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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Las Velas

Las Velas was a total disappointment. I can't say that I was surprised as I already knew that it was owned by the proprietors of Azul in Leetsdale. (Another Mexican restaurant I don't like.) I would describe the food as boring, uninspired, bland and completely lacking in any type of original or authentic inspiration. I did not pick this location, and I personally won't be going back. What I can say is that no one else from happy hour complained about their food and the margaritas must have been strong because everybody in the club was getting tipsy.

Here were my impressions on what others ordered. The nachos supreme seemed OK.(Pictured above.) The salsa we had brought to the table (for an extra fee) wasn't terrible. The chips were mostly little chip pieces, I looked around the restaurant and everyone seemed to have a basket of little chip pieces. Perhaps this is some awesome new fad I'm not hip to? The guacamole was awful. Entirely too salty and a little too mashed down for my taste. The chorizo quesadilla I tried was exactly what it purported to be, chorizo in a tortilla. It was extremely greasy and it could have used some other ingredients in order to make it more interesting. After sampling food from the others I decided not to order anything.

Instead of playing Russian roulette with the Las Velas menu, I walked across the street to NOLA and ordered the Croque Monsieur. It was fantastic, I really enjoyed the ham and gruyere, and I enjoyed dipping the sandwich in apple butter even more! Do yourself a favor and go to Mexico City if you want Mexican in downtown Pittsburgh. Las Velas does not even come close.

Las Velas on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Crystal on Penn

Crystal has been on my radar ever since they were featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. Crystal is the latter, so of course the selection of a dive bar meant I was the one that got to choose the location of happy hour this week. Dive bars are the best. They aren't pretentious, you are more likely to get free drinks, the owners are always interesting and willing to chat you up, no one talks about austerity measures or corporate governance, everything is cheap as hell, you can do whatever you want and no one bothers you, and finally, they always have damn good music on the juke-box.

I've been going to Crystal for a few years now, it was actually the first place I went after taking the bar exam back in 2009. They always have a way of making you feel right at home. Don't be surprised to see the owner of the bar, Crystal, behind the counter serving drinks and mixing it up with the locals. Crystal features a fairly standard bar menu, save for the selection of specialty Lebanese foods.

I grew up with Lebanese food, so I'm no slouch when it comes to spotting quality. Crystal easily offers the best grape leaves I've ever had in any restaurant, ever. Usually when I get a grape leave it tastes like it was prepared several days in advance, the texture is awful and there is way too much lemon. Crystal offers the perfect grape leave, a well proportioned mixture of meat and rice served fresh and warm. Although I've never had a garlic style yogurt sauce served with Lebanese food, I love that this little concoction comes with anything you order at Crystal. When I asked what was in it they said that they could not tell me unless I was terminal.

 I order the same thing everytime I go, combo-platter with tabbouleh and a lamb skewer on the side.(Pictured above)  I honestly enjoy it so much that I've never bothered to order anything else from the establishment and I never will. Can you say that about anywhere you eat at?

Crystal on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Braddock's American Brasserie

Braddock's is another one of those hotel bars that has a lot to boast for a hotel bar. Don't get me wrong, I love drinking in slummy Holiday Inn bars, as a matter of fact I took one of my ex-girlfriends on a date to a Holiday Inn Bar (I always wonder why my relationships don't work out?!)

Braddock's is very sheik and the food is well crafted with a European flare. They have an excellent whiskey collection, I have to say that no bar we've visited comes remotely close in terms of selection.  Pictured above was my delicious charcuterie plate. I shared with some of my happy hour friends, but promptly consumed the majority of the delicious meats. The pate was my favorite, but I have to give an honorable mention to the prosciutto. I love prosciutto, if prosciutto was a woman I would kiss her on her pink meaty lips.

Unlike my cheese plate at Six Penn, everything on the Braddock's charcuterie plate was very well proportioned. (Don't you just hate it when you end up with too much bread or too little meat?) Happy hour enthusiast, Ben Feldman, even consumed the small salad garnish after I ravished the gherkins. 

This was easily one of the most fun happy hours we've had in a few weeks. Nick Mross and JK Means showed up to film part of their new web series, "Florida Nights." While we were doing some filming in front of the bar people started snapping photos with their cell phones, I guess they figured they were on the set of Batman. Nice try you looky-lous, we are super hansom and beautiful, but not Batman hansom and beautiful.

Also, we added a little strange to our happy hour by partaking in shots. Usually we try to keep our cool, but everyone was really excited this week and we enjoyed each others company a little more than usual with the aid of some liquid remedy. Braddock's has some poor reviews online but I like everything I've ever tried at the bar. The staff was even kind enough to allow us to film in the bar, so no complaints on this end.

Who are you calling a dip? The Turtleman's French dip sandwich.

Braddock's American Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Seviche is one of those Pittsburgh institutions which has somehow acquired a cult-like following. Personally, I've always considered the place a chick-flick, and I promptly informed all of my happy hour friends of my strong feelings. (Please note that a chick-click generally refers to a movie created especifically for women, in this instance it refers to a restaurant catering to women through small portions, vibrant decor, high prices and the illusion that they ARE Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.)

I tried to ignore my bad attitude as I do love seafood and in particular I enjoy ceviche.(I'm accustomed to the dish being spelled with a "C" as opposed to the restaurant which is spelled with an "S".) I haven't been all that upbeat lately so I decided to treat myself to the seven-course chef's tasting menu. It was worth it. For $40 I received three courses of ceviche, an appetizer course with a tuna-chorizo spring roll, three oysters with a chimichurri sauce, a filet along with potatoes and broccoli rabe and a tres dolces cake.

The ceviche course was my favorite. I really liked the presentation and the play of flavors, the one incorporating cilantro and corn was my favorite. The oysters were decent and the tuna-chorizo spring roll was quite good, but didn't make much sense to me. Chorizo is so powerful that the tuna only seemed to add some texture to the dish. I'm honestly at a loss as to how chorizo and tuna can be comfortably incorporated into a spring roll.

The filet and potatoes were fine, but the broccoli rabe was awful, stringy and bitter! (I know that broccoli rabe is supposed to be bitter, but it was like a sour rubber tire.) Finally, the tres dolces cake was so good that everyone at the table decided to try it. I'd recommend the chef's tasting to anyone who is feeling hungry and adventurous. Word to the wise though, all of those different animals did not play nice in my stomach post chef's tasting!

Seviche on Urbanspoon