Tag Archives: Pittsburgh restaurants

Perfect tacos take out @SMOKEbbqtacos

19 Mar

Tacos are trendy in Pittsburgh right now.  I don’t mind trends.  Trends mean intense focus on quality and creativity.  How can you lose with that?

It’s probably a good thing that Smoke Taqueria is cash only.  I never have cash.  And if they took cards, I’d probably be getting tacos there every single day.

On Friday night, like most Friday nights, Mr. Beez and I were beat.  The idea of cooking dinner was just too much.  Even mac & cheese was too much effort.  Tacos from Smoke were perfect.

If I had the self-restraint of a normal person, two tacos would have been more than enough to fill my belly.  I, however, have no such thing.  Three tacos it must be!  I had the wagyu brisket, the roast pork, and the chicken and apple.  The tortillas are pillowy and the meat juicy and flavorful. Each of them were divine.  Mr. Beez also had the wagyu brisket and roast pork, but for his third taco opted for the lamb taco on special for the evening.  That taco had gyro-style toppings, but the meat was chunks of lamb (instead of gyro mystery meat).  I didn’t pick it because I assumed that the lamb would be gyro style.  When I learned that it was actually chunks of meat, I was very jealous of his meal choice.

Smoke has a pretty small dining room.  Due to the uncertainty of dining space and our banshee of a toddler, we always opt for take out.  Smoke makes everything fresh, so that can mean a wait.  It is worthwhile to call in ahead of time, instead of having to wait around in the dining room.  Their menu isn’t available online, but they will email it to you if you call. Go for it!

SMOKE Barbeque Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Oodles of Noodles at Ramen Bar

11 Mar

One evening last week I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was feeling sickly (that’s been a theme this winter apparently), I was tired, and I just didn’t have it in me to cook dinner.  I texted my Mr. Beez, “I want nooooodle soup!”  Lucky for us, Ramen Bar recently opened in Squirrel Hill, and we love us some ramen.

The menu is not yet available online, but that was hardly an issue. I told Mr. Beez to just pick up whatever. As long as I got noodle soup, I’d be happy.  Mr. Beez, in his usual fashion, spoiled me.  He picked up two ramen bowls for me– the pork & garlic bowl and the kimchee bowl.

Ramen Bar is generous with the meat and veggies. In the case of the pork and garlic bowl, there was clove after clove after clove of stinky delicious garlic.  Mr. Beez had the Tom Yum soup, he said it was very good, but he was ogling the pork and garlic bowl I had, and wished he’d have ordered the pork and garlic instead.  This noodle soup hit the spot.  I followed it up by crashing at about 7pm. Soup and sleep are perfect on a sicky day.

I had the kimchee soup for lunch the next day, and it too was awesome. Big chunks of chicken, stinky but not too spicy kimchee, chewy tasty noodles.  Ramen bar is going to be in heavy rotation in our takeout selection.

Ramen Bar on Urbanspoon

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

A Kid Friendly Visit to the HBH .@HofbrauhausPitt

28 Feb

Pittsburgh’s Hofbrauhaus (yes, a sister outpost of the Munich original) has been a happy hour hot spot since it’s opening.  It’s plenty loud, it’s got plenty of beer, and it’s cleaner than Hemingways, so what’s not to like?  Mr. Beez loves Oktoberfest and the HBH.  I typically run lukewarm with it.  I won’t refuse to go there, but it’s not where we’re going when it’s my turn to pick.

We had a groupon to burn there (because I am a sucker and buy every single groupon that comes on sale), and since it is not valid for Saturday use, we decided to try it out on a weeknight.  Feeling adventurous, or perhaps foolish, or perhaps tired and just wanting someone else to cook our dinners, we strolled in around 6pm on a Monday.  Who would have thought that early weeknight dinner at the HBH is actually kid friendly?  Not me. It was a pleasant surprise.

Baby Beez loved the oompah music and the pretzels. She loves pretzels.  Since patrons are encouraged to sing and dance and stand on benches, it was a perfect setting for a toddler.  She sang around loudly and dancy-danced and didn’t disturb a soul, since everyone was dancing along.

Mr. Beez ordered a schnitzel dish and was very happy with it.  The HBH, unsurprisingly, offers Bavarian-type fare.  Of the three German restaurants I’ve been to in Pittsburgh (HBH, Max’s Allegheny Tavern, and Penn Brewery), HBH is my least favorite of the three.  The food isn’t bad, but I think most people are really there to enjoy the atmosphere.

I forewent the meat-and-potatoes Bavarian offerings and instead opted for a (meat topped) steak salad.  Virtually unheard of in Pittsburgh, this steak salad actually did not come smothered in fries.  This suited me very well because I actually did not want french fries.  The veggies were fresh and the salad generous.  It was a good meal.

Baby Beez was not the only little one in the dining room that night.  The HBH is apparently a popular place (on weekday evenings) for families with young children.  Everyone loves the fun and festivity! While I’ll only visit the HBH on a Friday or Saturday with exclusively grown up friends, it was a fun place for our family during the off hours.

 

Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh on Urbanspoon

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

Green Pepper, YUM YUM

19 Feb

Green Pepper has a funny little hold on Mr. Beez and my hearts, because it is in the location that formerly housed Sweet Basil (a Thai & Filipino restaurant), where we had our first date. Misplaced nostalgia aside, Green Pepper holds its own with delicious Korean fare and a friendly neighborhood vibe.

I feel the need to get this out of the way early on:  Green Pepper’s website and menu are peppered in weird disclaimers.  I totally get that they are trying to be upfront, but being that upfront can be off-putting.  Don’t let that scare you away.  The proprietors are friendly and normal, and hope that you will be a courteous diner.

Now lets get to the food:

We left a party early that evening and still had time before the babysitter had to go home, so we were thrilled to get a chance for a grown up meal.  Mr. Beez opted for the spicy bulgogi.

He loved it.  I can’t ever get enough of the millions of side dishes that seem to come with every Korean meal, and I chowed down those tasty noodles before he had a chance to tell me to go away.

I went for my usual–the bi bim bap. Oh how I LOVE bi bim bap.  I’m not a “the usual” kind of diner.  I want to try something new every time I’m at a restaurant. I just love bi bim bap so darn much that I can’t help but order it when it is an option.

The food was prepared quickly and was fresh and tasty. And that kimchi? Made in house. And delicious.  It was tangy and a little spicy. Not that gummy jarred nonsense.

Although we didn’t have more drinks that evening, the one thing I want to scream from the rooftops about Green Pepper is that they are not BYOB, but they do not rip you off with the wine prices either!  I should probably be ashamed of this, but I drink enough cheap wine that I can usually spot it right off when a restaurant is trying to charge me $40 for a bottle that costs $7 at the state store.  Green Pepper doesn’t serve fancy wines, but they don’t try to charge you like they are fancy wines either.  A bottle of good ol’ Yellowtail only runs you $15 at Green Pepper.  Sure it’s a markup, but the place has to make a buck, and I respect that they’re not trying to go hog wild in the process.

Green Pepper also has karaoke set up if you’ve got a mind to belt a few tunes.  Mr. Beez was not (and is never) up for such things, so we gave it a pass that evening, but next time! Next time! All of Squirrel Hill will share in my vocal stylings.

Green Pepper has all the elements of an awesome neighborhood hangout.  It’s a shame that it was so quiet there on the Friday night we visited.  It’s a great place, and it deserves to be hoppin.

Green Pepper 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

The Sandwich of my Dreams @BlueBirdKitchen

11 Feb

Sandy has long been singing the praises of Bluebird Kitchen’s chicken salad sandwich.  The Post-Gazette added its voice to the choir in a hunger-inducing article about local sandwich shops.  I’ve never had much of an opinion about chicken salad.  I don’t dislike it. I don’t care much one way or another about it.  But with all these devoted chicken salad fans, it was time to try this sammie out.

Oh my goodness.

Seriously.

This is a perfect sandwich.  The croissant is flaky, just a tiny bit crunchy, and not soggy in the slightest.  The chicken was for-real roast chicken, flavorful and delicious.  The mayonnaise was creamy, and lacked that off-putting tang that usually keeps me away from mayonnaise.  The chicken salad featured tasty apple chunks and cashews.  Wow. What a sandwich.  I could eat these every minute, every day.

The one mistake I made was chomping down on a cookie sandwich along with the sandwich.  The sandwich is incredibly rich and filling.  Going for the sugar cookie sandwich filled with vanilla creme was just way too much.  I’m sure the cookie is wonderful on its own, but it was too sweet, too rich, just all around too much to go along with that sandwich.  A side green salad, though, might not be a bad option.  The sandwich is decadent, and anything else rich alongside it will just be overwhelming.

I don’t know how I’m going to convince myself not to wander on down to Market Square for one of these sandwiches every single day for the rest of forever.

Bluebird Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Pastries Savory and Sweet at Bubble Pi Baking Arts

9 Feb

Bubble Pi baking arts is a tiny Asian bakery on a somewhat unfortunate stretch of Murray Avenue.  I say unfortunate because parking is tricky around there and it’s on the steep slope of the hill.  I am lazy and don’t want to walk far to my car, much less up a hill.  I had an appointment at Eyetique, two doors away, and it was perfect timing to check out Bubble Pi.

Many of the pastries were unfamiliar to me.  I have been told that Lin, the owner, is Taiwanese, but that her baked goods cover many different Asian countries.  Basically, I didn’t know what a lot of the stuff was, and I was shy about asking her a lot of questions.  She happily suggested that I try the fresh out of the oven cookies. I did get one (and I swear I took a picture of it, but I have no idea what happened to the picture…), and it was chewy and chocolaty and very delicious.

Wanting to branch out into something less familiar, I picked this pastry.  I have no idea what it was….

It was DELICIOUS.  It was like nothing I have ever tasted before, and I loved it.  It was a savory pastry with a little tang to it.  This pastry for sure was worth the hassle of parking on that annoying sloped section of Murray Avenue.  Sometimes a blind leap of faith has great results.

In chatting with friends after my visit, I’ve been told that the Japanese Cheesecake is also excellent.  I’m going to have to stop in again soon and just buy a bunch of stuff.  Who cares whether I know what it is? It’s bound to be good.

Bubble Pi Baking Arts on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week Lunch @MartysMarketPgh @PghRestaurantWk

6 Feb

Following the fantastic blogger dinner at Alma, my pal Lisa and I decided to meet up for a Restaurant Week lunch.  We picked Marty’s Market, since neither of us had been there before and were both eager to try it out. 

I got there a little early and kicked things off with a latte.  Marty’s Market is serious about their coffee, both in the quality of the product and the execution of the drink.  The barista was SUCH a barista! He had a beard and a jacket with suede elbow pads. I wanted to take a picture of him making the drink because it was just so stereotypical coffee house (of the friendly variety, he was not snobby), but I didn’t want to be a creeper.  The latte was delicious and pretty and everything wonderful.

Lisa and I both opted for the price fixe lunch, and actually made the same selections for each course.  The first course was a beet salad.  From the menu, I assumed it would be a salad made primarily of beets, not a green salad with beets on top of it.  Even though I was confused about the dish, it was a good salad.  I’m always happy when a green salad is not the same old iceberg/tomato/onion song and dance, and this salad was made of fancy curly lettuce and was generously portioned.  While generously portioned entrees put me in a battle with my waistline, I’m always thrilled to get a generously portioned salad.

The entree was boef bourginion (spelled incorrectly, I’m sure).  Let’s just say French beef stew.  The noodles were fresh and cooked perfectly.  The stew as a whole was hearty and a good tummy filler for this cold day.  Although Marty’s has a good start on this recipe, it does need a little tweaking.  The broth needed a stronger flavor, probably more onions.  I added salt to the dish, which is something I very rarely do.  It was not a bad dish by any means, it just needs some work before it can be considered a really great one. 

The finale really stole the show.  The pot au creme was just delicious.  I’m wary of cacoa nibs because I don’t much like dark chocolate, but they, along with the dollop of creme fraiche, perfectly complemented the thick, flavorful pudding.  The dish was perfectly portioned that your sweet tooth was completely satisfied, but you’re not overwhelmed by too much dessert. 

I would happily return to Marty’s Market cafe.  The food was high quality, the service fast and attentive, and it was an all around great place.  I like that there is a parking garage right there, so you won’t have to drive in circles around the strip district to park your car.  Also, since it’s not a parking garage exclusively for Marty’s, you can park there, grab a bite at Marty’s, then go wander down to the strip for more shopping.  Marty’s recently has been offering a number of events like butchering demonstrations and wine tastings.  I need to get there soon, because I’m sure they are excellent.

Marty's Market, LLC on Urbanspoon