Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Skinny on Fatheads

On Saturday, PID and I were -- plainly and simply said -- in the mood for a burger. And though we live down the street from a BK Lounge, we knew we were in the mood for a good burger.  So after dropping off the TOP-dawg at his beloved groomers, we meandered down 18th street until we were staring a very round head square in the face.

It wasn't a split decision or a planned out affair.  It was more of a calling. And we answered.

Fat Heads Saloon and Brewery on Carson Street in the South Side is famous for its specially crafted brews and bar grub. Their tap list is epic, it's one of the few remaining places in the 'burgh (aside from Smokin' Joes, The Sharp Edge and Roland's so far as I know) that you can find the deliciously sweet Lindeman's lambic beer and their home brewed beer will quench even the pickiest guzzler's thirst.

But we weren't here for the brews.  We were here for the burgers.

After staring for what felt like hours, mouths agape, at a burger and sandwich menu that seemed to never end, we made a decision. And as the waitress approached to take our orders, we changed our minds for the 12th time.

PID chose the Beasty Burger adorned with an especially spicy beast of a jalapeno barbecue sauce and a thick pile of onions.  Though one bite from me resulted in a quick grab for an ice cold pop...

...PID seemed rather pleased.  Both the patty and special sauce were extra juicy.  Could have used a few less onions and PID left a few on the plate, but other than that it was just right!

I suppose I have a wonderful girl named Kelsey to thank for my lunch as (after a lot of back and forthing between the Wanzco Chicken Sandwich, the plain old Mushroom & Swiss burger) I finally decided that if I'm presented with a burger with a pierogi on top of it, I must indulge.

Lord help me this burger was magnificent.  Accompanied by a special horsey sour cream sauce, this thing looked clunky, but certainly went down smooth.

I have only eaten at Fatheads once before and was lucky enough to get the homemade chips with my order. I'll admit I was sad when I found out you can't substitute for fries with the burgers.  But the horseradish sour cream proved not only a great patty spread, but also a perfect dipping sauce for the fries.

Restaurant info:
Fat Heads' Saloon
Address: 1805 E. Carson Street (South Side)
Phone: 412-431-7433
Hours: 11 a.m. - 1:30 a.m. (except Monday -- only open until midnight, so hurry in)
Reservations:  Please. Just stop by. If you can't get a table just crowd around the bar.
Price: $$

Cliffs Notes:
Drinks:     2 diet pepsis @ $1.50
Meals:      Kelsey Burger @ $8.95
                Beasty Burger @ $7.55
Tax:            @ 7% (Allegheny County only)   $1.40
Tip:          $4.00
Total:      $25.30

Overall Opinion:
Our lunch date certainly hit the spot.  It was just what we were hoping for and more. With so many other delicious looking options on the menu, we're confident this place screams of Pittsburgh culinary pride and have no hesitations recommending it with four very enthusiastic thumbs up. As we walked away filled to the brim, PID let out a belly busting belch that affirmed the satisfaction we'd just experienced.  (OK, it was me. I confess). Any place that offers me pretty much any beer I can possibly ever want, "headwiches" the size of...well...use your imagination, wings with enough punch to power a small boat and burgers as good as we had here today gets my vote.

Fat Head's Saloon on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Silk Road Surprise

Last weekend, PID and I were in the mood for something different for lunch.  We're growing tired of chicken and salad (OK, so PID's far more patient than I.  I just can't take it anymore) so we shot a few ideas back and forth.  Gyros?  Subs? Peanut butter & jelly?

Then PID suggested  a place that he and Mama PID love to frequent, but I'd simply never been. When he told me it was Chinese, I asked why we didn't just order in.  He said this was better...much better.  This I had to taste to believe.

We arrived at Silk Road the Caste Village Shoppes a few short minutes later and I stared at him in disbelief.  Really? A strip mall Chinese joint? This is the "much better, must have" you were talking about?

Well, when I was done with my lunch, I ate my words.

The moment we walked in I was already in shock.  The interior design certainly did not match the dated exterior. A stone fireplace breaks up beautiful Asian decor.  Red beams give the dining hall an authentic pagoda feel and the lighting fixtures were incredibly unique.  Because it completely slipped my mind to take pictures of the inside of the restaurant itself, you'll just have to trust me on this.

Anyway, we were darn hungry. So we each ordered a bowl of Spinach Wonton Soup (well, PID actually ordered Hot & Sour soup, but the waiter brought him Wonton instead.  I told him to say something, but he assured me he's had both and he was in no way upset to have received this by accident) and a hand made eggroll.

This "simple" soup was the first form of proof that this ain't your average Chinese joint. I've had my fare share of Wonton soups and this one felt like what Wonton soup should have always tasted like from day one. The clear broth was deceiving since it held so much flavor.

 In my mind there aren't many more satisfying things out there than a really well made eggroll.  Believe me, there have been pooly made eggrolls. In fact, I've had many of those.  But those chalked full of veggies and chicken (or shrimp, whatever tickles your tastebuds) with the perfect crunch to the crust can really hit the spot.  This was that kind of eggroll.

The sweet & sour sauce and spicy mustard were top notch, to boot.

We each decided to steer clear of the overly unique menu options and stick with our respective Chinese comfort foods. I went with the Combo Lo Mein and PID with the General Tso's (extra spicy).  We figured why talk to you about the stuff you'll never order? I want to let you know what makes Silk Road different from the delivery place down the block.

Chicken? Fresh, juicy and plentiful.  Shrimp?  Perfectly cooked, tailless and -- yet again -- plentiful. Noodles? Just the right texture (I've had too dry and I've had too slimy.  These were "baby bear" just right.).  I could have used just a touch more green onions and cabbage, but the taste was delicious.

Now PID always orders his Tso's a little spicier.  More often than not he's left disappointed when "spicier" is still just not spicy enough.  Here at Silk Road they left him all but wanting.  I took a bite and I felt the instant zip.  To me, his preference is just a touch too much, but he barely said a word the entire meal he was so happy with his chicken. Check out all those red pepper flakes!  I was a bit confused by the rice-to-meat ratio on his plate, but he didn't seem too bothered.

Restaurant Info:
Silk Road
5301 Grove Road (on the far side of the Caste Village Shoppes)
Hours: Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
           Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
           Sunday, 12 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Reservations: Taken, not required.
Price: $$

Cliffs notes:
Drinks:     2 waters @ free
Appetizer:     2 Wonton Soups @ $1.75
                    2 Eggrolls @ $1.75
Entrees:      Combo (chicken & shrimp) Lo Mein @ $6.95
                  General Tso's Chicken @ $6.95
Tax:         @ 7% (Allegheny County only) $1.46
Tip:           $5
TOTAL FOR TWO:      $27.36

Overall Opinion:
I was expecting your run of the mill Chinese.  But this, as many local restaurant sites suggest, is better classified as "gourmet Chinese."  I was pleased with my meal and had enough left over for dinner that evening.  And yes, I did like it enough to eat it twice in one day without it feeling overly redundant.  This is definitely a unique Chinese restaurant that I would say you must dine-in to truly enjoy. I would absolutely suggest it and encourage you to try the eggroll!

Silk Road on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pittsburgh Pizza Club

My lovely friend here at the Taste of Pittsburgh asked me to guest blog about Pizza in Pittsburgh. Since it's not a favorite food of her's (and I cannot convince her to actually attend Pittsburgh Pizza Club meetings), I happily obliged.

A little background on the PPC: founded in January 2010 by a group of friends who found themselves spread too far throughout the city of Pittsburgh to get together on a regular basis and coordinate many weekends, it was decided that dinner once monthly was necessary so we wouldn't forget what each other look like. So once a month, we get together, and we eat pizza. Yum!

This month we decided to eat at Vincent's Pizza Park in East Pittsburgh.

Now, if you are looking for an upscale or commercial pizza place, Vinnie's is NOT for you. It is the kind of unique neighborhood place that can never be duplicated. The pizza is cheesy, has big handles of crust, overwhelming toppings, and grease pools - a deadly combination that won't make you regret shaving a couple months off of your life.

Pittsburgh Pizza Club's rating system is slightly different from Taste of Pittsburgh's. We rate on a scale of 1-10 (no half numbers) and include, deliciousness, taste, atmosphere, friendliness of staff, etc all in one vote.
Overall, Vincent's was rated at 7.9 by PPC.

Here's some basic info:
998 Ardmore Blvd
East Pittsburgh, PA 15112
Reservations: definitely not taken
Beverages: Soda/Pop by the can, bottled water and iced teas, bottled beer, and beers served in ice cold frosted mugs on draft
Price: Total bill for 1 large, 3 medium, 1 small (mostly topped) pizzas, sodas and beer ended up being around $11 per person.

Make sure to hit up their website for a $2 off coupon!

CLOSED: Valentine's Day Giveaway & Winner

On Wednesday, Febaruary 9 Taste of Pittsburgh posted its FIRST giveaway:

When writing my Romantic Valentine's Day Restaurants post, I was reminded of a Groupon I had purchased for Walnut Grill a few months back.  Sadly, that Groupon (worth $40) expires on 2/11/11 and PID and I don't have the free time to use it.  So, you lucky readers can reap the benefits of my forgetfulness!  The fine folks at Walnut Grill have also graciously agreed to throw in a complimentary bottle of house red or white wine to the winner as well!  Here are the details:

The pot: A $40 Groupon to Walnut Grill which you must use by 2/11 (the Groupon IS valid on Friday) and a complimentary bottle of house red or white wine courtesy of Walnut Grill

The deets: A comment on this blog post will earn you an entry.  You can earn bonus entries by doing one or all of the following things:
- "Liking" Taste of Pittsburgh and/or Walnut Grill on Facebook
- Following @tastePGHblog and/or @eatwalnut on Twitter
- Retweeting this blog post to your friends
*You can earn up to 5 additional entries by doing everything listed above. Once you do any of these things, you must comment another time for the additional entry telling me you've done so.  If you do this, I will double check it before you can win, so be honest!

The winner: I MUST choose a winner (via random drawing) by tomorrow at 6 p.m. in order to give you a solid three days to utilize the Groupon.  This means you have less than 24 hours to enter so get crackin' and tell your friends!  Once I choose a winner at 6 p.m. tomorrow, I will post the results on Facebook and Twitter and compose a new post to alert you.  If you do not claim your prize by 8 p.m. I will be forced to award a new winner since this is such a timely giveaway -- so CHECK THE BLOG AT 6! If I announce you as the winner, e-mail me at tasteofpittsburghblog[at]gmail[dot]com with your name and I will respond with your Groupon and alert the folks at Walnut Grill that you will be coming soon to claim your wine.


Congratulations to Marsha S. Morgenstern for winning this week's giveaway!

I chose her comment via True Random Number Generator:

If you send me an e-mail at tasteofpittsburghblog[at]gmail[dot]com by 8 p.m. this evening, I will respond with your Groupon and details on how to redeem your prize.

Thanks to all who entered -- keep your eyes out for more giveaways to come!

Congrats to Marsha!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TOP-ten Romantic Restaurants in Pittsburgh

With the Hallmark Holiday of Love just around the corner, I've taken it upon myself to rack my brain and tap in to memories past to present to you my official TOP-Ten list of Pittsburgh's most romantic culinary destinations. Some I've reviewed on this site, others are favorites I recall from b.t.o.p (before Taste of Pittsburgh). All are worthy of your reservation.

Keep reading after my suggestions for your chance to WIN a romantic Valentine's Day dinner date, courtesy of Taste of Pittsburgh and Walnut Grill

#10 --If you're single and already considering clicking the big red X at the top right of your screen...DON'T! The Naked Grape in Sewickly will pop your cork. This Thursday, February 10, you can celebrate being single with a selection of special "Single" Vineyard Wines, "Single Servings" and, of course, a game of "Single Trivia," all while mixing and mingling with other singles! Any place whose wine menu exceeds the length of it's food menu is a place I would suggest.

#9 -- OK, ok -- so it's not a Pittsburgh proprietary, but I have to tell you I've been to quite a few different Morton's across the country and if we're talking romantic atmosphere, I CANNOT neglect to put this place on the list. The ambiance at Morton's Pittsburgh makes you expect that Frank Sinatra will be joining your party at any given moment. The scent of red wine and a good char fill the air as candlelit tables are scarcely accompanied by dim overhead lighting.  With out-of-this-world Oysters Rockefeller that would make John D. himself sing praises from the beyond and a chocolate lava cake that will melt even the coldest of hearts, the food will certainly not fall short  in the romance department either. Make your reservations today, because Valentine's Day is one of their busiest of the year! A V-day special will get you a three course dinner for two for only $109.99.

#8 -- Who could forget about Mount Washignton on a day like Valentine's Day? While I have to give props to Georgetowne Inn, and of course to Monterey Bay for being my runner's up in the romance category, I have to say that, though it's been a while since I've eaten there, Isabela on Grandview will forever be etched in my mind as the loveliest of all Mt. Washington restaurants I've had the pleasure of experiencing. Voted by Pittsburgh Magazine readers as Pittsburgh's most romantic restaurant, I can confidently suggest it knowing I've got some trusted voices confirming my opinion.

#7 -- For a date night OR a group of 14 excitable women on a night out on the town, SOBA on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside certainly did a fine job of setting the mood.  The multi-level restaurant is absolutely gorgeous and with a diverse menu of Asian and American cuisine, it will be sure to satisfy both you and your sweetheart.

#6 -- Shadyside is my home away from home, and so I must take you on the tour from Ellsworth to Walnut and suggest Walnut Grill which just happens to be one of my long time favorites, especially if you're in the mood for a delicious pasta or hand-tossed pizza. **UPDATE - Walnut Grill has closed and is in process of being replaced by a new joint (sure to please) called "Up." I'll be sure to keep you "Up"dated!

#5 -- While I typically would only send you here in the summertime when their back patio is open for business, if you're looking for a quiet, intimate dining experience this Valentine's Day, be sure to check out the cafe I go crazy for: Cafe du Jour.  With a quaint dining room adjacent to the kitchen, you can be sure to share delicious food and audible conversation with your date. Be sure to ask them what off-menu specials they're offering.  I've found their best dishes that way.

#4 -- One of the my favorite destinations just happens to be in my neck of the woods.  Bistro 19 on Washington Rd. in Mount Lebanon was a place that took my breath away. With a plethora of options in every food group, this place will be sure to please.

#3 -- I find it only appropriate that Eleven would make my TOP-ten.  With it's uniquely delicious seasonally changing American cuisine, never fails to impress. Congrats to the Big Burrito Restaurant group for making the TOP-ten twice!

#2 -- I have to tell you a short story, the number two most romantic restaurant on my list is a huge part of the reason I began and kept up with this blog in the first place.  I had never heard of Willow (thank you, Groupon) and after spending an evening amongst the crackling fire, intoxicating aromas, mouthwatering flavors and extremely friendly waitstaff, I knew I had to tell the rest of the town about the secret in the woods. If you haven't yet taken a date to Willow, you're seriously missing out.  If you're just starting out in a relationship, seal the deal by suggesting a Valentine's Day dinner here.

#1 -- So far, in my mind, Spoon in East Liberty has yet to be beat. Neither PID nor I could think of a single negative thing to say about our evening here. The Tuna Two Ways was, to me, one of the greatest culinary accomplishments I've ever tasted -- and it was only the appetizer! If you read my review, you'll begin to understand why.  Give it a try, once you do you'll understand my utter fascination.

Every one of these restaurants earn my stamp of approval for your V-Day date. Bon Appetite!

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