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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Or the Whale

Or the Octopus
This review must be prefaced with the statement that this restaurant is prohibitively expensive, and they know it. If they have not priced themselves out of the Pittsburgh market, perhaps I am just unaware of what good food costs. I worry that I am almost certainly becoming my father. A man that thinks all sandwiches should cost less than 6 dollars because he has failed to keep up with the times. I have to constantly remind myself that good food is expensive and the cost can be justified.

That's just the thing about Or the Whale though - the food is great. The above pictured octopus with fingerling potatoes was in fact so good that I went out and purchased my own fingerling potatoes to make at home, fell asleep cooking them, and nearly died of asphyxiation.

 I've never had octopus served with chimichurri sauce and potatoes. It was exquisite and prepared flawlessly. The octopus had just the right amount of char and a great mouth feel. 

Or the Trout
The smoked trout rillettes are really the only bargain item on the menu at a paltry $11. I thought it was quite nice that the dish arrived with a small salad to help me justify my existence. After all, I spent over $50 on two drinks and two appetizers. (I mean, god damn, I could buy like 70 pounds of bananas with that coin.)  Maybe that doesn't sound bad to you, but I think it is outrageous.

Here is a list of some menu items and their respective prices so you have an idea of what you are getting into.

Seafood Tower - $180
16 oz Ribeye - $65
Duck Burger - $45
Side Salad - $9

Getting old sucks, everything seems expensive.  Also, I'm pretty sure that Or the Whale has the most expensive hamburger in the city. Please prove me wrong in the comments.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Zone 28

Garage Door Access!
Zone 28 recently opened in the far east part of town near Oakmont. Let me tell you, for a kid friendly joint they threw a hell of a grand opening party. Here are some of our favorite magical moments from the opening.

Appetizers! And lots of them. Zone 28 offers a full menu and has two separate bars. The End Zone and the Railhouse.  (If you've ever been to State College you would know that their local establishment called the End Zone is quite a different beast. NSFW.)

Costumed characters! They have a remarkably well crafted beer list for a bowling alley. Their sports bar is the perfect place for dads. Honestly, they should change the name of the sports bar to, "Dads Only."

SNACKS! So many snacks.


This lady won a golden ticket.

This friendly janitor met the Pittsburgh dad! Everyone loves the Pittsburgh dad!

Add caption
And Santa made an appearance! Overall, an awesome place. In addition to bowling and the restaurants they have a full arcade, laser tag and bumper cars!

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Threadbare Cider

Threadbare Cider is easily one of the most exciting places I've visited in 2017. The new space  belongs to the owners of Wigle Whiskey. Threadbare is actually located just right down the street from the Wigle Barrel House - I guess the price of real estate is going up in Spring Garden!

One of the more enticing features of the space is the marvelous job they've done of exposing the production facilities. The massive renovations to the old building allow patrons an intimate view of the innards of the cider facility from the comfort of the dining room.

The cider house stands as a tribute to Johnny Appleseed. (Would you believe that the rapscallion is both real and associated with Pittsburgh?) Threadbare currently offers three separate varieties of cider: a dry, a dry-hopped and a farmhouse.  While I enjoyed sampling all three ciders, there was no contest for my affection. The dry cider almost resembled a dry white wine in it's robust magnificence. I'm no cider expert - but I've had a lot of Jack's Hard Cider in times of desperation and need. Threadbare is considerably better the typical American ciders you see on tap at many bars. Their products are absolutely comparable to the offerings at Arsenal Cider.

Silver Dollar Pancake
Pictured above you can see some of the various offerings from the Threadbare brunch menu. My favorite item was the silver dollar pancakes, but the breakfast pizza and cheese plate were a close second. I should also note that they offer a variety of gluten free dishes as they are attempting to placate the no-beer crowd. I'm looking forward to visiting again! It was an excellent experience.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

An Autumn of Happy Hours

Draai Laag

I think Draai Laag is one of the coolest breweries in Pittsburgh. Their beers are remarkably unique and a testament to how far Pittsburgh has come since the days of Iron City and Rolling Rock. (Side note, Iron City is no longer brewed in Pittsburgh and Rolling Rock is no longer brewed in Latrobe. Iron City is now made at the site of the former Rolling Rock brewery in Latrobe and Rolling Rock is made in Newark, NJ by Anheuser–Busch InBev which is based in Belgium.)

Draai Laag, however, is actually brewed in Pittsburgh. Their beers are developed through a spontaneous fermentation process and are probably unlike most beer you've had in your life. (Unless you are a fancy beer snob.)

Their taproom in Millvalle offers some fantastic food. Pictured above are the "Bomb Mi" Tacos - a take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich and the walking taco - your standard taco ingredients haphazardly thrown in a bag of Doritos. The walking taco is basically the perfect food for the modern slob on the go.

Check out Draai Laag and be a part of the Pittsburgh beer renaissance!  (You can even walk home with a taco.)

Full Pint Wild Side Pub

I've been familiar with Full Pint's beer for many years.  They've been making some excellent products at their brewery in North Versailles for quite some time, but they just recently opened their Wild Side Pub in Lawrenceville. It actually has a separate dining room and bar, I walked into the dining room and was pretty confused at first.

My favorite Full Pint beer is their Belgian white that they market as White Lightening, but I also like the Milk Plus milk stout and the Rye Rebellion imperial stout. At their Wild Side Pub they offer a nice happy hour discount on their drafts as well as a number of flatbreads and sandwiches.

I ordered the Mexican pizza with chorizo, brown ale queso, provolone, jalepeno and onion. It was not shabby, but it's hard to imagine that anyone would go out of their way to eat at the Wild Side Pub with the plethora of dining options available in Lawrenceville.

Full Pint Wild Side Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burgher's Lawrenceville

Burgher's just opened in  a very shiny new space in lower Lawrenceville. Their original location is in Harmony and I can only imagine that they are looking to expand further. I've been told for years that they have some of the best burgers in the city and I've always wanted to check them out.

Somehow, I blew it and didn't manage to order a burger. Burgher's offers a very nice happy hour menu which included sharp discounts on their fried chicken and their everything bagel dog.

I couldn't tell you exactly why I ordered the "everything bagel dog." Let's call it a morbid curiosity. Boy, was it delicious. I don't think I've ever enjoyed the combination of cream cheese and avocado, it is heavenly. The bacon also added a nice texture in addition to the "everything" seasoning.  I never knew I could like hot dogs, thank you Burgher's of Lawrenceville.

I should also note that their fried chicken is a steal at $2 a piece during happy hour!

Burgh'ers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The historic South Side of Pittsburgh does not want for Mexican options. There's La Palapa, Doce Tacqueria, Steel Cactus and Emiliano's. Emailiano's is actually the owner of Tres Rios.

I love the taco shells at Tres Rios. They offer a think homemade softer shell that is quite unique. Tres Rios is meant to be a more upscale option. Some of our favorites were the barbacoa, the duck tacos and the ceviche.

By the way, in case you wanted me to rank the Mexican restaurants in the South Side, here you go:

1) Doce
2) Emiliano's
3) La Palapa
4) Tres Rios*
5) Steel Cactus

*It should be noted that although Tres Rios appears next to Steel Cactus in my rankings, they are magnitudes apart in terms of quality.

Tres Rios Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Pittsburgher's Guide to Dining in Tokyo

Dining in Japan was easily one of the most unique experiences of my life. Some of my favorite meals were items I stumbled across in the street or in a 7-11. (Yes, 7-11 is huge over there and offers a variety of amazing treats.) Pictured above you can see some ramen noodles from my first day in Tokyo. On the right you can check out the vending machine we used to order our ramen. You place your order and then print a ticket and lunch arrives almost immediately. This particular ramen spot was so good that the nice Canadian man-child behind me in line said that he had already been there three times even though he'd only been in Tokyo a week. I cannot even begin to describe just how flavorful the broth was nor are there words to describe the flavor and texture of the pork. I was also interested to learn that I was unable to order my ramen with roast duck. I guess that is a more Americanized ramen style. 

On the bottom left you can see what I believe to be a small bowl of tripe or some other type of sweet bread. It was ordered for me by some very nice Japanese business men who I met on my first night in town. When I attempted to explain that I was a food blogger and asked them to order some snacks for me, they were very amused. They took it as an opportunity to grab and vigorously shake my stomach while yelling, "foooood bloggggeerrrr" in the style of Japanese-English often impersonated by South Park. I cannot be sure if this was due to some type of failed translation or if these men were just extremely amused by my magnificent American belly. 

On my second day we ventured to the Shimokitazawa Curry Festival   - it was a magnificent event featuring over 150 restaurants with various types of curry dishes. The tagline for the event is, "Spicy Cruising"  which draws an allusion to a crude reference for a bowel movement.

We sampled a traditional Japanese style chicken and vegetable curry served in a wooden mug as well as curry from a Sri Lankan establishment that served a hot honey cheese naan. (I could eat hot honey cheese naan for every meal.) By the way, if you've been following along with my food adventures you would know that honey on pizza is totally a thing and you can try it out at Spork.

In this photo you can see us sampling some expensive Japanese beef as well as some sushi from two separate establishments. While the yakiniku we visited did not have kobe, there are many different expensive cuts of Japanese beef that are just as good. I'm embarrassed to admit that I do not know the names of the cuts we ordered as one of my AWESOME tour guides was in charge of ordering.  (Maybe someone can translate the placards on the image for me so I can make an update!)

Keep in mind that you have most likely not tried expensive Japanese beef in the US unless you have paid a high premium. Check out my review of Church Brew Works from several years ago that explains why there is no chance in hell that the $11 cheesesteak on a menu described as a ,"Kobe Beef Cheesesteak" is legit. Hell, even if it is wagyu, that's just a waste of good beef.

It's also worth mentioning that I tried nato (smelly fermented soy beans) for the first time at one of the sushi restaurants we visited. I wasn't nearly as disgusted by it as most westerners tend to be, but I won't be clamoring to order it again anytime soon.

Here's a nice photo of us cooking our fancy beef. One of the above food models is an employee of the Irish embassy in Tokyo. One of my favorite moments during my trip was at a Japanese whiskey bar when my friend Naoko innocently asked him if they had whiskey in Ireland. The fucking Irishman nearly shit his pants, it was amazing.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

Our fanciest dining experience in Tokyo was at the three star L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Quite frankly, I think this was the fanciest meal of my life. We opted for the six course lunch, but we also added a cheese plate and some foie gras because life is just too short to under indulge. One of my favorite dishes was the smoked salmon with gravelax sauce and potato galette. I also quite enjoyed the simmered pork cheek with carrot puree (not pictured) and the roasted lamb with eggplant compote. Every course looked too beautiful to eat.

If you want to hit up a Michelin star restaurant while you are visiting Tokyo, be prepared to call several months in advance. Thanks to our friend Naoko we were able to sneak in to one of Joel Robuchon's restaurants without much fuss, but I doubt they would have let us in without knowing someone. It's also worth noting that you do not need to go to Tokyo to check out a Joel Robuchon restaurant. He has establishments all over the world. In addition to being a freemason, Mr. Robuchon apparently was the youngest chef to ever receive a Michelin star and he currently holds more Michelin stars than any chef in the world. What a fancy dandy.


It's all about that omakase baby. Even as a departed Japan I was able to grab some killer grub at the Narita airport. According to Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit Sushi Kyotatsu near gate 34 in Terminal 1 of the airport is the best airport restaurant in the world.  I have to say that I was very impressed by the omakase and I was remarkably excited to enjoy a meal at an airport that was not terrible. I'd even venture to say that it was fantastic.

An interesting note about Sushi Kyotatsu is that the waitress came over at times and explained which items were not to be eaten with soy sauce. She did however provide me with a precious little plate of salt and explained that I could use it on the pieces that were designated as non-soy-saucable. As a true gaijin I can admit that the subtleties of dining etiquette are foreign to me both abroad and at home. Just eat what makes you feel good and do it however you like - that way Japanese business men will come and give you a hilarious tummy rub.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ki Ramen Versus Yuzu Kitchen - Who Has the Better Ramen

Ki Ramen
Within the last several months both Yuzu Kitchen and Ki Ramen have opened in Pittsburgh. Prior to their arrival it is hard to say that Pittsburgh had much of a ramen scene. Ramen Bar has been open in Squirrel Hill for the last several years and the now defunct Salt of the Earth once had a Ramen brunch, but the dish does not seem to get a lot of love from native Pittsburghers.

If you break ramen down to it's most simple components it consists of a broth, Chinese style noodles, some type of protein and toppings. The real magic of ramen is it's simplicity and elegance as a comfort food.

Between Yuzu Kitchen and Ki Ramen, Ki is easily the more celebrated of the two establishments. Lawrenceville currently has this aura surrounding it that seems to draw the majority of the media attention. Basically, everyone writing about food in Pittsburgh has a hard-on for Lawrenceville.

My Shoyu ramen at Ki had soy braised chicken, kikurage, scallion, egg, cabbage and bean sprouts. I also added the shitake butter bomb and  chili paste.

The noodles at Ki Ramen were my favorite out of the two restaurants. However, I was disappointed by the flavor of the chicken and the broth in general. It's worth noting that Ki Ramen is currently undergoing a soft opening and they are yet to announce a final menu. They were also offering a few different appetizers during our visit, but we felt that their menu could greatly benefit from a few additions such as some lighter appetizers, some grilled meats and some salads. Also, we would love to see a happy hour special.

My friend old pappy Bucklaw loved the inferno Ramen and mentioned that he was still thinking about it several days after our visit to Ki. The steamed pork bun I tried was remarkably good and was in and of itself worth the visit. Also, it is worth mentioning that Ki Ramen had a great staff that accommodated us without hesitation.

Yuzu Kitchen
Yuzu Kitchen currently presents a much more polished concept than Ki Ramen. (Ki has not announced an official opening date.) Yuzu offers a full menu, happy hour discounts, a special happy hour menu and a less crowded atmosphere. You can expect discounts on some great appetizers such as tempura, gyoza, and fried chicken and squid. 

If you put the two restaurants next to each other, I think Yuzu would put Ki Ramen out of business in about six months. However, this is Pittsburgh. People will give Ki Ramen a higher level of deference due to it's location and the notoriety of the owners.

Miso Paitan
Overall, Yuzu had the better ramen despite Ki having the better noodles. At Yuzu I had the Miso Paitan and added some mushrooms. Their Miso Paitan came with pulled chicken, pork marrow/chicken broth, 30 minute egg, bean sprouts and scallions. The dish worked in a more harmonious manner than my ramen at Ki. The ingredients seemed fresher, and I thought the overall dish just had a better flavor.

I expect good things from both restaurants moving forward. It may be unfair to compare the two restaurants in their current state of infancy, but Yuzu is the clear winner.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pgh Pierogie Festival - Kennywood

So, let's talk about pierogies. I love mentioning the damn things as they currently are not included in your computer's spellcheck library. There are so many accepted spellings, just look at this stupid Candian Article about my favorite tasty treats.

"Perogy, pyrogy, perogie, perogy, pirohi, piroghi, pirogi, pirogen, pierogy, pirohy, pyrohy: whatever the variant, the root word is Slavic, meaning “festival”" - according to the Canadians. 

Pictured above is the pierogie mac and cheese from our great friends at Scratch Food and Beverage. As always, Scratch did a nice job and we were very pleased by their generosity with the sour cream. Superior Motors was actually offering some strange type of potato pie/bread right next to Scratch which we also adored. 

The biggest disappointment about the Pittsburgh pierogie festival is that there were literally too many pierogies to try. I attended with the goal of sampling every pierogie at the festival - this goal was insurmountable.  It made me feel like an indecisive fat child at a candy store. (Which is something that has actually happened to me in my childhood.)

Mrs. T's Best Mr. T


Kaczor was easily one of our favorite vendors, despite their outrageous attempts to influence votes for best vendor. They offered apple, cherry, blueberry, lemon and a classic savory pierogie. Their offerings were outrageously tasty. Michelle's Mobile Meals also served up some lovely potatoes. I'm talking about a mug of pierogies with cabbage, sausage and cheese. The only pierogie we did not like was the beer and bacon from Dorothy 6. Come one Dorothy 6, this is the Pittsburgh Pierogie Fest! Where's your A game?

Look at this clown drinking iced tea on Noah's Ark! If you are considering going to the Pierogie Fest - just do it. Your soul will thank you.  #CityOfDumplings

Scratch Food & Beverage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pittsburgh Bar Hopping

Planning a bar hop or pub crawl in Pittsburgh can be overwhelming when you consider all of the choices out there. Plus, there are always new establishments in the mix! With all you can choose from, putting together an itinerary that the whole group can enjoy doesn't have to be difficult. Here are some suggestions to throw into your list to ensure your bar hopping in the 'burgh is the best that it can be!

Spirit Lounge
This destination in Lawrenceville has been listed as one of the best bars in the country by national magazines, so you can trust that it's a worthy option for your night out with friends. With live music, especially delicious pizza, dance night entertainment, and a hipster ambience that attracts a diverse crowd...there's quite a lot to take in here! There are unique drink options to choose from such as the tomatillo margarita and hot cider, so come on by!

This restaurant is perfect for high quality dining and drinking in Shadyside! The wine and cocktail selection is pretty extensive with top contenders such as the Riviera style cocktail. Everybody who comes here can't get enough of the bread basket that includes freshly baked corn muffins, sourdough, and cheese biscuits. Save room for entrees such as Octopus Empanada, Lamb Shank Gnocchi, and Blue Cheese Souffle.

Piper's Pub
Piper's in the South Side has notable British and Irish influence on the menu with options like Fish and Chips, Shepherd's Pie, and Scottish Eggs. There's a warm, inviting interior that feels that makes you feel at home.  This is the perfect place to enjoy an Irish Coffee or authentic Guinness pour, but there are also countless other options to choose from if that's not up your alley.

Any time you plan on drinking with friends, you're going to want to account for safe transportation! It's the responsible thing to do. It's easy to reach for your phone to call for a taxi or swipe to an Uber, but there are much better options with a Pittsburgh Transportation Company It often works out to be around the same price per person when split up evenly, as well. However, this mode of professional transportation has many more features and space to socialize with friends. You'll be glad that you prepared for your Pittsburgh night out this way!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Luau at Biergarten - Hotel Monaco

By Guest Author Tuna Salmondarez

Earlier this summer Hotel Monaco's Biergarten put on an awesome Luau to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. If you've never stopped by Biergarten, you've got to check it out. They offer a great beer selection in addition to a wide variety of German food. Biergarten goes out of their way to do a fantastic job with all of the special events they host.

Unfortunately I was away officiating a wedding for the heir to the Coors Light fortune on the weekend of the event, so I sent my good friend Tuna to cover the festivities. According to Tuna the Kalua pork and cabbage were extremely flavorful and had a wonderful texture with a coconut finish. She enjoyed the comedians, music, live art and demonstrations - all of which made the event unique. . 

Although she was not a huge fan of the mahi mahi, Tuna loved the shrimp. She described them as buttery, well seasoned and well sized. (In case you are wondering, tuna actually do eat shrimp as reported by this wonderful maritime blog.)

In general, Tuna said it was a wonderful family friendly event with lots to offer. She also loved the fresh fruit and colorful clothes sported by the entertainers. I cannot come up with a reputable source as to whether or not tuna will eat fruit, so I guess we will just have to roll with it! Be sure to watch out for the third annual Endless Summer Luau for the Ronald McDonald house which should be scheduled in 2018.

Biergarten Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Let's talk about BBQ brisket. Until recently, I couldn't even recommend a restaurant in Pittsburgh where you could get some decent brisket. (Sorry Squirrel Hill, I'm not talking about corned beef.) Within the last few years quite a few options have emerged, but I was shocked at the high quality of the brisket and other BBQ offered by Spork.

Now, there is an on-going debate in this country as to whether or not many of the items on my plate  can be considered BBQ. American purists argue that only pork constitutes real BBQ and the rest is just food you happen to cook on a grill. This is, quite simply put, outrageous. Any meat smoked on a grill is BBQ. Trying to craft narrow parameters for the definition of BBQ based on the prevalence of the hog in the American south two hundred years ago is just pompous.

Pictured above is the pulled pork, ribs, brisket, smoked turkey, greens and potato salad. While the pulled pork was excellent, the brisket really stole the show. My second favorite item was actually the smoked turkey and I have to say that the greens were very good as well. On Wednesdays and Saturdays Spork opens their backyard to serve BBQ. Even though the full BBQ menu is only available certain days, many of the items on the normal menu are clearly inspired by the awesome custom built BBQ rig you can check out in their backyard.

Spork has an extremely well rounded menu. In addition to the wonderful BBQ food I was very impressed by their charcuterie. In my photo collage you can check out the pate plate which came with pork rillettes, country terrine and chicken liver mousse for a paltry $8! That's a good price for offal.

Some of our other favorites were the meatball, the honey glazed pizza, the smoked wings and the brisket. (Yes, I really got to try all of those items. What's the point of starting your own happy hour if you can walk around the bar with a fork trying all of your friend's snacks.)

A few notes, Giles really liked the sauce coverage on smoked his wings, which we all know is essential to his inner happiness. I'm more focused on texture and flavor when I sample wings, both of which were outstanding.

Momo loved her brisket. So much, in fact, that she ordered it two separate ways.  Spork had a brisket, rice and beans plate on their happy hour menu for $8 and a brisket ravioli as an entree.

My recommendation is to be sure to stop for the happy hour as their small plate prices are unbeatable for the quality. 

Spork Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Huszar - North Side

Huszar opened recently in a part of town that I believe may be the edge of the world. (It used to be a local dive called Recovery Room.) Basically Huszar lodged up against I-279 in between the North Side and Deutshtown, or as I like to call it, East Allegheny. There's a wonderful view of Pittsburgh rush hour traffic only steps from your bar stool.

There were so many dishes that I wanted to try on the Huszar menu that I basically gave up and ordered the most expensive item listed in order to appease my foolish sensibilities.

Pictured above is one of the most intimidating happy hour meals I've been served in ages. The Transylvanian Wooden Platter comes with chicken, pork, and steak served with fried potatoes and a couple of side salads. I shared this entree with four people and still had more than enough for dinner. It was a real bargain at $24.95. Out of the three meats the steak was my favorite, quite tender and flavorful.

On my next visit I would be interested to try the goulash, the taste of Huszar appetizer platter, the Hungarian burger, the chicken paprikash or the beef stew. Essentially every item on the menu is my soul animal. My experience at Huszar reminded me of my wonderful time in at Apostila in Prague several years back.

Gypsy Stringz

If you really want to explore all that Huszar has to offer, go check out one of their special events. Currently, the Gypsy Stringz band plays there once every other week and the bar gets packed. Start slowly with one of the Czech pilsners and work your way up to some slivovitz. Also be sure to make a reservation.

Huszar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Best of 'Burgh Party

These hats are outrageous.

Every year the readers of Pittsburgh Magazine vote on an enourmous variety of categories in order to determine who ranks amoung the best of the 'Burgh. The categories range from best trivia night to best bridal boutique with plenty of room inbetween for restaurants, clothing stores and bars. (They actually select over 100 winners according to their website.)

Below I have outlined what I consider to be the Best of the best of the 'Burgh. These were the highlights from Pittsburgh Magazine's annual party featuring the city's favorite establishments. I have to start by saying that if you are considering attending the event - please go. For $35 the ticket price is an outrageous steal. You can expect live demonstrations, free swag, tons of food and an evening of fantastic entertainment. Personally, I loved the ice carving demonstration.

Monterey Bay
I'm never suprised when I see Monterey Bey at any type of 'best of' event. They routinely serve up an excellent product. At the Best of the 'Burgh event they were absolutely killing it with some lobster rolls. Due to the portion size and the amount of lobster I'd say it was easily one of the most generous offerings at the event.(Not to mention the lobster rolls were incredible.)

Nakama offered a really great tuna taco which was easily the best of the best of the 'Burgh. I thought the tuna was so good that I actually went back and asked for a second serving even after they were out of the taco shells. I'm not above eating sushi out of my hand.

Mad Mex
Mad Mex is truly a restaurant group known for departing from traditional norms. If you've never had a Gobblerito, make a point to stop by and grab one this year. They are generally available starting in November. The best thing about Mad Mex is that they use Mexican food as vehicle for gastronomical innovation. Great work team!

Taj Mahal
The Chocolate Man

Taj Mahal was actually my favorite food vendor at the event. If you've never visited their buffet on McKnight road, I suggest that you make the trip immediatly. They were serving four different dishes at the Best of the 'Burgh party and I'd say that their presence alone justified the ticket price!

Taj Mahal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, June 17, 2017

City Brew Tours

Pittsburgh is the newest city to join the City Brew Tours family.  Their other cities include Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, Boston and Burlington. Apparently the owner, Chad Brodsky, got his start in Burlington running around town in lederhosen telling people to get into his suspicious van.

The current City Brew Tours van is much less suspicious and seats about 16 people. For $99 they will pick you up and drive you around to tour some of the following breweries: Spoonwood, Penn, Draai Laag, Cobblehaus, Couch, Allegheny City, Grist House, Aurochs and Hop Farm. They generally select which breweries your tour will visit, but can customize your tour upon request.

You can expect plenty to drink, some fun banter about the history of beer, an inclusive lunch paired with some local brews and a lot of information about the brewing process from the brewers themselves.

Auroch's was my second favorite stop of the day. It is located on Rt. 65, aka the Ohio River Boulevard in the last place you would look for a brewery. (Right next some establishment where you can wash your dog. How anyone would go somewhere other than their home to wash a dog makes no sense to me. Throw the beast in the tub or hose it off in the yard.)

An auroch is a type of extinct cow whose demise was thought to be brought on due to the expansion of agricultural development. The name is quite cute as Auroch's is a gluten free brewery. Their beer is made from quinoa and millet and uses a process that includes no gluten whatsoever. (Many other gluten free beers are made by stripping the gluten from the brew after the fact.) Their faux wheat beer and their session IPA were some of the best beers I tried on our tour. I could not even tell they were gluten free which was quite uprising.

I asked the brewers if they'd be interested in taking on a purine free beer. They didn't seem super interested. (The gout is brought on by the over consumption of purines which are extremely prevalent in beer.) The gout affects more people than gluten intolerance, and as such, I certainly hope to see some purine free beers in the US market soon. Several purine free beers exist in Japan, apparently they are not very good. For more information, check out this great reddit post.

We had a wonderful lunch at Hop Farm. As I said above, your lunch is included in your ticket price. We were treated to a buffalo chicken ceaser, soft pretzels, a beef slider and some gouda beer mac.  Each course was paired with a different beer, you can check out the pairings on the menu above. If you've been following my musings closely you are already aware that I simply love the food at Hop Farm and I have many nice things to say about them.

Carl hated all the beers. (I'm just kidding, he seemed to really enjoy them.) My favorite beers of the day were served by Draai Laag. I've always though of Draai Laag as a small time operation that played second fiddle to Millvalle's  Grist House. Boy was I wrong. Draai Laag is actually distributed in some 39 states throughout the country. Their beers are uniquely sour and yeasty in a way that makes me tingle. I've started drinking their products basically anywhere I can find them, and I can't wait to go back.

Overall, I have to say the beer tour was excellent! A ton of great information and a wonderful excuse to get out and enjoy the city. If you are considering booking a tour, just do it. You'll absolutely enjoy yourself.