Tag Archives: dining

Comfort Food, All the Way @BurgatoryBar

6 Mar

I planned to do a post that is actually not about food today, but then the snow came pouring down, and it’s so cold and dreary out, that I just couldn’t help myself.  It’s time for comfort food.

When Pittsburgh jumped on the burger craze bandwagon a couple years back, the local burger mainstays of Tessaro’s and Fat Heads were joined by the likes of BRGR, Burgatory and Wingharts Burger and Whiskey Bar.  I’ve diligently made my rounds to all of them, and must say that Burgatory is my favorite.  The downside of Burgatory is that it seems to be everyone’s favorite.  The last time I wanted to go there for dinner on a Saturday night, I looked up their online reservation page and the wait was five hours.  Suspecting that this absolutely must be some kind of website glitch (why would a restaurant even keep a five hour waiting list?) I called. It wasn’t a glitch. The wait really was five hours.  Needless to say, we didn’t get dinner there that night, and we don’t have the opportunity to go very often.

On the way home from the airport on Monday evening, I needed Burgatory. Like to my very core. There would be no making it home if there was no stop at Burgatory first.  Lucky for us, at 7 pm on this Monday evening, there was no wait whatsoever. 

I spend entirely too much time reading and drooling over the specials listed in Burgatory’s twitter feed.  I was dying to have the Chai shake that was on special for last weekend, but sad for me, the weekend shake specials really are limited to the weekend.  I was brokenhearted, but opted for the Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte shake instead, spiked nicely with Amaretto.  It was sweet and creamy and everything that makes an excellent shake excellent.  I’m usually a chocolate shake drinker, but the almond flavor of this shake was delightful.  My only complaint about the shake is that I can’t finish it without getting ill.  The shake is enormouse milkshake size, and comes with the mixer cup with even more shake in it.  It’s perfect for sharing, but Mr. Beez and I don’t have matching shake tastes. It would be perfect if they could offer a 12 oz mini shake.  Until then, I’ll just have to leave a lot of shake pathetically un-drunk. Ah well.

I love that they offer a make-your-own burger option, with a huge variety in toppings, sauces, rubs, etc.  Too bad for me that I get too excited about ALL THE TOPPINGS and want everything, and inevitably end up with some disgusting combination of like guacamole, pancetta and a fried egg with kona coffee rub.  Yeesh.  Mr. Beez goes for the pick-your-own menu, and since I am unskilled at such selections, I stick to the menu.  I went for the Meat Your Maker burger, which featured dry aged wagyu beef with a sweet onion crust, gruyere, roasted tomatoes, field greens and truffled shallot aioli.  It was heavenly. I could go for another one right now.

Because Mr. Beez and I fail at parenting (or from Baby Beez’ perspective, we are awesome) we let Baby Beez have her own vanilla milkshake.  This meant that she totally ignored her hot dog, carrots, and chips. But I guess it’s not all a loss. She got plenty of dairy that night from the shake. Healthy bones, healthy teeth, folks!

Burgatory Bar on Urbanspoon

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A Romantic Evening at Brasserie 33

25 Feb

Brasserie 33 constantly runs Groupon specials for a price fixe dinner or lunch.  In general, I’ve found that restaurants begrudgingly accept Groupons.  Such is not the case with Brasserie 33.  They are thrilled to have their Groupon patrons! And don’t let the price fixe setup scare you away, either– the price fixe menu features the restaurants best loved dishes in ample portions.

I love that Brasserie 33 has a small wine list, but that you can also bring your own, with a small corkage fee.  You can’t have a French meal without wine, and our wine fridge has been overflowing lately (yes, we are wine fridge people…truth be told, we have two wine fridges!) so it was nice to have the luxury of a dinner out but also get to enjoy some of that wine that has been crowding up the house.

The price fixe menu includes the selection of a soup or salad, an appetizer to share, an entree and a dessert.  Each dish we tried was rich, flavorful and all around delicious.

I started my meal with the French Onion Soup.

This soup was perfect.  The only potential downside was that it was extremely filling.  In my typical style, I couldn’t bear to only eat some of it.  I ate it all, and as a result was already pretty full by the time we moved on to the starters.

For our starter, we shared the escargot.  I can’t recall what all the options were, but Mr. Beez and I did have quite a time trying to decide between them.

The escargot was a bit heavy with garlic, but it was prepared well and very tasty.

For my entree, I had the blanquette de veau.

Oh wow was this amazing.  It is an absolutely perfect comfort food. The stew was creamy and the flavors subtle.  I was pretty full even by the time I started this, but the taste was so delicious that I ate it slowly, waiting for digestion to give me just a little more room in my belly to keep eating.  Slowly but surely, I finished the whole darn thing.  I needed a nap afterward, boy did I ever.

Mr. Beez opted for the cassoulet, and he was extremely pleased with his selection as well

Again, Brasserie 33 was right on the mark with a flavorful offering that warmed the belly.

Even though we hardly had room for dessert, we stubbornly refused to depart without indulging in sweets.  I went for my usual favorite of a creme brulee and a coffee.  The custard was cold and crust was sweet and crispy, so delicious.

The staff was friendly and attentive, quick to fill our glasses, and eager to make sure that we were enjoying our meal.  We had a truly lovely date.  I noticed that there were several negative reviews on UrbanSpoon, and found our experience was not at all like the bad customer service described.  Our visit was very early in the evening with all the olds, so we avoided the issue of a busy or overwhelmed staff.  I’m an old boring lady and like going to dinner early anyway.  I’m too hungry to wait til 8pm to eat!

Brasserie 33 on Urbanspoon

A Belly-Filling Brunch .@TinFrontCafe

17 Feb

A few weeks back, the Beez family piled into the car, rolled down the High Level Bridge, and joined friends for brunch at the Tin Front Cafe. Baby Beez is an early napper and brunch time tends to be the witching hour.    We got lucky on this particular Sunday and she behaved more like a baby than a banshee. We managed to have a charming brunch.

I kicked things off with a generously-portioned bloody mary.

Salty, tomato-y and all things wonderful.  They also offer one with horseradish infused vodka, but I was afraid that the kick was more than my delicate sinuses could handle.

The Tin Front Cafe has a varied menu of hearty stick-to-your ribs vegetarian fare, but I also love that they have a small buffet that goes along with your brunch entree.  On this particular day they offered chili with chili-toppings and cornbread, potatoes, salad, cookies and to die for banana chocolate chip mini muffins.  The mini buffet was a lifesaver for brunching with a toddler.  Toddlers, and Baby Beez is no exception, are not known for their patience when hungry. We always order for her as soon as we are seated, but it was nice to be able to give her some food immediately.

For my entree I went for the polenta with ratatouille and veggie sausage.  It was a very cold day outside, and this selection was delicious and belly filling.

Along with the typical brunch fare of french toast, pancakes etc, there was a breakfast burrito on that menu that I was dying to try (next time! next time!). As Greenfielders, Tin Front is super close in Homestead.  The on street parking is very easy on Sunday mornings.  The cafe staff were friendly and attentive.  The cafe was all around excellent.  Tin Front is a brunch gem.
The Tin Front Cafe on Urbanspoon

Fancy People at the Fancy Steakhouse

23 Oct

Mr. Beez loves steakhouses. His usual request for his birthday dinner is “a steak as big as my head!” We had a Morton’s gift card from back when we planned to go there for his birthday in May. We didn’t go then, because we had just gone to our most-insane-dinner-on-earth at Per Se, and were a bit scared off from expensive dining for a while.

Steakhouses aren’t really my style. I’m not against them, I can reliably find a tasty meal at a steakhouse. I just feel like if I’m going to spend a huge chunk of cash on a fine meal, I’d like for it to be memorably innovative. Steakhouses are predictable, and predictable dining isn’t quite my thing.

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Mr. Beez, our friend David, and I went to the Pittsburgh Opera to see Rigoletto a couple Sundays ago, and followed the performance with fancy dinner at Mortons.

We had the New Orleans Shrimp appetizer, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Shrimp and butter and cream and bread? Yum.

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I chose the salmon for my entree. I’m failing at putting together a description. They made a good dish of it, because they are Morton’s and that’s what they do.

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I LOVE BROCCOLI.
Really, I do.

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I also love wine. I wonder if those huge wine bottles are just decoration, or if every once in a while some high roller comes in and orders one. Yum yum wine.

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If you are wondering what to get me for my birthday, you can get me THAT bottle of wine!
Morton's - the Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Hello City of Brotherly Love!

1 Oct

I arrived in Philly last night. I worked in my firm’s Philly office today, and tomorrow I’m off to the Pennsylvania Conference for Women! YAAAAY! I’m super excited!

I’m staying with a friend from law school, and when we arrived last night, we stopped for a drink and a bite at her neighborhood bar, The Devil’s Den. They have an impressive selection of beers on tap, and tasty tavern food.

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Spicy BBQ duck flatbread and a pumpkin ale!

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Philly Cheesesteak– this was really excellent!

I have never really had a “neighborhood bar” where I’ve been a regular. The closest I’ve had to that is maybe when I took up residence at various Pittsburgh coffee houses while studying for the bar exam. I am also so obsessed with trying out new places that it doesn’t leave much time for returning to the same place over and over.

Are you a “regular” at any particular restaurant or bar? What watering hole do you call “home”?
Devil's Den on Urbanspoon

DeLuca’s in the Strip

3 Sep

DeLuca’s is one of those Pittsburgh institutions that I was simply ashamed that I’ve never visited, despite now living in the ‘burgh for more than TWELVE YEARS.  I had brunch plans with some of my lovely lady friends, and suggested DeLuca’s to finally remedy this shortfall in my Pixburgh credibility.

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We planned for a 9:30 brunch (breakfast?) on a Sunday. Dude, that’s early for a weekend. But DeLuca’s is known for long lines, and we managed to bypass that problem by getting there so early. By the time we left, the line was well out the door and wrapped its way down the sidewalk.

DeLuca’s is staffed by the typical surly diner waitress types.  It adds to the charm.  Like Pamela’s, DeLuca’s is annoyingly cash only, but there are several ATM’s very close by. One of my least favorite part of Pamela’s is getting yelled at by the hostess, and not being seated until everyone in your party has arrived.  DeLuca’s will seat you if you’re still waiting for people, which is VERY much appreciated for a restaurant in the Strip District, where the parking is always dicey, and despite rigid planning and best intentions, it’s impossible for your party to all get there around roughly the same time.

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DeLuca’s menu is HUGE. They have all kinds of eggs, pancakes, etc. offerings. They had something like 6 different kinds of Benedicts. I chose the California Benedict, with avocado and tomato and a pesto hollandaise.  It was so good.  The menu also has a huge selection of ice cream sundae pancakes, but my stomach just couldn’t handle that much sugar in the morning. I NEED to go back there to try those out sometime soon.

The only area where I think Pamela’s has a leg up on DeLuca’s is in the homefries department.  Pamela’s Lyonnaise Potatoes are unmatched by any breakfast potato I’ve ever tried. (Caveat: I’m not much of a pancake person, so I’m not getting into the Pamela’s crepe pancakes vs. other pancakes discussion).  But DeLuca’s massive selection, the delicious quality of their comfort breakfast foods, their willingness to seat our party while some members (me) were still on their way, and their willingness to split the bill without a hassle, all make DeLuca’s my preferred diner.

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What camp do you fall in? Pamela’s or DeLuca’s? Or do you have a different favorite Pittsburgh diner entirely?

 Deluca's on Urbanspoon

Alma Restaurant

23 Aug

Mr. Beez and I went on a double date with our foodie friends, Christine and Trav, to Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen. Alma is in the Regent Square neighborhood, and offers a “latin fusion” type menu. They are participating in Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, and have offered a special price fixe menu for the occasion. Alma has been talked up significantly lately (see for example praise from Pittsburgh Magazine’s Brazen Kitchen), and I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends who have visited there.

Alma has a diverse cocktail menu and a manageable wine list (there’s variety, but it’s not overwhelming). I started off with a capirinhia, which was nice and citrusy. We also kicked off the meal with their much-acclaimed empanadas. The empanada filling changes frequently, and for our visit it was oxtail.

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The empanadas were smaller than I expected, and the pastry was hard (they were freshly fried, so it’s not like they got cold and hard, I was just expecting a soft pastry).  They had a nice meaty taste, but I was expecting a little more kick from them.  I suspect that Alma truly shines in some of their empanadas varieties, but I think the oxtail wasn’t their strongest.  I suppose I had a pretty particular idea in my head of what this dish would be, and it was different, so I was a little confused.  It wasn’t bad, though, and I would try out their empanadas again.

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The difficulty of visiting a new restaurant is that sometimes your expectations, and its reputation, get ahead of you.  I ordered the brisket on the price fixe menu.  The brisket was tender, flavorful, and very generously portioned.  The trouble was that my expectations were set on a more innovative menu, and this dish was closer to a classic ropa vieja.  It was delicious, just not the kind of dish this restaurants’ reputation led me to expect.

I briefly glanced at the standard menu before deciding on the price fixe, so I don’t know if this is on their standard menu.  I would hope that it is, because it was very tasty.  I would like to try dishes that follow more closely Alma’s reputation for innovation, so for those of you who have been there, point me to the right place on the menu!

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For dessert I had the berry sorbet. It had the right balance of creaminess and sweetness, without making your teeth hurt.  This kind of sorbet makes me want to get my own ice cream maker, so I can eat all the sorbet I want!

Final Verdict: I liked it a lot.  The food was delicious, just not what I was expecting.  I would definitely go back, either with adjusted expectations, or with more education on the specific menu options.

I’m sad that Pittsburgh Restaurant Week is over now.  It was a fun run. Until next time!
Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Curry on Murray

25 Jul

I try to keep it positive on this blog, and most of the time I’m very lucky to have fantastic dining experiences.  Every once in a while, though, things go south.  By being less than 100% positive, I’m not seeking to shame a restaurant. I’d like to see places get their ducks in a row,  fix the problems, and succeed.

Curry on Murray just opened up July 12.  It’s on Murray Avenue, in one of those unfortunate storefronts that seems to be a revolving door for small restaurants.  Sababa Mediterranean Grill was there for a while, before that was a bakery/coffee shop that I think was called Rolladin’s (or something like that), and I can’t even remember the other several eateries that came and went before that.  For only being open 2 weeks, Curry on Murray managed to get several favorable reviews on Yelp.   Always up for a new eatery, I suggested that we get take out.

I ordered the Panang Curry, Mr. Beez went for Pad Mee Mow and wonton soup,  my mom ordered Pineapple Curry, and Baby Beez had dumplings.  We all agreed that the food was good.  It wasn’t exceptional, but it did not fall short either.  It was perfectly adequate to feed that thai take out craving.  

They know what they’re doing with the food, but it’s the operational side of the restaurant that is holding them back.  First, their pricing needs to be fixed.  The entrees are priced fairly consistently with other Thai places, around $11-13 per entree.  While the portion sizes of Pad Mee Mow and Pineapple Curry were consistent with other Thai places, my Panang Curry serving size was noticeably and inexplicably smaller (even in a smaller takeout container).  Either the portion size of that needs to be upped, or the price needs to be dropped.  The appetizers and soups are also priced inappropriately.  Mr. Beez asked for wonton soup.  It was priced at $5.95.  I expected that it would be a very large soup portion, maybe to feed 2 or 3. Nope. It was a single serving of wonton soup. For $5.95.  That price needs to be sliced in half.  Also, Baby Beez’s dumplings were around $6, and we’re not talking a huge plate of dumplings.  These were 5 very small dumplings.  A couple bucks should be shaved off that price as well.

The second issue was the wait time.  They told me to pick up the order in 25 minutes.  I got there around 20 minutes after placing the order. Then I had to wait another half hour, because the order was not done.  45+ minutes waiting for take out is unacceptable.  This is not a situation where the staff is overwhelmed, the dining room was only about 1/3 full, and there was only 1 other take out order at the time.  This is a timing and logistics problem that needs to be addressed.  The hostess/waitress on duty at the time was apologetic, but she did not seem like she had much experience at all working in a restaurant.  She kept wandering around, as though she did not know what to do.  She needs some training.

The other issue I noticed is that there is a lot of operations “stuff” on tables in the dining room.  One table appeared to be the owner’s makeshift office, covered in a laptop and papers.  Another table was being used as a napkin folding station.  Another table was the storage space for artwork waiting to be hung up.  This clutter conveys to me that they don’t have their act together, and are not yet guest focused.

I hate to see a family restaurant fail, and these revolving-door storefronts seem to bring with them gloom and doom.  I don’t point out these shortfalls to be punitive, or to encourage other guests to stay away.  I point them out with the hope that the restaurant gets their act together, fixes the problem, and thrives.
Curry On Murray on Urbanspoon

Coffee and Sandwiches

26 May

Last Saturday I was in the mood for a REALLY good cup of coffee. Not the run of the mill Brueggers or Dunkin Donuts coffee, but something delicious and made with care. I took a little drive into the Squill, and stopped at Commonplace Coffeehouse. I can’t say it enough– I love Commonplace. They brew coffee by the individual cup, and ground their beans fresh for each cup. And these people know their beans. Their coffee is a little pricy, but it is SO worth it. What I love most about Commonplace is that even though they are coffee geniuses, they don’t expect you to be. They’re totally unpretentious and welcoming. Having being scolded about my insistence on adding cream to my coffee at another local serious-business coffee shop, I asked the Commonplace barista if he would scold me for asking for cream. The barista said, jokingly “Lady, you just paid $3.65 for a cup of coffee. You put anything in there you want!” I LOVE this place. I think I need to go back there again today!

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The Commonplace Coffeehouse on Urbanspoon

Last Monday, my friend Jill and I took a visit to the newly opened Bluebird Kitchen.

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I’ve been staring longingly into the construction-filled storefront for months now, and finally on May 14 they opened their doors. Bluebird is a bakery/sandwich shop, and is great for a high quality quick bite Downtown. Their prices are similar to Au Bon Pain, but the quality is much much higher. I had the Croque Monsieur sandwich, which was like a fancy grilled cheese with ham. I also had the quinoa salad, which would have tasted better if it were a little colder, but was still pretty darn good. The food there is all high quality, and the service was pretty quick. I’m surprised that this is the first independently owned bakery type lunch place that has sprung up downtown. I’d imagine that this kind of business will be a big hit with the lunch crowd. They also have a nice selection of cookies, pastries, and other baked goods, that I will have to return to sample!
Bluebird Kitchen on Urbanspoon