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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.

One of my favorite areas in Pittsburgh is known as the Strip District. This is a narrow strip of land that boarders the Allegheny river, just northeast of downtown. The area is where most of the areas wholesale produce dealers are located. Since the 1950's many of the dealers began to expand their businesses by opening retail stores on Penn Avenue and Smallman Street. Today the Strip District is best known for its retail produce and ethnic food stores, restaurants and coffee shops. I usually get to the Strip a couple of times each month, and don't really have a particular favorite store, but if I had to pick one, it would be Pennsylvania Macaroni.

When you enter, you pass wooden barrels filled with a variety of nuts and grains. To the left is a room with a large cheese counter, a cooler with barrels of different olives, and a counter with Italian meats. Samples are generously provided and the counter people are very knowledgeable and helpful. Another area holds a huge selection of olive oils, canned peppers, hot sauces, pasta and lots of other items. Fresh bread from Breadworks is delivered daily, and in the rear just before the check-outs is a produce area.

Friday, April 8, 2011

CJ's in the Strip

I've always been a big fan of live music of various styles. One of the things that Stacy and I enjoyed was attending the Pittsburgh Jazz Society's Sunday night performances at the Rhythm House in Bridgeville. They never charged a cover and the music was very diverse, but always very good each week. When the Rhythm House closed it left a bit of a void in the Pittsburgh jazz scene. Well, CJ's helps to fill that void.

When you first enter, a sign on the door reads:

Open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 5:00pm to 2:00am

Closed Sunday's, Monday's and Wednesday's

You must be 30 or over to enter!!

You can wear jeans but no tennis shoes

Quirky, isn't it?

A large bar sits toward the rear of a large room. In the center are about a dozen dining tables that sit facing a stage. I visited on a Thursday night to see one of the most talented jazz drummers alive, Roger Humphries for the Thursday Night Jam Session which he hosts. When the band started at a little after eight the place was fairly empty but within a half hour just about every seat was taken.

Although I did not eat this evening, the selections coming out of the kitchen all looked appetizing. This is not "fine dining" but rather good comfort food at very reasonable prices. Entrees that come with a choice of two sides and bread include a grilled 8 ounce strip steak, covered with sauteed mushrooms ($13.95), Tilapia(10.95),
Catfish (10.95), and a few different salad and sandwich choices.

There was no cover charge and of course, Roger's music was great! I really enjoyed the evening and am looking forward to taking Stacy whenever our work schedules agree.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Gyro

For many years, whenever I got the urge for a Greek Gyro my favorite place was Mike and Tonys on the Southside of Pittsburgh. The combination of good meat and the flavor of the cucumber sauce is what I think makes a great gyro. Until now, no one around here could touch Mike and Tonys.

My Big Fat Greek Gyro has several locations around the city. We visited the one in the Pine Tree Shoppes in Wexford. This is the kind of place where the menu is posted on the wall and you place your order at the counter. I got the Gyro Platter which is not an actual gyro, but instead a quartered pita, with the meat, sauce, lettuce, and chopped tomato on the side. In addition, the platter included an order of fries and a small, but very fresh and good Greek salad. I don't know much about gryo meat, except that it's a combination of lamb and beef which is seasoned, pressed into a loaf and then thinly sliced. While the concept doesn't sound too appetizing, the end result is tremendous. While I admit that I don't know much about great gyros (I am from Pittsburgh), this is the best that I've had yet. The meat was just a step above my previous favorite, and had a better flavor. Actually tasted fresher, if that's possible considering the process that it goes through. In addition, the sauce was exceptional also.

While My Big Fat Greek Gyro doesn't quite have the ambiance associated with Mike & Tonys (local,dumpy), I'll give them a pass for that. The food makes this my new "go to" place for gyros.