Saturday, December 22, 2012
Better quality burger places have been opening around the city for the last couple of years, and I really welcome the change. Tessaro's in Bloomfield was always one of the few places that would grind and mix their own meat mixture on a daily basis, but now their are many choices. I've personally tried Burgatory in Fox Chapel, Burgh'ers in Zelienople, BR'GR in East Liberty, Bubba's and Sauce in Bridgeville, and several others. All are very good...But Wingharts just might be the best.
Wingharts is in Market Square downtown. It's a small restaurant along with a full service bar specializing in a wide variety of whiskey. I don't know anything about, or really care about whiskey so I'll just talk about the food. Our server was very knowledgeable about the different cuts of beef used and the preparation of the patty's and was very helpful in all of our questions. I ended up ordering the Market Square Burger, which is loaded with bacon, mushrooms, gruyere cheese and a honey mustard dressing. This may be the best burger I've ever had. It was just tremendous. And while the toppings are all fresh and top notch, it's not the toppings that I'm referring to. The quality and flavor of the beef is what makes these burgers so good.
The menu also offered a Double Blue Burger with dried blue, along with blue cheese dressing. The Hula Burger with pineapple, BBQ sauce, cheddar, and caramelized onions. There is also a chicken sausage burger, a veggie burger (for you vegetarians that frequent burger restaurants) and even one with chipped ham and cheese! Here's the description from the menu: Oly Cah! Chip chop’ am n beer chhese?! On a burger?! Git aht a than! Yinz guys gotta see dis...
This is the Shipwreck Burger, loaded with Brie cheese, caramelized onions with bacon, arugula, and white truffle aioli.
Winghart's is located in Market Square downtown and a new location just opened right on Carson Street on the South Side of Pittsburgh.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
I don't usually write about restaurants that are very far outside of the Pittsburgh area, but every once in a while I stumble upon a place that happens to be unique enough that others just might find it interesting too. I've been to Bristol Tennessee several times over the years, and recently found myself there for a brief business trip. Usually when I'm in the South, I like to hunt out local BBQ joints, not only because they're always good, but they make their BBQ with a unique sauce that I've always liked. Whether it's the vinegar based sauce prevalent in the Carolina's or some mixture of sweet tomato, vinegar and mustard that seems to blanket the south-east US, I usually like all of them.
I've been told about Ridgewood BBQ, (in Bluff City) several times on my previous trips, but never had the time to go there. This time I made it a point, and I'm glad that I did! They offer both pork and beef and I decided to go with the BBQ pork sandwich. The pork is sliced and heated on a flat-top, then mixed with their great sauce and topped with slaw to make a huge sandwich.
I also got an order of their BBQ beans which were also really good. The super friendly server sucked me into a southern sweet tea with her southern hospitality...I hate sweet tea, but I forgive her for that!
As is with most BBQ places in the South, Ridgewood doesn't have bar service and is kind of diner like, but that's OK. Is Ridgewood the best BBQ I've ever had? Naw, but that's only because I love several styles, including Texas style beef and the sweet Memphis we have out West. I do think it may be the best Southern style that I've tried...But I do intend to keep on trying!
Ridgewood BBQ is located at 900 Elizabethton Hwy in Bluff City,TN
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Friday, November 23, 2012
I love Thanksgiving and I also enjoy turkey sandwich's, but sometimes eating straight turkey every day for a week is just too much! Here's a twist, and a great way to put to use your leftover turkey. If you can't find fresh okra, you can buy it in a jar. I find a hot version at local supermarkets that works well. Don't skip it though...It acts as a necessary thickener. If you are not experienced at making a roux, be patient. Don't allow it to burn, or you'll have to start over. It's easy if you take your time, don't overheat, and stir it constantly.
3 cups okra, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 pound smoked sausage or andouiIle sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Turkey (or chicken) meat, about 2 pounds, cooked and cut into bite size pieces
Louisiana hot sauce or ground cayenne pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste
1/2 cup oil or shortening or bacon drippings
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 gallon of stock, (16 cups) more or less, made from the leftover turkey, or use chicken stock.
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat, then add the flour, reduce heat a bit and make a dark roux. Stir constantly, and make sure not to burn the roux! This will take about 30 or 40 minutes. Here's the roux, almost ready:
To the roux add the onions, green onions, bell pepper, parsley, and celery, stirring after each addition, and cook until the onions are clear. Add 1 cup of the stock and stir well to form a thick paste. Stir in the minced garlic, then the remaining stock. Stir in the okra, sausage, and chicken. Season with hot sauce, Worcestershire, and salt; stir to mix well. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve over cooked rice. This can be frozen in containers to be eaten another day.
My preferred hot sauce...
Friday, November 16, 2012
A very unassuming restaurant, nicely away from the bars and bustle of Carson street, Dish is one of my favorite Pittsburgh restaurants. Tucked away among residential housing, you could walk by here and not even realize that this restaurant exists. The building was initially built as a tavern in 1885. As you enter, a small cozy bar sits to the left with a few tables on the other side. The restaurant itself is also very small but warm and comfortable.
Even though the bar is usually diners waiting on tables, don't hesitate to stop for a drink and try an appetizer to get the flavor of the place. Because they are so busy, you need to make reservations early so the first couple of visits I ended up at the bar. The wine list largely favors regional Italian selections, and the Boyd and Blair Potato vodka, olive juice and mountain gorgonzola stuffed olives is a good choice.
My go-to appetizer is the grilled calamari, served with sautéed spinach, lemon, parsley and extra virgin. This isn't typical fried calamari. It's grilled until slightly blackened and flavored with a squirt of lemon. The flavor is phenomenal! Another good appitizer choice is the mushroom bruschetta, described as: Bruschetta ai Funghi Sautéed portobello, shiitake, cremini mushrooms and fresh basil. Served on grilled ciabatta bread.
While the menu changes daily, if you are lucky they might have the pan roasted breast of duck in a red currant demiglace served with grilled mushroom polenta and a julienne of sauteed Brussels sprouts...Wow.
Dish is located at 117 South 17th Street, on the South Side of Pittsburgh. Be aware, finding the place can be difficult, and so can parking. While it's not on Carson street, it's not a long walk from there, so take the first space you find!
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Chef Richard DeShantz has operated the upscale restaurant Nine on Nine successfully for five years now. Seeing a need for a less formal eating option in the area, Chef DeShantz decided to open a gastropub. What is a Gastropub? It's simply a pub that serves great food, or in Chef DeShantz's own words, “food that a chef would eat after a busy day at work, food you grew up with, comfort food and street food.” Well, that sounds good to me!
The interior is old time comfortable, with high ceilings and tables surrounding a large rectangular bar. The place is noisy, but a good noisy. People sitting at the bar, chatting over pots of Moules and munching on Devils on Horseback. They also have a nice outdoor patio for nice weather dining. The menu is a single page with a choice of a couple of daily specials.
ork shoulder, pickled red cabbage, jalapeno, and chorizo mayonnaise, served with house made chips. The mix of flavors was delicious!!!
Meat and Potatoes is on Penn Avenue, right in the Cultural District in Pittsburgh, right next to the O'Reilly Theatre.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
I stopped by Market Square last Thursday and was pleasantly surprised to see the Farmers Market still going strong, even at the end of October. Lots of tables full of fresh veggies, a live band playing, several food trucks, along with all the new restaurants with outdoor dining. Really vibrant!
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Gourmet burger places are all the rage around Pittsburgh in the past couple of years, and the locals have really embraced them. For many years, a lot of us have been making the trek to Bloomfield to enjoy a great burger at Tessaro's. At one time, they were the only game in town, but not anymore!
One of the newest and best burger places is Bubba's Gourmet Burgers and Beer, just south of the city in Bridgeville. I stopped in this week with my good friend Gary to check the place out. The space is open and comfortable with a full bar and plenty of TV's if you want to watch a game. We were promptly greeted as we entered and made to feel comfortable by our outstanding bartender, who introduced herself as Shea. It's always nice to feel welcome as soon as you walk in.
Pittsburgh has a number of quality burger places now but I think Bubba's is as good as just about any of them, and will be sure to return soon. Next time I'll be sure to try a different burger...I have my eye on the N'awlins Burger, with Cajun seasoning and chipolte mayo, bacon, blue cheese, lettuce tomato and onion...Wow!
Bubba's is located at 3109 Washington Pike, about a minute off the Bridgeville exit of Interstate 79, in Bridgeville Pa. Stop in and say hello to Shea, (who recently relocated from the west coast) and make sure to make her feel welcome to her new hometown!
Monday, October 22, 2012
The winter factory All Clad sale will be held on November 30th and December 1st. at the Washington County fair grounds. For those of you that have never been, they sell All Clad cookware at significantly discounted prices. Even at the sale, this stuff is pricy, but it's a way to put together a set at a somewhat more reasonable price. Both first quality and seconds are offered. Over the years I've purchased many of the seconds and have gotten more than ten years of steady service of several of them. Even now, I don't think I could find the defect on these pans!
The fair grounds are just off of Interstate 79, about 40 minutes south of Pittsburgh.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
I was in New Castle last week and happened upon P.O. Lunch. The P.O. stands for Post Office...Why, I don't know. Anyway, P.O. Lunch is one of the names that I remembered being a favorite of the locals so I had to stop in for lunch.
The place is diner like, very bright and very clean. The menu offers typical diner fare, and while I was temped to try a burger, I had to go with what made them famous, the hot dogs. I order two dogs with everything. In New Castle lingo that means mustard, onions and chili. The following explanation of New Castle hot dog lingo (from the Lawrence County website) is described as:
New Castle Hot Dog Terms
Everything = Mustard, Onions,and Chili
Ketchup Everything = Ketchup, Onions, and Chili
Ketchup with Everything = Ketchup, Mustard, Onions, and Chili
I was told that they would put ketchup on my dogs, but that is frowned upon. I was obedient. The dogs were great and the chili really made them. On top of that a couple of loaded dogs, and order of fries and a soft drink came out to less than six bucks. Can't go wrong with that!
P.O. Lunch is located at 2402 Wilmington Road, New Castle, Pa.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
The restaurant is built around an actual 160 year old log cabin. The original cabin serves as a dining room and a room in the back overlooks a beautiful wooded valley.
The menu is simple, but very nice with a variety of appetizers and salads, steaks and at least a half dozen seafood selections. Being lunch time, Stacy and I choose to order sandwiches. She went for the classic Ruben and I decided on Sonny's Favorite which is smoked turkey, ham, Swiss, coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing on marble rye. This sandwich was a monster! The meat and fillings were piled about 3 inches high on a great tasting rye bread, and served with a side...I choose boring coleslaw. This sandwich wasn't only quantity, the meat was lean, tasty and just a very good quality product. Stacy was just as pleased with her Ruben.
Both of us decided that we need to get back here and try dinner sometime when our schedules allow.
The Log Cabin Inn is located on route 19, at 430 Perry Highway in Harmony, just a few minutes north of Zelienople, Pa.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Altoona is a regular stop for me on trips to central Pennsylvania. One of my favorites if Texas Hot Dogs. The place is kind of like a diner, where you order your food at the counter and sit at old time Formica booths. I always get my dogs with onions, mustard and sauce. The onions are very finely minced and the sauce is fantastic. As far as sides go, the fried cheese is great, but I really like the mac and cheese. They add the spicy dog sauce to the mac and cheese and it makes for a great, flavorful side dish.
If you go, Texas Hot Dogs is at 101 58th Street, Altoona PA, right down the road from the Hampton Inn.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Oram's Donuts in Beaver Falls Pa
Oram's is located at 1406 7th Avenue in Beaver Falls. Their website says they are open from 5am to 2pm, but in my experience they usually run out of donuts well before 2, and close early. Best to go early in the morning!
I don't really care for donuts that much. Just too sweet for me so it's kind of surprising how much I really love Oram's! The quality is great, the cinnamon rolls are huge, like hubcaps. They are also sweet, but for some reason I like them. This place has been open since 1938, so they must be doing donuts right. They are so good, I make the drive all the way from the city to get them. You should too!
The picture below isn't all that good, but to put it in perspective, the cinnamon rolls are at least 6 or 7 inches across.
Oram's is located at 1406 7th Avenue in Beaver Falls. Their website says they are open from 5am to 2pm, but in my experience they usually run out of donuts well before 2, and close early. Best to go early in the morning!
Monday, September 10, 2012
One of my favorite places on the North Side has always been Max's Allegheny Tavern. It's truly one of the old ethnic neighborhood places in Pittsburgh.
The building is old and a lot of history is printed in the menu. As you enter, the bar is on your right. It's a real comfortable place to have a drink, and the locals are always friendly. They have a nice selection of German beers including Spaten Lager, Kostritzer Black Lager, Waresteiner Premium Ale, and Hacker Pschorr Weisse. They also sell Penn Pilsner ad of course the usual domestics.
I'd be the first to admit that I've never found German food to be particularly exciting, although that may be because my knowledge about it is somewhat limited. The menu includes soups, sandwiches, salads, schnitzels, sausages, a few seafood selections and a few desserts.
Check out the Schnitzel Liechtenstein , veal topped with ham, cheese, and green olives.
If you don't care for this type of food (which I understand) it's still worth it to stop and take in the ambiance over a German beer or a glass of wine. Happy hour is Monday thru Friday from 5 to 7, and on Friday in the basement Rathskeller.
Max's Allegheny Tavern is on Pittsburgh's North Side at 537 Suismon Street.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Monday, September 3, 2012
Coleman's Fish Market has been a famous landmark in Wheeling for as long as I can remember. That's why it's so surprising that I've never been there before! This is a true fish market with a good selection of fresh fish to take home, and also a food counter where you can order a variety of sandwiches and sides but I went for the fish! This is a place where you place your order at the counter and wait pick it up, and seat yourself.
We ordered a couple of fish sandwiches, and couldn't resist getting the onion rings. The fish is served on plain white bread (think Wonder bread) and is perfectly fried, golden brown.
The sandwich was very good, although I'm accustomed to a much larger portion...If you look through this blog, you will see that I really love the traditional Pittsburgh fish sandwiches which tend to be huge! That said this is a tasty sandwich and I wouldn't hesitate to stop again whenever I'm in the area.
Coleman's is in downtown Wheeling in an area called Centre Market. The building also houses a few other eatery's and shops and makes for a pleasant afternoon.
Friday, August 17, 2012
I stopped at the Franklin Inn today for lunch, and it hit me that while I've been there many, many times, I've never written about it. For several years I actually lived in the neighborhood and it became a regular stop. Since then, I've still managed to stop in fairly frequently. I vividly recall my first visit which happened to be the only time I've been there and was disappointed...Not because of poor service or food, but because of my own perceptions. It was probably 20 years ago...I was in the mood to try a new restaurant and I wanted a steak! I recalled driving by and seeing the sign with a picture of Ben Franklin. Any place named "The Franklin Inn" with a picture of Ben on their sign must have a great steak...Wrong!!!
The Franklin Inn is a Mexican restaurant, and no, I don't know the relationship between the name and the menu. A funny note, a friend of mine who can't seem to remember the name started referring to it as Mexican Fiesta, and at least with us, that name has stuck over the years. This has been a favorite stop for lunch over the years, but the bar, while small, is fun and the locals are always eager to talk to you.
The menu contains everything from soup (the black bean is tremendous!), to sandwiches, to several house specialities, such as a chorizo burrito which is described as: A large soft flour tortilla filled with chorizo, cheese, tomatoes, and onions.
The Franklin Inn is on Rochester road in Franklin Park, just North of Pittsburgh.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
I've heard about Drover's Inn for years now. It's a very unique old inn and restaurant but the reason it intrigued me was their reputation for wings. I've had wings in a million places including a couple of stops at the birthplace of Buffalo Wings, the Anchor Inn up in Buffalo (yuk, not my favorite). The reason I haven't make it to Drover's is that it's a bit out of the way, located in the northern panhandle of West Virginia in Wellsburg. I happened to be staying close to there in Steubenville last week and decided now's my chance!
Drover's doesn't open until 5:00, and that's when I arrived. I'm glad that I got their early, because the cars started piling in as soon as the doors opened. The Inn serves dinners in dining rooms on the first floor and their is a tavern in the basement. The entrance to the tavern is through an old style basement door, the kind that lift up walk down a few steps and then enter the basement. I had read that the basement is the place to go, so that's where I was headed. It's unique, kind of like eating in a hundred year old basement...But the crowd was fun and the bartenders were great.
My thing with wings is simple. I like them crispy. Sauces are important, but secondary...No sauce can make up for mushy wings. They offer six levels of heat from Mild to Hurt-Me, and you can also choose from Honey BBQ, Sweet and Hot Oriental, or Buffalo Garlic. They will also add Cajun seasoning to any selection. Orders are small which is one pound and is 7 to 9 wings. A large order is two pounds. I decided to go for an order of the Buffalo Garlic. They came out with just the right amount of sauce but more importantly, crispy! The sauce was spicy with a hint of garlic and the wings were cooked to a crisp which held up well under the sauce.
Check out this view of the basement Tavern:
Drover's Inn is on Washington Pike in Wellsburg WV. It's a bit out in the woods, so if you go, a GPS or at least good directions are important.
Monday, July 9, 2012
BBQ is one of those foods that can be divisive among passionate fans. I would guess that that's because it's prepared so differently in different regions, not only within the U.S. but the whole world. I can hardly keep up with this country's variations on 'Q, so that's my only reference point.
Of course the southeastern part of the U.S. is the epicenter of BBQ for most of us with several styles ranging from the Carolina's with their vinegar based sauces, to Memphis where ribs are usually served either "wet" or "dry" and Cole slaw is typically served on sandwiches. Texas BBQ is predominately beef while Kansas City leans toward the sweet sauce that we see dominating the sauce selections at local supermarkets.
Most BBQ places in this area serve a combination of the above. I prefer to get my meat dry and add sauce as I see fit and at Pork 'n Nat that's how most of it is served. We stopped in for lunch on a recent Sunday afternoon and while the atmosphere is lacking (after all, it is a BBQ joint!), we were quite pleased with the food.
The menu has four platters with chicken, pork, brisket or ribs that come with two sides and jalapeno cornbread. They also have a number of starters, sandwiches and a kids menu. Since it was lunch, we both decided on sandwiches. Stacy ordered the Brisket Reuben which is described as "thin sliced brisket on marble rye with homemade sauerkraut, cheddar cheese and horseradish". I went for the pulled pork. Four different sauces are available, three are tomato based (sweet, hot, smokey) and the other was a Carolina style...Vinegar based with mustard and a touch of tomato. I went for the Carolina on my pulled pork, not so much because because I don't like the others, but more because this type of sauce is harder to find around here. The pork was tender but was clearly smoked, not baked and the sauce was a perfect compliment to the smokey meat. Stacy (who used all the sauces!) could not stop raving about the Brisket Reuben. I've always felt that if a BBQ place can make good brisket, the chances are good that everything else on the menu will be good also, so that's a good sign.
Pork 'n Nat is at 8032 Rowan Road in Cranberry. Check out their website here: http://www.porknnatbbq.com/default.html
to see the menu or check hours.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I'm always on a quest for great pizza, and one that I've always is the Chicago style at Domenico's in Cranberry. I usually can't stand Chicago style because I find that it's usually way too "doughy" for my tastes. The pie at Domenico's isn't so typical. The crust, while thick, is still crispy. They use a sauce made with great tasting chunky tomato's and the cheese, while generous doesn't overwhelm the pie. In my experience this pie takes a little longer than their standard pizzas, but it's worth the wait!
In addition to pizza, they offer a full menu with everything from salads to chicken, veal and seafood. While the interior is a little dated, the place is comfortable and if you are interested they have a nice bar, with a few booths and tables. Domenico's is on Route 19 in Cranberry, (just North of Walmart).