Tag Archives: 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 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

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

MLK Day QT at The Dor-Stop and Potomac Bakery

22 Jan

Baby Beez’ daycare was closed yesterday for MLK day.  I have been avoiding restaurants with her lately because she is 2, and she acts like she is 2, and that’s just a recipe for misery for everyone.  Yesterday seemed like a good day to test the waters at a loud, fast diner so we went to the Dor-Stop.  And there is hope! She was so well behaved, that I’ve got a little spark of hope that maybe we’re coming out of the too-destructive-for-restaurants phase!

The Dor-Stop is everything there is to love about a diner– greasy hearty food, fast service, good prices, and waitresses that call you “sweetie.”   That steak and eggs hit the spot. After stuffing ourselves with delicious diner food, we stopped across the street at the Potomac bakery for some sweets.  What a lovely morning.

Dinner with the In Laws at Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro

21 Jan

Boy do I love Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro. Mr. Beez and I visited here a few months ago with our friend Krista and fell in love with the hearty, rich Portuguese fare. Although the menu is full of exotic Portuguese dishes, their explanations were accessible. Lots of meat, fish, soups and salads in flavorful sauces and spices.

I started the evening off with a glass of Carmenere. I’ve been loving Carmenere recently. I’m not really sure why. I went through a Shiraz phase, then a Malbec phase, then a Pinot Noir phase and now I’m on to Carmenere. Of course, whatever phase I’m in, I’ll never turn down a nice glass of red wine.

I kicked off my meal with the hearts of palm salad. The salad is enormous. A vegetarian could select it as a full entree, or it could easily be shared as a starter by two or three people. The veggies were crisp and fresh. The green dressing complemented them nicely. The salad was lightly dressed- just enough for flavor, and not so much that it made it soggy. I am a glutton so I ate the whole darn thing, but it’s definitely a healthy salad– all vegetables, and not heavy cheeses or other fatty things.


Mr. Beez and his parents all had the mahi mahi special. The portions were generous and the fish, rice and vegetables all delightful. So much rich, complex flavor.


I ordered the shrimp with piri-piri sauce. It, too, was awesome. The sauce is a tiny bit spicy, but just enough to give it a little kick, not too much for my wimpy self.

The service at Marisqueira is paced at a European-style pace. The folks at the table next to us were whining that it was slow, but I did not agree with them. It’s paced so that you can savor your meal, chat comfortably, and not feel pushed out the door. That being said, make sure to have a couple of hours set aside for a dinner there, because they do take their time. Marisqueira is owned by the same folks who own Ibiza and Mallorca, and is by far my favorite of the three. Marisquiera’s menu is exotic enough to please adventurous eaters, but also accessible enough that less daring folk will feel comfortable with their selections.  It’s certainly a show-off kind of place,  the kind of place it’s a pleasure to bring out-of-town guests, to show off the deliciousness that this city has to offer.

Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro on Urbanspoon

Blogger Dinner @AlmaPgh, Last Call for @PghRestaurantWk

19 Jan

Attending the first Pittsburgh Restaurant Week blogger dinner was one of the highlights of my summer. I met lots of cool people who were just as enthusiastic about the Pittsburgh dining scene as I am, I got to chat with the chef about his thoughts, and I had some excellent grub. When Restaurant Week Winter 2013 was announced, I was thrilled to see the food blogger dinner on the agenda again.

This time the dinner was hosted by Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen. I have eaten at Alma before, and my previous impression is that their fare was tasty and satisfying, but did not find the restaurant to particularly stand out. This time around, they really brought their A game (I guess that’s what will happen when you’re hosting a dining room full of amateur critics), and we had a really excellent meal.

The evening started out with a cocktail hour hosted by PG Plate. The wine was flowing and the conversation was cheerful. I got to meet some new people and it was an all around nice way to kick things off.

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Alma’s owners, Jamie and Heather, shared with us the trials and joys of owning their own restaurant, and their experiences bringing new varieties of cuisine to often-change-resistant Pittsburgh (btw, they also own Abay, which is delicious and excellent, and it’s been far too long since I was last there…)

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Mr. Beez and I were thrilled to partake in the price fixe menu that Alma was offering in celebration of restaurant week.

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I started off with the Brazilian chicken and rice soup.  It was excellent.  I eat a lot of soup but I’m not usually enthusiastic about it.  Soup is just soup.  But this soup was very hearty and full of rich flavor.  I hope this is (or will be) part of their permanent menu.

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The theme for the night was apparently FLAVOR, and my entree was full of it! I had pork line with mashed white sweet potatoes and a plantain chip.  The meat was expertly seasoned, and every bite was lively.  I usually like to try new things every time I visit a restaurant, but the pork was so delicious that I would absolutely rather order it than anything else.

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Mr. Beez had the chicken, which also had vibrant flavors.  Although Alma is a Pan-Latin restaurant, the food was not spicy (which is great for me, I can’t take the heat), just flavorful and tasty.

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For dessert, Mr. Beez opted for the molten chocolate cake with cinnamon ice cream. That  dessert was GOOD, and it was just the right size so that you got a satisfying serving of it, but no so large that you got all sugared up and lost the effect.

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I had the fresh made raspberry sorbet.  It was a great sorbet, but not a chocolate cake. I was in the mood for sorbet, and loved the sorbet when I started eating it, but then Mr. Beez gave me a taste of his chocolate cake and I was all full of envy of his selection.

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Mr. Beez and I had such a lovely evening chatting with Quelcy of With the Grains, and her special one, Gabrielle of Primped in Pgh, and Alex of Everybody Loves You.  I would have absolutely loved to mingle and meet more people, but the space was a little limited, so that was hard to do.  Alma did a lovely job of hosting all these food snobs.  Every review I’ve read so far has been rave.

Tomorrow is the very last day of this Restaurant Week, so you better get out there quickly if you want to catch the specials!  There will be another one in the summer, but on these cold January days, summer is oh so far away.

Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Alla Famiglia– a delicious way to finish 2012

3 Jan

Mr. Beez and I have a New Years Eve tradition of celebrating the end of the year with a fancy grown-up dinner with our friends Ben and Sandy. The last few years we had tapas and sangria at Ibiza. This year I wanted to change it up, and suggested we try out Alla Famiglia.  Alla Famiglia is in an unlikely spot on Warrington Ave in the Allentown section of the City of Pittsburgh, but it’s remarkably close to dahntahn and easy to get to.  Also, they have valet parking, which is always a plus in my book!

allafamiglia

Alla Famiglia specializes in Sicilian cuisine, and has an all-Italian wine list.  The menu changes daily, and offers all kinds of fish, steak, veal and chops.  Alla Famiglia’s menu isn’t vegetarian friendly, but they are very open to customizing their dishes, so they could likely prepare something tasty to suit a vegetarian.  We kicked the dinner off with a mozzarella-stuffed meatball appetizer, which was delicious.  I’m not huge on pasta sauce (I’m a bad Italian, I know) but I loved this sauce, and sopped it all up with the crusty bread.

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We also had the mushroom appetizer, which was huge and sweet and flavorful.  The portion sizes at this restaurant are more than generous.

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The appetizers were followed by a salad and pasta course.  The salad is generously topped with all kinds of roasted red peppers, olives, cheese, nuts and all kinds of other good stuff.  The salad alone would have made a hearty dinner.  The pasta dish that night was topped with a creamy vodka sauce.  Delicious, delicious, delicious.

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Sandy like pastaaaaas

Alla Famiglia’s entrees are huge.  Huge.  And I had stuffed myself so full on the appetizer, salad, and pasta, that I only ate a small bit of my entree (although it later made for a great lunch).  Alla Famiglia has an entree-splitting charge of $15 (which makes sense, because there is no extra charge for the pasta or salad, so the $15 covers that).  Since Alla Famiglia’s portions are so huge, and because it’s a pricy establishment, on my next visit I will likely split the entree with my dining companion.

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Yum yum massive veal chop.  Sorry for the bad lighting.

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Seafood diavolo.  They do not skimp on the seafood.

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Mr. Beez selected the steak.

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Mr. Beez and I split the cheesecake for dessert, and it was the perfect end to the meal.  It was creamy and dense, but not too sweet.  I loved it.

Alla Famiglia’s prices are definitely special occasion prices, so my return trip sadly won’t be for a while.  The dining room is small, so reservations are a must.  The service was attentive, and the ambiance cozy, so it would be a nice spot for a romantic dinner.

Alla Famiglia on Urbanspoon