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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gandy Dancer - Grand Concourse

I really enjoy oysters. So much in fact that I have a short list of restaurants where I will eat oysters in this fine city. That list includes Wholey's, Eleven, NOLA and Roland's. Today I'm happy to say that I have another restaurant to add to that list.

The Gandy Dancer is a strange little bar that is situated in the far end of the Grand Concourse. I had no idea that the Grand Concourse had a bar, let alone a bar with one of the best happy hours in the city. One dollar PEI oysters, two dollar drafts, three dollar well drinks, five dollar mussels and a variety of other discounted food items under five dollars.(Sashimi tuna, sliders, cheese sticks, etc.) Like I said, one of the best deals in the city.

The oysters were fresh and huge! I prefer a spicy vinaigrette such as vinaigrette served by Eleven to the cocktail sauce I was given at the Gandy Dancer - but for a dollar per oyster I can't even complain. Six different people from our group ordered oysters and I didn't hear a single complaint.... that is, about the oysters. The Gandy Dancer must not be used to seeing large crowds. Although the bar can comfortably seat upwards of seventy-five people, the staff seemed astonishingly overwhelmed by our group. It was nearly impossible to get a drink, food orders were mixed up or lost all together and general pandemonium ensued. Overall they were very good sports about the entire matter, but some happy hour guests (angry Ben) felt so slighted by the poor service that they actually huffed out of the bar in a rage.

Angry Ben is angry.
In case you were wondering, a gandy dancer is a slang term used for early railroad workers who laid and maintained railroad tracks in the years before the work was done by machines. If you stop by the Gandy Dancer, do not wear your railroad clothes. Everyone else will be in a suit or an elegant prom dress.

Pro tips: go for the three dollar portabella mushroom fries and the chicken tandoori flat bread sandwich and make sure to get your picture taken in front of the grand staircase. Avoid showing up in a large crowd unless you've been given assurances the bar will be adequately staffed!
 Grand Concourse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Papa J's Centro

Legend has it that Papa J's downtown location, situated in one of Pittsburgh's oldest standing buildings, is haunted. I guess it used to be a brothel, they've been in business at their downtown location for over fifteen years! 

I'm not sure if I believe in ghosts. My rational mind says no. If ghosts are real, where's the proof? Certainly someone would be able to accurately document and capture some type of paranormal experience in a clear and convincing manner, right? I think I believe in ghosts in so much as other people believe in ghosts. Their belief that ghosts exist creates a reality in which ghosts exist. Objectivity is passe.

I've visited Papa J's twice in the last week. I was hoping to scare myself, and I was successful. The chicken marsala was so bad -  it literally scared me. A thin watery sauce and chicken that tasted at least a day old with a rubbery texture and awful flavor. The chicken on my pizza, pictured above, wasn't any better. However, I shouldn't run my mouth about the pizza (lest the ghosts get me).

The pizza at Papa J's was good. In particular I thought the cheese and toppings, other than the chicken, were very flavorful and well presented. I had the chicken pesto pizza with fresh tomato, red onion and toasted pine nuts. The crust was well prepared and I believe they said it was made in house. I was actually amazed by the amount of pine nuts on the pizza. Pine nuts are expensive! I would wager that the pine nuts on this pizza cost more than all of the other ingredients combined. It is always nice to see a place that doesn't skimp on toppings to try and save a buck.

Overall, I really liked this bar. The bar itself is a very unique place with a lot of personality. (Dark wood interior with intricate fixtures and many smaller intimate rooms separated by a central bar.) Other than the chicken, I felt no feelings of discomfort or paranormal activity while visiting Papa J's. The bartenders are a lot of fun and the patrons can get a little rowdy, they were basically falling out of their chairs on my first visit. I have to say that I would go back to this bar over other bars with better specials and better food. I would prefer to sit at Papa J's over Easy Street any day of the week. Personality goes a long way. 

If you visit Papa J's, skip the entrees, try the pizza and stay for the potential ghost sightings. If you don't manage to scare yourself with the cuisine, just be patient and the patrons will take care of the rest.

 Papa J's - Downtown on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Duck Sliders
The truth is that I was pleasently surprised by Truth in the Southside. I had no idea to expect from a fancy looking bar just off of Carson Street that is very close in proximity to the lively but slummy Jack's Rose Bar.

The $5 manhattans were strong, the sliders were incredible and the ambiance was quite charming. (Exposed brick, high ceilings, waitresses you would bring home to your mother.) Some old folks enjoying their dinner in the separated dining room even went out of their way to recommend the restaurant to patrons passing by on the street - this does not happen often in my experience.

The duck confit sliders, pictured above, were truthfully delicious. The duck had a wonderful flavor and texture and the roquefort cheese was a very pleasant addition. I actually enjoyed the beef tenderloin slider I tried even more. It was easily some of the most tender beef I've been served anywhere in Pittsburgh. The slider fillings were top notch, but I believe there is some room for improvement on the choice of bread. Hawaiian rolls just aren't appropriate for all occasions.

No one would share their scallops with me, as you can tell the portions are a bit small. I heard they were very good though, and worth the long wait. (The kitchen must have been backed up because some of our orders took upwards of forty minutes.) If I was visiting Truth again for the first time I would avoid the Italian meat and cheese plates. Although the portion size was respectable, I found the selections to be rather boring and mediocre. If I go back I will be sure to try to house specialty fried cheese - the presentation, smell and appearance were just fantastic. Think flaming cheese delivered to the bar and then extinguished with lemon juice. (Sort of like the flaming Dr. Peppers they serve at Jack's across the street but for people over the age of 19.)

Truth Lounge on Urbanspoon