:
Chris O’Brien of Scratch Food & Beverage
Josh Ross of Con Alma
Julio Peraza of Floor 2
David Devoss of Sewickley Tavern
Took second place with Barbacoa Lamb Tacos

Team 8:
Kristen Butterworth
Patrick Duffy
Kareen Brown
Kylie Zaccagni
Team Nemacolin Woodlands Resort come in 3rd with their
Braised Lamb Leg Tacos and their adorable Lamb Fat, Sugar Cookies

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Penn Brewery First Ave Taproom and Kitchen

Want to talk about an unmitigated disaster?! Let's talk about Penn Brewery's new Taproom downtown. So I spent several weeks talking with one of their employees in order to setup an extended happy hour. He said it would be no problem to extend their specials until 7pm. On the day of the event he was a no show and the manager said the offer to extend could not be honored. The manager said that his computer system would not allow him to extend the special. (We've actually heard this a variety of times from other establishments.) What a disappointment.

If you manage to make happy hour the special includes $2 off all drafts and $6 wings and pretzels. The meat plate, pictured above, wasn't half bad.  The Taproom only serves Penn Brewery products, they also had an Arsenal Cider on tap.

The manager was very nice and the staff was very helpful as well.  However, I never got the chicken wings that I ordered. I tried one of my friend's wing and it wasn't particularly good, so I decided to just let it go. At least they didn't try to charge me for the wings that I never received.

Overall, it is a very nice bar even though it is small and located in an odd space. I'd recommend waiting to visit until they get a bit more settled. It took them too long figure out our tabs at the end of the evening, I think they just aren't well situated for larger groups at the moment.

These were the bad wings.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Sheetz #projectcoffeehopz

We were fortunate enough to be invited to the unavailing of a new Sheetz product! #projectcoffeehopz is a special product release by Sheetz and Rusty Rail Brewing - they've unleashed an IPA flavored with coffee. You can now get the product at select Sheetz, more information is available here.

It was very smooth and pretty tasty! They were also kind enough to provide us with some wonderful treats. Some of our favorite dishes throughout the night were the pierogi pot stickers, the warm doughnut bites, and the crispy bacon pops. Overall it was a great event and we were very fortunate to be included! The event was hosted by J Verno Studios, check out a great video of us scaring our friend below.

Great job Sheetz and Rusty Rail! I can't wait to see what you guys think up next.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Chili Cook Off

Since I know you ingrates are only here to read the rankings and then disagree with me even though you didn't try any of the chili, I've placed the rankings at the top of this post. Please continue below to read my notes on each chili and my thoughts on the first annual South Side Chili Cook-Off. Overall, it was a great time!

Here are the rankings you ungrateful cretins. 

1. White Eagle (Chef Steven Michalak)
2. Smiling Moose
3. Rugger's Pub
4. Tiki Lounge (Community Kitchen Pgh)
5. 12 Whiskey BBQ
6. 1311
7. South Side BBQ
8. Mario's
9. The Flats
10. Casey's
11. Cupka's 2
12. Primanti's
13. Double Wide
14. Archie's
15. Steel Cactus
16. Local

1. White Eagle (Chef Steven Michalak)

So chef Steven was described to me as a traveling chef. He explained that in the past he had worked as an executive chef for Garth Brooks, among a number of other different celebs.

His chili was phenomenal. Top finest, best in show. For my money, it could have had less beans. However, he still managed to best every goon in the South Side in terms of chili quality. It is not good for our neighborhood that an outsider won the competition, but such is life.

Chef used hot sausage, ground beef and pineapple to make a remarkable chili that really stood apart from the rest. Apparently Gina, the owner of the White Eagle, is a second mother to him. What a beautiful world. 

2. Smiling Moose

Smiling Moose consistently puts out some of the best food in the South Side.  I'm always impressed that a bar that has so much going on in terms of live entertainment finds the time to put together such good food. The chef called their chili WOW chili because it makes you say WOW. It was a mixture of beef and pork with a tequila lime sour cream and a very sweet and tangy flavor profile. It had a really fantastic flavor profile, but I could not rank it number one as it was too sweet for my liking. (I understand though chef, you have to cook for the public!)

Smiling Moose Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3. Rugger's Pub

The people that hang out at Ruggers and the people that work at Ruggers are my people. If I could change one thing about the South Side, I would move Ruggers closer to my home. I love them and their food is so good. They had a smoky beef chili with fire roasted tomatoes. It needed more heat, but it was great. Better than the chili you make at home, you slob.

Ruggers Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4. Tiki Lounge (Community Kitchen Pgh)

Tiki Lounge. What a place. One time some girl tried to fuck me in the closet on the landing in between the first and second floor. I didn't put out. The same night she left me and found her current spouse. Isn't life a trip?

I wanted to rank this chili higher, it was remarkable. Top round with a mole sauce, great sized chunks of meat. The best meat in the entire competition. They made their chili with no beans, it was awesome. This was one of the finest chilis of the day. Also, they are supporting a great cause. Community Kitchen helps people transition into the workforce after incarceration. If you desire a better world, you should support them.  (Community Kitchen Pgh)

5. 12 Whiskey BBQ

Twelve Whiskey BBQ was my first stop of the tour. Their chili was wonderful, it was made with a blend of brisket and pork and it had a heavy tomato base and light beans. The server told me that it was made by his father, the proprietor of the establishment. This chili was so good it could have easily been in the top three.

Twelve Whiskey Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

6. 1311

1311 is an establishment that I've been frequenting for many years. It is one of the most fun bars in the South Side and the bartenders are great. Their chili had my favorite spice profile of the day, it was nice and hot and it left my lips tingly and warm. It was a bit heavy on the beans for my tastes which is the only reason I did not rank it higher. The types of meat used to make the chili were unknown to the bartenders.

Apparently the owner of 1311 made the chili and is a well trained cook. Kristi told me that he used to work at a restaurant called Pasta Too in Bethel Park and it is one of the best restaurants in town. Watch out ladies on dating apps, swipe right on me and you might be going to Pasta Too in the near future.

1311 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

7. South Side BBQ

South Side BBQ is a real staple of the neighborhood, we've visited for happy hour in the past. They had one of the more unique dishes of the day as they were serving their smoked brisket chili with a sprinkle of optional ghost pepper dust.  The smoke flavor really came through and the ghost pepper dust added a delightful bite - it really kicked me in the nasal passage. My only complaint is that the chili was too bean heavy and my sampling cup didn't have enough meat! Bonus points for allowing guests to ring the bell if they tried the ghost pepper dust.

South Side BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

8. Mario's

Mario's is always a solid spot. We've been visiting them for happy hour for many years. In case you are wondering, Mario's South Side is better than Mario's East Side and we ran the math to prove it. The type of meat used in the Mario's chili was unknown to our server as the chef had left for the day. I tasted cumin and possibly hot sausage. My chili sidekick Mark described the chili as, "very conventional." He was correct.

Mario's Southside Saloon/Blue Lou's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

9. The Flats

The chili at the flats was made by a bartender named Phil. When I asked Phil what type of meat he used to make the chili he simply remarked, "hamburger." It was nice and tangy, less thick and had a heavy onion base. It wasn't spicy enough and was not bad, but it wasn't great either. Pretty much the standard chili you'd expect if someone invited you over for chili.

10. Casey's

Mike made this chili, he is the owner of Casey's. It tasted heavily of BBQ sauce and more spice was needed. The types of meat used were unknown. Casey's is only ranked at number ten due to having the most handsome bartender. The chili was not good.

11. Cupka's 2

Richie, I love you dawg, but you have to work on that chili recipe. Here are some quotes I solicited from friends. "It tastes like sand." - MB "It tastes like Skyline chili, it would be better on spaghet." - KB

The chili had no bite, no flavor, no rai·son d'ê·tre. One time I left my briefcase at Cupkas I. I called the bar to let them know. I went back to pick it up, explained that I had called in and I had left my bag there. The bartender looked at a note on my briefcase and said, "story checks out." I saw the note, it said, "a guy left this here."

Cupka's II Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

12. Primanti's

Primanti's served their standard chili. I'll preface by saying that I generally like their chili, but it was lukewarm when we arrived. It wasn't great, I didn't finish it. Also, too heavy on the kidney beans for my tastes. You have to show up for competition day Primanti's!!! The whole city is behind you.

Primanti Brothers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

13. Double Wide

Double Wide used to have great food. Once upon a time I recommended that people go there.  Oh, how giants fall. Terrible chili. The women seemed to like it though. Do you really think you can win a chili competition with vegetarian chili? I would venture to say it is possible, but not with this slop.

Double Wide Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

14. Archie's

First of all, Archie is the man. I love his chicken wings and everything I've ever been served at Archie's is awesome. However, the chili is not good.

Arch, I think your batch towards the end of the competition might have been burnt. Something was certainly off. We didn't finish our chili and we snuck out the door like shy children. Afraid to tell pap pap that the chili was bad. 

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

15. Steel Cactus

The only reason that Steel Cactus didn't finish dead last is that somehow their sister restaurant just barely managed to make a worse showing. This chili was both burnt and ice cold. A true disappointment. I told the hostesses that if this was how they were going to compete they might as well not compete at all as they were just making themselves look bad.

We've been to Steel Cactus before, I don't recommend it highly, but the specials are pretty good. #sadmex

Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurant & Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

16. Local

This was absolutely the worst chili of the day. It was served ice cold and was completely lacking in flavor. I could not taste any seasoning. I would compare this chili to unseasoned Italian red sauce with beans. The only reason I'm ranking this chili lower than Steel Cactus is that it was served next to a dripping ceiling and there was no indication that a chili competition was even occurring as there was not a crock-pot on site nor a dedicated server. Just 5 cups of ice cold chili sitting out under a dripping ceiling. Quite frankly, it might have been the same chili that was served by Steel Cactus as the restaurants are owned by the same folks.

I do not mind going to brunch at Local as I love their upstairs patio. However, if you've been following my posts you would know that they served me raw chicken wings several years ago. This chili gets a 0/10,

I met a couple when I started the chili competition at my second stop. They told me that they had made almost every stop but they avoided Local because they thought it would be a waste of time. They sure were right.

Local Bar + Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Overall, it was not a bad run for a first attempt by the show-runners. I have a litany of complaints I won't bore you with, but the main two are that they should have provided guests with printed hand outs of the locations and they should have ensured that participating bars weren't fucking around. Totally worth the ticket price though, great job!