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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Smokin' Joes - Southside

Thumbs up on the sliders bro!
My friend Mark calls Smokin' Joes -  Smokin' Bro's. I do not believe that this title is entirely unwarranted as this is a massively bro dominated bar situated in the historic Southside of Pittsburgh. You can't really fault the bros though, Smokin' Joes has one of the best craft beer selections in the city. Bros love bro'ing down on some craft beers! Their website claims that they have over 60 beers on draft and 350 bottled selections. As an avid PBR drinker, I think all of these selections are expensive and cause confusion, but you can't fault the bro's for bro'ing.

In addition to their highly esteemed bro collection and draft beer assortment, Smokin' Joes offers some fine food specials. On Thursday they have seventy five cent sliders and forty cent chicken wings. The chicken wings are top-middling. The sauces are notable (in particular the smokin' parm) but the texture, presentation and size leave much to be desired. I've heard Smokin' Joes chicken wings called the best in the city many times, I disagree. The wings are often accompanied by a greasy puddle of sauce and I find this to be a turnoff. (But not enough of a turnoff to stop me from consuming all of the wings.)

I thought the sliders were just great and appropriately priced. The pork sliders were a bit dry and they could have used some sauce, but the pork itself wasn't that bad. I partially consider this my fault as I didn't realize it was possible to order the sliders with free toppings. Luckily, the waitress brought me a nice basket of pickles and onions later in the evening. The beef sliders were like heavenly little sweet meatloafs. Moist meat, a balanced and sweet flavor with an adequately sized slider patty.  Each one a small angel inevitably leading me to heart disease.

Smokin' Joe's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hemingway's - Oakland

Chicken Marsala
Hemingway's is a middling college themed dive bar situated directly on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Hemingway's used to be my second favorite college bar at Pitt, that is, until Boomerang's closed a few years ago. Now Hemingway's is my favorite middling college themed dive bar. 

So, I know. Ordering chicken marsala at a college dive bar isn't the safest bet. But I'm adventurous. I see no point in reviewing trivial foods such as chicken wraps or cheesy french fries. Despite my low expectations, the chicken marsala at Hemingway's really wasn't that bad. The chicken had a good texture and flavor. I'm all but certain that the sauce was haphazardly slopped on the chicken at the last minute - real chicken marsala is simmered in marsala wine over a long time period. However, the Hemingway's chicken marsala was much better than the chicken marsala I was served at Papa J's Centro (which is supposedly an Italian restaurant.) I'd like to add that Hemingway's does a half price menu in the early afternoon and the late evening - great for a half price lunch time salad.

Anyhow, if you are going to Hemingway's for chicken marsala, you are probably a fool. The bar specializes in extremely cheap beer and shots. A pitcher of yuengling only costs six dollars. This isn't a special, this is the everyday price for a pitcher of yuengling. Additionally, Hemingway's serves shots by the pitcher. The Pittsburgh Happy Hour favorite is a shot pitcher called the, "Miley Cyrus." The Miley Cyrus consists of peach schnapps, vodka and some mixers. It is appropriately served with a handful of dum-dums. I've literally seen girls fall out of their chairs and start making out after consuming these things. One time Miley Cyrus shots even resulted in a cake war that was frowned upon by management. 

Cardio Stix
This is my personal favorite dish at Hemingway's. The cardio stix are cheese sticks covered in hot sauce, more cheese and bacon. They are a fine example of a food that is perfectly suitable for a college aged individual and entirely unsuitable for any adult attempting to lead a responsible lifestyle.

 Hemingway's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 10, 2013

1947 Tavern - Round Two

Olives and Meatballs

Sometimes, despite being underwhelmed, I can't really complain about a restaurant. The first time we visited 1947 Tavern I was blown away by the variety of selections and how many different things I wanted to try. For round two I had a much harder time determining what to eat - the menu has changed quite a bit in the last year. 1947 offers all of their appetizers at half price for happy hour. Somehow, I decided to choose meatballs and olives. They were both very good, but they certainly weren't complimentary. I have no one to blame but myself.

The meatballs were very well seasoned and quite flavorful. I was honestly surprised by the quality - even in comparison to some so called "nice" Pittsburgh Italian restaurants. The olives were fine. They weren't anything special, but by way of comparison I would like to say that they were one hundred times better than the house cured olives I tried at UP Modern Kitchen. Gross city!

The 1947 Tavern happy hour offers two dollar pony beers, three dollar rock and rye's and as stated, half price appetizers. The real treat though is the bourbon and whiskey selection. I'm pretty sure it might be the best in the city. (Braddock's and Winghart's are probably close.) Do you know somewhere in Pittsburgh with a better bourbon collection? Prove me wrong Pittsburgh!

 1947 Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Michael's Pizza Bar - Southside

Everyone knows what my favorite pizza topping is - MORE PIZZA! Michael's Pizza Bar is tucked away on 26th and Sarah Street towards the Southside Slopes. Although the food and drinks are very cheap, the place is definitely not a dive bar. The interior is very nice and well decorated, you can't smoke inside and it is entirely acceptable to bring your children in to eat. Be warned though, seating is limited so it isn't necessarily great for large groups.

Here are my rankings for non-specialty Southside pizza: 1) Michael's -  2) Grotto -  3) Pizza Sola -  4) Genaro's -  5) CoGo's gas station -  6) Sal's -  7) Domino's - 8) Pizza Hut.

Please keep in mind that I stated non-specialty pizzas so several places with wonderful pizza such as Winghart's, Local and the Blind Pig are all excluded. Although Michael's easily topped my list, if you take price into consideration I think they are an even bigger winner. A slice at places such as Grotto or Pizza Sola can easily run you upwards of five dollars. However, for Michael's pizza special on Thursdays a slice of pizza is only eighty cents!!

I gave Michael's the top spot because I think their pizza has a very nice crust along with well proportioned and well seasoned toppings. I've had slices of pizza from both Pizza Sola and Grotto that were better than Michael's, but I give Michael's first place for consistency. (I want to give Grotto special accolades for allowing me to take a huge box of pizza they were about to throw away one night about a year ago.) The quality of the pizza at many locations in the Southside can vary greatly depending on the current staff and the seasonal/hourly customer demand for pizza induced sobriety. However, Michael's caters to the neighborhood crowd rather than the bar-goers and maintains a more consistent quality level.

Because I don't get to Michael's very often, I wanted to try something else from their extensive menu. This is the plain burger from Michael's and it wasn't bad. I thought the meat patty was a little wimpy and I would have liked a bit more seasoning. There are probably about twenty-five hamburgers in the Southside that I'd choose over this one. However, considering that you can get one of these burgers for only a dollar on Mondays, I'm not sure there is much room for complaint.

If you have to pick between burger night or pizza night, I'd certainly opt for pizza night.


Michael's Pizza Bar on Urbanspoon Blue Grotto Pizza on Urbanspoon