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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Easy Street - Downtown

I'm Nacho Friend.

Occasionally, happy hour can be a scam. What I'm referring to of course is when a decent bar has a decent happy hour and then they slowly whittle away at all the frills. This results in a phenomenon I describe as Urban Happy Hour Decay, or UHHD. Urban Happy Hour Decay is one of the biggest problems we face in modern times.

I personally attribute a largely unnoticed instance of UHHD in the 1980's to the current popularity of corporate happy hours offered by bozos like Applebee's and T.G.I. Fridays. Was this really Ronald Reagan's vision for America?

SCENARIO: A once thriving local bar offers a slew of happy hour specials. The food is well prepared and delicious, people enjoy the food while consuming libations. Business starts to slow. Rather than making proper adjustments or finding ways to drive new business, management decides to gradually reduce portion size and the quality of ingredients. The result? A bunch of terrible appetizers that aren't even worth the discounted happy hour price, let alone the actual menu price.

I feel that the quality of the food at Easy Street has declined significantly over the last four years. When they opened, the cuisine was quite remarkable. After our visit in January, I left hungry, angry and depressed. (Ok, you caught me. I was already depressed when I got there.) Several different apetizers are offered at a happy hour price of $6. This wasn't a terrible deal for the nachos.

However, for many of the other items on the happy hour menu, this was a real scam. For instance, if you order the happy hour chicken tenders you will receive three pathetic looking chicken strips that make the plate look awfully lonely. When we commented on the portion size the bartender reassured us that it was cool because we could have any type of sauce we wanted. That's $2 a chicken tender!!! I might as well just go eat at the country club. The country club I can't afford to join because of my outrageous chicken tender bills. 

Here is my advice. If a restaurant has a special happy hour menu, and the items on the happy hour menu aren't on the normal menu - don't be a chump. These items are put on the menu to distract you from the fact that management thinks you are a big drunk slob.

I told Uncle Larry I'd share my pizza with him. Uncle Larry died that night, of starvation.
I wouldn't recommend visiting Easy Street for happy hour unless you are forced to attend for some business function. Just pop across the street to the Grant Street Tavern where the snacks are free. I've had everything from free sandwiches to chicken wings, meatballs and hard boiled eggs at the Grant Street Tavern. The GST is basically the counterpoint to UHHD. Take that ghost of Reagan!

Easy Street on Urbanspoon Grant Street Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Urban Tap - Southside


You can tell just by looking at that steak sandwich that it was made with high quality ingredients. Delicious tender steak, pickled onions, lettuce, cheese and fresh crispy bread. One of the ways I judge a steak sandwich is based on how much it drips all over your plate when you try to eat the thing. Granted, this test is not a test of flavor or quality, but rather a test of how much care the restaurant takes in presenting and preparing their food. This sandwich didn't leave the quintessential puddle of gross I commonly associate with steak sandwiches. Great job Urban Tap!

The coleslaw  on the other hand was pretty bland. It was seriously lacking in flavor and I'd guess it was probably prepared several days in advance. (No one is perfect, right?) I think it could have greatly benefited from a little seasoning and perhaps even some jalapeno. It looks nice though.

The Urban Tap is one of many fancy looking establishments that have opened in the last few years in the Southside of Pittsburgh. The decor is very similar to that of Local right down the street. The beer list is extensive, the employees are attractive and the place looks really great. What surprised me about the Urban Tap was the type of food selections they offered and the associated price tags.

When I walk into a bar in the Southside I don't typically expect to be offered the option to purchase a $35 filet. If I was speculating in a vacuum I'd say that Urban Tap might have priced themselves out of the neighborhood. However, the place always seems to draw a strong crowd. Every time I walk by there are people dining - so I guess they might know their demographic better than I do.

The residents of Pittsburgh are starting to expect more from their food. I'd say that if the Urban Tap opened on Carson Street about five years ago they'd be laughed out of town. In this modern era of Pittsburgh dining, maybe it is possible to charge $35 dollars for a filet at a beer bar in a neighborhood that is notorious for public urination citations, crying bridesmaids and dudes named Shawn who all have the same haircut and don't wear winter jackets in January.

The Urban Tap on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 3, 2014

Bobby Hendrix


So this swanky new joint just popped up on East Carson. Bobby Hendrix is located on 20th street at the site of the old Blue Iguana/City Grille. Bobby did a terrific job renovating the place, it has a a bit of a clubby vibe with a well decorated interior. The aquarium was everyone's favorite decoration, but I particularly appreciate the care they put into renovating the bathrooms. I'm always shocked at how some bar owners in the Southside will dump millions into renovations and completely neglect putting any work into the bathroom.

Fortunately, this is not what the restroom looks like at Bobby Hendrix. However, I believe this photo accurately depicts roughly 70% of the restrooms in the Southside. I think my next project may be The Southside Review of Toilets. The shit I've seen drinking in the Southside - literally.

Anyhow, the food that we tried at Bobby Hendrix was all delicious. I was fairly certain that I'd like everything as I was a big fan of Bobby's work at his last bar, Melange. In particular, my favorites were the hand cut french fries, the black bean hummus and the honey drizzled fried chicken. Bobby is a man who knows his chicken. His breading is a bit on the lighter side and the chicken is always wonderfully seasoned and fried to perfection.

Although it may look like Giles is dipping his chicken wing in the candle, I promise he isn't. Next time I go to Bobby Hendrix I'm looking forward to trying the buffalo chicken mac and cheese and something on a pretzel bun. I love those damn pretzel buns.

 Bobby Hendrix on Urbanspoon