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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bites and Brews

After visiting 1947 Tavern I knew that I wanted to visit Bites and Brews. The two establishments are actually connected, but the atmosphere of Bites and Brews is much more casual.1947 Tavern is where I might take an elegant debutante out for a pimm's cup or a manhattan.  Bites and Brews is where I would take some girl I met at a video rental store while browsing through the romantic comedy section. (Please note that both of these scenarios are equally impossible as I do not know any debutantes in Pennsylvania nor do I watch romcoms.)

Bites and Brews has a rather limited menu. You can choose from a few modest appetizers, but the real attraction is the design your own pizza worksheet. I've seen these worksheet-style menus at sushi restaurants before, but I've never seen such a technique employed by a pizza shop. I really liked the approach and I think it encourages pizza creativity.

I started with the garlic knots. They weren't bad, but I do not think they were made with fresh garlic. I'm pretty sure they were just seasoned with garlic salt. The garlic knots were tasty, but fresh garlic can do wonders. (And it is good for you!)

For happy hour a small two topping pizza is only $5. This is a great deal and the pizza was pretty good. A nice crispy crust with acceptable sauce and topping proportions. If you've had a lot of pizza around Pittsburgh, I'd compare it to Montecello's or Pizza Roma's in Sewickley. I enjoyed my pizza, but the beer selection was the real crowd pleaser. I'd say that Bites and Brews had at least twenty different beers on tap, including local brews and specialty brews. If you meet that magical lady at the video rental store, make sure to show up before seven in the evening so that you can get a table and a half priced pizza.

Bites and Brews on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grant Street Tavern

The Gang at GST

You can't order food at the Grant Street Tavern. So if you intend to make dinner plans, prepare to be disappointed. However, if you are in the neighborhood, and you are in the mood for a stiff drink and some free snacks, this is your place. Wednesday through Friday the Grant Street Tavern puts out free food for patrons. I asked my friend Sara Heald (red candy-striper shirt) why and she explained that this is the food left over from lunch and the GST makes a habit of putting it out for everyone to enjoy. The few times I've been there the offerings have consisted of small finger sandwiches, pepperoni rolls, marinated cheese, meatloaf, Italian hoagies and other various bits.

The food isn't worth making a special trip for, but it is free and pretty tasty. The bar has a very strange atmosphere. It is located in the Grant building downtown, but you would think you were drinking at a desolate country bar in Venango county. The interior is dark with wood paneling, mis-matched furniture, cherry master machines and brown carpeting. The patrons are noisy and often quite excitable as the drinks at the GST are very strong. They heard our happy hour was coming and provided us with our very own chicken wings and relish plate! The wings were very good and I can't wait to go back for my next stiff drink and free snack-time.

Grant Street Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grille on Seventh

I really want to give Grille on Seventh a positive review. The staff was great, they even provided us with our own special happy hour deals and a number of free drinks. However, I just thought the menu was lackluster and devoid of any interesting options. It consisted of fairly standard bar food with extravagant price tags. I think this bar is able to capitalize on their prime location due to their proximity to the theater scene. In general, all of the bars in this part of town are somewhat expensive and mediocre. Apparently old people who go to the theater don't have good taste buds or financial constraints. (Who knew??)

Here are the chicken wings I ordered from Grille on Seventh. They weren't awful and the presentation in particular was quite nice, but I would have liked them to be a little crispier with some additional kick. One of the other happy hour guests thought they were plenty spicy, but they just tasted buttery to me. After Grille on Seventh we stopped by Meat and Potatoes for some dessert. I noticed they had a leg of prosciutto on the bar for serving, so I inquired. I was told, "that is an Iberian prosciutto which came from a pig that was fed nothing but truffles and chestnuts." I called bullshit and insisted the pig probably eats its own feces just like all other pigs. The server looked at me nervously and asked if I'd like to try some. I think it may have been the best prosciutto I've ever had, even if the pig did eat its own feces.

Grille on Seventh on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Squirrel Hill Cafe (The Squirrel Cage)

 The Squirrel Hill Cafe, known by regulars as the Squirrel Cage, is astonishingly smokey with a dirty hipster charm. I was here on a weird date once - but I had never even thought to try the food. Everyone insisted that I just had to order the hamburger. Always the contrarian, naturally I refused.  Pictured to the right is one of the happy hour patrons enjoying a burger - it did look quite good and he woofed it down like a boss.  Also, it only costs $3.50!! You can't even get bread at some restaurants for that price.
If you've been following the happy hour the past few weeks you've noticed my obsession with cheese and charcuterie. They are the purest and most unabashed forms of flavor, just meat or cheese on a plate. Here is a picture of the Squirrel Cage cheese plate. It is not fancy, but it cost $4.75. This is less than half of what a typical cheese plate will cost you anywhere in the city. And although the ingredients weren't breath taking, I've been served dressed up cheese plates with similar ingredients for well over $10. What I can say about the food at the Cage is that you really get value for your dollar. (Notice they even gave me an entire basket of crackers, so I can't make my normal complaint that there was too much or too little bread. After finishing all the cheese we had a cracker fight.)                                                        
Cheese Plate
I've been having a difficult time deciding what to order lately. After many drinks and much comradorry I ordered the chicken wings. They were surprisingly good, crispy and very very spicy. By the fifth wing my mouth was burning like the devil and I was out of blue cheese. The wings were obviously fried on the spot, as opposed to the take out pizza restaurants and other joints that heat wings in the microwave or bake them in the oven. I have to say that I was impressed by the food for a smokey and crowded bar. You really can't beat the prices at the Squirrel Cage, probably not even by eating at home.

Squirrel Hill Cafe on Urbanspoon