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Thursday, April 16, 2015

William Penn Tavern

Wade is an amazing food model.
The William Penn Tavern is a staple of Shadyside debauchery.  Unlike many of the larger and more corporate Shadyside establishments, the William Penn is more of a neighborhood bar. The staff is friendly, helpful and often extremely busy. (Good luck getting a drink on a crowded night.)

The William Penn is known for their chicken wings. I have no problem calling them the best wings in Shadyside, as it is actually quite difficult to think of another serious contender in such an upscale anti-chicken-wing neighborhood.

The go to William Penn Tavern wing sauce is one of those everything sauce varieties they call, "kitchen sink." Kitchen sink sauce tastes of garlic, celery salt and onion powder. There are probably lots of other ingredients as well, but they were hard to discern. The sauce has just the right amount of kick and the wings are almost perfectly crispy every time.

Thursday happens to be taco night and these tacos were worth exactly what I paid for them. (Maybe a little bit more.) They reminded me of the tacos my mother made in the 1980's from the Ortega kit. Cold tortillas, salty meat, iceberg lettuce, mild cheddar and some limp tomatoes. Not great, but absolutely worth $1.25..


William Penn Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Claddagh Irish Pub

Spinach Chicken Melt

I think Irish food and English food get a bad rap. I always had the impression that the food of the Isles was lousy. It is my belief that this American view is largely manufactured based on perceptions from WWII. The BBC America tends to support my point of view and states that, "Many observers say that British cuisine’s fall from grace had much to do with the residual effects of two world wars and strict rationing."

When I was in Ireland last year I was shocked by just how much I enjoyed many of my meals. Lots of hearty bread, well prepared seafood platters and wonderful curries.

Similarly, while I expected to be disappointed by Claddagh, I was somewhat impressed by the quality of the food. (I always expect to be disappointed by chain restaurants.)

Against my better judgement, I allowed the waitress to talk me into the spinach chicken melt over the monte cristo.  Grilled chicken breast layered between house spinach dip with cheddar, roasted red peppers and tomato. The chicken was very well prepared and the spinach dip and cheese provided that extra flavorful cheese kick that gets me out of bed in the morning.

My favorite part of the Claddagh dining experience was that they allow you to substitute your french fries for any side of your choice - including some fantastic roasted brussels sprouts with bacon! The sprouts were so good that I'd expect to pay about $7 for them at a nicer restaurant downtown. 


The night we visited Claddagh was offering this fancy tasting menu which was paired with various shots of whiskey. I'm woefully sad that I could not partake.

Claddagh Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cultural Trust: Arts & Drafts

Guest Post by: Melinda Urick -
Special thanks to Melinda and Alex.

I’m a sucker for a weekday happy hour, especially when it takes place near my office downtown and I can still walk home during the last moments of daylight (thanks, Daylight Savings Time). This Monday, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust hosted the first happy hour of a new series called “Arts & Drafts.” These happy hour events are meant to connect people with up and coming artists, with proceeds benefiting the organization. The purpose of the event is to help people realize downtown Pittsburgh as a vibrant work-play destination. 

Arts & Drafts admission cost $25 per person, and I purchased tickets in advance online anticipating a sell-out (for this night, there were some tickets still available at the door; I don’t anticipate that happening again). Held at The Cabaret at Theater Square, the ticket price included light bites and two free drafts (or cocktails, for those of us non-beer drinkers) AND a one-year Partners membership to the Cultural Trust (which can get you discounts at future shows and other member benefits and invites to other cool parties (and I’m pretty sure I received some other “freebies” coupons in my membership packet).

The space was immediately energized from the lively electronic-meets-jazzy local group Beauty Slap – a trombone and trumpet quartet complemented by a lead guitarist and DJ-like production and mixing. Even more awesome: while the band played, live art was created on-stage in the background courtesy of Baron Batch – an impressive and colorful piece was later raffled off to a patron. 

Batch also spontaneously painted one of the musician’s jackets. These two elements together (and you know, the “drafts” part of the theme) made for a seriously fun happy hour. The Cabaret space is great for this type of event too, aside from having to get my drinks at the bar. Tables were set up around the perimeter of the space with a substantial place for dancing in the center – too bad the crowd didn’t use it much until the encore. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely thinking about dancing. But you know, Mondays.

Appetizers were provided by Mad Mex and looked to be heavy on the salsas but there were a few other chafing dishes of food available; unfortunately, I was preoccupied with redeeming my drink tickets among the crowds gathering at the Backstage Bar and pretended not to see the growing buffet line behind me. Maybe a better placement for the food next time?

I look forward to checking out upcoming A&D events to see how well the Trust combines art and music (and, naturally, the drinking) for growing its membership base. 

Links to other #pghGBE posts below!