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Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Queso, Pineapple Salsa and Hot Salsa
Of course you can customize your tacos almost anywhere, but how often are you given the opportunity to do so meticulously with a work sheet? Now that Bites and Brews has closed over in Shadyside, Condado is the new customization spot. Pictured above are the queso with chorizo, the pineapple guacamole and the ghost pepper salsa.  The queso was the crowd favorite. We scraped the bottom of the bowl.

On our two trips to Condado we tried the jackfruit, beef, chicken and the shrimp ceviche. One of my favorite options on the menu is the "sweet Lucy." For an extra dollar you can have a double decker style taco with a hard and soft shell along with queso and gauc. Most of the other options on the customization menu come at no additional charge.  For example, your choice of cheese, salsa, sauce and cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, etc. Also, be sure to add the bacon refried beans. We loved the damn things. 

Check that menu out! The possibilities are nearly endless. Actually, I attempted to do the math. I believe the number of possibilities is 40! which equals 8.159152832 E+47. I honestly do not think I can comprehend how much that is.

Out of the protein selections that I tried, the beef brisket and the shrimp ceviche were my favorites. The shrimp was outstanding, packed full of flavor and perfect for the sweet Lucy double decker style taco. The jackfruit was also a really unique choice. If you aren't familiar with jackfruit, don't be intimidated! It is really just a starchy filling that soaks up whatever sauce you use. I loved it, but I would always select meat over jackfruit, tofu, seitan or basically any veggie protein. Sorry vegetables.

I can't wait to go back and try the ghost pepper steak, brunch and awesome cocktail selection. (Be sure to check out happy hour too, you can't beat $3 margaritas.)

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

Thank you Modern Map Art!

Shout out to Modern Map Art for the awesome print! Please check out their site for all sorts of great stuff including phone cases and unique prints of the city.

Now I just need to take the time to highlight every place we've visited for happy hour over the last five years!

Friday, March 24, 2017


When I get sad I drink Campari in my attic. Personally I love the stuff. Pictured above is a negroni - according to my awesome bartender at Talia they will have them on tap once they get settled. If you've never had a negroni they are made with gin, vermouth and Campari. If you want to get sexy with Campari at home, here's a great list of recipes. Personally I adore the boulevardier.

Have you ever had hot olives? Generally I have not been impressed by them in the past.  I've always had the dish served in some type of rosemary lemon dressing. The hot olives at Talia were served with a pork salumi sauce that really tied them together. A unique dish in my humble opinion. I'm really looking forward to going back so that I can check out the salumi board and cheese board on the menu. Based on what was offered at the tasting I'm certain they will be fantastic.

Out of the various samples we tried the beef tartare was probably my favorite. They did a great job, perfect texture and flavor with a nice balsamic tomato twist. On my next visit I'm really looking forward to sampling the spaghett and the Italiano pizza with speck, sopresetta and hen of the woods! I never see exotic mushrooms on menus, this is a very exciting development.

Also, if you are wondering if I spelled spaghetti incorrectly, I did not. That is how they have it on the menu, just like my favorite Tim and Eric character.

Talia Cucina & Roticceria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Social House 7

White Fish Carpaccio
The first thing that struck me about Social House 7 was the unique name. I found it intriguing and reminiscent of the Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse Five.

The next thing that stood out was the decor. It is immaculate. I really love how they've made the place up. (See if you can find the koi fish when you walk in.) I firmly believe that Social House 7 was created because someone at the AMPD Restaurant group said, "how can we capitalize on the success of Nakama in the Southside. "

Social House 7 has a more grandiose decor than Nakama and an overall better aesthetic, however, the food is roughly the same in terms of quality.  That is to say - it is not very good. You can check out my 2012 review of Nakama here. I honestly don't think I've been back to Nakama since that visit.

The AMPD group's Steel Cactus appears to be an attempt to similarly capitalize on the success of Mad Mex. When did ideas for restaurants become so scarce? I guess Pittsburgh restaurateurs are running out of steam like the 70's steel industry.

My first concern regarding the establishment was very grave. The girl next to me at the bar ordered a sake and they stated that it could not be done as the sake machine was broken. The bartender's explanation for the lack of sake made absolutely no sense and sent me into a tailspin of panic.

My concerns were confirmed by my $15 white fish carpaccio dish. (Pictured above.) The fish was not cut thin enough to be marketed as carpaccio and the plate was simply too barren for the price point. It is worth noting that I have also had the eel roll from Social House 7 twice and I thought it was perfectly acceptable. This is the nicest thing I have to say.

Previously I had used the spelling of carpaccio from the Social House 7 menu in this review, which turned out to be incorrect. A special thank you to my foodie friend Nik H. for pointing out the error of my ways. (You should be concerned about eating carpaccio at a restaurant that does not know how to spell carpaccio. You should be equally weary of any food blogger that also cannot spell carpaccio.)

This was my coconut fried rice with fish sauce, cilantro and coconut milk. For an up-charge they will also put some really bad chicken on top of your rice haphazardly. The rice itself was actually pretty good but the chicken was overcooked and tough. (Possibly definitely koi fish.) From my two very brief visits I have to say that the street food seems to outshine the sushi. I will be going back to confirm that this is the case and to see if the giant koi fish in the doorway live through the lingering winter.

. Social House 7 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Monterey Pub

I would have to say that 'cozy' is the perfect word to describe the Monterey Pub. The tiny bar and dining area are packed with character, a rowdy cast of regulars and the type of food that really reminds you of the humble beginnings of the Steel City. 

Pictured above are the pub fries with heaps of cheese and Guinness shredded beef. They were remarkably tasty and it was absolutely necessary to share the order with a friend. The amount of beef and cheese layered on top of the crisp fries were easily worthy of a separate sandwich.

In addition to sporting all sorts of traditional Irish fare (bangers, boxties and shepards' pies, oh my.) Monterey also features a variety of rag-tag melting pot specials throughout the week. Pasta night, Mexican night and burger night just to name a few.

One of the favorite dishes of the evening was the chicken and waffle nachos. Belgian waffles with syrup, bacon, some immaculate fried chicken and a jalapeno berry jam. The fried chicken itself was extraordinarily succulent and memorable. Just look at that face.

Views have changed in the last few years as to what causes high cholesterol, however, I'm certain my three courses at Monterey Pub would not be approved by any state bonded cardiologist.

Possibly the most interesting dish on the menu is 'Will Smith's Stoner Pie.'  It includes fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and melted cheese.  For an extra dollar you can get it 'OG' style with bacon. Of course, this reminded me of a quote by one of my favorite celebrities.

“We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.”

 -Will Smith

Monterey Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Hop Farm Lawrenceville

It is basically impossible to believe the explosion of breweries throughout the Pittsburgh area over the last several years. For a city that had only two breweries for the last twenty years, I'd venture to say that we currently have more than ten. This is just wonderful. Additionally, the variety of beers now offered has grown exponentially. Growing up in Pittsburgh, your choices were lager, pilsner, or light. Hop Farm on the other hand offered a fantastic variety of beers including a nitro coffee stout and a black IPA. (I'm actually planning to go back and try all the beers I missed.)

I've been to Hop Farm a number of times, but I had no idea that they served food. Pictured above is the gouda mac and cheese. It was actually penne and cheese and it was basically an entire bowl of cheese soup. It was delicious and quite indulgent. I would not recommend trying to eat an order of this by yourself.

Although Hop Farm has a regular menu, Thursday is their taco night. They serve goat, pork and tofu tacos as well as a pork burrito. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the tacos. A nice sized portion of meat, a decent tortilla and pretty good toppings. The goat was significantly better than the pork. Much juicer and better flavored. I was shocked when I noticed that no one else from my party had ordered the goat.

I think goat gets a bad rap. It seems entirely overlooked in the American diet along with mutton and hogget. Be adventurous! Try the goat and Apis mead and lose those inhibitions when visiting Hop Farm.

Hop Farm Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato