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Friday, September 26, 2014

Allegheny Wine Mixer - Lawrenceville

The Cheese Stands Alone
I can only assume that the Allegheny Wine Mixer took its name from the film, "Step Brothers" which featured an event known as the Catalina Wine Mixer. I judge bars by their name. I know this is bigoted and small minded, but I really do. I will admit that I had a bad attitude as I approached the bar at Allegheny Wine Mixer.

In my opinion, whenever a bar self identifies as a wine bar it generally means that everything is going to be very expensive, my abhorrent behavior won't be blissfully tolerated and the house music will likely consist of flamenco music and/or adult contemporary top 40.

My preconceptions of Allegheny Wine Mixer turned out to be entirely unfounded. For starters, the bar was surprisingly welcoming. The bartenders were very helpful and polite and I even enjoyed the music. They made a number of interesting drink suggestions to patrons throughout the night and mixed up a few cool grapefruit cocktails I'd never heard of before.

Drink and food prices were spot on. The delicious cheese plate which is pictured above was $5 during happy hour (5-7). I found the fruit arrangement to be rather strange, but I loved the copious amount of bread and flavorful cheese selections. The two cheeses were adelegger and chiriboga blue. The blue smelled of old socks and gym bags and tasted marvelous.

This is what they will serve at my wedding.
For dessert I had nutella and goat cheese on crusty bread paired with one of my favorite libations, Old German. I had no idea there could be such a thing as a perfect evening, but Adam Scott put it best.

The Allegheny Wine Mixer on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sienna Mercato - Il Tetto

Il Tetto is the fancy new roof top deck downtown. I'm pretty amazed at the number of roof top decks that have opened just within the last year.... Skybar, Carson City, Blue Line Grille, Steel Cactus, etc. Pittsburgh's new obsession with outdoor seating is fantastic.

Il Tetto offers a very limited menu that is completely different from the selections available downstairs at Emporio. (Emporio is the Sienna Mercato meatball restaurant. My review of Emporio is available here.) So be sure to grab your meatballs and discounted beers downstairs at Emprio before you take the elevator ride to Il Tetto as the rooftop bar does not offer meatballs or happy hour specials.

Some of the selections available at Il Tetto include fried head cheese, home made sausage, marinated olives and my delicious caprese salad which is pictured above.

My caprese salad was very good. It was made with extremely high quality olive oil from Lodi Olive Oil co, basil, fresh tomatoes, some remarkable mozzarella and some micro greens including cilantro. Someone did a fine job of selecting a delicious tomato for my salad. Great work Il Tetto! Although I found the addition of cilantro to a caprese salad to be rather odd, it seemed to work as it was used sparingly. My chief complaint about the salad, and about Il Tetto in general, was the pricing. The salad cost $14 and each drink ran somewhere between $7 and $15. I think this is very high for Pittsburgh, even with the beautiful view of the city.

It is my personal belief that if I'm paying $14 for a salad it should come with some type of protein or at least a lap dance. However, based on the size of the crowd the last two times I've visited Il Tetto, it would appear that the general public disagrees. It is true what they say, you pay for the view.

Il Tetto: Rooftop Beer Garden on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Over the Bar - Southside - OTB

I do not think it makes sense that there is a bar that caters specifically to people who ride bicycles. I've voiced this concern about OTB many times. I find it funny that bikers define themselves as a sub culture based on a mode of transportation. (I suppose they'd also spout off some nonsense about how I'm being superficial and there is so much more to the biker way of life.) Personally, I like to walk quite often. But I do not think a walking themed bar would be nearly as successful as OTB.

Everyone I know claims to love the food at OTB. My old neighbor used to say they had the best salads ever and this dude I know named Carl eats there religiously. Personally, I have very little interest in the food at OTB. I'm pretty sure my happy hour pierogies were made by Mrs. T.

The menu consists of some rather pedestrian food selections (this is a pun) and the food is just average at best. I'd say the menu selections and food quality are comparable to what is offered at Double Wide minus the bbq. However, the menu might totally be your thing if you are into normal food selections named after clever bike things. For example, punk bike pickles, the peddle paddle panini, the tandem or the big wheel.  (Yes these are all real things from the OTB menu.)

I don't want to come off as overly critical. I think OTB has some good beer specials and I certainly like the staff. ($3 Dales Pale Ale and our bartender looked like Miley Cyrus!) Also, the food is acceptable. I just don't understand the hype. Without the bicycle theme and the ample bike parking, I think this place would be out of business.

Seitan Wings
These wings were way better than they looked. They did a nice job of achieving the perfect texture with the seitan. If you've never had seitan wings, I recommend giving them a try. Although the chicken wing is the perfect vehicle to eat butter and buffalo sauce, crispy seitan can work quite well. Seitan should really just be called gluten, because that's what it is. A non-soy meat alternative made with wheat and often served as fake duck or tofurkey. Now get on your bike and ride!

OTB (Over The Bar) Bicycle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Salonika Gyros - Downtown.

Gyro Time
The American gyro always has been a total mystery to me. I find it very odd that Pittsburghers often argue over the merits of Mike and Tony's versus Lesvos in the Southside. I have a seriously difficult time discerning any difference between the meat used by any of the gyro places in Pittsburgh. Although gryos are considered a traditional Greek food, they are typically made with pork or chicken in Greece.

The stuff we get here in the U.S. is some strange combination of beef and lamb. The product you see on display at the gyro store is not an actual cut of meat, but rather a product most commonly referred to as, "gyro cone" or "gyro loaf." These cones or loaves are formed by pressing ground meat into a cylinder. According to the New York Times, every gyro cone in the U.S. is largely made by one distributor.

So next time your drunk friends argue over the merits of various gyro places and the quality of the meat, politely explain that they are stupid idiots whose preferences are based on neon signs.


Now that I've got my rant out of the way, I'd like to say that Salonika Gyro downtown on 6th ave is the best gyro place in Pittsburgh!!  In addition to boasting gyro loaf on a hot spit, they offer many homemade specialties such as hummus, grape leaves, stuffed peppers, baklava, loobi, and filo dough dishes made with chicken and fish. (If your favorite gyro store doesn't have any specialties other than  gyros made with mass produced meat loaf, you are uncouth and lacking in culture.)

Some of the great things about Salonika are the quality and the low prices. Not to mention the extremely ratty bar frequented by some of Pittsburgh's most likely small time crooks and child support dodgers. To give you an idea of the value you can expect for your dollar, all of the food pictured above cost roughly $13. Grape leaves, tzatziki, hummus, spanakopita, tons of extra bread and a HUGE gyro salad with cucumbers, peppers, onions, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese.

I dare you to find a better value in downtown Pittsburgh for dinner. (If you do, I'll take you out for a gyro on me.) Also, if you are stopping by for a drink, you can expect to pay about $2 per beer. They had $4 mojitos as well, but you don't want to go ordering your Cuban cocktails from a Greek restaurant.

Salonika Gyros on Urbanspoon