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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alchemy and Ale


Alchemy and Ale has received a lot of negative feedback from Pittsburgh diners. As a result, I approached the restaurant/bar with skepticism. I was most pleasantly surprised by the $3 happy hour special - any draft beer for only $3! I thought the food was actually pretty good as well. In particular, I liked the pork belly quesadillas with the spicy cucumber topping. I found the shepard's pie to be somewhat bland and in general I found most of the selections to be overpriced.

For example, take my cheese plate pictured below. The cheese and toast were just fine, but the portions were too small to warrant the price tag. I find this to be one commonality between most places that call themselves gastropubs. Small portions and large price tags. I suppose I should not be surprised, this is the very nature of the gastropub. A bastardized version of both a pub and a fine restaurant lacking the portion size of pub food and the elegance of fine dining. Do you have a favorite Pittsburgh gastropub? Tell me about it and maybe I'll stop by.

The cheese almost stands alone.

Alchemy N' Ale on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I was surprisingly charmed by Roland's in the Strip District. The online reviews are very negative so I wasn't sure what to expect, but the sixty cent wing, clam, shrimp and oyster special was spectacular. The special runs every weekday from 3-6 and it is a really good deal. Additionally, just look at that pour on my whiskey on the rocks! I can only name a handful of bars in Pittsburgh that pour drinks like that: Lefty's, Marios and the Mardi Gras in Shadyside.

 I was late for the sixty cent happy hour special, but the manager had agreed to extend it for our group. I was very sad that they were out of oysters - as a result they gave me extra shrimp, at no charge, after some lighthearted pouting on my part.

The shrimp were fresh and delicious and the cocktail sauce had a nice kick to it. In addition to the shrimp I tried the pizza and thought it was quite good as well, especially for a seafood restaurant. The only item that disappointed me were the chicken wings. My most common complaint about wings is that they are not crispy enough or the sauce is lousy. These wings were perfectly crisp and the sauce was actually very good.They had a dry rub on them that was very salty. It was just too much flavor when coupled with the sauce. Despite the wings, I highly recommend Roland's happy hour - the snacks are cheap and the drinks flow like wine, quite literally.

They looked so good and then made me so sad.....
Do you know any other Pittsburgh bars that pour drinks like champions? Let me know.

Roland's Seafood Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nakama - Pittsburgh

Nakama is a staple of the Pittsburgh sushi/fancy drink community. John K. Means, Jr. describes the bar as, "that place where really trashy Pittsburgh women wearing a ton of makeup attempt to meet sleazy fifty-something men." The food is generally good, the crowd is always jumping and the atmosphere is loud and boisterous. This was the second happy hour where we ran into mayor Luke Ravenstall. I think the mayor is secretly following our Facebook group and he is too embarrassed to join - we must be very sheik and intimidating.

Nakama has a fairly good happy hour special, all appetizers are half off. Pictured above is the Mongolian beef. This was the second time I've had the Mongolian beef in less than two weeks, it was very good. The beef was tender and flavorful and not overly salty.

These are the chicken lettuce wraps I sampled following my beef. They were just awful. I had someone next to me give them a taste to make sure I wasn't crazy. They confirmed my suspicions that the chicken tasted like kitty litter. By way of further reinforcement, another happy hour goer also ordered this dish and took one bite before declaring that she thought she was going to be sick. I've heard that this dish is generally pretty good, perhaps Nakama just dropped the ball due to the large Thursday crowd.

The food at Nakama is usually quite palatable. I've always enjoyed the sushi and every dish I've ever had other than the chicken lettuce wraps. It is easy to notice that most patrons aren't in attendance for the cuisine. Nakama is really a see-and-be-seen kind of place. The seating along the front window allows diners to show-off their elite status to other Pittsburghers.  Following my lackluster meal, Gary the dentist introduced me to a girl with the most electric fake tan I had ever seen. One of my friends had no means to describe her other than, "she looks like Simba from the Lion King."

Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sushi Kim

Sushi Kim has been one of my family's favorite sushi restaurants in Pittsburgh for years. The establishment is an odd location for happy hour as there is no actual bar, only a sushi bar. I think the staff was a little confused when we gradually took over the entire sushi bar and kept demanding more sake and coors lights rather than ordering food.

Personally, if I'm going out for happy hour, I prefer to have a couple of drinks before I eat. I find the effect of  alcohol is much more pronounced before you pile on the raw fish and beef bulgogi. I started with the spider roll and I found it to be quite good. I love spider rolls because the tempura soft shell crab creates such a wonderful texture along with the rice and the seaweed. (Pro-tip, if you have friends who are afraid of sushi, start them with a spider roll as all of the ingredients are cooked.)

After everyone finished their food, I ordered my beef bulgogi, pictured above. Bulgogi is marinated Korean style barbeque. The Korean barbeque selections are what make Sushi Kim special, it is not particularly common to find a sushi restaurant carrying a large selection of authentic Korean dishes. The bulgogi was excellent, you can tell by how little was left by the time I took the picture. One thing I love about Korean barbeque is all of the side dishes. In addition to your main dish you can expect small bowls of broccoli, daikon radish, kim chi, black beans and other assorted goodies. Due to the atmosphere and limited drink selection I can't recommend Sushi Kim for happy hour, but I highly recommend stopping by for the eats.

Sushi Kim on Urbanspoon