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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

As always, just click on the title above!

The Freedom Square Diner

Over the past few years the draw of lower taxes combined with good highways into the city have made the Cranberry area increasingly congested. While I usually try to avoid the area, an abundance of good shopping made it a destination this Christmas season. Aside from the typical chains, the area is drawing some new restaurants. The upscale Echo, along with quality burger joints BrGr and Wingharts (due to open soon) come to mind.

In search of a place for breakfast, we found the Freedom Square Diner near the Shop and Save just off of Freedom road. It was 7:00 am (we start early!) and they had just opened. They have a weekday breakfast special of two eggs, bacon or sausage, and choice of potato, toast or pancake for $3.99, but what caught my eye was the December breakfast special which was $4.00 off of any Eggs Benedict, and they have several tasty choices including spinach and tomato, crab and salmon. The Crab Benedict was so good that I went back a couple of days later and ordered the Salmon Benedict! Very generous portions of crab and salmon make this a hearty breakfast, and at $4.00 off, that makes it a great bargain meal for only $4.29. I've got to say, their promotion worked. I'll be back and gladly pay full price.

To get to the Freedom Square Diner and avoid the Cranberry traffic, just head North on I-79 and exit on the second Cranberry exit. Turn left at the light, cross over Route 19, and it's about a mile ahead on the left side. As always, just click on the title above to see their website.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


In years past, I would frequent Rico's quite often. I remember sitting at the bar and seeing Art Rooney Sr. (yep, The Chief!), and Lynn Swan come in one evening. The Rooney family and many local sports figures still dine here, probably because it's the kind of place where no one will bother them. The place hasn't changed much, they still have a coat check, valet parking (that's not necessary)and it's still decorated in old school Italian. Rico will usually greet you at the door. The place still has the feel of rare old school elegance.

We started our meal with salad with a nice mix of fresh greens, house Italian dressing and chunky Roquefort cheese. It was really fantastic. For the main meal, my daughter ordered Poached Salmon, I chose Veal Medallions, and Stacy and Jaye went for the Filet Mignon. All of us raved about our meals, and my veal may have been the best I've ever had. I still remembered my favorite selection from years ago was the Walleye Pike, and even though I didn't order it, I was happy to see it was still on the menu!

If you want progressive, inventive food, this might not be the place for you, but if you want a great traditional meal, prepared with top quality ingredients, and a little pampering, try Rico's!

Rico's is kind of hard to find, hidden on a hill just off of McKnight Road at the Millvale exit. As always, just click on the title to see their website.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rachael's Roadhouse

For many years my family owned a little cottage North of Pittsburgh, outside of Meadville Pa. The fastest route is the interstate, but I always liked to travel on Rt. 19, which runs parallel to Interstate 79. While the scenery is great, the food was a struggle until the Iron Bridge Inn, the Springfield Grill, and Rachel's Roadhouse popped up. All are owned by the same group so technically, I guess it's a chain, but it doesn't seem like it! My favorite of the three has always been the Iron Bridge, all are pretty good and comparable to each other.

Stacy and I were doing a little Christmas shopping, and headed to the Grove City outlets. By the way, I was a bit worried about the holiday crowds on the weekend before Christmas, but Sunday was our only opportunity to shop so we had to go then. We arrived just after opening time at 9:00. To my surprise, it was practically empty! After about three hours it started to really fill up, but it wasn't bad. Anyway, after our morning of shopping, I intended to head over to Rachael's.

The menu has a nice selection of salads, sandwiches, steaks, ribs and seafood, but one thing I really like is their variety of different Reuben's. Traditional of course, but they also have a Carolina Reuben, that is loaded with BBQ pork, also a Russian, a turkey, and even one with a fish fillet. I went with turkey on rye and it was very good. Stacy had a salmon salad which had a generous portion of salmon over mixed greens with a balsamic drizzle. Looked pretty tasty!

If you are want to go to any of these places, take 79 to the Grove City exit, turn left, and continue to route 19. Turn right on 19 and Rachael's is just ahead on your right. If you want, the Iron Bridge Inn is just a bit farther on the left hand side. Either one's a good choice!

As usual, just click on the title above to see their website.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Hop House, Wood Fired Food and Ale

The Hop House has two locations, one on Noblestown Road in Greentree, and the other (formally the Barking Shark) on Three Degree Road in the North Hills. I've been to both several times and was always satisfied. As the name implies, The Hop House has 36 different draft beers and a nice selection of speciality bottles. The menu is also quite varied with choices from their wood fired pizza oven, to racks of ribs, cedar plank salmon, and my favorite, fresh ahi tuna, described on the menu as:

Fresh Ahi Tuna encrusted in a delicate mixture of coconut and sesame seeds and lightly seared to perfection. Further topped with our orange chili sauce.

The Noblestown Road location has live music on the weekends and a great outdoor patio for the summer months. Note that both of these locations permit smoking, but I never even noticed any smokers. I wouldn't really call them smoking bars.

Just click on the name above to go to their website.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Pretzel Shop

The Pretzel Shop on Carson Street in the Southside is really one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh. I can't stand the rubbery, cold pretzels that are typically sold at Steeler/Pirate games, but these are totally different. If you go in the morning they will be bringing them fresh and hot, right from the oven in the back. I usually get a couple of pretzels (only a buck for two) and some spicy dipping mustard. They also offer a number of pretzel sandwiches, but I'm partial to plain pretzels although right next to the register, they have pretzels with jalapenos and cheese...very tempting!

I've also tried the Philly Pretzel Factory a couple of times, but I don't think they can compare.

If you go, the Pretzel Shop is right on Carson Street, between the Double Wide Grill and the Birmingham bridge.