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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bob's Garage, The Spirit of Christmas!

Last Wednesday, right before Christmas, I decided it would be fun to take my daughter Kim up to Hartwood Acres to see the massive Christmas light display. Although she has seen it before, it's always a fun and festive way to get in the holiday spirit! The decision was made to hit the park, see the display and then find a place to eat afterward. We left (along with boyfriend Josh) around 7:00 and by the time we got there traffic seemed to be a bit of a problem. Go figure, I decided to go the night before Christmas eve. Anyway, after sitting and hardly moving for about fifteen minutes, with no park in sight, Kim suggested that we turn on the GPS to see how much farther we had to go. The subsequent determination was that it would take us three or four hours to get through the park. The kids weren't too thrilled about that....

We decided to bag it and go to eat. While they would have been happy with a drive thru for a rat burger, I decided to take them to see the "other" great light display in Pittsburgh, Bob's Garage.

We pulled up to park in the tiny lot and the lights caught their eyes immediately! When my daughter stopped to take a picture, I said "Wait till you see the inside". For those of you that have never been, Bob's is decorated year round with decorations for the next upcoming holiday. Christmas, Halloween, Easter, whatever. Decorations cover every inch, and I mean every inch of the entire walls and ceiling. You enter into a small but usually crowded bar and a glassed in dining area is off to the left. After taking it in for a few minutes (and a couple of more pictures) we all ordered...Burgers of course! The burgers were huge, at least a half pound and cooked as ordered. Everyone enjoyed their food. This is not a upscale restaurant (and doesn't try to be) but a local bar with a restaurant that server pretty good grub. The fun atmosphere is the main reason to go to Bob's.

Bob's is on Freeport road in the Fox Chapel area.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hot Dogs!!!

I've never really been much of a hot dog fan. Yeah, I'll eat them at a ball game but that's about it. I don't even grill them in the summer unless someone else wants them...Until now!

One of my favorite websites is Chowhound, and I recently saw a posting concerning not just hot dogs, but hot dog shops from the New Castle area. I learned that there are a number of Coney Island style hot dog places that exist in that area that were started years ago by immigrants, mainly Greek it seems. People from all over the country remember the special hot dogs and sauce that they could only seem to get in New Castle, PA. Not long after reading and becoming fascinated with this, a hot dog shop opened in my neighborhood of Mount Washington called Packs 'n Dogs. This was a diner and still looks like it. It's not a bar atmosphere, but you can get a good brew with your dog if you like. They have over 200 varieties of beers on hand and the hot dogs are all named after dogs. The Chihuahua is a chili dog with cheddar cheese and onions. The Irish Setter has coleslaw and fries and there are several other good choices. Needless to say, I've eaten at Packs 'n Dogs several times and have started to get occasional cravings for hot dogs!

One of the things that intrigued me about the posts on Chowhound was that so many people just loved the type of hot dog sauce that they get in New Castle. I got several recipes from those folks and have tried them, but here is the one that I think is the best!

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. basil

2-1/4 tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. cumin

2 md. onions, finely diced

1 15-oz can tomato sauce

1 can water

1 Tbsp. prepared mustard

4 raw hot dogs, finely ground

The beef and hot dogs should be ground finely so you end up with a sauce consistency. You don't want it to turn out chunky like chili. One way is to run it through a food processor before you cook it.

Brown the ground beef, drain some of the grease (leave some) and add the onions. Cook until opaque. Combine all remaining ingredients and simmer at least 2 hours.

The great thing about this sauce is that it actually includes ground up hot dogs! I usually buy good quality dogs like Hebrew Nationals to eat, but I use the cheap, bargain dogs to make the sauce.

Monday, December 14, 2009

DiCarlo's Famous Pizza

I've heard about DeCarlo's Pizza for years and have driven past a shuttered up location on route 51 numerous times, but never had the chance to try it. I guess they started out in Wheeling and have a number of locations in that area of W.V. but they recently opened a store in Cranberry (next to Verizion).

The place is a typical pizza parlor, very clean, with 8 or 10 tables and a counter where you order and pick up your food. The menu includes pizza of course, but also salads, calzones, and hot baked sandwiches. The pizza is sold but the pie or you can by it by the individual cut. One unique thing is that they don't charge for pepperoni. A single cut is only $1.15, with or without pepperoni. That's a nice touch!

We only had pizza, so I can't comment on the other menu items, but the sandwiches that I saw sure did look appetizing! The pizza itself is cut into squares, with a semi thick crust that is crunchy not doughy. This is one of those places that puts the sauce and toppings on first, then bakes it and only adds the cheese after it comes out of the oven. The heat from the pizza starts to melt the cheese and you get that fresh cheese taste that I love.

DiCarlos isn't in my top two or three pizza's around the Burgh, (those honors are reserved for Frank's and Pizza House in Ambridge) but it's real close and good enough that I'll return again! Don't hesitate if you are in the Cranberry area and need a pizza fix!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving time!!!

I love Thanksgiving, probably because I love to cook and eat! I decided to post a couple of recipes that are not only exceptionally good, but very easy to prepare. Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables and are a tradition at thanksgiving, but I always hated the standard green bean casserole. This recipe is easier than a casserole and doesn't take up any oven space when you are preparing the big meal. Another time saver is that you can boil the beans the day before and store them in the refrigerator in a zip lock bag.

Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots:

1 pound green beans, trimmed as desired
5 slices of bacon, thinly sliced crosswise
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, chopped

Cook beans in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well. Pat dry with paper towels.
Cook bacon until crisp. Drain and discard all but three tablespoons of bacon fat. Add butter and shallots and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add beans and saute until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add bacon and toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Want a simple tasty dessert? If you are a banana lover this is the perfect dessert for you and your guests.

Grilled Bananas with Spiced Butter and Rum

4 Tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ripe bananas

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add brown sugar, rum and cinnamon and bring to a boil, stirring. Boil until syrupy, 2 or 3 minutes.
Slice each banana lengthwise, leaving the skin on. Brush both sides with the spiced butter.
On a grill, grill pan or frying pan place bananas CUT SIDE DOWN and cook until caramelized, about 4 minutes. Turn the bananas over and grill skin side down for another 3 or 4 minutes. Baste the top with spice butter and serve.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kaya, in the Strip District

Kaya on Urbanspoon

Wow! What a great find! I've been reading positive reviews of Kaya for some time now but just got to try it this week. Stacy and I were in the Strip on one of our weekly shopping trips and decided to have lunch. I think the reason that I haven't been to Kaya is that I tend to go to the old stand-bys...Rowlands for their lobster roll, Primanti's (a lot of locals don't like it, but I do!) and of course Lucy for her Banh Mi,the BEST SANDWICH IN THE WORLD! Well Lucy wasn't there so on to Kaya we went.

The atmosphere is what I would call festive tropical, but still classy and not overdone. A long bar sits on the right wall as you enter and the left side is lined with tables. Our server was prompt, polite and knowledgeable about the menu. The lunch menu included a nice selection of sandwiches and entree selections and they also had several Todo En Uno or smaller sandwiches that come with two sides. Stacy decided on the Salmon-Crab Cakes with a jalapeƱo remoulade, and I went for the Todo En Uno of a Cuban sandwich with Conch Chowder and spicy slaw. The Cuban is one of my favorite sandwich's and this one did not disappoint. Turkey, pork, ham, Swiss cheese, whole grain mustard, and chipotle aioli on the side. Also on the side were slices of crunchy pickles. These are usually served on the sandwich, but I appreciate them on the side because I prefer a little less pickle that others might. Stacy really liked her Salmon-Crab cakes and the remoulade was very good.

Most of the lunch selections ranged from $8 to $13. This is quite a bargain considering the quality of the food. I'm sure we will be back!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Pepperoncini's in Oakdale

Oakdale is a little town just a couple of minutes from Robinson Town Center. I've been to Pepperoncini's three or four times since they opened about a month ago. I was surprised to find such a nice place in a out of the way small town like this. This was a pizza place that was expanded into a full service restaurant. The bartenders were very friendly (and cute) and service was pretty good, although it was not really crowded when I have been there. The place is new and very clean. I can't really comment on mixed drinks because we were all drinking beer. We have a pizza and an appetizer that were pretty good. They also have some great big screen TV's, all in HD so it's a good place to watch a game.

My only complaint: The bar area is long and narrow...It runs parallel to a glass wall with two entrance doors along it, so that no matter where you are sitting your back is about 10 feet from one of the doors and it is cold every time someone enters. Now I'm the kind of person that's always warm so I can imagine how uncomfortable it is some people. The guy next to me left because of this. I give them an 8 because I think they have done a great job with the existing space. I'll go back, but not on a really cold day! I'd give them an 8.

I wrote the above several months ago and just wanted to update. I stopped in this week with a friend and my sister. I was hungry and ordered a small pizza, which was very good. My friend Tom was slugging down Sam Adams and I was drinking Miller Lite drafts. We had three or four each, and my sister had one glass of red wine. The entire tab was only $18 and change! Now this was happy hour, but what a pleasant surprise! We decided that we will go back more often!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Billy's Roadhouse

I've been to Billy's in Wexford several times over the past years and thought it was time for a review. As it happened to be a nice day the three of us, my sister Jaye, Stacy and myself decided to sit outside. They have a few tables outside, in addition to a volleyball court and a unique set-up with a deer feeder. It's a table with deer feed that has a couple of spot lights so while you sit in the bar you can watch the deer! Pretty cool.

The food has always been very good here and this stop was no exception. Jaye ordered a lobster roll that was out of this world. I don't think I would have recommended trying that here, but it was a great success. Our other sandwiches, a Italia Panini and a burger were also both very good.

The bar and restaurant are warm and comfortable and I noticed that they always have a couple of newspapers for their patrons to read during lunch. The beer cooler probably had abut 40 different bottles and the draft selection seemed to be pretty good too. In addition, I know that they have entertainment a couple of times a week. Billy's may be a little out of the way for some of you in the city, but it's worth the trip if you happen to be in the mood for a nice lunch or happy hour at a new place.

Monday, October 19, 2009

North Park Lounge

The North Park Lounge (near Passavant Hospital on Babcock in the North Hills) has been a place that I've visited many times over the years for a beer or a snack. Now that I don't live in the North Hills anymore, I don't get there very often. Today we were in the area and stopped in for lunch. Stacy ordered a chicken salad which was very large and generous with chicken, but she forgot to ask for the dressing on the side and it was swimming in ranch dressing. I wish all restaurants would deliver salad dressing on the side! She also had a cup of spare rib soup. I've never heard of such a thing, but she said it was tasty. I got the fish and chips which consisted of three pieces of batter fried fish in a basket over the french fries. While it was not bad the fish was very bland. Being served in several pieces instead of one large fillet gave you a lot more deep fried batter than fish. The fries were so greasy that they were soaked and limp. I'm not sure if this was from the fries themselves, or if it was oil from the fish that was on top of them.

I'll go back to the North Park Lounge, but probably only for happy hour or a snack. While not bad, it wasn't memorable enough to be a regular stop.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dining on a student's budget

I just got a request to print some suggestions for those of you that may be new to the area and need some ideas as to how to stretch your food dollar. Reader Pat mentioned that her "Darling Nephew" had just started at Duquesne and could sure use some ideas! Well, I don't know how helpful I'll be, but I'll try! I think that we can keep this post as a "work in progress". I'll start with a couple of places and just continue to add from there when I think of new ones or when any of you make suggestions. We can start a list here and I'll try to pay a visit and do a more thorough review of some of them.

Let's just start with a famous one:

The Original Hot Dog Shop in Oakland. Also known as "The Dirty O"...You'll see why, but your college student won't care. Good dogs, with heaping orders of greasy fries at great prices.

Mike and Tony's Gyro's, Downtown on Liberty and on Carson St in the South Side. For less that $5.00 you get one of the best tasting food values anywhere!

Pamela's, several locations but ya gotta go to the Strip. Great crepe type pancakes. These are the pancakes that our President loves. They are thin like crepes with crispy edges but they don't taste like crepes, they taste like pancakes. For under $5.00 you get three cakes that are each about a foot around.

Pack's & Dogs, Shiloh Street on Mount Washington. While this is not as easily accessable to students as Oakland is, students from Duquesne can take a quick walk across the Smithfield St Bridge and a nice ride up the Mon incline to get to Packs & Dogs. It's also a great trip with the parents in tow. When you exit the incline, go 1/2 block to Shiloh St. If you have the Parents with you, forget Packs Dogs and stop at the Shiloh Inn to eat. If you are on your own budget, pass the Shiloh and continue to Packs & Dogs! First of all this place was a diner and still looks like it. It's not a bar atmosphere, but you can get a good brew with your dog if you like. They have over 200 varieties of beers on hand and the hot dogs are all named after dogs. The Chihuahua is a chili dog with cheddar cheese and onions. The Irish Setter has coleslaw and fries and there are several other good choices.

Yo Rita, I can't skip this one, Pat started this topic by commenting on my review of Yo Rita on the South Side. Kevin Sousa has put in place a great menu (you can read more below) at great prices. Gourmet tacos starting at $4.00. He's leaving there, so I don't know if the great quality will last, but for now it's the best value in the Burgh!

The Original Oyster House, Downtown in Market Square. This is an old (since 1870) place that has great cheap eats. The crowd can vary from those on their way to a show in the Cultural District to some that may really need to eat on a budget...The huge fish sandwich and oysters are a pretty good bet for the money.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I love chicken wings!

Talk about great bar food, there's nothing like an order of spicy chicken wings and beer. Not quite health food, but good! My problem is that I hate "mushy" wings. Not very many places seem to cook them until crispy. I love red meat rare or medium rare, and even eat pork pink inside, but to me wings are just better well done and crunchy. I've tried them at a lot of places but not very many are memorable. Hell, I've even been to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, which is supposedly where buffalo wings started...They were mushy and swimming in bottled hot sauce. Awful!

One of the better places I've found is Burg's in Bridgeville. They have a Cajun dry rub that's terrific! I've been told that Sauce (right up the street from Burgs) has some pretty good wings too. My favorite though is a place at Canadohta Lake called Sue's Mill. The problem is that it's about two hours from here. They are plump, well done and crispy but still juicy and every sauce I've had there has been great.

Anyone else have any suggestions? I'm trying to get some feedback as to the best wing places around the city.

Here's a simple recipe that everyone seems to really like. Of course cooking them until crispy is just as important as the sauce!

Deep fry, bake or grill 2 pounds of chicken wings UNTIL CRISPY! Meanwhile, make sauce by melting 1/4 cup of margarine (not butter) and adding the following ingredients:

1/4 cup hot sauce (most use Red Hot which is not a favorite of mine, but this recipe covers up the "orange" taste).

1 package dry onion soup

5 cloves of minced garlic

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

a pinch of basil

This sauce will be very thick, not watery like other sauces. When the wings are done, place them in a seal able bag or container, add the sauce and shake until coated. put wings on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for ten minutes. Serve with celery and blue cheese.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


One of my favorite summer picnic or BBQ foods is ribs. For years I tried to make them like you get at good rib joints, but could never duplicate the tenderness and flavor of the experts. Thankfully ribs are no longer a struggle and with a few simple tips anyone can make a rack of ribs as good or better than you will find at a rib festival!

I like baby back ribs, but many rib experts prefer spare ribs or beef short ribs. These have much more meat than baby backs but also much more fat. Forget country ribs, they are not ribs at all. They are cut from the shoulder without the bone. The following recipe will work great with any of these types of ribs.

Here's about the simplest way for anyone to turn out some great ribs. The key is "Low and Slow", meaning you must cook ribs at a low temperature, and slowly. Low temperature means less than 300, and slowly means at least three hours. You can experminent with these numbers, I sometimes cook at 225 or 250 for four hours or more.

Season ribs with a dry rub. You can buy prepackaged or mix your own. I use one consisting of equal parts of dried onion power, oregano, thyme, cayenne, garlic power, black pepper, salt and paprika. Sprinkle it on pretty heavy and rub in. Take two sheets of aluminum foil, each about 6 inches longer than the rack of ribs, and double wrap the ribs with the seam on top. Place the rack on a sheet pan (or something with sides in case of leaks) and put in the oven at 300 degrees, for three hours.

Be careful when you remove these from the oven. The foil will contain a lot of fat that needs to be drained away. Pour off the fat being careful not to break the ribs apart...That's how tender they will be! They will also be grey and ugly looking. Don't let that bother you!! Coat the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce and finish them off either in the ovens broiler or (my favorite) on a grill. Cook them until the sugar in the sauce starts to caramelize and turn black in a few areas, about 10 minutes and serve. Perfect ribs!

There are a couple of ways to improve on this method if you want to take the time. I like to marinade mine for three or four hours before cooking with a mixture of white vinegar and water. It doesn't take much, a couple tablespoons of each right in the foil with the dry rub and let them sit in the fridge for a few hours, then they can go right in the oven.

You can also cook these right on the grill, but it's tricky to keep the temperature steady and as low as 300. If you use charcoal, and have a large grill, you can use indirect heat by placing the coals on one side and the meat on another. This requires a grill thermometer and you need to constantly add charcoal to maintain even heating without getting too hot. If you are not comfortable with this, I'd recommend you start with the oven method.

Another good touch is to make your own sauce. I use several, but here is a very good one that is also really easy to make:

Mix the following ingredients in a sauce pan:

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cup root beer
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
3 tablespoons A1 Steak sauce
1 teaspoon onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cloves minced garlic

Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat only slightly to a low boil and simmer until reduced by about a third or until desired thickness is reached about 10 or 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: Yo Rita's Taco's???

The South Side is is full of beer and burger joints and nice restaurants, but some feel that the white tablecloth and linen napkins places are becoming a thing of the past in this section of the city. The closing of Allegro and Bruchetta's lends some support to that theory. There are plenty of customers on the streets, but most seem to be college age and may not be willing or able to spent the kind of money for those establishments.

Yo Rita's is a small bistro style restaurant. The menu consists of tacos. Yup, just tacos (and a few appetizers). Before you quit reading I want to say that this is absolutely the best quality and most innovative food for the least price I have ever seen or heard of! Stacy and I tried two different tacos starting with the Ahi Tuna. It was perfect tuna with gingered slaw, avocado, sliced jalapenos and fresh cialatro. As one of the pricier items it was $7.00. Tremendous. We then ordered the Flank Steak which had chunks of potato, poblano pepper, pickled red onion, mushroom, chimichurri, and cilantro, all for $6.00. The flank steak (see London Broil recipe) was as tender as I've ever tasted. Other selections that sounded tempting included a Mushroom taco with poblano pepper, white onion, green chile sauce, manchego for $4, and a Chorizo with manchego, sweet peppers, pickled red onion, aji amarillo for $5.

While I love a great sandwich and burger place like Fatheads, Yo Rita's has taken relatively lower priced foods and prepares and serves them with the skill and expertise of a great restaurant. How could this be?
Kevin Sousa, that's how.

Kevin has been building quite a reputation around Pittsburgh. He has been the chef at Soba, Kaya, Alchemy, and the Red Room. This is some of the finest food that can be found in the city. I guess he is doing some consulting work at YoRita while he is in the process of preparing to open his own restaurant to be named Salt of the Earth.

The menu at Yo Rita is really fantastic and a great way for those of us that can't always drop $100+ on a meal to experience truly excellent food at bargain prices.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: The Sewickley Hotel

The Sewickley Hotel along with all the other bars along Beaver Road in downtown Sewickley, use to be a shot and beer bar. Growing up just a mile from there, I have memories of a number of these places filled with working class men drinking their Iron City and shooting pool. Things have really changed over the years. Now it's a place where you could very possibly run into one of Pittsburgh's sports hero's. Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris and others visit, probably because it's the kind of place where no one bothers them. On one visit, I spotted coach Chuck Noll sitting on a park bench across the street chatting with some friends.

As you walk in there is a long wooden bar to the right, and a number of booths and tables to the left with barely enough room for a few more in the back. It's a very comfortable, homey atmosphere. The staff has always been friendly and the crowd always seems to be in a pleasant mood.

The menu is basic American fare (which is fine with me) but it's is all excellent. I don't think that I've ever had even a bad item, let alone a bad meal there. Steaks, pasta and seafood are cooked with the help of a wood burning stove, which gives a great smoky flavor, yet it's not overpowering.

Wednesday evening's they have a tasteful jazz band and the recent addition of a beautiful outdoor courtyard has greatly expanded the seating area. Prices are just a little bit higher than average ($15.95 to $29.95 Hey, this is Sewickley!) but the exceptional food more than makes up for that in my opinion. If you enjoy comfortable places like The 17th Street Cafe or Tessaro's this is a place you should not miss.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review, The 17th Street Cafe

The 17Th Street Cafe on the South Side has been one of my favorite local restaurants for years. It's located about a block off of Carson so it's very convenient but a bit away from all the noise and partying. It has a comfortable feeling and charm that I enjoy. It's a relaxing feeling that you notice as soon as you walk in the door.

This place is somewhat small, with an old time bar on the left as you enter and a few tables on the right. Another small dining room is to the rear of the building. The bar is always friendly and talkative but not noisy enough to bother the patrons seated close by. The crab and artichoke dip is tremendous, lump crab meat in a rich creamy cheese sauce. This is really one of the best appetizers I've ever had. Another one of the best that I've ever had just happens to be served here also. The Roasted Red Pepper Bisque is just a fantastic soup, and that's coming from someone that has to be convinced to ever order soup at a restaurant. I can't really describe it, it's just wonderful. On a previous stop during the Penguin's playoff run, I was treated to a real suprise when we were given bowls of Evgeni Malkin's mother's lucky borscht soup! I've never had a soup like this before. If all restaurants served soup like this, I might order it more often! Another very good appetizer is the Stuffed Banana Peppers.

The entree menu continues with a nice selection but the seafood really shines. I've tried many menu items, but some that come to mind are the Pecan Crusted Sole and the London Broil. Any of you that read my blog know how much I love "horse meat"!

I've never had a disappointing meal here, and highly recommend this place as one of the best kept secrets in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Big food? Big Jim's!

Big Jim's, or Big Jim's in The Run as it's called, is a place that I first learned of on the TV show Diners, Drive-in's and Dives. Their claim to fame is being a local watering hole with old time charm that also serves some pretty good food. Big food. The portions here are huge, but there's more to like than just large portions.

Big Jim's is in Greenfield, kind of under a bridge on the Parkway East. Going across the Hot Metal Bridge, it only took us a couple of minutes to get there from the South Side. It's an old place, kind of dated but that's OK with me. During the couple of times that Stacy and I have been there, the staff were all friendly and they seem to have a nice local bar crowd which lends to Big Jim's comfortable feeling. The menu is a nice mix, featuring Oven Baked Hoagies, Dinners, Pizza and a large number of Appetizers (mostly fried). These all looked appealing, but the section that caught my eye was "Big Jim's Speciality Sandwiches".

Stacy knew what she wanted immediatly...This is not normal! Sometimes I feel as though I should have ordered an appetizer while I wait for her to make up her mind...(I hope she dosen't read this). Anyway, the item that got her attention was the reuben. This thing was huge. A full 1/2 pound of lean corned beef on great Russian rye bread, topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and 1000 Island. She loved it. I chose the veal cutlet parmigiana sandwich. This thing wasn't just big, it was massive! Pretty tasty too, although I couldn't eat all of it in one sitting.

Big Jim's is a place that I will definetaly return to, although next time I'd like to go in the evening and see how the night crowd is.

Time to Redd Up Mount Washington

The Mayor and a bunch of "Redd Up" trucks were all working hard spiffing up the area around Grandview Avenue yesterday in preparation of our guests for the G-20. I'm really glad to see that. The entire city could use a good cleaning. I just wonder why we only do it when guests are coming over?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PIZZA!!! My filet mignon....

I love pizza. I also dislike a lot of pizza. As a matter of fact, I dislike pizza about 90% of the time that I have it. The fact that I rarely find really good pizza and continue to order it is some kind of indication of my deep desire to locate the next great pizza joint. Then again, maybe it just indicates that I'm not too bright...

I feel as though I've tried every pizza place in the Pittsburgh area, but of course I'm sure that I haven't even come close. Following are just a few that I've tried and a brief (very brief!) review of them:

Azzeria on Banksville-Pretty good, brick oven baked but not one of my favorites

Bado's in Mt. Lebo-OK

Bellissimos on Mount Washington-Near where I live so it's convienent. That's about it.

Beto's on Banksville-This pizza I really like and would rank it in the top five in the Pittsburgh area. This is thick crust, but it's not too doughy. It is a crispy crunchy crust with a good sauce and fresh cheese. Very good.

Capri Pizza in Homestead-Better than average

Cestone's on Mount Washington-Another better than average and convienent for me!

Cici's, everywhere-yuk

Domenico's in Cranberry-Nice variety and pretty good.


Fioris Pizza on West Liberty Ave- Very good, kind of a sweet sauce and a thin crispy crust. You can order a pie and take it next door to the tavern which is nice.

Fox's Pizza Den, everywhere-Same old crap.

Frank's Pizzeria, Duss Ave. Ambridge-The Best. Ever. Anywhere. You can stop reading now, it dosen't get any better!

Giotto, South Side. One of the best, thin and crispy with a very good sauce. They also offer a variety of styles.

Harry's, McMurray on 19. Great, one of the best around. Thin crispy crust.

Juliano's, Stubenville Pike-Pretty good stuff

Little Chicago on the South Side-I ordered the Chicago style and didn't like it, but I'm going to go back and try the thin crust.

Luigi's, Lincoln Ave, Bellevue-This was always a pretty OK pie.

Michael's, Sarah Street, South Side-This is amazingly good pizza for a bar/restaurant. I don't hesitate to order it and it's a pretty good bar too!

Mineo's, Squirrel Hill and Mt. Lebanon-Considered one of the best in all of Pittsburgh, but not by me...Here we go, let the comments fly!

Monte Cellos's-OK chain pizza

Papa John's-See above

Pepperoncini's, Oakdale-Pretty good

Pizza Roma-OK for a chain, kind of like Monte Cello's

Police Station-In Ambridge. Excellent. Has a thick crust, which I usually don't like, but their's is very airy and crispy. One of the best!

Sir Pizza, off of Rochester Rd in the North Hills-very good and unique. Thin and cut into tiny squares

Tony R's, Sewickley-One of the best. Very fresh ingredients with the best cheese! Take your GPS!

Uno's-no damm good.

Vincent's in Greentree-Pretty good

Vincent's Pizza Park-Another that's considered one of the best in the city. I haven't tried it, but they have such a rep that I felt I had to list it here. I'll report back after I try it.

Vocelli, everywhere-OK

I always thought that pizza preferrence is really a personal thing. I mean, just about any steak lover will like any good steak house, but pizza is different. People either love it or they don't. Mineo's is very popular in Pittsburgh and is pretty good. They use very fresh ingredients and the pie tasts like it, but it's just not my style.

My favorite, without a doubt is Franks in Ambridge. It's a thin crust that is almost pastery like in texture (not it flavor!). This makes it very airy but still crispy...not mushy. They apply the cheese first and then pour the sauce over it. This way the cheese retains it's moisture. If you want extra cheese, they just add it after it comes out of the oven. When they close the box, the heat from the pizza melts it. YUM!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009


Tessaro's on Urbanspoon

I made another visit to Tessaro's in Bloomfield recently on a Thursday night and am I ever glad that I did! It turns out that Thursday is the night that they sell ribs and I love ribs. I almost always order one of their famous burgers but this time it was pork ribs. My sister, who has only been there once before, really wanted a burger. The burger came out juicy, and well condimented with lettuce, onion, and ketchup on a perfect bun. Check out the picture! The ribs were fall off the bone tender and splashed with a delicious sauce. The side of redskin potato's was the perfect touch to a great meal. I really like this place not only for the food but also for the atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How about those Pens!!!!

I went downtown yesterday to the parade for the Stanley Cup Champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. What a great time. Stacy and I were going to walk to the Mon incline and take that down to Station Square and walk, but when we got to the incline there was a huge line. We decided to take our chances and try to park at Station Square. Luckly we were able to find a spot pretty quickly. The parade was really fun and we got some great pictures that I will post soon.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


One of my favorite eating and relaxing afternoons in Pittsburgh is a trip to Roland's in the Strip for a few hours enjoying the sunshine and their deck overlooking Penn Avenue. Aside from the lobster sandwich (that's another post) I really like their mussels. Years ago, it was refered to on the menu as "A bucket of mussels" and was served in an old fashioned steel wash basin. This is a great meal for one and is big enough for a couple to share as a snack.

I love mussels but I've always really liked it when they are served with a tasty broth. They are really easy to cook at home and great for entertainment because it only takes a few minutes to prepare them to perfection. Following is my favorite recipe:

1 bag of mussels
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 cups of dry white wine
1 small chopped onion
1/3 cup minced parsley (fresh makes a big difference!)
1 or 2 stalks of diced celery
1 diced sweet red bell pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook a few minutes until the onion is opaque. Add the wine, celery, red pepper, and parsley and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and simmer until the shells have opened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Don't over cook and don't lift the cover!!! They need to steam. Discard any unopened mussels.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to individual bowls. Pour the remaining liquid over the servings and serve with melted butter for dipping.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Best Sandwich in the World!!!

That's right, the best in the world. I should know, because I've eaten not just hundreds, but thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of sandwiches. Heck, I eat one everyday. Due to this vast experience, I feel justified in referring to myself as a sandwich expert.

Now that I've detailed my qualifications, it's time to reveal the sandwich: The delicious Banh Mi. A Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich on a fresh crusty baguette. The first time I had one of these was in San Francisco at a small Vietnamese take out joint near Fisherman's Wharf. I loved that sandwich but didn't think I'd be able to get one in Pittsburgh. I was wrong! Right in the middle of the Strip District in front of the My Nyoc restaurant is where a woman named Lucy prepares the Best Sandwich in the World. The sandwich consists of grilled chicken that she removes from a skewer and chops into bite size chunks. She then stuffs them into the fresh baguette. Next comes julienned slices of cucumber, carrot, and red onion. Jalapenos sliced length wise and fresh cilantro go on next and then she finishes it off with a drizzle of a spicy and sweet sauce. I'm guessing it may be a mixture of fish sauce and a little honey. The flavors perfectly complement each other. The spicy peppers and slightly sweet sauce, the crispy cucumbers, the crunch of the onions and carrots combined with the fish sauce make the perfect combination.

It's my understanding that Lucy sells sidewalk sandwiches all summer and then returns to Vietnam during winter. You might want to make a trip to the Strip this summer and sample one of Lucy's creations. The Banh Mi really is the Best Sandwich in the World! I should know, I've eaten lots of sandwiches!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sauce, a great new place in Bridgeville

Sauce is a fairly new restaurant and bar in Bridgeville. I've been there a couple of times and really enjoy it. As you walk in a long bar is on the left with some booths on the right. The building use to be a diner so it's kind of a long and narrow room, but they did a really nice job in renovating it. It's one of those places that I feel comfortable as soon as I walk in.

The food is tremendous! I heard that the owner also owns Andora in the North Hills. This is not up-scale dining like Andora, but it's much better than your average bar menu. I had a burger that is served on a skillet, with a balsamic glaze, crispy onions and buffalo mozzarella. My partner had Garlic Asiago wings that were really good too, served crispy with a great flavor. I hate mushy wings! I also had a side of Mac and cheese. Can't go wrong with that!!!

Beer's were $3 a bottle for domestics and they had a nice selection of imports for $4.25 and $5.25. The bar has nice HD tv's and our bartender was friendly and kept our glasses full.
As someone that appreciates good food it's nice to find a good bar where I really do like the food too!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

London Broil

One of my favorite things to prepare is London Broil. My nickname for this wonderful dish is "Horsemeat". Don't let that fool you! I've found that the less tender cuts of meat tend to be the most flavorful. Fillet Mignon that you can cut with a fork is nice, but frankly not very tasty. I'll take a slice of Horsemeat anytime. The key to turning out a gourmet quality meal comes down to the preparation.

London Broil is not a cut of meat, although some supermarkets label it that way, but the preparation. The traditional cut used is flank steak or top round and needs to be cooked quickly, to rare or medium rare or it becomes very tough. Try to find a fairly thick cut of meat, about 1 1/2" thick. A cut this thick makes it easier to avoid over cooking and ending up with shoe leather.

Use a gallon size Ziploc bag to marinade the meat. Add 1 tablespoon yellow prepared mustard, 2 tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce. Close the bag and mix these well. Put the flank steak in the bag and remove as much air as possible. Refrigerate overnight. It's very important to do this in order to tenderize the meat. Don't skip the lemon juice or wine because the acidity of these helps the tenderization process.

To cook, remove the steak and wipe off the excess marinade. Heat your ovens broiler on high. Broil 1 to 2 inches from the heat for 6 minutes and turn, and broil for another 6 minutes. DO NOT OVER COOK!!!

Remove and let rest for 3 or 4 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Cut in very thin slices across the grain of the meat and serve. Delicious!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Redfin Blues

Saturday night my daughter Kim, played the lead part of Cosette in Gateway High School's presentation of Les Miserables. I can't tell you how impressed and proud I am of her!!! Anyway, the terrific show led to a night of celebration ending in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Our previous plans of going downtown the next morning to partake in the Pittsburgh Marathon festivities were thwarted by lack of sleep.

We may have missed the Marathon, but I wasn't going to miss lunch! After a stroll through the Strip District we decided to cross the 31st street bridge and go to Redfin Blues. This is a place on Washington's Landing, just under the bridge. At one time it was a bar called Trolls. From what I remember Trolls was kind of a crummy place, but I always enjoyed the beautiful view of the Allegheny river from their deck. The owner(s) of Redfin Blues have done a great job in taking advantage of the river view. They have a large deck for dining and a bar in the restaurant that also has a portion with our door seating. The dining room is small and not that attractive to me, but I go here for the outdoor seating anyway.

The menu is not large but offers a nice variety of sandwich's, salads (including a wedge!) and entrees. My sister Jaye and myself ordered a fish sandwich and Stacy's choice was the Ahi Tuna sandwich. Stacy's was perfectly done, seared rare with a tasty wasabi sauce. The serving was large, about an inch thick and served on a sesame kaiser roll and came with a choice of a side. She said it was very tasty! Our fish sandwich was nicely prepared and both Jaye and I agreed it was very good. My only complaint was the size. It was not what we usually expect as a fish sandwich in Pittsburgh. Please understand that this was not a small sandwich. No one from out of town would ever complain about the portion size. Oh well, I'm not going to apologize...I like big food!!!

I would recommend Redfin Blues to anyone for a great relaxing place to enjoy on a sunny day. It's also a good stop to take guests from out of town to enjoy the river life along with views of the city.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fat Heads

Fat Head's Saloon on Urbanspoon

I had never been to Fat Heads before. This is really suprising since I live about 3 minutes away on Mt. Washington and I eat out constantly. Every time I've tried it's been jammed with people. Since there are so many places to eat on the South Side, I never wanted to wait. Today, we got there around noon and it was packed again. Luck was on our side and there were just two seats at the bar, which is fine with me.

First of all, the menu if HUGE! Full of standard sandwiches and then larger ones that they call Headwiches, because they are the size of your head. I like this place already! They also have dinner entrees and 40 beers on tap.

I ordered a Cuban Headwich that they call "The Bay of Pigs". Stacy ordered a tuna sandwich.
The Cuban was tremendous!!! Full of pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and a spicy mayo dressing. It wasn't served on typical Cuban bread, but instead on a large crusty bun. It had to be about 6 inches around. Not quite as big as my head, but huge anyway. It came with homemade chips that were also very good. Stacy's tuna was not what I expected to see. It was a fillet about 1 inch thick, about the size you would expect to get as an entree. While I didn't try it she said it was very good.

The menu also had a sandwich called the South Side Slopes (pictured above). It has kielbasi, cheese, onions and piergoies! I'm going to go back to Fat Heads!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Monterey Pub

I love this place! I read about this in a book about Pittsburgh restaurants and was really intrigued by the writers enthusiasm. Monterey Pub is located in the heart of the North Side, on Monterey St. in the Mexican War Streets area, just off of North Avenue where the YMCA is. This is not an area that I would usually frequent but I'm glad that I made the effort. First of all, it's located right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, one of the beautiful streets where the homes have been beautifully restored.

Once inside, I noticed an old-fashioned tin ceiling, a bar on the left and booths on the right with a small dining room, complete with a fireplace, to the rear. I sat at the bar. We tried some Honey Sriracha wings, and an order of Guinness Nachos. Both were great! The wings were cooked until crispy...I hate mushy wings, and the sauce was spicy hot but with a good flavor. Nachos are not something I would usually order but we spotted them at someones table and couldn't resist. I was not disappointed. I was there early, around 5:00 and it soon started to fill with dinner patrons. The menu includes typical Irish fare such as Shepard's Pie, and Bangers and Mash, but also includes many burgers, salads and dinner entrees such as Meat Loaf, Crab Cakes, Chicken Pot Pie, and Roasted Salmon.

I would recommend Monterey Pub to anyone. While it's not a four star type of place, that's not what they are trying to do. It's the kind of place that you feel comfortable and cozy the first time you enter. I will go back for sure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lidia's Pittsburgh

Following is a post from the food board Chowhound, Pittsburgh. It speaks for itself. I've been to Lidia's a couple of times and was very pleased with the food and service. Any place is entitled to an occasional bad day....I've always felt that the important thing is how a restaurant handles it with their customers. A lot of restaurants could take a lesson from the Chef at Lidia's!!!

Service without being served your food is NO Service. Made reservations for Valentine's Day 2009 at Lidia's Pgh. Was seated promptly and had drinks and salads in short order. But, after waiting over two hours, the dinner never came and no explanation was offered by the wait staff - we left and had to find eating elsewhere. A very memoriable Valentine's Day. But, hey live and let live..move on to today 3/31/2009. Stopped at Lidia's Pgh for a late lunch/early dinner at about 2:05pm. Was turned away and told they are closed between 2pm and 5pm. Now, regular customers might know this - I am not a regular. And, I had checked their web site and it had no mention of this closure. We were very very disappointed. We have had their food only once before at a special event held there - it is good. But they will not let us try it again - at least so far on these two occasions. Their attitude seems to be..tough!!!...No apology! And I have a gift card to use there, but looks like it will never be redeemed. Other ideas of this situation are appreciated. Am I wrong ?
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HonestInPitt] cssbody=[user_tooltip]" alt="" src=""> HonestInPitt Mar 31, 2009 09:16PM

Shortly after posting about my two experiences, I did receive a call from the Head Chef at Lidia's Pittsburgh. He was very apologetic and sent a letter and flowers. He also offered to come to our home and prepare a meal for my family. We took him up on the offer and a Wonderful meal was prepared and served to my family this date. Congratrualations Lidia's Pittsburgh and their Head Chef Eric for stepping up to the plate and beyond. Most Excellent apology and service beyond. Just want every one to know.
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HonestInPitt] cssbody=[user_tooltip]" alt="" src=""> HonestInPitt Apr 18, 2009 09:13PM

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Turkey Devonshire

Turkey, bacon, bread and cheese. I've been craving this for some reason. It's probably been 10 years or longer since I've had Turkey Devonshire. I don't even know where to get it anymore. This is pretty much a Pittsburgh food, at least I have never seen it anywhere else. There was a place in Oakland, (I think it was a hotel restaruant) that served great devonshire. Does anyone know any places that serve it now???

This is a recipe from the Post Gazette that is suppose to be the original.

Frank Blandi's Original Devonshire Sandwich
Cream Sauce:3/4 stick butter, melted1 cup flour1/4 pound Cheddar cheese, grated1 pint chicken broth1 pint hot milk1 teaspoon salt
Melt butter in deep pan and add flour, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth and then hot milk, stirring all the while. Add cheese and salt. Bring to boil, then cook slowly for 20 minutes, still stirring. Cool to lukewarm. Beat with wire whip until smooth before using. This makes enough sauce for 6 Devonshire sandwiches.
For each sandwich:1 slice toast, crusts trimmed off3 slices crisp bacon5 thin slices cooked turkey breastCream Sauce, recipe aboveMelted butter Parmesan cheese and paprika
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In each flat, individual oven-proof casserole dish, place 1 slice of toast and top with 3 slices bacon. Add 5 thin slices of cooked turkey breast. Cover completely with cream sauce. Sprinkle with a little melted butter, then with the combined Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Downey's House - Eat Drink and Laugh...

Downey's House is a somewhat new restaurant on Steubenville Pike, near Robinson. I've driven by it several times and noticed that the parking lot was always packed! A couple of days ago, while looking for a place for lunch (I'm always hungry!) we decided to give it a try. This was really a nice place. As you walk in, a large square bar is to your left and the dining area and stage is to the right. This was in the afternoon and there were a few people at the bar eating lunch and a group of about 10 that appeared to be having a lunch meeting. This is the kind of a place that I would enjoy going to for happy hour for a few drinks, but would still feel safe taking kids for a meal. Speaking of a meal, I ordered the lunch special which was a hot turkey sandwich, complete with mashed potatoes and of course, gravy on everything...Not quite health food, but really good and it was huge!

My sister lives in Oakdale, not too far from there so I'm thinking of meeting her for happy hour soon. I'll report back on the evening crowd!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Review: Green Front Inn

Speaking of the famous Pittsburgh fish sandwich, someone recommended that I try the Green Front Inn, in the South Side. This place was a nice surprise, they have a dining room in the back and a small bar to the right as you walk in. The menu is somewhat limited but provides what you need for good bar food. I of course ordered the fish and my partner (Stacy) went for the Ruben sandwich. Unfortunately, they were out of corned beef so Stacy settled for a cheeseburger. This turned out to be a great choice! The burger was huge, with everything on it and although I did not try a sample, it looked great which she confirmed. The fish was typical Pittsburgh cod (which I love) and was huge...Enough for two buns. While it was very good, I would not rate in my top favorites. The breading was very light which I like, but could have used a little more flavor in my opinion.

The only downside to this place is that it just seems a little dirty. Now I understand that this is not upscale dining, but it is just a little too run down for my tastes. The place could use a lot, but at minimum a coat of paint and some new chairs that are not split open. That being said, I'd still recommend someone go there. Just be aware of what to expect. Very good food in a bit of a run down atmosphere. Overall I'd rate Green Front a 6 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tessaros...Not just for burgers anymore

One of my favorite spots in Pittsburgh is Tessaro's in Bloomfield. I'm not quite sure what it is about the place. It's one of those places that I go to and just feel confortable. A huge bonus is that the food is excellent!!! Most people around town know Tessaros for their big, char grilled burgers. You always see their name when reading about the best burgers in the area and they deserve it. The beef is fresh ground on site and they and grill it on a wood grill that you can see from the restaurant. The smell is fantastic! The pleasant suprise is that the rest of the menu is just as good. Believe it or not, the tuna melt is great. Another favorite of mine is the steak salad. It has fresh greens and big chunks of steak, not top round or steak um's. I know that they have a mexican day also and while I'm usually there for lunch, I've noticed several fresh seafood selections for dinner. I really want to get back and try some of the other selections on the menu.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pittsburgh fish sandwich...

I always thought that the people in Pittsburgh are just crazy about fish sandwiches. Now I know that you can get fish on a bun anywhere, but the 'Burgh seems to have it's own unique fish sandwiches. Here, almost all of the fish that you get in local watering holes is cod. I don't think that this is typical in other cities. They are also BIG! I'm talking a foot long! While most places will serve them either fried or baked, I don't think anyone has ever actually ordered one baked.

There's a local tavern that I can walk to on Mount Washington where I was enjoying dinner consisting of a fish sandwich and a malt beverage...The fish was just average (that's why I'm not naming the restaurant) and one of the locals must have overheard me saying that I wasn't really impressed with it. He said I had to go to a place called Bobby's on rt 51. Well, of course I was there in a couple of days. They have a regular and a small. I wasn't really hungry so I got the small...Holy Cow!!! This thing could have fit on three buns. I ask the bartender (I like to sit at the bar) if they had made a mistake and given me the regular and she assured me that I indeed had the small portion. It that's the case, I'll bet you could feed a family of four with the regular size. Anyway, it was good! I'm not prepared to say that it's the best I've had, but it was good enough that I'll go back. I really want to continue my search for great fish sandwiches in the area...Any recommendations would be appreciated!!!

Welcome to 'BurghFeeding!

I'm a BurghFeeder...All I mean by that is that I love to eat and drink my way through life, enjoying and savoring every unique eating establishment that I can find! It also means that I live in the 'Burgh, Pittsburgh that is.

The Burgh (as the locals call it) is loaded with unique and unusual foods. The home of chipped ham, (yes, chipped) steaks cooked "Pittsburgh Rare," Pirmanti's Brothers sandwiches, church's that cook and serve periogies and monster size fish sandwiches and many other local specialities. I'll talk about all of these as time allows, but now I'm getting hungry!

Now I know that this city can't compete with the culinary offerings of some of our larger city's on the coasts, but I just don't care! I like to go to some of the more popular food forums like Chowhound, Roadfood and a few others, but they just don't capture the spirit of this great area. I'm talking about unique, enjoyable, fun, and social eating.

I'd like to start some discussions on favorite local food and drink finds, and get all of your ideas on these and other subjects...Maybe even meet a couple of local foodies! Feel free to leave your comments!!!!!

Dave Clifton