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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bobby Hendrix

Bob's Burgers

When I first met Bobby of Bobby Hendrix I could tell he was a guy who really knew how to make things happen in the kitchen. His new restaurant does some fantastic work and I think it could easily be considered one of the most underrated spots in the Southside. I'm usually pretty picky when it comes to burgers and I tend to order on the conservative side. I'm glad Bobby picked out a few different sliders for me as his choices were much more adventurous than anything I would have selected.

Pictured above are the Fat Elvis burger and the Bobby Hendrix burger. The Fat Elvis was the burger of my dreams. Blue cheese, peanut butter, extra bacon and bananas. I know that the toppings might not necessarily sound intuitive, but they worked beautifully. The bananas do a fantastic job of cutting the intense flavors from the blue cheese, peanut butter and bacon. Also, extra bacon?!?! What a great idea. 

The Bobby Hendrix burger is Bobby's take on the classic Big Mac. American cheese, bacon, pickles, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and special sauce.  It wasn't quite a Big Mac because the beef was of a better quality, but I'd say it was otherwise a great imitation. (There's just something special about the McDonald's Big Mac with the way it comes packaged, the toasted sesame seed bun and the way the meat is stacked. I really do love the Big Mac.)

Most true Pittsburghers know that the Big Mac was invented right here in the 'Burgh. What you may not know though is that one of the original names for the burger was "the aristocrat." The other thing you may not know is that The Economist has used the Big Mac as a reference point for comparing the cost of living in different countries – the Big Mac Index  sometimes referred to as Burgernomics.


I seriously recommend you try some of Bobby's crazy hamburgers!  The style of burger is different than what you'll find at Winghart's, BRGR, Burgatory or Tesarro's and the quality is top notch. Next time I want to try the $50 burger. A half pound burger topped with crab, caviar, gouda and a truffle glaze. I'll have to find out if the damn thing is actually $50 though.

Bobby Hendrix on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Steel Cactus - Shadyside

Ceviche and taquitos, are coming out of my speedo.

I'd heard a lot of negative buzz surrounding the food at Steel Cactus. Naturally, I was very skeptical about the cuisine but nonetheless excited to hang out on a roof in Shadyside and drink $3 glasses of wine. (Shrimp and wine are the focal points of what I define as summertime.)

The Steel Cactus is the Amp'd restaurant group's attempt to capitalize on the success of Mad Mex which is run by the Big Burrito restaurant group. There is actually another Steel Cactus that is currently being built in the Southside. I'd imagine that the Amp'd group would be thrilled if they could achieve even a quarter of the success Big Burrito has seen with Mad Mex. (Over ten locations throughout Pennsylvania with one in Ohio.)

Pictured above are the ceviche with pico de gallo and mango and the pulled chicken taquitos, priced at $5 and $4 respectively during happy hour.  The ceviche was a little on the bitter side but otherwise quite flavorful and delicious with a good amount of shrimp. I thought the taquitos were great, very crispy with well seasoned meat. Also, a very good portion for the price point. I certainly wouldn't consider either of the two dishes I sampled to be authentic or particularly masterful (ceviche is Peruvian and taquitos are quintessential Mex-American) However, I think the complaints about Steel Cactus are largely unwarranted.

They are serving $4 appetizers and $3 glasses of wine on a beautiful rooftop deck. What do you expect? If you want authentic Mexican in Pittsburgh I suggest Las Palmas street tacos. I get them almost every week. Then I eat my tacos on a dirty street corner in Oakland next to piles of broken glass undoubtedly discarded  by the outstanding students of the University of Pittsburgh.

Future Batman villain?

This guy is enjoying the dessert chimichanga, a sweet flour tortilla with a hint of cinnamon, cheesecake filling and caramel deep fried with whipped cream and raspberry puree. I explained to him that I needed to sample the dish for the purposes of science. He was surprisingly accommodating. I'd say the dish was pretty similar to the dessert chimichanga that was originally offered by Chi-Chi's, minus the chocolate syrup. I'd actually love to see the emergence of some new Mex-American inspired desserts such as avocado cheesecake, tres de leches bon bons or caramel chocolate empanadas.

In order to thrive I believe the Steel Cactus should focus on finding some interesting ways to differentiate themselves from Mad Mex. Although emulation is flattery, it isn't always a recipe for success.

Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurant & Cantina on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 11, 2014

Penn Brewery - Troy Hill

Crazytown Burger


German food has never been my cup of tea. As a matter of fact, tea is actually my cup of tea. It's not that I don't like thinly sliced fried pork or sausage, it's just that I don't like how the German's go about it. Their dishes are too hearty for my simple tastes. 

If you are familiar with Penn Brewery, you know there have been an awful lot of changes over the years. The most recent change is the new menu. Pictured above is the Deutschtaun burger: a beef patty layered with muenster cheese, potato pierogi, sliced kielbasa, fried egg, slaw, lettuce, tomato, onion, and fries. Although, it sounded like awful lot of toppings for one hamburger, it was a natural choice for me as my family was living in Deutschtaun well over one hundred years ago.

 I was very surprised at how good the burger was. I wasn't impressed by the quality of the beef, but the toppings really worked quite well and made for a well textured and full flavored sandwich. The fried kielbasa added a nice salty zing while the potato and egg gave the burger a certain stick-to-your-gut goodness.

Some of the other notable selections on the menu include the braised rabbit, the buffalo chicken pierogies and the German style pot roast. As far as German food in Pittsburgh goes, I'd say Penn Brewery is easily one of your top choices. (I have never been to Max's Allegheny Tavern so I can't call Penn Brewery the best.)

Now for your Penn Brewery history lesson. "Penn Brewery sits on the site of the Eberhardt and Ober Brewery which was founded in 1848. Penn Brewery has played an important part in the history of the Pittsburgh beer and food scene. As of 1987 it was illegal to have a brewing facility connected to a restaurant. Owner, Tom Pastorius, successfully lobbied to change the laws and now you can brew beer and serve wienershnitzel all under the same roof."

These ratty little breweries popping up in Lawrenceville better thank old Tom when they serve their patrons substandard hot dogs at exorbitant rates.

Penn Brewery on Urbanspoon