Saturday, June 17, 2017
Pittsburgh is the newest city to join the City Brew Tours family. Their other cities include Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, Boston and Burlington. Apparently the owner, Chad Brodsky, got his start in Burlington running around town in lederhosen telling people to get into his suspicious van.
The current City Brew Tours van is much less suspicious and seats about 16 people. For $99 they will pick you up and drive you around to tour some of the following breweries: Spoonwood, Penn, Draai Laag, Cobblehaus, Couch, Allegheny City, Grist House, Aurochs and Hop Farm. They generally select which breweries your tour will visit, but can customize your tour upon request.
You can expect plenty to drink, some fun banter about the history of beer, an inclusive lunch paired with some local brews and a lot of information about the brewing process from the brewers themselves.
Auroch's was my second favorite stop of the day. It is located on Rt. 65, aka the Ohio River Boulevard in the last place you would look for a brewery. (Right next some establishment where you can wash your dog. How anyone would go somewhere other than their home to wash a dog makes no sense to me. Throw the beast in the tub or hose it off in the yard.)
An auroch is a type of extinct cow whose demise was thought to be brought on due to the expansion of agricultural development. The name is quite cute as Auroch's is a gluten free brewery. Their beer is made from quinoa and millet and uses a process that includes no gluten whatsoever. (Many other gluten free beers are made by stripping the gluten from the brew after the fact.) Their faux wheat beer and their session IPA were some of the best beers I tried on our tour. I could not even tell they were gluten free which was quite uprising.
I asked the brewers if they'd be interested in taking on a purine free beer. They didn't seem super interested. (The gout is brought on by the over consumption of purines which are extremely prevalent in beer.) The gout affects more people than gluten intolerance, and as such, I certainly hope to see some purine free beers in the US market soon. Several purine free beers exist in Japan, apparently they are not very good. For more information, check out this great reddit post.
We had a wonderful lunch at Hop Farm. As I said above, your lunch is included in your ticket price. We were treated to a buffalo chicken ceaser, soft pretzels, a beef slider and some gouda beer mac. Each course was paired with a different beer, you can check out the pairings on the menu above. If you've been following my musings closely you are already aware that I simply love the food at Hop Farm and I have many nice things to say about them.
Carl hated all the beers. (I'm just kidding, he seemed to really enjoy them.) My favorite beers of the day were served by Draai Laag. I've always though of Draai Laag as a small time operation that played second fiddle to Millvalle's Grist House. Boy was I wrong. Draai Laag is actually distributed in some 39 states throughout the country. Their beers are uniquely sour and yeasty in a way that makes me tingle. I've started drinking their products basically anywhere I can find them, and I can't wait to go back.
Overall, I have to say the beer tour was excellent! A ton of great information and a wonderful excuse to get out and enjoy the city. If you are considering booking a tour, just do it. You'll absolutely enjoy yourself.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
|Logan Family Farm|
Pictured above are the great people from Logan Family Farms. They are the only vendor to make our list two years in a row. No matter the preparation, their beef is spectacular. This year they served a pulled beef sandwich that topped the charts. (I'm ashamed to admit that I went back to their booth at least five times, but on each visit I was welcomed with open arms.)
|Ernie's World Famous Gourmet Sauces|
Thursday, May 25, 2017
I cannot remember what this thing was called, I believe it should be called the peasant's egg roll. ( I'm just kidding, it was a pretty standard pork egg roll with cabbage, carrot, scallions, cilantro and sirracha aioli.) Although I called this egg roll standard, you can tell from the photo that great care is taken in the preparation of all of the dishes at Streets on Carson.
Other favorites included the duck fat poutine and the jerked chicken skewers. Hit up happy hour from 5 - 7 for discounted small plates and drinks.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
The smoked pineapple guacamole wasn't just delicious, it was masterfully presented. The guac came served with a nice little bundle of plantain and taro chips. It was one of the better deals on the happy hour menu for $6. (Pirata is not cheap, and it is worth mentioning that they have the same menu for lunch and dinner. Happy hour and later in the evening (10-12) are the only times you can expect any discount on menu items.)
My other favorite was the jerked chicken. I tried the entree version as well as the tacos. The secret to any good jerk seasoning is the scotch bonnets, the allspice and the smoke. Lots of other flavors are typically added, but I would consider those three elements the most essential base to any proper jerk seasoning.
The jerked chicken at Pirata is true blue. I tend to stray from the jerked chicken on most menus as I find bastardized versions of the dish to be quite awful. The jerked chicken at Pirata has been flavorful, spicy and perfectly moist on both of my visits. It is reassuring that they warn you that the dish has a natural level of spice. A real pirate's booty and the must order dish for the year!
As the Pirata website loves to mention, don't forget to check out the rum.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Wow, M & J Bistro. Talk about a god damned restaurant nightmare. My friend Phil warned me about this place. but I laughed in the face of destiny and scheduled a happy hour. The establishment was not equipped to handle more than 12 patrons at any one time. Our happy hour was clearly overwhelming for both the bar and the kitchen. The most disappointing part of writing this review is that they seemed like really nice people that are trying to operate a decent restaurant. However, they desperately need some help.
Four weeks after we visited M & J they have already re-branded as Mad Noodles. Even more alarming is that their market research for their re-branding project appeared to be based on a series of questions that were posited to the members of the Facebook group South Side Secrets. (I wouldn't even trust the collective members of this group to give advice on how to make potato salad.)
Who has ever heard of french fries in a bento box? What a great idea! The food at M & J really wasn't bad. I enjoyed my bento box as well as my sushi - I would have no problem stating on the record that the food was better prepared and higher quality than the offerings at Nakama right down the street. I'm quite hopeful that Mad Noodles will also have great food.
I wish the staff and owners of Mad Noodles the best of luck. However, I think it would be in their best interest to hire some type of brand and operational consultant. They are shaping up to be the next Bobby Hendrix aka Wings and Whiskey aka whatever they called it the third time before they closed.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
I had the pleasure of going to Southern Tier for their groundbreaking last summer. It was truly a momentous event filled with celebration and excitement. The Pittsburgh brew pub is the first location Southern Tier has opened outside of their flagship brewery in New York. Apparently the Pittsburgh market has responded well to their brand.
I actually consider Southern Tier to be one of my favorite breweries. They have one of the best pumpkin beers on the market and, in my opinion, their 2X IPA really set the standard in terms of bringing IPAs to the public. Pictured above with my sandwich is the cherry gose - a delightful cherry flavored sour beer that was available for limited time.
Unfortunately, I do not have anything positive to say about the kitchen at Southern Tier.
It emphatically states on the Southern Tier website, "We take our food as seriously as we do our beer." This statement is a bold lie. The food at Southern Tier is extremely underwhelming - particularly in comparison to their world class beer.
My grilled chicken sandwich was charred, flavorless and covered in a thick blackened crust that did not seem intentional. I barely wolfed the thing down. The salad that accompanied the sandwich consisted of simple greens with some type of vinaigrette. (Can a man get a cucumber or at least one cherry tomato?)
The other dishes on the Southern Tier menu also appear extremely uninspired. (A simple bar man's menu of sandwiches and lackluster entrees.) For a brewery that goes out of their way to serve extraordinary beer, they sure slacked on the kitchen.
These wings actually weren't too bad! But, I'd still rather eat at a Bojangles or Fuddruckers.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
|Queso, Pineapple Salsa and Hot Salsa|
On our two trips to Condado we tried the jackfruit, beef, chicken and the shrimp ceviche. One of my favorite options on the menu is the "sweet Lucy." For an extra dollar you can have a double decker style taco with a hard and soft shell along with queso and gauc. Most of the other options on the customization menu come at no additional charge. For example, your choice of cheese, salsa, sauce and cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, etc. Also, be sure to add the bacon refried beans. We loved the damn things.
Check that menu out! The possibilities are nearly endless. Actually, I attempted to do the math. I believe the number of possibilities is 40! which equals 8.159152832 E+47. I honestly do not think I can comprehend how much that is.
Out of the protein selections that I tried, the beef brisket and the shrimp ceviche were my favorites. The shrimp was outstanding, packed full of flavor and perfect for the sweet Lucy double decker style taco. The jackfruit was also a really unique choice. If you aren't familiar with jackfruit, don't be intimidated! It is really just a starchy filling that soaks up whatever sauce you use. I loved it, but I would always select meat over jackfruit, tofu, seitan or basically any veggie protein. Sorry vegetables.
I can't wait to go back and try the ghost pepper steak, brunch and awesome cocktail selection. (Be sure to check out happy hour too, you can't beat $3 margaritas.)
Shout out to Modern Map Art for the awesome print! Please check out their site for all sorts of great stuff including phone cases and unique prints of the city.
Now I just need to take the time to highlight every place we've visited for happy hour over the last five years!
Now I just need to take the time to highlight every place we've visited for happy hour over the last five years!
Friday, March 24, 2017
When I get sad I drink Campari in my attic. Personally I love the stuff. Pictured above is a negroni - according to my awesome bartender at Talia they will have them on tap once they get settled. If you've never had a negroni they are made with gin, vermouth and Campari. If you want to get sexy with Campari at home, here's a great list of recipes. Personally I adore the boulevardier.
Have you ever had hot olives? Generally I have not been impressed by them in the past. I've always had the dish served in some type of rosemary lemon dressing. The hot olives at Talia were served with a pork salumi sauce that really tied them together. A unique dish in my humble opinion. I'm really looking forward to going back so that I can check out the salumi board and cheese board on the menu. Based on what was offered at the tasting I'm certain they will be fantastic.
Out of the various samples we tried the beef tartare was probably my favorite. They did a great job, perfect texture and flavor with a nice balsamic tomato twist. On my next visit I'm really looking forward to sampling the spaghett and the Italiano pizza with speck, sopresetta and hen of the woods! I never see exotic mushrooms on menus, this is a very exciting development.
Also, if you are wondering if I spelled spaghetti incorrectly, I did not. That is how they have it on the menu, just like my favorite Tim and Eric character. http://www.taliapgh.com/dinner/
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
|White Fish Carpaccio|
The next thing that stood out was the decor. It is immaculate. I really love how they've made the place up. (See if you can find the koi fish when you walk in.) I firmly believe that Social House 7 was created because someone at the AMPD Restaurant group said, "how can we capitalize on the success of Nakama in the Southside. "
Social House 7 has a more grandiose decor than Nakama and an overall better aesthetic, however, the food is roughly the same in terms of quality. That is to say - it is not very good. You can check out my 2012 review of Nakama here. I honestly don't think I've been back to Nakama since that visit.
The AMPD group's Steel Cactus appears to be an attempt to similarly capitalize on the success of Mad Mex. When did ideas for restaurants become so scarce? I guess Pittsburgh restaurateurs are running out of steam like the 70's steel industry.
My first concern regarding the establishment was very grave. The girl next to me at the bar ordered a sake and they stated that it could not be done as the sake machine was broken. The bartender's explanation for the lack of sake made absolutely no sense and sent me into a tailspin of panic.
My concerns were confirmed by my $15 white fish carpaccio dish. (Pictured above.) The fish was not cut thin enough to be marketed as carpaccio and the plate was simply too barren for the price point. It is worth noting that I have also had the eel roll from Social House 7 twice and I thought it was perfectly acceptable. This is the nicest thing I have to say.
Previously I had used the spelling of carpaccio from the Social House 7 menu in this review, which turned out to be incorrect. A special thank you to my foodie friend Nik H. for pointing out the error of my ways. (You should be concerned about eating carpaccio at a restaurant that does not know how to spell carpaccio. You should be equally weary of any food blogger that also cannot spell carpaccio.)
This was my coconut fried rice with fish sauce, cilantro and coconut milk. For an up-charge they will also put some really bad chicken on top of your rice haphazardly. The rice itself was actually pretty good but the chicken was overcooked and tough. (Possibly definitely koi fish.) From my two very brief visits I have to say that the street food seems to outshine the sushi. I will be going back to confirm that this is the case and to see if the giant koi fish in the doorway live through the lingering winter.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
I would have to say that 'cozy' is the perfect word to describe the Monterey Pub. The tiny bar and dining area are packed with character, a rowdy cast of regulars and the type of food that really reminds you of the humble beginnings of the Steel City.
Pictured above are the pub fries with heaps of cheese and Guinness shredded beef. They were remarkably tasty and it was absolutely necessary to share the order with a friend. The amount of beef and cheese layered on top of the crisp fries were easily worthy of a separate sandwich.
In addition to sporting all sorts of traditional Irish fare (bangers, boxties and shepards' pies, oh my.) Monterey also features a variety of rag-tag melting pot specials throughout the week. Pasta night, Mexican night and burger night just to name a few.
One of the favorite dishes of the evening was the chicken and waffle nachos. Belgian waffles with syrup, bacon, some immaculate fried chicken and a jalapeno berry jam. The fried chicken itself was extraordinarily succulent and memorable. Just look at that face.
Views have changed in the last few years as to what causes high cholesterol, however, I'm certain my three courses at Monterey Pub would not be approved by any state bonded cardiologist.
Possibly the most interesting dish on the menu is 'Will Smith's Stoner Pie.' It includes fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and melted cheese. For an extra dollar you can get it 'OG' style with bacon. Of course, this reminded me of a quote by one of my favorite celebrities.
“We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.”
Thursday, March 2, 2017
I've been to Hop Farm a number of times, but I had no idea that they served food. Pictured above is the gouda mac and cheese. It was actually penne and cheese and it was basically an entire bowl of cheese soup. It was delicious and quite indulgent. I would not recommend trying to eat an order of this by yourself.
I think goat gets a bad rap. It seems entirely overlooked in the American diet along with mutton and hogget. Be adventurous! Try the goat and Apis mead and lose those inhibitions when visiting Hop Farm.
Friday, February 24, 2017
- a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate.
Umami was kind enough to provide us with a private room for our happy hour but the tables in Umami's party room are just awful. They are situated below the floor and getting into the both is intimidating for a rickety old man like myself. I'm always inclined to lean on the table as I bend down to enter the booth and this creates a sensation of absolute terror as the tables are not bolted to the floor.
The food is worth the visit, even if the seating is uncomfortable. During my two trips to Umami I've tried every item on Robatayaki menu. The chicken thigh is a steal for $2.5 and some of my other favorites were the shrimp ($2.5), chicken skin ($2.5) and king trumpet mushroom ($3).
On my first visit I sampled the chirasi, this time I ordered the Sunomono. A raw fish salad with cucumber, rice vinegar, shrimp, striped bass, wakame, salmon, octopus. It was absolutely lovely, I only wish it had been a little larger. However, I thought it was appropriately portioned for the price ($12).
The only real disappointment during my visit was the gemimacha tea. I love green tea, but I just can't make myself like gemimacha no matter how hard I try. The crisped rice adds an astringency that I do not enjoy. I certainly can't blame the restaurant though as I ordered green tea without properly inspecting the menu.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
1. Birmingham Bridge Tavern
2. Rugger's Pub
4. Mario's Southside
6. The Library
7. Smoking Joes
9. Fat Head's
10. Wings Over Pittsburgh
BBT serves some of the best wings in the entire city. They are without a doubt some of the best in the Southside. The number one factor is their nearly flawless consistency in their wing preparation. The wings are perfectly crispy every time without having to request extra crispy wings. The sauce selections are fantastic - for my money you cannot beat the golden boy sauce which has a little heat and some honey mustard. Their wing night is every Wednesday when they feature 50 cent wings. Normally an order of 10 will cost you $10. Also, keep in mind that they will charge you 50 cents to use a credit card!
"7/10 heat, medium size." - Mark Bucklaw
Archie's has absolutely been killing it with their wing game in recent years. While I feel that some Southside restaurants have declined, Archie's has just gotten better. It was really difficult to place them behind Rugger's and BBT. Their wings are 40 cents every Monday through Thursday. I think their best sauce is the hot ranch which has a delightful flavor. Personally I felt that they could have been a little crispier. However, it is worth noting that their wings are larger than Rugger's and BBT.
"Medium to large in size, perfect sauce coverage." - Eric Giles
Mario's never ceases to amaze me. Although I've been drinking there since my early 20's, I've overlooked the food until recently. Their wings are very good. They offer some interesting flavors such as General Tso's and honey garlic habanero. I have to say though, the honey garlic habanero did not have much heat and the wings were a bit dry. 12 wings will cost you $10.
Eric didn't like the sauce coverage at all and this time I agreed. Mark was also unhappy in general. His singular response when asked for comment was, "no." If you haven't read about the history of General Tso's Chicken in America, you should
"Too much salt." -Matt DeNardo
"Almost breaded." -Carl Michael Kraus III
The wings were underwhelming. They were lacking in sauce coverage and overcooked. Also, the buffalo sauce was fairly mild. My favorite treat at the Library was an order of the fried ice cream. It really served as wonderful intermezzo for our group. For $12 you can get all you can eat wings on Sundays.
"Have you ever tried eating a spoonful of cinnamon" -Carl Kraus
"They fucked us on flavor." -Mark Bucklaw
They had a pretty good texture but were lacking in flavor. The honey garlic had almost no flavor at all. 10 wings will cost you $10.99. The high point of Doublewide was the wet naps. By the time we got there we really needed them.
"Suburbs wings." -Ben Kroeck
"Low spice." -Mark Bucklaw
The wings had a gummy texture and tasted of dirty oil. The flavor was acceptable but overall the wings were extremely lackluster. The top selling point was that these takeout wings were served with a very healthy portion of celery and carrots. 10 wings will run you $11.79.
"These taste like corporate wings." -Ben Kroeck
"Bland sauce." -Klaus
|Wings Over Pittsburgh|
"6/10 heat" -Mark Bucklaw
I've included a list of restaurants in the Southside that we did not visit below. I really regret missing Carson City. Please be sure to leave a comment if you know of any others that we missed and what you thought of our rankings.
**Known exclusions include: Wing Stop, Excuses, South Paw, Local, Carson City Saloon, 12, streets on carson, cupkas, Walker's.