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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Penn Brewery First Ave Taproom and Kitchen

Want to talk about an unmitigated disaster?! Let's talk about Penn Brewery's new Taproom downtown. So I spent several weeks talking with one of their employees in order to setup an extended happy hour. He said it would be no problem to extend their specials until 7pm. On the day of the event he was a no show and the manager said the offer to extend could not be honored. The manager said that his computer system would not allow him to extend the special. (We've actually heard this a variety of times from other establishments.) What a disappointment.

If you manage to make happy hour the special includes $2 off all drafts and $6 wings and pretzels. The meat plate, pictured above, wasn't half bad.  The Taproom only serves Penn Brewery products, they also had an Arsenal Cider on tap.

The manager was very nice and the staff was very helpful as well.  However, I never got the chicken wings that I ordered. I tried one of my friend's wing and it wasn't particularly good, so I decided to just let it go. At least they didn't try to charge me for the wings that I never received.

Overall, it is a very nice bar even though it is small and located in an odd space. I'd recommend waiting to visit until they get a bit more settled. It took them too long figure out our tabs at the end of the evening, I think they just aren't well situated for larger groups at the moment.

These were the bad wings.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Sheetz #projectcoffeehopz

We were fortunate enough to be invited to the unavailing of a new Sheetz product! #projectcoffeehopz is a special product release by Sheetz and Rusty Rail Brewing - they've unleashed an IPA flavored with coffee. You can now get the product at select Sheetz, more information is available here.

It was very smooth and pretty tasty! They were also kind enough to provide us with some wonderful treats. Some of our favorite dishes throughout the night were the pierogi pot stickers, the warm doughnut bites, and the crispy bacon pops. Overall it was a great event and we were very fortunate to be included! The event was hosted by J Verno Studios, check out a great video of us scaring our friend below.

Great job Sheetz and Rusty Rail! I can't wait to see what you guys think up next.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Chili Cook Off

Since I know you ingrates are only here to read the rankings and then disagree with me even though you didn't try any of the chili, I've placed the rankings at the top of this post. Please continue below to read my notes on each chili and my thoughts on the first annual South Side Chili Cook-Off. Overall, it was a great time!

Here are the rankings you ungrateful cretins. 

1. White Eagle (Chef Steven Michalak)
2. Smiling Moose
3. Rugger's Pub
4. Tiki Lounge (Community Kitchen Pgh)
5. 12 Whiskey BBQ
6. 1311
7. South Side BBQ
8. Mario's
9. The Flats
10. Casey's
11. Cupka's 2
12. Primanti's
13. Double Wide
14. Archie's
15. Steel Cactus
16. Local

1. White Eagle (Chef Steven Michalak)

So chef Steven was described to me as a traveling chef. He explained that in the past he had worked as an executive chef for Garth Brooks, among a number of other different celebs.

His chili was phenomenal. Top finest, best in show. For my money, it could have had less beans. However, he still managed to best every goon in the South Side in terms of chili quality. It is not good for our neighborhood that an outsider won the competition, but such is life.

Chef used hot sausage, ground beef and pineapple to make a remarkable chili that really stood apart from the rest. Apparently Gina, the owner of the White Eagle, is a second mother to him. What a beautiful world. 

2. Smiling Moose

Smiling Moose consistently puts out some of the best food in the South Side.  I'm always impressed that a bar that has so much going on in terms of live entertainment finds the time to put together such good food. The chef called their chili WOW chili because it makes you say WOW. It was a mixture of beef and pork with a tequila lime sour cream and a very sweet and tangy flavor profile. It had a really fantastic flavor profile, but I could not rank it number one as it was too sweet for my liking. (I understand though chef, you have to cook for the public!)

Smiling Moose Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3. Rugger's Pub

The people that hang out at Ruggers and the people that work at Ruggers are my people. If I could change one thing about the South Side, I would move Ruggers closer to my home. I love them and their food is so good. They had a smoky beef chili with fire roasted tomatoes. It needed more heat, but it was great. Better than the chili you make at home, you slob.

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

4. Tiki Lounge (Community Kitchen Pgh)

Tiki Lounge. What a place. One time some girl tried to fuck me in the closet on the landing in between the first and second floor. I didn't put out. The same night she left me and found her current spouse. Isn't life a trip?

I wanted to rank this chili higher, it was remarkable. Top round with a mole sauce, great sized chunks of meat. The best meat in the entire competition. They made their chili with no beans, it was awesome. This was one of the finest chilis of the day. Also, they are supporting a great cause. Community Kitchen helps people transition into the workforce after incarceration. If you desire a better world, you should support them.  (Community Kitchen Pgh)

5. 12 Whiskey BBQ

Twelve Whiskey BBQ was my first stop of the tour. Their chili was wonderful, it was made with a blend of brisket and pork and it had a heavy tomato base and light beans. The server told me that it was made by his father, the proprietor of the establishment. This chili was so good it could have easily been in the top three.

Twelve Whiskey Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

6. 1311

1311 is an establishment that I've been frequenting for many years. It is one of the most fun bars in the South Side and the bartenders are great. Their chili had my favorite spice profile of the day, it was nice and hot and it left my lips tingly and warm. It was a bit heavy on the beans for my tastes which is the only reason I did not rank it higher. The types of meat used to make the chili were unknown to the bartenders.

Apparently the owner of 1311 made the chili and is a well trained cook. Kristi told me that he used to work at a restaurant called Pasta Too in Bethel Park and it is one of the best restaurants in town. Watch out ladies on dating apps, swipe right on me and you might be going to Pasta Too in the near future.

1311 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

7. South Side BBQ

South Side BBQ is a real staple of the neighborhood, we've visited for happy hour in the past. They had one of the more unique dishes of the day as they were serving their smoked brisket chili with a sprinkle of optional ghost pepper dust.  The smoke flavor really came through and the ghost pepper dust added a delightful bite - it really kicked me in the nasal passage. My only complaint is that the chili was too bean heavy and my sampling cup didn't have enough meat! Bonus points for allowing guests to ring the bell if they tried the ghost pepper dust.

South Side BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

8. Mario's

Mario's is always a solid spot. We've been visiting them for happy hour for many years. In case you are wondering, Mario's South Side is better than Mario's East Side and we ran the math to prove it. The type of meat used in the Mario's chili was unknown to our server as the chef had left for the day. I tasted cumin and possibly hot sausage. My chili sidekick Mark described the chili as, "very conventional." He was correct.

Mario's Southside Saloon/Blue Lou's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

9. The Flats

The chili at the flats was made by a bartender named Phil. When I asked Phil what type of meat he used to make the chili he simply remarked, "hamburger." It was nice and tangy, less thick and had a heavy onion base. It wasn't spicy enough and was not bad, but it wasn't great either. Pretty much the standard chili you'd expect if someone invited you over for chili.

10. Casey's

Mike made this chili, he is the owner of Casey's. It tasted heavily of BBQ sauce and more spice was needed. The types of meat used were unknown. Casey's is only ranked at number ten due to having the most handsome bartender. The chili was not good.

11. Cupka's 2

Richie, I love you dawg, but you have to work on that chili recipe. Here are some quotes I solicited from friends. "It tastes like sand." - MB "It tastes like Skyline chili, it would be better on spaghet." - KB

The chili had no bite, no flavor, no rai·son d'ê·tre. One time I left my briefcase at Cupkas I. I called the bar to let them know. I went back to pick it up, explained that I had called in and I had left my bag there. The bartender looked at a note on my briefcase and said, "story checks out." I saw the note, it said, "a guy left this here."

Cupka's II Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

12. Primanti's

Primanti's served their standard chili. I'll preface by saying that I generally like their chili, but it was lukewarm when we arrived. It wasn't great, I didn't finish it. Also, too heavy on the kidney beans for my tastes. You have to show up for competition day Primanti's!!! The whole city is behind you.

Primanti Brothers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

13. Double Wide

Double Wide used to have great food. Once upon a time I recommended that people go there.  Oh, how giants fall. Terrible chili. The women seemed to like it though. Do you really think you can win a chili competition with vegetarian chili? I would venture to say it is possible, but not with this slop.

Double Wide Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

14. Archie's

First of all, Archie is the man. I love his chicken wings and everything I've ever been served at Archie's is awesome. However, the chili is not good.

Arch, I think your batch towards the end of the competition might have been burnt. Something was certainly off. We didn't finish our chili and we snuck out the door like shy children. Afraid to tell pap pap that the chili was bad. 

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

15. Steel Cactus

The only reason that Steel Cactus didn't finish dead last is that somehow their sister restaurant just barely managed to make a worse showing. This chili was both burnt and ice cold. A true disappointment. I told the hostesses that if this was how they were going to compete they might as well not compete at all as they were just making themselves look bad.

We've been to Steel Cactus before, I don't recommend it highly, but the specials are pretty good. #sadmex

Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurant & Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

16. Local

This was absolutely the worst chili of the day. It was served ice cold and was completely lacking in flavor. I could not taste any seasoning. I would compare this chili to unseasoned Italian red sauce with beans. The only reason I'm ranking this chili lower than Steel Cactus is that it was served next to a dripping ceiling and there was no indication that a chili competition was even occurring as there was not a crock-pot on site nor a dedicated server. Just 5 cups of ice cold chili sitting out under a dripping ceiling. Quite frankly, it might have been the same chili that was served by Steel Cactus as the restaurants are owned by the same folks.

I do not mind going to brunch at Local as I love their upstairs patio. However, if you've been following my posts you would know that they served me raw chicken wings several years ago. This chili gets a 0/10,

I met a couple when I started the chili competition at my second stop. They told me that they had made almost every stop but they avoided Local because they thought it would be a waste of time. They sure were right.

Local Bar + Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Overall, it was not a bad run for a first attempt by the show-runners. I have a litany of complaints I won't bore you with, but the main two are that they should have provided guests with printed hand outs of the locations and they should have ensured that participating bars weren't fucking around. Totally worth the ticket price though, great job!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

La Palapa Revisited

Taco Time
I'm a huge supporter of La Palapa. I've been rocking with them since they were located a little further down Carson Street and we even stopped by last year for a magical happy hour.

I was overjoyed to hear that they were hosting a new Monday night event featuring all you can eat tacos and some of the best DJs in town. For $10 you seriously get entertainment and unlimited tacos. Certainly there is no better time to be alive. (They also rock $3.50 Coronas and $6.00 Margaritas for taco night.) You may purchase tickets in advance or pay at the door.

So the taco selection changes monthly and one taco changes weekly. The selection features one meat, one vegetarian and one special taco. The event is so new that I cannot really give you much guidance on what to expect other than when I visited the options were chicken, pork, and bean and mushroom. They will only allow you to order three tacos at a time.

I had one of each and really enjoyed all of them. My only complaint was that they are placing a lining of rice in each taco, presumably to help keep their costs within a reasonable margin. After all,  they can't possibly be making money by offering unlimited tacos for $10.

Instead of rice they should just give guests the option of lettuce, tomatoes and onions or serve tacos that are a little less filled. I like a bit more roughage in my tacos and I don't think it would significantly affect their margins to give us some vegetables.

I only managed to eat three tacos so they probably made money on my ass or at least broke even. My friend Eric went for five, I think he regretted his decision.

This is TJ, he is your host for this event and also a great dude. I saw him eat four tacos, what a badass.

Now when it comes to taco strategy, TJ had a solid theory. He mentioned that patrons are ordering their tacos sans shells in order to really capitalize on protein. Bold move folks! Maybe those people are the reason we are getting rice in our tacos. (Jerks.)

Photo Compliments of BC1

Possibly the best part of unlimited taco night, SICK DJs!!! This is Tom, he's a pretty cool dude. Overall, this is one of the best events taking place in Pittsburgh on Monday nights. I highly recommend stopping by.

La Palapa Cocina Gourmet Mexicana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


The decor of Burn doesn't really make a ton of sense in comparison to the rest of the establishments on the North Shore. Just about every bar on the North Shore is going for some type of sports theme or something centered around whimsical knickknacks, like a Pirate themed TGI Fridays or a Hockey Steeler themed Shenanigans.

Then there is Burn by Rocky Patel. If words could describe Burn, those words would be, "an art deco style bar designed by a Vegas whore with limited taste and loose morals." In other words - I loved it.

I don't think there is a single place in Pittsburgh that looks more like Vegas. Some of the other great benefits were awesome live music, $5 wine and $7 cocktails and 25% off of Johnny Walker spirits for happy hour. (Heads up to bars, having a special where you describe a spirit as being 25% off is not very helpful to patrons.)

When I asked Eric what he thought about the pizza he said, "the pizza adequately represented pizza." It was fine, but for the price it could have been better/bigger or they at least could have used a little more sauce. 

I highly recommend checking out Burn, especially if you like a good cigar.  The service is great, but we found some of the cocktails to be a little sugary and watered down.

Monday, April 22, 2019


Soju is one of the more interesting Pittsburgh restaurant openings from the last year. The space is warm and intimate and features a beautiful bar with lots of that wood paneling that is currently fashionable. Pictured above are the kim-chi pancake, fried tofu, rice cakes and bibim bap.

I genuinely enjoyed all of the food I sampled during happy hour. The tofu and pancake were two of my favorites and the beef I managed to snag off of some stranger's plate was also remarkably good. I was not a fan of the Korean rice cakes (Tteokbokki), but that's because I just don't like rice cakes.

Korean rice cakes have an extremely glutinous texture that could be compared to super soggy gnocchi. They really don't have much flavor on their own and rely heavily on the accompanying sauce. I would compare chocking down Korean rice cakes to chewing on some old flavorless bubble gum that has been left out in the sun to decompose and then covered in a spicy red sauce. Gross.

In general, the prices were fantastic for happy hour. You can expect $2 soju shots, half off craft beers and a discounted specialty cocktail that rotates daily. Most of the food was reasonably priced as well with the exception of a side dish of kim-chi, which I believe was $6. (I can get a whole jar of kim-chi for that price, or even better make a whole gallon of it!)

The cheesecake was also quite interesting, it was light and airy, somewhat different from the traditional New York style cheesecake to which I am accustomed. I feel obligated to point out that the bartenders were extremely nice and accommodating to us, but this place really isn't ideal for larger groups due to their size. Go check them out in addition to Pittsburgh's annual Korean Food Bazaar which should be coming up sometime in May.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

5 New Cocktail Destinations in Pittsburgh

Sponsored by Party Bus Pittsburgh PA

Bartenders at Spirits and Tales

Here are five new fantastic destinations for drinks to consider checking out in and around Pittsburgh. Remember, safe transportation is inherently important any time you decide on drinking with friends. For more information on transportation options, check out Party Bus Pittsburgh PA. In the meantime, read on for more details on these fresh establishments in the area.

Alta Via
Italian American cuisine
46 Fox Chapel Road in Blawnox
This newly opened Italian restaurant in Blawnox has an intimate atmosphere as well as high quality food and drinks that all will enjoy. From classic Italian cocktails like the Negroni and Basil Margarita to an extensive wine list, there's quite a lot to take in when it comes to the drink menu.

Wolfie's Pub
Traditional pub
274 Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh
Come enjoy the low key environment and welcoming staff at this new pub in downtown Pittsburgh. We're sure you will love their inventive drinks here. Don't leave without trying their "Grandma's Liberation Libation" which is a draft beer of your choice, a shot of whiskey, and a piece of hard candy.

412 Brewery Taproom
847 Western Avenue in Pittsburgh
While the brewery itself is located in McKees Rocks, this newly opened taproom near the North side is a smaller establishment with an industrial vibe. Why not enjoy a flight of awesome brews at this taproom? The orange IPA is extremely tasty and the perfect addition to any day with the warmer weather.

Spirits & Tales
Cocktail bar
5130 Bigelow Boulevard
This cocktail bar is located inside of the Oaklander Hotel. You are sure to be impressed by the ambience as soon as you walk in. Their hand crafted cocktails are made with local spirits, so you can feel good knowing that you're supporting local businesses when you come here for some drinks with friends.

Kingfly Spirits
2613 Smallman Street in Pittsburgh
This craft distillery, cocktail bar and event venue is making a splash over in the Strip District. Seemingly every detail has been thought out here, down to their ice cubes adorned with their butterfly logo. Tasting pours are $4 for an ounce, and their cocktails are very affordable at $9 when you consider the size.

Brought to you by Party Bus Pittsburgh PA

Monday, March 18, 2019

Kingfly Spirits

Wow, Kingfly Spirits  - talk about a hip little spot! In the beautifully renovated brick building that used to be home to the Spaghetti Warehouse you will now find mood lighting, jazz, and pure romance.

Before we can discuss Kingfly, I actually need to talk about Spaghetti Warehouse for just a minute. The chain restaurant is the proud owner of top notch domain likely coveted by cousins Vinny everywhere - I feel like they either employed some internet wiz-kid in 1996 or they paid some serious gabagool to snag such a magnificent domain name. Domain names are in short supply for restaurants these days. Also, check out this wonderful review of the now closed Spaghetti Warehouse from Gabriel P. of Yelp.

"This place is a disaster. First, the decor in reminiscent of some sort of condemned fun-house.  The lighting is dark and dank, kind of like a dungeon or a serial killer's basement. The floors and booths all kind of tilt downward to the east, just ever so perceptibly, so you're not really sure if it's real or if you're just imagining it. Maybe the whole place is built on top of an old graveyard full of Italian Grandmas that roll over every time someone sits down for dinner there. The service is really spotty too. The receptionists seem a bit befuddled. The servers seem miserable and exhausted, like they work about 48 hour straight shifts. Or they're just high. Not that I blame them. If I worked there, I'd probably want to get high before I came in to work too."

That's possibly one of the best written Yelp reviews of all time. I don't understand how being seated to the east creates the perception of nothingness, but hey, great job Gabriel! Someone get old Gabriel a nice plate of the gabagool.

Now, back to Kingfly. They really had some great spiced rum, some of the best I've had. I also particularly enjoyed my rickey (bourbon highball with lime and soda), they even make their own soda water.

I would not recommend showing up hungry.  We visited only shortly after the grand opening but the only real options were some nuts and a few dips. I did in fact enjoy the smoked eggplant dip, but then I nearly starved to death after a few cocktails. Overall a great date spot - a bit expensive - but worth it for the ambiance.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Pierogie Fest

The Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival sure has grown up in the last several years. From humble beginnings this festival has turned into what is probably one of the top Pierogi Festivals in the world! (I really have no point of reference to base this on, so let's just say one of the top Pierogi Festivals in the United States.)

I'll never forget my first Pierogi Festival. The event was so well received that they ran out of Pierogi within the first couple of hours. The location was basically, "a van down by the river" in the South Side Works. Boy has this festival grown  - you can now try pierogi from almost all of the major players in Pittsburgh.

I wanted to drop some serious pierogi knowledge on my readers. Did you know that "pierogi" is already the plural of the word? So if you are stealing one dumping from a friedn be sure to ask for a "pierog." You can learn a number of other wonderful facts about pierogi here! 

In no particular order, our favorite pierogi were: S&D Polish Deli, Holy Ghost and Michelle's Mobile. All vendors we were able to sample did a wonderful job of getting the pierogies to the people! Lines were long at times but moved very fast. I'd say that the one item you simply cannot miss is the Polish platter from S&D Deli.

Also pictured below, a delicious crepe from the Pgh Crepes Truck and a guest appearance by Kenny!