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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!