Archive for the ‘Pittsburgh Food’ Category

Last night I arrived in Pittsburgh for a long-overdue visit with Mr. TR, and today I had the disconcerting experience of being treated like a tourist.

First, Mr. TR and I went by the insurance office to finalize our homeowners’ policy for the house we’ll be closing on next month. I had commented myself when we got dressed this morning – he in his Fleury jersey and I in my Clemente t-shirt – that anywhere else we’d look like we were trying too hard, but in the ‘Burgh we just look normal, so I was taken aback when the receptionist (who didn’t seem to have great people skills anyway, for a receptionist) remarked, “You’re really getting into the relocation thing, aren’t you?” Not entirely sure how to respond to that, I opted for the direct route. “We’re moving back,” was my only explanation, which satisfied her. 

Stranger still was lunch at Primanti, which went fine until I ordered my I.C. Light (yeah, go ahead, laugh) and the waitress asked for my ID. I handed over my Texas driver’s license, which was met with suspicion. After a long minute of looking back and forth between me and the license (which admittedly resembles more a frequent shoe-shopper card from DSW than a form of legal identification), she finally said she’d have to show it to her manager.


I guess my out-of-state identification was satisfactory to the manager, because the server did return with beer, along with a slight sense of mistrust. Had we been there before?, she wanted to know. Did we need our sandwiches explained to us? We’re okay, we reassured her – Mr. TR even ordered his sandwich with egg, which did seem to break the ice a bit. By the end of the meal, it seems the Texas ID debacle was forgotten, and we were treated with the same benign neglect one expects from any normal visit to Primanti’s. 

Perhaps we seemed too normal to really be from Texas.

I was struck, however, by the strength of my reaction to being viewed as an outsider. I almost desperately wanted to explain myself, why I belong here, why you’d be wrong to make judgments about me based on my driver’s license. But I didn’t. It’s easier to show people than tell them – I’m no Primanti virgin.


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Dorothee Trois-Rivières. Motto: Trying out restaurants so you don’t have to.

We kept seeing signs advertising Emiliano’s in McIntyre Square in McCandless, and we figured that now was as good a time as any to be disappointed with Mexican food in Pittsburgh. That’s definitely one area in which Texas has us beat, and if you’re ever traveling to Austin I strongly advise you against eating a lot of Tex-Mex because it will totally ruin Mad Mex for you forever. 

Anyway, we went to Emiliano’s, and I can honestly say that it was the best Mexican food I’ve had in Pennsylvania. Really, it was pretty good, except the salsa which tasted like marinara with cilantro. I did find chunks of potato in my Spanish rice and I couldn’t figure out if they were supposed to be there or not. In Oz-tin, I could feel pretty certain that they got in there by mistake, but this is Pittsburgh, potatoes belong in everything! They actually had a vegetarian flauta on the menu that was filled with seasoned potatoes – like a Mexican pierogi.

Last night for dinner, we finally ate at The Bus’s sports bar (Grille 36) on the North Shore, and if I weren’t pretty sure that you’ve already tried it and discovered the same thing we did, I’d recommend against it. Man, I do not want to have to say this, but Jerome, this place is a huge disappointment. Awful, slow, inattentive service; just marginal food (I think the fries are frozen and I have no doubts that the entrees marked as “Jerome’s favorites” are nothing of the sort); and a strange discordant loudness due to adult contemporary music playing loudly in the dining room, rock music playing very audibly from the bar, and TVs with the volume up running various sporting events.

Some good points about the place: the fact that it was showing the heated lacrosse matchup between Johns Hopkins and Princeton at the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium which made us laugh to no end about Ivy Leaguers tossing a ball around on the same turf where we dismantled the Ravens (we’d had beer), the view:


and the quote of the day, uttered by Mr. TR who is insightful and to-the-point.

“If The Ben hadn’t made that tackle after The Bus fumbled, this place probably wouldn’t exist.”

Uh, thanks for the lame dining experience, Ben.

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Just got my cholesterol test results today. Verdict: not too bad, you know, for a Pittsburgher. We have lots of reasons to fear those digits, not least of which is coming up right around the corner.

Today is Mardi Gras, which means one wonderful thing. Fish sandwiches. Six weeks of deep-fried, golden, crispy deliciousness, starting tomorrow. Now, full disclosure: I am not Catholic, and I have never given up anything for Lent (except my wisdom teeth when I was 16, but I didn’t get them back after Easter). But as the Trib pointed out a couple years ago, one needn’t be Catholic to get in on the fishy excitement.

This is totally a regional phenomenon. I currently live in a predominantly Catholic area and I have had no luck at all finding the kind of neighborhood fish-fry down at the firehouse that is so prevalent in Pittsburgh. Yeah, we can go to a restaurant that fries things all year and get some gulf shrimp, but it’s just not the same.

So add that to the ever-growing list of reasons that I’ll be so happy to be visiting next week – I won’t miss out on fish. You don’t miss out either – get your fix in your neighborhood: KDKA’s Fish Fry Finder.

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First of all, it has recently come to my attention that Professor Madison has included me under his heading entitled “Pittsburgh Arts and Culture,” a huge honor which I am trying mightily to live up to. I think that means I should probably quit blithering about football all the time. And I will. After the Super Bowl.

Now that I have two dozen black and gold Smiley Cookies winging their sweet, delicious way toward me, I feel better able to handle this last week before the Big Game in enemy territory while remaining cultured and poised.

I have found myself surprised by the degree to which this feels like “enemy territory” all of a sudden. It’s not as if Austin is crawling with Cardinals fans, and up until about ten days ago I didn’t think it was rife with Steeler haters either, even accounting for the predominance of Cowboys fans here. They’re all out of the woodwork now, though, jeering at the Steelers lanyard I use to hang my nametag around my neck at work (which, for the record, I’ve worn every day since I moved here and up until now has only been a conversation piece and a welcome sign that I have a little personality in a largely personality-less industry) and taunting me about bad punting.

I try to maintain a zen-like placidity over the whole thing. I figure the only thing more infuriating than having to interact with someone whose neckwear embodies the knowledge that your team is a bunch of losers and her team is cruising for its sixth ring is not being able to provoke her into an argument about punting.

“I cannot control the Steelers’ punting. I can only control my reaction to the Steelers’ punting. Om.”

And if I can’t have zen-like placidity at all times, at least I can have cookies.


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The P&G Diner in Millvale has everything. It’s a Pamela’s restaurant without the crowds or noise of the Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Oakland, or Strip locations. It’s located in the historic Lincoln Pharmacy, still open and operating both the pharmacy and the gift shop. And it has the Big Lincoln, shown above in all its atherosclerotic glory.



Lyonnaise potatoes.


Furthermore: a Greek salad that will knock your socks off. Sandwiches. Ask about Stan’s Favorites – the flippers, slippers, and chippers. And [swoon] a real fountain, with shakes and malts, ice cream sodas, and the Lincoln Split.

Oh friends. This place is The Real Deal. The food is among the best I’ve eaten ever, and the setting is a true throwback to the era of my pharmacist grandfather. You’ll enjoy the photos of the building during various Millvale floods almost as much as the coffee. The Lincoln Pharmacy and the P&G Diner are indestructible, by water or by time.

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There is good in the world.  Or at least on the world wide web.  I made a wonderful discovery this week:  Smilies smilies smilies smilies OMG YAY!  I’m ashamed of the amount of pure unadulterated childlike joy this discovery engendered in me.  I absolutely cannot wait for my first order of smiley cookies to arrive, I can already taste their vaguely stale frosting sensation if I concentrate on it.

This eureka moment led to a search for more internet joy.  Of course, you already know I can’t get enough of the WQED online shop, especially the History Series DVDs that they sell 4 for the price of 3, guaranteeing that my collection expands by 4 every few months.  And if you’re not hip to WearPittsburgh yet, you better get hip but fast.

Here’s pretty much everything you need, ever (though be aware, this isn’t  a local business – it’s based in Chicago).

Shop here if you need a Primanti Bros wife-beater.

At CafePress, you can find pretty much anything you can imagine on a shirt, tote bag, mug, magnet, trucker hat, onesie, clock, throw pillow, etc.  I rather like this one, though experience tells me it’s not exactly true.

And I have a soft spot for Etsy.com, the online marketplace for handmade items, where it’s hard to get more kitschy awesome than this.

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There’s a lot of special beer-related stuff in our drinking town with a football problem.  But no place highlights the wonderful degree to which we recognize that beer is a religious experience than The Church Brew Works.  It’s not enough to just drink beer in a church.  We drink beer that was made in a church.  That’s commitment.

The Church has scored itself a Wikipedia page, where I learned that the use of the building for worship services was separated from the imbibing of brew by but three years.  That’s less than the waiting period to date your sister’s ex.  Lest anyone think this has disrespectful overtones, you should take in this fine history of the sale and restoration of the St. John the Baptist Church.  Seems that the old Catholic church was falling into disrepair for years before being rescued by the brewery crew.  Now it’s a most beautiful and interesting place to sit around eating appetizers and drinking aptly-named microbrews.

Obviously, it goes without saying, there’s nothing to compare to it outside the ‘Burgh.  I’m clearly not getting Pious Monk Dunkel at this place

If The Church is unable to fulfill its duties as the Most Awesome Beer Santuary in Pittsburgh, the crown and sash will pass to the first runner up.

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