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Restaurants & Bars 84

Pittsburgh Eats 2008

benright | Jan 19, 2008 07:24 AM

I'm here from LA for 4 months, January through April and am determined to make it a food safari. So far, after 10 days I love this place. Really, I've read the "moving to PGH with dread" posts and I gotta say, turn that frown upside down.
Here's the deal: yeah, it's provincial BUT it's trying, yeah it doesn't stand up to NY, LA or SF standards but it has it's own and finally, there's good stuff here and if you want, you can always cook or hop on a plane.

Notes to date-
Whole Foods- rocks as always, buffet has saved my life a few nights when I don't want to go exploring
Giant Eagle near Whole Foods in Shadyside is like ghetto nightmare mutant Whole Foods. What a bad idea. Lots of stuff, really weird layout, looks and feels dirty, the staff is beyond coarse. Just goes to show that presentation is about 99% of the job. WF gets it, stick with that.
Strip district stores, especially Macaroni, just flat out inspires. Soooo good, you want to eat, purge, repeat. Especially for the short term resident, there's little containers of spices, bulk oil and vinegar, gads of cured animal products like meat, olives and cheese forever. If only they made sandwiches.
Ate at Lidia's and was underwhelmed despite the local raves. Admittedly, I had a bowl of pureed minestrone (I think they called it something else) and arugula salad (it's winter, the leaves are woody, that's NOBODY's fault) and both, though simple, were pretty uninspired. I've heard that the pasta special is ALWAYS good but it looks like a plate FULL of food and not what I typically search for. I'm happy for the locals that they love it and will leave them with their sense of accomplishment, enjoy!
Tessaro's- as promised, GREAT, handmade burger. Even had steamed broccoli. Yum! Too bad no fried products but just as well, my colon will thank me 20 years from now (1 meal likely won't make a difference though).
Harp and Fiddle- delightful place though go for the music, smiles, Ceili dancing and 2nd hand smoke. The food is only worth it if you, like me, want to walk no further than 2 blocks from home on a 20 degree night while enjoying 20mph winds. I love the place but the food needs some major love. Then again, it's a pub, Irish at that and what should I expect!
I had likely the BEST, really, the BEST Thai meal of my life last night on the side of the road, next to laundromat in Edgewood. It's called Thai TYK (Tom Yum Kung) 4 tables, tiny, pictures of the king and queen (a good sign that Koreans or Chinese have not just propped up a Thai food sign to gain market share...), some cool Bhudda statues and mom, dad and son working and serving the hot gritty. I ordered (only) panang with brown rice and tofu. Before it arrived the cook, the mom, came out and asked if I wanted the tofu steamed or fried. She agreed with me that the fried texture would be best (it was). The panang was amazing. Wilted lettuce, kaffir limes, a really delicate, homemade curry, fresh veggies and the rice wasn't some pablum brown glop but had almost a wild/unrefined look about it. I ordered tofu figuring I wouldn't want chicken or beef from a strange little place in the (seemingly) middle of nowhere, a good call since tofu is hard to screw up. In any case it was so good, I'm going back for pad thai, green papaya salad and will ask the chef to make something special.
Our offices at at Station Square and as you can imagine, it's so far, the Death Valley of food. A lunch at the Sheraton, took about an hour to cook and was horrible. Chicken caesar from the Hard Rock (yeah I know, but the office assistant thought it was a good idea) caused 2 of us GREAT gastric distress though we did lose weight spontaneously.
Kaya- Fine, OK, would do it again if for nothing else than flavors. Good flavors, amateur workers, walking distance from my place.
21st coffee- The owner, Luke seems cool though a bit cautious. The coffee, especially the Clover, single cup varietals, are great but what's with the horrible looking pastries? Are there no artisanal bakeries here? They might be fresh but they look like they came from Costco. The Choc Chip cookies look Otis Spunkmeyerean, the muffins bland and doughy. I'm glad it's there but think it could be so much more.
had breakfast at Pamela's and yes, if you're after greasy nostalgia it's for you but I thought it just didn't have to be so, so lubricated. It was literally a corned beef and hash, plus dry scrambled egg dish just oozing oil, really, oozing, like puddles. Unnecessary and I'm a dirty, greasy food lover!
Oh Yeah Ice Cream- good idea but they seem like they've overreached their real estate obligations. Soups, waffles, etc feel like a "we need more revenue" play. The basic ice creams are dry, not enough cream, likely a lot of air. I'm a North Shore Boston ice cream freak (Bentsons, White Farms) so my expectations are high but rural/local. When you know it can be done, done well and for not a lot of money, you gotta wonder why it's so hard to replicate? It's ice cream, people like it, serve it BIG and they'll keep coming back.
I'm going to keep eating and will report back.
Love this PGH town, 3.5 more months to go.

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