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Friday, May 23, 2014

Benjamin's Burgers - Northside


They should change the name of "Benjamin's Burgers" to "Benjamin's Bomb-ass Burgers." Really, the burgers are that good. They easily rival my favorite burger in the city which is Winghart's. Coincidentally, my opinion is well supported by Andrew of the Pitts-Burger food blog. He rates Benjamin's at 7.6 and Winghart's at 7.1. I think the two are a little closer, but each single hamburger experience is subjective, so it is what it is.

Pictured above is the Benjamin's cured meat plate. Although it did not stand out as one of the best cured meat plates I've tried in Pittsburgh, it was an absolute steal for $5. (Appetizers are half off during happy hour.) Honestly, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better meat plate in the entire city for $5. My chief complaints are that I would have liked more pickled vegetables and it seemed as though the meat had been sliced several days ago. Considering the size of the kitchen, I imagine this is actually the case.

Also Sorta a Meat Plate

This burger was absolutely dripping in deliciousness. Candied jalapeno cream cheese and bacon to boot! It was really a great combination. The candied jalapeno cream cheese had a subtle sweetness with a fantastic bite. It melted beautifully all over the warm burger and it was perfectly paired with the thick cut bacon. I'd rank this amongst the best burgers I've had in Pittsburgh. 

When we decided to go to Benjamin's I solicited comments from the general public. Here are some complaints I received and my opinion as to each complaint.

Side Dishes: They do not offer french fires and the side dishes don't pair well with hamburgers.

FALSE: The side dishes are just fine. Just because you are accustomed to eating hamburgers with french fries doesn't mean it is a requirement. I thought the curried cole-slaw was delicious.

Smell: You will smell like a hamburger when you leave.

TRUE: You will definitely smell like a hamburger when you leave. As you can see below the kitchen is awfully small and situated directly behind the bar.

Service: The service is awful.

Well...... I had great service at Benjamin's last week, but I've had trouble getting a drink in the past. The quality of service can vary based on the size of the crowd. I wouldn't call it awful though.

Grease: The hamburgers are very greasy.

TRUE:  The hamburgers are cooked on a griddle, so they may be more greasy than you are accustomed to. Personally, I think that's what makes them so god-damn delicious.

Isn't it the cutest little kitchen you've ever seen?

Benjamins Western Avenue Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 16, 2014

Texas de Brazil - Station Square

Food Model


Texas de Brazil is a chain all you can eat Brazillian-style churrascaria. If you aren't familiar with a churrascaria, basically it is an all you can eat restaurant with a very large seafood/salad bar where a series of men come to your table to carve you a variety of meats such as lamb, filet, roast, chicken etc. Your table comes equipped with a little reverse red and green coaster. If you turn the coaster to red, the nice men with their meat will leave you alone. Keep it on green, you will be inundated with meat in your face. I've only done churrascaria style eating twice, but I've noticed that the lower quality cuts of meat come around more often than the very nice cuts. Feel free to keep that coaster green but turn the nice man away. It can get annoying, but it is the only way to make sure you get to sample everything without getting too full.

I have never done the churrascaria style dining at Texas de Brazil. However, I've stopped by their weekly happy hour three times. From 4:00 - 7:00 you can get half priced small meat plates and $3 beers. The small meat plates come in different combinations, but you basically have your choice of sausage, a lamb chop, bacon wrapped chicken, filet and sirloin roast. 

Presentation = C-.

This may not look pretty, but these plates are a pretty good deal. For between $4 and $8 you can have one of these nice little meat plates and a delicious basket of cheese bread. If you eat all of the cheese bread they'll even bring you more! I know because it happened to one of my fat friends once.

I absolutely love the chimichurri sauce. It is great for dipping your meat as well as your cheese bread. Chimichurri sauce is a simple combination of: parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano and some other various seasonings. If you look at my meat plate you'll also notice that they gave me a very healthy serving of green jelly.

Ever since I was a small lad I can remember my father serving lamb with green jelly. This has never made any sense to me and I actually think it is disgusting and does nothing to compliment the flavor of the lamb. I've never really questioned the practice, but I find it odd that Texas de Brazil serves the green jelly as I thought the practice had largely fallen out of favor.

Well,  it turns out that the stupid English used to serve green mint jelly with mutton in order to disguise the taste. (Sheep's meat is called mutton after the lamb turns one year old.  Mutton has a much stronger taste.)  The English are dumb as hell. Can you imagine if you went to a restaurant and they served you a hamburger with green jelly because they let the meat sit out too long?

No taxation without representation.  Don't let those sheep grow up and down with the green jelly industry!

Texas de Brazil on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sienna Mercato: Emporio

"I don't dig on swine." -Jules

Sienna Mercato is in this beautiful building downtown next to August Henry's Saloon on Penn Ave. It is refreshing to have a bar located in the Penn Ave Tourist Corridor that I don't hate. Sharp Edge is expensive, August Henry's is plain awful, Seviche is colorful but passe, Sonoma Grill is where dads drink and Ten Penny is bunch of pretentious bologna. Mark's was my go-to until they replaced it with a piece of crap reception area.

I honestly never thought Pittsburgh would have a meatball restaurant. It seems awfully gimmicky, but it works. The Emporio meatballs are not cheap, but the happy hour deal isn't bad at all. Half off all drafts until 6 pm, but sadly no food discount. As for the meatballs, expect to dish out $3.50 a pop.

The wonderful thing about Emporio is the plethora of choices. You can choose from four different meatballs: beef, pork, veggie and chicken. Then you choose one of nine different sauces: Sunday gravy, pork bolognse, creamy parmesan, chicken gravy, government cheese, mushroom gravy, aribiatta, tzatziki and pesto. That means that you can potentially try up to 36 different combinations. That's a different meatball everyday of the month!

I went with the pork meatball with pork bolognse, the beef meatball with aribiatta, and the chicken meatball with government cheese. The clear winner was the beef with aribiatta. It wasn't a super-spicy oily aribiatta like the kind in Italy, but it had a nice spice level that would not offend most palates. The pork bolognse had hints of allspice and cinnamon but was otherwise unremarkable. The government cheese was absolutely amazing! A rich gooey texture loaded with generic cheese flavor.  I have to give a special shout to the girls of EatPgh for recommending I try the government cheese as it is easily a sauce I would have otherwise overlooked.

Finally, I have to say that the staff did a terrific job. The bartenders in particular were very diligent and attentive. I'd say they were easily better than any of the clown bartenders  at the other above mentioned bars in the Penn Ave Tourist Corridor. (PS, I'm trademarking Penn Avenue Tourist Corridor so don't use it.)

Emporio: A Meatball Joint on Urbanspoon