Category Archives: restaurant REVIEWS

Dive Bar & Grille – Lawrenceville Neighborhood

Restaurant: Dive Bar & Grille

Location: The lower part of Upper Lawrenceville where Alchemy N’Ale used to be.

Atmosphere: The exposed brick, tin ceiling tiles and esoteric light fixtures added a nice touch of gastropub coolness to the otherwise casual “classic American diner” vibe.

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Menu: Wings, quesadillas, tacos, sliders, salad bowls, sandwiches, burgers and just about anything else you might need*.

* Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at “tacos.”

Food: I’m a sucker for po’boys. Lobster po’boys, shrimp po’boys, oyster po’boys, hell, I even like the song “Po’Boy” by Bob Dylan. So when I saw that Dive had a shrimp po’boy with chipotle aioli*, which you could also add a crab cake to for an additional $2**, it quickly moved ahead of all the other mouthwatering options. #MalacostracaDoubleDown

The sandwich turned out to be a real winner. Big ol’ chunks of moist crab cake covered the bottom of the sizable roll, which along with the cornmeal-crusted shrimp provided an ocean’s worth of seafood goodness. The side of fries was a little lackluster, but I still ate every one so who am I to complain.

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I paired my food with a Jibe Session IPA (American IPA, 4% ABV) from Green Flash Brewing. Its crisp texture and light-citrus taste made for a perfectly refreshing lunchtime libation. The beer rounded out a delicious meal of crustacean goodness that even Squidward Tentacles couldn’t complain about.

* Chip Aioli would make a great name for a contestant on The Next Food Network Star…

** Can you believe that!?? Only 2$?!?! I wish that everything came with the option of adding a crab cake for two bucks. And not just food either. Oil changes, haircuts, lap dances…what wouldn’t be improved with the addition of a two dollar crab cake?

Service: Good.

Final Call: The fact that Dive has a location in the North Hills suburbs and not the South hills suburbs near my house makes me angry. Other than that, everything’s awesome!

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The Best of Summer 2016 Part III…Day Tripping

“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

Whereas the cold winters of Pittsburgh are prefect for staying indoors and binge-watching Netflix, summer is all about getting ahht of the house to explore the great attractions that our lovely region has to offer. And who better to give us some suggestions on how to get the most out of these summer days than a school teacher? 

After spending the past nine months steadfastly preparing the young minds of Woodland Hills to lead us into the future, my buddy Heidi is now here with some daytrip ideas that are full of adventure and fun. I look forward to fitting them all into my schedule…between my mandatory hammock-naps of course!

Hey y’all! One of the best parts about living in Pittsburgh is the wide array of destinations and restaurants that are well within driving distance. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a little “daycation” from time to time? With brief travel time and minimal packing, daycations are an activity that Pittsburghers should embrace wholeheartedly. Thus, for this post, I would like to share with you some of my favorite spots in the Laurel Highlands that everyone in the area should visit this summer.* Now let’s go day tripping!

Food

The Stone House Restaurant & Inn (3023 National Pike | Farmington, PA | 15437) is a classic spot along Route 40, our National Road. With charm, character(s) and a fantastic menu, The Stone House has something for everyone. Special events are common, especially live music and bike nights. My advice? Try the wings ($5/5, $10/10, $14/15), the salads and anything that incorporates their house sauces and dressings; grab a bottle of Pittsburgh Winery wine while you are there too!

Out of the Fire Café (3784 State Route 31 |Donegal, Pennsylvania | 15628) is a casual BYOB restaurant. With an open kitchen, Out of the Fire offers an American menu that patrons can enjoy from inside of on their deck. The view is beautiful and the location is in close proximity to many mountain attractions. My advice? Try the Sea Scallops ($32, coconut and cilantro risotto, roasted red pepper, mango & arugula salad, Fuji apple vinaigrette) and/or the Charred Pineapple Salad ($13, field greens, kiwi, red grapes, cherry tomatoes, toasted cashews, blueberry balsamic vinaigrette).

Fun

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (1491 Mill Run Road | Mill Run, PA | 15464) and Kentuck Knob (723 Kentuck Road | Chalk Hill, PA | 15421) are architectural masterpieces tucked away in the Fayette County mountains. With a little planning, you can either visit one on its own, or arrange to see both in the same day. I happen to be an architecture fanatic, and I’ve seen both of these houses in many seasons both on their own and in the same day. The local history associated with the homes is fascinating, the grounds are picturesque, and the gift shops are quite marvelous. My advice? Don’t miss the opportunity to see something that thousands of people travel from all over the world to see every year. And get your tickets way in advance!

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Fort Necessity National Battlefield (1 Washington Parkway | Farmington, PA | 15437) is a worthy stop along Route 40. With the popularity of Hamilton: An American Musical on a steady rise, this is a great place for fans and history buffs who are interested in George Washington lore. See where Washington opened the action of the French and Indian War in 1754, ultimately setting the American Revolution in motion. Jumonville Glen and General Braddock’s Grave are also nearby, for a bonus round! My advice? Ask them if they remember the girl who won an art contest there in 1990; she created an epic rendition of Washington’s life called “The Cherry Tree of Life.” Ha! Kidding. No one needs to bring up my short-lived career in the visual arts.

*I left off Laurel Highlands juggernauts like Ohiopyle and Nemacolin Woodlands because of the likelihood that yinz have already been there. Not that I wouldn’t work stops at either of these into a daycation from Pittsburgh, but I wanted to bring to light some lesser known attractions.

Best of Summer

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The Best of Summer 2016 Part II…Beer

I’ve done extensive scientific research into the subject of chillaxation, which is defined as “a state of total tranquility that comprises both the restfulness of body (chilling) and peacefulness of mind (relaxation)”. As it turns out, there’s no better activity to achieve this blissful state than enjoying a cold beer on a hot day.

I’ve enlisted my childhood friend Monica to help substantiate my hypothesis. Along with holding a PhD in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, she’s also conducted numerous field studies at the establishments that make up our region’s exploding craft beer and microbrewery scene. Monica is now going to report on her research by giving us some beverage suggestions that are guaranteed to maximize your chillaxation all summer long!

(First off, I have a short confession to the readers: I don’t like hoppy beer. My IBU scanning of selections usually have me choosing the lowest numbers by default. If you are a hop head, you’re likely not going to have fun with the following.)

In the regional area, there are approximately 70 breweries. The boyfriend and I have a list and a google map and are slowly visiting them all. Hell, we even made it to Milkman Brewing and they were open for approximately 20 minutes. There are many beers that we can consider both local and good for summer drinking. Not all of my suggestions are local, but many are. Support your local brewer.

This being said, I’m also a big qualifier of information. I have a thing for parenthetical comments. When I’m asked a question, I instantly go through the multitude of answers that could be correct, and qualify when each answer is appropriate. I thought that it would be most helpful to have a list of common summer situations in which beer is the appropriate answer and then qualify them. Here it goes:

The “I just spent a ridiculous time performing lawn maintenance in 90F weather for a lawn that I only go in to mow” beer.

The appropriate beer here is one that won’t be contaminated by the taste of the sweat running down your face or the smell of grass stuck in your nose. It won’t be super high in ABV, nor will it be super astringent. This beer will quench your thirst, but also give you a taste of something that will remind you of something other than lawn work. It’s not a savoring beer, it is a thirst quenching beer. (Yes, I do my own lawn work.)

I’m recommending a Doc G’s beer called “Orange Blossom Wheat”. It’s a 4.8% ABV with a hit of orange. It is all of the things that I think go well with a shitty lawn job. Now, you all can go over to yelp and look at the reviews of this place (it’s in DuBois), and well, they’re not good. What I can say is that I have insider information that the brewer has changed, and this will likely impact your beer enjoyment.

The “It’s Friday, my coworkers have the intelligence of horseshoe crabs, and I need to go in tomorrow anyway” beer.

Sometimes you need to sit at a patio and bitch about life while sipping a beer. This calls for a quality drink. You can have a couple of drinks, but then you realize that real life is going to set in early tomorrow, so you want to make them count. You want something that is a pleasant taste and buzz, and go well with that water you’re going to have after them.

I’m recommending the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling. It’s 8.19% ABV is going to have you pleasantly forgetting about the idiots you work with and have you moving to a discussion about what you’re going to do on vacation. (I’m calling this local because you can get it at Giant Eagle.)

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The “I’m being forced to spend time with my family” beer.

If you are obligated to spend time with your family and need beer to get through it (and they’re of the Bud Light variety), you are going to need a beer that satisfies several criteria. One, it must be worth it to take to the location. Two, it’s going to have to be something that someone else is not going to want to steal. Three, it likely has to not be too heavy as to not compete with the potato salad. Four, it needs to be a session beer (We know what you think of your cousin’s new boyfriend, but we don’t need to do this now).

I’m recommending the Ellicottville Brewing Company’s Blueberry Wheat beer. It’s fruity, so all of the old white-beards in the family aren’t going to want any. It’s a lighter wheat beer, and it’s just a hint of blueberry, so it goes well with the standard cookout fare. Lastly, it only has a 4.8 ABV, so you can finish the 6-pack while the rest of the family is harping on you to get married.

The “F*@K this I’m out, night before vacation” beer.

Sometimes you can be one of those people that packed for vacation 2 days before you leave. Other times you need to walk out of work realizing that you have to get up at 6 AM for the flight and haven’t washed clothes for 2 weeks. When the latter happens, you can hole up at a local brewery (bonus points if there’s a food truck and the mayor is wearing shorts) and have a beer or two. Because, really, you’re going to sleep on the plane anyway.

While I said that I’m no fan of hops, for some reason the hops I do like are the Nelson hops. These New Zealand based hops aren’t nearly as piney to me, and provide a nice astringent taste and a floral aroma that’s refreshing.

For pre-gaming vacation, I suggest Brew Gentlemen’s Nelson Saison (ABV 6.0%). This beer says “I’m only packing what I need for the beach”.

The “Sitting around the bonfire watching the stars” beer.

Sometimes you need a relaxing evening with friends, sitting around a summer bonfire, picking out the constellations in the sky. It’s way after dinner at this point, you don’t have any plans in the morning, and sitting and chatting are the only thing you want to do. Not high level work discussion, not philosophical discussions about what the world looks like to you, just telling stories and shit-talking your friends.

To save the best for last, I’m imploring you to get some of Helltown’s Hefeweizen (5% ABV). It’s the sitting around beer. It’s the ‘hold my beer so I can tell this story with hand movements’ beer. It’s the beer of friendship and remembering who has the embarrassing pictures of you as a child.

Best of Summer

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Butcher and the Rye – Downtown Pittsburgh

Butcher and the Rye is Pittsburgh’s bestest restaurant. Everything about it is par excellence – from the drinks to the décor to the cuisine. Their Brussels sprout are seriously one of the most delicious appetizers in the friggin’ world…and don’t even get me started on the scallops….or the pig candy…or the yuzu sour…or the hanger steak…etc.

Since all the superlatives in the world wouldn’t begin to explicate how awesome this place is, I decided that the only way to come close to conveying it’s greatness is to populate my review with semi-relevant quotes from the best movie of all time – Pulp Fiction. Please enjoy my review below, and remember, nobody kills anybody in my place of business except me or Zed.

Name

I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.” – Butch

Location

In your future… I see a cab ride. Move out of the sticks, gentlemen.” – The Wolf

Atmosphere

Warmer! Warmer! Disco!” – Mia Wallace

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Menu

Mmmm! Goddamn, Jimmie! This is some serious gourmet shit!” – Jules Winnfield

Food

That’s a pretty f*cking good milkshake. I don’t know if it’s worth five dollars but it’s pretty f*cking good.” – Vincent Vega

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Service

Don’t you just love it when you come back from the bathroom and find your food waiting for you?” – Mia Wallace

Final Call

Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.” – Vincent Vega

Butcher and the Rye Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Village Melt – Sewickley Borough

Restaurant: The Village Melt

Location: The intersection of Beaver and Walnut Streets (aka Beav’nut Corner).

Atmosphere: The chalkboard menu, seat-yourself dining area and illuminated marquee created a relaxing space that promoted fun over formality.

Menu: A multitude of “melts” that covered everything from fancy grilled cheeses (w/ Fontina, Gruyere, etc.) to classic sammiches (Reuben, BLT) to custom hamburger creations.

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Food: Though politically I consider myself “liberal af”, when it comes to grilled cheese, I’m less progressive than the Governor of North Carolina. Therefore I scanned over the surfeit of creative melts looking for the most basic one I could find. I settled on The Lola. It arrived ten minutes later, and it was definitely love at first sight.

The melt consisted of fresh mozzarella, tomato, arugula and pesto sandwiched between two huge slices of buttery bread. A generous helping of fries on the side guaranteed that my pants top button would be put to the test for the rest of the day.

Unsurprisingly, everything was mighty delicious. I mean, its grilled cheese and French fries so the bar is pretty low since it’s almost impossible to screw those two things up*., but regardless errthang was scrumptious!

* Unless you’re me. I once dumped an old bag of frozen French fries into a deep fryer and I almost ended up looking like Deadpool.

Service: It took me about two minutes to order and pay so there really wasn’t much time to build much of a relationship with the guy behind the counter. I guess he seemed ok enough.

Final Call: The only thing that could make The Village Melt a better lunchtime destination is if they were located in my neighboring cube. Highly recommended!

The Village Melt Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Whitfield at Ace Hotel – East Liberty Neighborhood

As I get older, the title of Earl Sweatshirt’s solid sophomore album describes my life’s mantra more and more – “I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside.” I rarely get the opportunity to dine somewhere out of the south hills suburbs, and usually when I do, I just complain about how long it takes to drive into the city and how it’s ludicrous that a place can charge $16 for a hamburger when you can get a good one for half as much at Red Robin…along with bottomless fries.

Combine all that with the fact that a night on the town for my wife and I also necessitates a fifty dollar expenditure for babysitting, and you can see why I’ve become so dismissive of Pittsburgh’s surfeit of “cool” restaurants that seem to be nothing but a clichéd pastiche of Edison lights, exposed ductwork and seasonalocalartisanal comfort food.

Would a recent trip to the uber-trendy Ace Hotel’s tavern The Whitfield break my streak of underwhelment? Read ahead as I discuss my experience with my blogger-buddy HGB, who’s one of Pittsburgh’s most popular and discerning restaurant critics. Bon appetit!

AJF: Let me just start this off by patting myself on the back for making it to The Whitfield (120 S. Whitfield Street, 15206) before you. I mean, it was only by about sixteen hours, but it still counts. Now, upon first entry to the establishment, I was really surprised to find it to be so understated. I was expecting something vibrant like The Commoner at Hotel Monaco since it’s a similar endeavor, but The Whitfield stayed almost too-true to its roots as a former YMCA.

HGB: I was so concerned that I wasn’t going to be hip enough upon entering. I did wear my sunglasses that I got from the lost and found, which is hip and all pseudo-nonchalant, right? But yes, you beat me there and you are right in that it’s very much a former YMCA. After getting my bearings, I remember that I really liked the layout of The Whitfield and how it casually spilled into the hotel lobby. Also, since I went for brunch, the natural lighting was a striking feature of the interior.

AJF: I was there in the evening and also noticed how striking the lighting was, albeit it wasn’t natural since it was dark outside obvi. The bright bulbs and stark white walls just made it feel too glaringly chilling for my liking. As my age tiptoes further away from thirty and towards the big four-oh, I now greatly prefer dimly-lit spaces. That way I can use the shadows to maintain some semblance of a youthful appearance. I’m sure by the time I hit fifty, I’ll only leave my house at night like Dracula. In conclusion, I thought that the overall aesthetic was nice and trendy enough, though a little too white and austere in tone for my tastes… basically the same way I feel about Ed Sheeran music.

HGB: I have no coherent thoughts here as I am laughing about Ed Sheeran and wondering who came up with the term “strawberry blonde,” because he is that right?

AJF: I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that if we don’t start talking about the menu soon, our readers are just gonna head over to Yelp for their restaurant recommendation needs!

HGB: As much as I love Rachel (and all of her awesome Yelp parties), I highly doubt that people would leave us to go over there. Folks are invested in this post already. You and I are the Captain and Tennille of Pittsburgh bloggers (well, the ones who actually blog anyway). But go ahead. Tell us what you drank, since drinks are really an appetizer.

AJF: My group showed up right on time for our 7:30 p.m. reservations, and were seated right away so unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to hang out at the bar. After a quick glance of the impressive drink menu, I went straight to ordering a never-disappointing Fat Gary (English Brown Ale, 3.6% ABV) since I regrettably gave up hard liquor for Lent.

HGB: I didn’t give up anything for Lent. But anyway, because we were there for brunch, we were not drinking beer. We ordered Whitfield Bloody Marys, Mimosas, Almond Margaritas, and something with gin that was amazing but I cannot remember the name to save my soul. Two of the drinks were part of the brunch prix fixe menu, a concept of which I happened to enjoy very much. I know it’s a first world problem, but I sometimes struggle at brunch when trying to choose between breakfast-centric or lunch-centric items. A prix fixe menu eliminates that, especially one that includes a drink. All of our drinks were quite pleasing and refreshing; thus, all were an excellent precursor to our meal.

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AJF: Much like the revelers at Pittsburgh’s internationally renowned dance party Hot Mass, I showed up to The Whitfield with the singular goal of consuming as much meat as possible. I started off with the Butcher’s Plate ($18), which was comprised of a nice mix of charcuterie, patés and seductively sweet bacon jam. I followed that up with the hanger steak entrée (creatively titled “The Steak”, $21), which came along with fries and béarnaise sauce. Though I would have liked to seen a larger piece of meat (that’s what he said) than its 8 ounces, everything on my plate was delicious and met my high level of culinary expectations.

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HGB: I too, showed up with the goal of eating well. At age thirty-six, it’s one of the few joys that I have left in life. My group was a threesome (in numerical terms only); two of us ordered from the two course prix fixe menu for $26, including the aforementioned drinks. Our first course was Beef Tartare (grilled bread, romaine, capers, parmesan reggiano) and Bruléed Grapefruit (pomegranate), our second course was Frisee & Roasted Rapini (fried poached egg, lardons, duck fat hollandaise, pickled beets) and Ham & Jam (cranberry, egg, powdered sugar, and mixed greens).

The Beef Tartare was chilled, salty, and went well with the grilled bread and capers; the Bruléed Grapefruit is now the benchmark for how I want my grapefruit prepared for the rest of my life with it’s hardened, candy-like shell and tart, juicy core.

The Frisee & Roasted Rapini is a great option for those who want an egg, but not an omelet. The Ham & Jam is thick-cut ham sandwiched between two large pieces of french toast, with the cranberry and mixed greens providing some balance to the dominating overall sweetness; ideal for sharing, this option is worthy of being revisited on my next trip to The Whitfield for brunch.

The third person in our party went rogue and order the Three Egg Omelet ($11, smoked pepper, caramelized onion, cheddar, mixed greens); it turns out that it’s a great option for folks who want a traditional brunch dish with a hipster influence. I mean, don’t we all want a little hipster influence in our lives?

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AJF: First with the Captain and Tennille reference, now an admittance of your actual age?!?! I thought that we’re supposed to use the internet to lie about ourselves and pretend to be younger?!?! I mean, is it still alright if I falsely portray myself as a Millennial Asian Lumberjack?

HGB: (staring at the computer incredulously)

AJF: I got the Wigle Whiskey Bread Pudding ($8, candied pecans, vanilla ice cream) for dessert, and it was sublimely delicious.

HGB: We also ordered dessert because our favorite color is #YOLO; we chose the Lemon Mousse ($8, shortbread, toasted meringue). We’d order it again and again as it seemingly went along with our brunch theme of being refreshed in good company and in a good space.

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AJF: In conclusion, I’d say that The Whitfield is a fine addition to Pittsburgh’s nationally-lauded restaurant scene and a great place to check out even if you’re not a Millennial Asian Lumberjack.

HGB: Like I tell my students, AJF… using “In conclusion, is cliché!” However, The Whitfield is not.

Whitfield Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cafe IO – Mount Lebanon Suburb

Restaurant: Café IO…not to be confused with Captain EO, Michael Jackson’s 1986 sci-fi theme park attraction.

Atmosphere: Cozy and convivial.

Menu: Café IO is a rustic Italian ristorante that serves classic dishes like chicken marsala and orecchiette pasta. Um, wait a sec, there’s jambalaya and hummus also on the menu so maybe Mediterranean better describes the cuisine. Oops, just saw BBQ chicken and pulled pork so forget that. Now I see pork-fried rice? WTF, this place has everything!

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Food: I was dining with a group of four and we started off the evening by ordering two appetizers – the Crispy Parmesan Polenta and the Crispy Green Beans*. The shaved Parmesan added an imprescindible hit of saltiness to the rather sublime polenta and combined with the sweet tomato sauce to deliver a perfectly balanced bite. And unlike T.G.I. Fridays’ fried monstrosities, Café IO’s al dente green beans were lightly adorned with a tempura-like breading and still bore resemblance to a vegetable**.

One of my dining companions has a good friend who happens to be good friends with the owner of Café IO and she had them surprise us with a Iovino starter as well. This consisted of a plate full of Italian sweet sausage, tempura mozzarella***, tomatoes and mixed greens drizzled with balsamic. It was absolutely delicious, and I’m not just saying that since it was a gift. Though that certainly didn’t hurt…

Completing my crispy trifecta, I went with the Crispy Fish Tacos for my entrée. The flavorful hunks of crunchy flounder were lovingly wrapped in a tortilla embrace with red pepper, spicy mayo, Napa cabbage shreds, pickled jalapeños and French fries (for no good reason other than why the f*ck not). Unsurprisingly the tacos were great and are now tied with Round Corner Cantina’s pescado offering as my favorites in Da ‘Burgh.

* Or by the distributive rule of algebra: Crispy (Parmesan Polenta + Green Beans).

** Green beans are botanically fruits but are still routinely referred to as vegetables in the culinary arts because chefs don’t be giving a f*ck.

*** Tempura Mozzarella would make the perfect stage name for an Italian-Japanese drag queen.

Service: Despite it being a packed house, our waitress was very attentive and kept me replete with Pumking (Pumpkin Ale, 8.60% ABV) all night.

Final Call: Combining an intimate and welcoming environment and an eclectically well-executed menu, Café IO is one of the South Hills suburbs bestest culinary destinations. And I’m not just saying that since my wife is friends with a friend of a friend of the owner. #KeepIt100

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Cafe io Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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B Gourmet – Sewickley Borough

Restaurant: B Gourmet

Location: Lovely downtown Sewickley – where the boots are Hunter, the bags are Burberry, and the pants are yoga.

Atmosphere: B Gourmet’s large storefront windows overlook bustling Beaver Street and allow diners the opportunity to observe suburban housewives in their natural habitat. Past the seating area is a sprawling deli counter showcasing a bevy of prepared foods available for eat-in or take-out n’at.

Menu: Soups, salads and sandwiches adorned with foodie-approved ingredients like “organic greens”, “farm bread” and “onions”.

Food: On my most recent visit, I planned on ordering one of the delicious sounding homemade soups. However, my stomach overruled my brain and I went with my usual selection – the rosemary roast beef sandwich.

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Though not as massive as the mountainous meat piles served up by the Carnegie Deli, the sandwich still had a substantial amount of beef that was barely contained between the golden grilled bread slices. A light slathering of gorgonzola aioli served as a solid step-up from plain ol’ mayo, and the arugula and onion straws added a great crunch.

The side salad was a worthy accompaniment to the sammich, albeit a little overdressed and a little heavy on the onions. Thankfully I also grabbed a Leona’s ice cream sandwich from the freezer case for a lunch-dessert and its creamy goodness wiped away any remnant of onion breath.

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Service: The guy working behind the counter certainly seemed really nice, but you can never really know what evil lurks in a person’s soul, amirite?

Final Call: I love this place. I’ve eaten-in and taken-out multiple times and everything has been wonderful. I really hope that they open another location closer to my home in the south hills suburbs. I would gladly trade all of the twenty-seven Mattress Firms that line Washington Road just for one B Gourmet!!

B Gourmet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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everybody loves…San Diego

San Diego is purported to be one of America’s most beautiful cities. Now that I’ve spent a week there, I can wholeheartedly agree. The perfect weather and beautiful coastline were as-advertised and I now understand why people head west and never come back. Below is my travelogue recap, along with a few of my wife’s photos showing the tourist attractions* that I unfortunately missed. Enjoy!

* I went to SD for a work conference. Wanting, nay, needing a vacation after not traveling sans child for nearly three years, my wife decided to procure the babysitting services of Grandma, Inc. and accompany me. Therefore, she got to explore the city all day long without having to listen to me or him whining for more Goldfish.

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Seaport Village

Our hotel was nicely nestled next to this swanky enclave of seaside shops and restaurants. The view of the bay from the harbor pier was stunning, and a stroll down the boardwalk brought many interesting sights such as the Unconditional Surrender statue, musical pedi-cabs and only mildly-shady street performers. The overall vibe is “upscale touristy” so I’d imagine that a local could denounce the area as trite. Luckily I’m an upscale tourist so the village was perfect for me!

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Coronado

The island oasis of Coronado is just a quick ferry ride across the bay from downtown San Diego and is well-deserving of its ranking as the best beach in the United States. For starters, the sand is as well-groomed and white as the people that stroll across it. Another highlight is the charming Victorian architecture of the historic Hotel Del Coronado. It’s supposedly haunted by the ghost of turn of the century con-artist Kate Morgan, who’s not to be confused with adult film star Katie Morgan (who can haunt me anytime).

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Old Town San Diego

Old Town is appropriately named. It’s an 1800’s-style neighborhood full of old-timey shops and exhibits which range from actually historic to artificially touristy. After meandering around this area for an hour under the blazing hot sun, we sought respite (and authentic Mexican food) at El Agave Tequileria. My taquitos de pescado were delicious, and the thousands of tequila bottles lining the walls made for a nice decorative element that I hope to incorporate into my future man-cave.

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La Jolla

Um…there really isn’t much to say about this area other than it is f*ckin’ beautiful. It made Ocean City, New Jersey look like Newark, New Jersey…

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Gaslamp Quarter

At 38 years old, the idea of spending a night barhopping sounds more like a punishment than a pleasure. Therefore, my wife and I really didn’t take advantage of the numerous bars and clubs that inhabit the Gaslamp Quarter.

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We did have a nice dinner at the chic gastropub Seersucker*, but I was still back in bed by the time the Victorian-era gas lamps started illuminating the night sky. If I was only ten years younger, I’m sure that I would have had a helluva time getting turnt up just like Brad and Robin from Real World San Diego!

* Here’s my quick Seersucker restaurant review. It possessed a rustic, maritime vibe that elevated it past the typical speakeasy milieu. The duck fat fries were to die for, and the companion chipotle ketchup added a nice touch of smokiness to the savory unctuousness of the fries. Highly recommended!

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USS Midway Museum & San Diego Zoo

I didn’t get a chance to visit any of these places, but my wife did. Please enjoy her pictures!

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Marty’s Market – Strip District

Restaurant: Marty’s Market (and Café and Coffeebar).

Atmosphere: Despite the fact that it’s basically an unadorned cafeteria that’s located inside of a grocery store, Marty’s Market still achieves the adequate amount of pretentious “hipster-foodie” coolness that I require as a card-carrying pretentious hipster-foodie.

Menu: Sumptuous cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients – which I’ve found to be much more preferable to rancid, alien ingredients.

Food: I stuck to the -unch side of the weekend brunch menu and ordered a crab cake sandwich during a recent Sunday afternoon visit. The sandwich consisted of a buttery brioche bun laden with crab meat and a creamy corn rémoulade.

I was apprehensive about the remoulade when I first saw it mentioned on the menu because I’m not a huge fan of dumping corn onto my sandwiches (unlike my son), but it turned out to be an agreeably spicy topping for the crispy crab goodness.

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The accompanying fries were amazeballs and instantly joined Hello Bistro and Point Brugge in a three-way tie for my second favorite fries in Pittsburgh*.

* Winghart’s are still holding down the top spot, with the Arby’s in Oakland coming in last.

Service: Not great. Our waitress was nice enough, but my wife and son’s meals came out missing the correct side items and the replacements took waaaaay too long to appear and actually be enjoyed along with their entrées. The manager did apologize and comp’d the items in question so I’m not going to complain too much*, but I will say that there’s definitely some room for improvement.

* I lied, here’s some more complaining! I ordered a beer as soon as we sat down because I’ve found that imbibing alcohol is a necessity when dining with a toddler in public. I told the waitress that I wanted a North Country Rye-PA (American Pale Ale, 6.3% ABV), and she ended up bringing me a Headhunter IPA. I told her about the mistake, which was quite understandable because I can easily see how she could have misheard me.

I watched as she took the Headhunter back to the bartender/barista and explained the issue. The bartender/barista then came over and asked me “What beer did you order?”, and I responded with “The North Country Rye-PA”. He then asked me where I saw it listed, and I answered “Um…it’s on the beer menu”.

He walked away and ended up coming back a few minutes later with the correct beer. He didn’t offer up any explanation for the confusion, but by that point I finally had alcohol in front of me so I didn’t really care anymore.

Unfortunately my #firstworldproblem reared its head again whenever the check arrived. The waitress had charged me for the original Headhunter, which turned out to cost nearly twice as much as the Rye-PA.

After bringing it to her attention, she corrected the mistake and gave us a new bill, but it was a helluva lot to go through just to get a beer. Thankfully the Rye-PA was delightful and totally worth the annoyance!

Final Call: I’d rather have great food and lackluster service than vice versa so I still highly recommend Marty’s Market as an excellent place to grab some grub in the Strip.
Marty's Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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