Tag Archives: downtown

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.


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


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


Warmer! Warmer! Disco!” – Mia Wallace



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


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



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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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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The Commoner – Downtown Pittsburgh

Restaurant: The Commoner.

Location: Inside Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco near the Omni William Penn.

Atmosphere: The steel beams, dark wood and gleaming marble gave the dimly lit dining space an aristocratic ambiance that Jay Gatsby would have approved of.


Menu: Upscale gastropub grub (i.e. barrel-aged and grass fed errthang).

Food: After enjoying a roasty and robust Yards Washington’s Tavern Porter (English Porter, 7% ABV), my group was seated and we quickly put in some appetizer orders to share – the pork cheeks and bone marrow. The marrow was wonderfully unctuous and a welcome savior for the somewhat-dry accompanying grilled bread. The pork cheeks were braised to fork tender and had a baconesque fatty flavor that made me quickly forget the cringe-inducing idea that I was gnawing on a pig’s face.


For my main course I went with the lamb shank and I can’t say that it was love at first bite. The lamb regrettably turned out to be a little tougher than I usually like, though I think following up the supple marrow and pork cheeks helped contribute to my critical assessment. After completing my bovineporcineovine trifecta, my wife and I split the Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. It was basically ice cream, caramel sauce and a “steamed date cake”, which doesn’t sound terribly exciting but trust me, it was a-friggin-mazing and I now want to eat it every night before bed.

Service: Our waitress was super nice, though a bit underdressed for such a swanky place. Then again, I had on a Patagonia jacket so who am I to judge?

Final Call: Though The Commoner met my expectations as Pittsburgh’s next “cool” restaurant, in the end I kept likening it to Better Call Saul. It has all the quality elements covered to the finest detail, but seems to lack some sense of originality that was captured by its contemporaries Meat & Potatoes and Grit & Grace (or in Better Call Saul’s case, Breaking Bad and Mad Men). Regardless, The Commoner’s romantic charm and elevated cuisine definitely earn it a place as one of our city’s coolest restaurants.

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Grit & Grace – Downtown Pittsburgh

Restaurant: Grit & Grace

Location: Dahntahn on Liberty between 5th and 6th.

Atmosphere: Though not a terribly large space to begin with, the way that the restaurant is broken up into smaller dining sections actually makes it feel cozy rather than cramped. The surrounding décor was very modern and very sleek, with only a modicum of pretentious ostentatiousness.

Menu: Rustic and refined Asian-Latin fusion…which is also a great way to describe me.

Food: My wife and I started off by choosing two selections from the roaming dim sum cart – smoked tofu noodles and the calamari salad – and then began excitedly chowing down. I expected bold tastes from each exotic-looking dish but was surprised to find that their appearances belied very clean and crisp flavor profiles.


The tofu wasn’t spicy at all like I thought it’d be. And despite appearing quite intimidating, the squid’s toothsome texture was reminiscent of a slightly overcooked Vermicelli noodle. Both dishes were a nice start to our culinary evening, but I can’t say I fell in love with either of them.

Our apps and entrees soon arrived to erase any feelings of underwhelment*. The short rib biscuits were just…f*ckin’…awesome. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat a Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuit again**.


The smoked brisket sandwich I ordered for dinner was the polar opposite of the starters and came packed with a powerhouse of flavors. Salty (corned beef tongue), sweet (creamy thousand island sabayon), sour (kohlrabi kraut), bitter (pickled red onions) – this sandwich had it all. Echoing my earlier statement, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat an Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich again***!

* I don’t think “underwhelment” is a word but I’ve used it in two straight blog posts anyway ‘cause #yolo.

** Who am I kidding? Those Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuits are like crack. I love ‘em!!!

*** This one is a definite. I wouldn’t set foot in an Arby’s unless I was being chased by brain-hangry zombies…and even then I’d have to think about it.

Service: Our waiter was extremely nice and extremely attentive. I don’t think my water glass dipped below half-empty before he magically appeared to fill it back up. Now if only he would’ve done the same with my beer…

Final Call: Grit & Grace is pretty much the hottest name in Pittsburgh dining right now and our visit did nothing to convince me that it doesn’t deserve such lofty status. The food was artfully refined and (mostly) delicious, the service was impeccable, and the overall vibe oozed coolness*. Highly recommended!

*All of the other patrons were either bi-racial or had hipster eyeglasses on and I kinda felt like I was in a Budweiser Platinum commercial. It doesn’t get much cooler than that!

Grit & Grace on Urbanspoon

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Pittsburgh Weekend Activities – December 13

We’re deep* into the holiday season and there are a plethora of events forthcoming in downtown Pittsburgh that are guaranteed to make even the biggest Scrooge exclaim “Joy to the World”. First up Thursday night is a Holiday Dinner at the Omni William Penn Hotel. There will be food, wine and well…actually…I think that’s about it. There really isn’t much information posted online about this event anywhere. But when it comes down to it, what else do you really need to have a good time other than food and booze? The ticket is a little pricey ($75), but The Terrace Room at the William Penn is about as beautiful and elegant as it gets and even Lyndon B. Johnson once hung out there. That sh*t cray.

Friday night brings the Island of Misfit Toons party at the wonderful and whimsical The ToonSeum. This ticket is only $10, and you can cut that in half by bringing down a new toy** to donate to their charity toy drive. Finally, there are two seasonal shows built on the genius of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky running all weekend – Winter Dreams at Heinz Hall and The Nutcracker at the Benedum Center. For those who don’t know, Tchaikovsky was basically the Frank Ocean*** of Russia back in the 1800’s. Except much gayer.


* I really wanted to write “wrist-deep” but my puritan wife convinced me not to. She was probably right.

** You can actually bring “any gently used or new toy” and get half-off, but I’m sure people will judge you if you show up with a used toy. That’s just weird.

*** #ofwgkta

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Meat & Potatoes – Downtown Pittsburgh

Originally we were planning to eat at Tessaro’s in Bloomfield, then the Grand Concourse in Station Square, but ultimately my capricious mother-in-law decided that she wanted a dining experience within walking distance of her hotel. My in-laws were in town* with friends from Orléans, France for a Pittsburgh exploratory weekend so I was under pressure to deliver something good.  I dine infrequently downtown due to my perception that it’s bereft of nightlife when compared to Southside or Shadyside. Also, the smell of hot garbage seems to permeate the area in the summer. Regardless, my buddy Morg braves the stench much more often and he raves about Meat & Potatoes (M&P).  Given Morg’s high opinion of the place and that it was just a scant distance from where our guests were staying we took the opportunity to try it out.

We arrived Friday evening and were instantly seated in a semi-private room around a large wooden table. The décor appeared to be a throwback to an old farmhouse style but with a refined update. Keeping with the subtle mise-en-scène, 80’s slow jams could be heard in the background during breaks in the conversation. Just because my iPod is full of songs such as Illest Motherf**ker Alive, I’ll Still Kill and Rich Off Cocaine doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the genius of Rush, Rush by Paul Abdul.  Unlike the music, the general decibel level at M&P was pretty high and that made the already labored conversation with the accent heavy Frenchies even harder. It would have been fine for just my wife and I but if you find yourself entertaining Gérard Depardieu or Carla Bruni someday soon you may want to consider going someplace else.

To help celebrate National IPA Day I started with a Dale’s Pale Ale. (American Pale Ale – 6.5% ABV). The dark golden hued beer came in a sturdy 12oz glass atypical compared to the pint-sized servings commonplace at other establishments.  I’ve inherited very powerful heavy hangover genes so the prospect of being inherently limited by the volume of a smaller container was actually welcome. The beer was mellow and could underwhelm a more aggressive pale ale pallet but it was perfect for my bantamweight class.

We split the Poutine and Mac-n Cheese appetizers which both received high marks from everyone. The Mac-n Cheese could have been cheesier but it was still quite tasty (If you’re looking for more obscenely indulgent fare you should just go to T.G.I. Fridays and save the hassle of parking downtown).  The Poutine contained french fries of the shoestring variety and had a light touch of cheesy gravy. The topping was enough to add flavor but not so much that everything was reduced to a soggy mess.

Since our original plan was Tessaro’s I had my heart set on a burger. So I ordered the Plain Jane with lettuce and white cheddar. It was delivered on a beautiful homemade bun next to a heaping bowl of more shoestring fries. The burger was perfectly cooked to medium rare and was very flavorful albeit not nearly as juicy as Tessaro’s burgers. I’m assuming that the M&P meat mix** is more lean and steak-y than offerings found elsewhere but it was delicious nonetheless.

The servers were extremely attentive but not intrusive.  M&P is fairly new and the staff seems determined to make sure everything is to your liking. This should be the norm everywhere but unfortunately it is not. The scene around the bar took on a club-like atmosphere with some Pauley D. lookalikes and some ladies in their late twenties/early thirties wearing mini-dresses. Incidentally, the appearance of said ladies in their outfits would have been helped immensely by some dim lighting and the smokey haze that seems to be ever-present in most clubs however was absent at M&P.

Final Call: If you want a big juicy burger that’s guaranteed to get your arms messy up to your elbows then this isn’t the place for you. If you want to go to a refined yet high-energy gastropub that puts gourmet touches on your oh-so-beloved comfort food and you would like excellent service then Meat & Potatoes will more than meet your expectations.

* My in-laws reside in Buffalo, NY, which is also where my wife and wings are from.

** Meat Mix = worst mix-tape ever

Meat & Potatoes on Urbanspoon

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