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Pittsburgh Restaurants

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Butcher and the Rye

Butcher and the Rye is located on 6th Street in downtown Pittsburgh in the cultural district.

 

The Food

Butcher and the Rye is a trendy restaurant serving new and creative American fare.  Many of the menu options feature locally grown vegetables.  There is an extensive and inventive drink menu.  In addition to wines, beers, and ciders, there are some creative cocktails,  The Salinger’s Sling with Bulleit bourbon, grand marniers, and coffee bitters is my go to cocktail.  There is a broad list of small plates from which to start.  The Brussels, grilled with dill, and covered in parmigiano reggiano, is my favorite starter.  The Dry Aged Tartare, Cheese Board, and Mac and Cheese are other good options for appetizers.  The large plate menu offers a variety of choices.  My two favorite are the Scallops with crab risotto, asparagus, and capers, and the Roasted Chicken, with mushrooms, creamed Brussel sprouts, and grapes.  Other menu items include duck, lamb, steak, salads, pates.  The chef has concocted a menu that provides a delicious mixture of savory and sweet and no matter the course or item, all of it has been consistently very good.  There are three desert options and all three are worth leaving room for.  The carrot cake and flourless chocolate cake, are both delicious.  However, my recommendation is the Peaches and Cream Doughnuts with cinnamon, oatmeal, and peach ice cream.  It is heavenly!

          

The Service

Butcher and the Rye is a very popular restaurant here in Pittsburgh.  Make reservations beforehand.  During my visits, the service has been consistently quite good.  The staff is friendly.  My last visit to Butcher was with a group of friends from out of town who were experiencing Butcher and the Rye for the first time.  The server provided informed descriptions and honest feedback on any of the questions the patrons had.  At one experience though, there was an evening where there were three greeters.  They were consumed with their own conversation and they were not saying goodbye as guests left the restaurant.  I was not upset by it, but I found it rather odd.

The Ambiance

Butcher and the Rye has a beautiful rustic, nostalgic, American decor.  The lighting was warm, but a little dark, and sometimes makes it difficult to read the menu.  Acoustically, the front of the restaurant is a little loud and can make it a strain to hear people seated at the table.  It is better elsewhere in the restaurant.  The atmosphere can best be described as lively and is an enjoyable environment to visit.

         

Overall

Butcher and the Rye is a terrific Pittsburgh venue, relatively new to the restaurant scene.  I give it an overall rating and recommendation of:

“Go For It!”

Visit

212 6th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 391-2752
Visit Butcher and the Rye

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Hidden Harbor

Hidden Harbor, billed a modern Tiki spot, is located at the corner of Shady and Forbes Avenues in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh.

The Food (and Drinks…)

Hidden Harbor is a really unique find in Pittsburgh with its Caribbean and Polynesian drink items all with the decor of being in the tropics.  The drink menu is seasonal but typically boasts between a dozen to twenty different choices.  Each drink provides a unique concoction of liqueurs, juices, fruits, and other ingredients and seasonings.  It is recommended that one asks the bartender or server to make a recommendation.  I had great experiences with doing that because I was at a loss of what to order.  My first visit, the bartender recommended a concoction of rum, Kona coffee infused Jamaican rum, lime, banana, cinnamon, cardamom, and bitters called an Oka Kope Kooler.  I never would have guessed that the given combination of flavors would be so delicious.  It could be described with one word; heavenly!  At more recent visits, I have had their Planter’s Punch with their house 5 rum blend, lime, grapefruit, orange, marachino, grenadine, vanilla, coffee, absinthe, and bitter as well as their Rum Cannonball with Virgin Islands rum, lemon, strawberry, pineapple, and mint.  Both provided a symphony of electric flavor.  The food menu provides a limited number of selections.  I recommend the Ahi Tuna Poke with the Wasabi-Soy dressing, over greens and topped with avodado, peppers, cucumbers, and sesame seeds.  Another good menu option is the curry steak tacos.  Both entrees have rich flavors that compliment the flavors of the drinks.

The Service

Because of the uniqueness and complexity of the different types of drinks, do not expect fast service.  The bartenders expertly take their time to craft these beautiful and tasty concoctions.  The wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the drink and food menus and make informed recommendations to patrons.  At one visit, our service got off to a bumpy start because the host never told a server that we were to be her customers, so we sat for a while before even water to brought to us.  This was the only bump based on the three visits I have made to Hidden Harbor.  Overall, the entire staff has been friendly and efficient.

The Ambiance

Hidden Harbor provides a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing setting for patrons to feel whisked away to an exotic island.  The artwork, sculptures, lighting, music, all reinforces the venues main theme as a Tiki bar.  The venue also features different themed nights:  Tuesday Tiki Time Machines which showcases drinks that are organized by decade and location.  Want a drink that was popular in the 1970s in Fort Lauderdale? Or a 1920s Coney Island concoction?  Or even a 1950s Hollywood specialty, then Tuesdays are the night to visit.  They also boast Weird Science Wednesday, and a Jumpstart Thursday.  These themes enhance the overall ambiance because patrons can visit many times and still have a unique and refreshed experience.

Overall

Hidden Harbor provides a very distinctive and matchless experience that all Pittsburghers and visitors alike should visit.  My recommendation is:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

1708 Shady Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 422-5040
Visit Hidden Harbor

  

Pittsburgh Restaurants

DiAnoia’s Eatery

DiAnoia’s Eatery is on Penn Avenue in the Strip District in Pittsburgh.

The Food

DiAnoia’s menu offers an extensive wine (Italian wines only) and cocktail menu.  From the cocktail menu, I recommend the Godfather with Grouse Scotch, Amaretto, and lemon or the Manhattan.  Both are great.  When it came to wine for dinner, the restaurant manager came over and made recommendations based on what entrees my friends and I chose.  She actually provided us healthy samples of the wines she was recommending before we made our selection.  There is an extensive antipasto menu.  I’ve had the house salad and recommend it.  The oregano vinaigrette is perfection.  I also tried the escarole, beans, and sausage appetizer.  Again, another worthy recommendation.  The entree menu has a variety of pastas, meats, and sides.  A good option is, the gnocchi with meatballs and red sauce, which is the perfect blend of sweet and savory.  The linguine and mussels is another worthy choice as an entree.  The white wine sauce is a mouth watering enhancement to the mussels.  If you are trying to avoid carbs, another entree item to be considered is the Steak Florentine.  Its savory, delectable taste is addicting.  I’ve also had the zucchini, squash, and tomatoes with truffle oil as a side.  For dessert, if you have room, the house-made tiramisu is wonderful.

          

The Service

The service at DiAnoia’s is friendly, efficient, and professional.  I recommend making reservations ahead if going during peak times.  From the moment we were greeted at the door, the service was outstanding.  Our server was very knowledgeable about the menu items and gave us informed recommendations.  Runners brought food and drinks to the correct patron even if they weren’t present when ordered.  (I’m still smarting over  this experience ).  And the manager coming over to offer wine recommendations and tasting could be described as perfect service.  A visit to DiAnoia’s does not feel like being a customer, but rather a guest to be fawned over.  Bravo!

The Ambiance

The venue is gorgeous.  With large windows, the whole restaurant is spacious and bright.  The atmosphere can best be described as electric.  When you enter the restaurant, there is a bar to the left.  It is small and intimate.  Further back in the restaurant, there is a pasticceria from which breads and desserts can be ordered and taken out.  The main dining room is spacious and the corner offers a great view of Penn Avenue.  The artwork on the walls is tasteful.  At times, it was difficult to hear others at my table because acoustically, it is pretty loud.  However, I did not find that as an irritation as I sometimes do.  To me, it added a din of excitement.

Overall

DiAnoia’s Eatery is a new restaurant to Pittsburgh.  All three criteria for reviewing restaurants were exceptionally good.  It is my pleasure to give DiAnoia’s an overall recommendation and rating of:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

2549 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 918-1875
Visit DiAnoia’s

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Sakura Teppanyaki & Sushi

Sakura is an Asian restaurant in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh at the corner of Forbes and Shady Avenues with Japanese and Chinese options.

The Food

Sakura’s menu offers a wide variety of items.  There are plenty of appetizers, soups, salads, sushi, and entree options.  The miso soup is delicious!  They get the right balance of tofu, scallions, and seaweed, with a rich flavor.  In my opinion, Sakura has the best sushi in Pittsburgh.  There is a wide variety of some 60 different sushi and maki selections.  A patron can order individual rolls or choose from special options of combos.  No matter what roll I have gotten, it is always fresh with a crisp flavor.  The rice is the perfect consistency where the rolls do not fall apart when dipped in soy sauce.  There is always a healthy dose of wisabi and ginger.  Making choices is always difficult.  My two favorites are the spicy tuna sandwich with spicy tuna, seaweed salad, crab, with tempura flakes, spicy mayo, caviar, and green onion or the spicy salmon delight, with salmon, cilantro, jalapeno, topped with spicy mayo, and a Wisabi sauce.  I got either of those each time I visit.  There sichuan dishes are rich in flavor.  Although, there Hibachi options are not prepared in front of you, they are very good as well.  The Kung Pao chicken is the best I have had in the city.  The food never misses here!

The Service

Whether it is at lunch or dinner, crowded or busy, the service at Sakura has been consistently efficient and friendly.  Water glasses are filled up and dishes are cleared in a timely fashion.  The greeter takes care of processing the bills for the servers, so there is no lingering wait at the end of the meal.

The Ambiance

Sakura is a clean, pleasant, unassuming environment.  The lighting from the front of the restaurant blends nicely with the lighting in the back.  The acoustics are such that one can hear both the server and fellow diners at their own table with ease.  It is a great place to eat in.

Overall

Sakura is my “go to” restaurant for sushi in Pittsburgh.  Other places are good, but Sakura is consistently, the best.  If you or anyone you are with is not in the mood for sushi, then Sakura has a large variety of other options from which to choose.  My overall rating and recommendation is:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

5882 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 422-7188
Vist Sakura!

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Casellula

Casellula, specializing in cheese, is located on Pittsburgh’s North Side on North Avenue near Federal Street.

The Food

Casellula has a broad menu and specializes in cheeses and wines.  The cocktail menu offers nine unique options.  I tried their Decadent & Depraved with rye, sweet vermouth, orange, and luxardo and their Poe Died of Rabies made with aged Brandy, Applejack, White Port, Lemon, with an absinthe rinse.  Both were delicious!  There is also an extensive wine menu with options of buying by the glass or the bottle.  There are 15 options of wines by the glass and over 60 options of by the bottle.  The wine menu gives year and place of origin and boasts some impressive names..  Casellula offers an extensive variety of cheeses.  Patrons can choose from over 20 options of fresh, bloomy, washed, pressed and cooked, and/or blue.  Each cheese is served with a pairing whether sweet or savory that compliments the flavor such as butters, pesto, fruit spread and more.  After the cheese course, I had Casellula’s Greens which was a mix of spring vegetables, Grana Padano cheese, breadcrumbs with an anchovy vinaigrette.  It had a refreshing flavor, but was served with both too much breadcrumb and dressing.  I couldn’t finish it.  I was at Casellula with a party of three.  We each chose an item from the plate menu and all sampled each others entree.  I had the Pig’s Ass Sandwich, which essentially Casellula’s twist on a Cuban Sandwich.  It was so greasy that the flavor of the ham, pork, cheese, and even the pickles was lost.  If it did not have chipotle aioli on the side to spread on it, there would have been no flavor at all.  I could not finish it.  My one friend tried the Mac and Cheese baked with caramelized onion and a variety of cheeses.  We all tried it and agreed it was bland and too greasy, as there was about half a centimeter of oil at the bottom of the craft that it was served in.  My friend who ordered it could not finish.  Lastly, my third dinner mate ordered the salmon with Tahini, over bulgur,  with snap peas.  I tried it and wished that I had ordered that.  It was delicious.  For dessert, I had the cheesecake made with Italian Mascarpone cheese, with sour cherry, on a graham crust.  It was delicious as well.

           

The Service

Our server at Casellula was very knowledgeable of the vast cheese and wine menus.  She patiently guided our party through both lists answering our questions and making suggestions that articulated a wide depth of understanding.  The cheese course with its pairings took a little longer amount of time, but that was to be expected.  The drinks took a little longer amount of time as well, but again, they were specialized drinks.  Unfortunately, as the dinner progressed, my friend ordered a second drink and it took 20 minutes for it to be served.   The restaurant was not that crowded so it was a little perplexing.  Water was refilled and plates were cleared with efficiency by our server or one of the runners.  Here is the clincher of the evening.  I ordered a second drink from our server.  About 15 minutes later, it was brought by a runner who said to us, “I don’t know who ordered this” and placed the drink in the middle of the table, shrugged her shoulders, and walked away.  She actually shrugged her shoulders!

The Ambiance

Casellula is a gorgeous spacious venue that shares a space with Alphabet City and City of Asylum Books.  There is a great blend of natural and artificial light, with tasteful artwork.  Acoustically, it is easy to hear conversation of your fellow table mates.  The venue has a very Parisian feel to it and it is most welcoming.  There is open space between the restaurant portion of the venue and the bookstore with a small stage.  This is the perfect place to listen to a reading, or a small music ensemble, accompanied by great cheese and wine while being entertained.

Casellula

Overall

What Casellula is great at, they are great at.  What they are bad at, they are bad at.  The cheese, wines, specialty cocktails (although served very slowly), and desserts are all terrific and worth the visit.  The other dinner items we all had were at best pretty good and at worst, unable to be finished.  Normally, I make multiple visits to restaurants or other venues before I review them just in case there was an “off” night or some other circumstance that might have made a dining experience undesirable.  However, the Saturday night I visited, the venue was not crowded as there were tables available, but the drink service was consistently slow.  Casellula boasts on its menu and web page that they do not allow tipping because the restaurant staff is compensated well and provided with health benefits and retirement plans.  I am in complete support of any restaurant that treats its employees as the professionals that they are.  Normally a meal experience like this would garner a rating of “It’s worth a shot, but it could be a miss,” but so jarring was the cavalier, millennial-ish act of not asking who the second drink belonged to, but rather shrugging their shoulders and walking away that even though the cheese course was fantastic, I will not be going back again.  This is the first restaurant that I have reviewed to get the rating of:

“Avoid At All Costs!”

Contact

40 W. North Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 226-9740
Visit Casellula

 

 

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Mad Mex-Shadyside

Mad Mex is a chain of Mexican restaurants that started here in Pittsburgh with some 13 locations here in Pennsylvania, and one in Columbus, Ohio.  I am going to review the restaurant located in the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh.

The Food

Mad Mex has an extensive menu of appetizers, soups, quesadillas, nachos, salads, burritos, enchiladas and other Mexican fares.  There is also an extensive drink menu.  My recommendation is to get one of their Margaritas.  They are perfect on a hot summer day.  If you’re ordering from the bar, the bartenders may allow you to sample.  To be safe, go with the traditional house Margarita.  If you have a big appetite, have the dip sampler as an appetizer.  The burrito menu has a wide arrangement of choices including seasonal choices when appropriate.  When the Holiday season comes around, every Yinzer (There is it.  I finally used that term.) should absolutely indulge once in their life a Gobblerito, which is turkey, massed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and gravy all wrapped up in a tortilla.  The wing menu has a small variety of options, which is fine because all of their sauces are delicious.  My favorite is the Southwestern with cilantro, olive oil, lime, and garlic.  Another favorite from the menu, which is a little lighter, is the grilled chicken and corn enchilada.  My only caution is avoiding anything with the mole sauce.  This is only a preference, but I’m not a fan of it’s aftertaste.  Other than that, one really can’t go wrong with any of the items on Mad Mex’s menu.

The Service

Mad Mex in Shadyside consistently has outstanding service!  The servers are efficient and friendly.  The bartenders are engaging and often banter with patrons whether they are regulars or not.   The wait for food or drinks is always timely without long waits no matter how busy the restaurant is.  Kudos to that!  The greeters have always been friendly and are accommodating of diners preference to seating availability.

The Ambiance

Speaking of seating, Mad Mex in Shadyside, offers a variety of seating options.  There is the bar section in the middle of the restaurant with high top tails bordering it.  There are also booth and table option throughout the restaurant.  There is also outdoor seating facing Highland Avenue.  The decor is rich and bright with all sorts of Mexican themed murals and art work.  My favorite aspect of the ambiance of Mad Mex is their music play list.  Unless one of the various Pittsburgh sports teams are on TV, the music is a rocking at Mad Mex.  Whether it is happy hour, lunch, or late in the evening, the music always is spot on, with a wide spectrum of genres to classic rock, 80s, contemporary.  It’s not too loud, nor too soft, and always, always provides a great soundtrack for eating and drinking.  Bravo to whomever makes that happen, because, minus venues that have live music, Mad Mex in Shadyside has the best acoustical experience while eating that I have been to in Pittsburgh.  Kudos!

Overall

My overall rating and recommendation is:

“Go For It!”

Contact

220 South Highland Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
412.345.0185
Visit Mad Mex in Shadyside

 

Pittsburgh Restaurants

James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy

The James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy is located at the corner of James and Foreland Streets on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

The Food

To start with, the beer menu has a nice blend of Ales, IPAs, Belgians, Stouts, Wheats, Ciders, and  some Domestics.  In the spirit of a Speakeasy, the drink menu offers vintage choices like a Side Car, Brandy Alexander, Gin Rickey, as well as staples such as Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs, and unique drinks to James Street such as the Smoked Jazz, made with cognac and scotch.  The food menu offers a variety of small plates, wings, burgers, salads, and entrees.  Broadly speaking, the menu overall offers classic nods towards Pittsburgh.  The city loves Mac and Cheese, and James Street has a Build Your Own Mac option.  If you’re hungry, definitely try the Mac and Cheese with some of the unique add ons.  I get mine with chili, tomatoes, and spinach.  Another menu item that stands out are the James Street burgers.  There is also an option here to build your own burger, but there are two choices on the menu that I recommend.  The Big South burger has Pimento cheese, bacon pepper jam, and fried green tomatoes.  It is a unique mix of flavors.  And in a nod to the city, there is the Yinz Gotta Try This Burger, which has perogies, cheddar, and coleslaw on a pretzel bun.  From the entree options, I recommend the Cajun Shrimp and Grits or the homemade Meatloaf Devonshire over broccoli, smashed redskin potatoes, with a whiskey cheddar sauce.  Both are hearty and delicious.

The Service

On the several occasions that I have visited the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, the service has been consistently terrific.  The greeters, bartenders, servers, and runners have all been efficient, well organized, and friendly.  If there is a wait for a table, just saunter up to the bar and order a pre dinner drink.

The Ambiance

The James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy provides a warm nostalgic ambiance.  The decor upstairs is a shrine to some of the great performers who have visited.  Depending on where one sits, the feel of the entire venue is different.  If you’re in the booths by the bar, you have an elevated view of the whole upstairs portion of the restaurant.  The main dining room is open and there is plenty of space between the tables where diners are not on top of each other.  Downstairs, in the speakeasy section of the venue, there is a small stage and small bar.  The intimate setting, with the lighting and decor, provides for a very sentimental, nostalgic setting.  It is a must visit!

Overall

Everything about the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy is nostalgic nod to a different time, but also an homage to our great city of Pittsburgh.  I recommend embracing the speakeasy ambiance by starting with the Side Car or Gin Rickey, have a great dinner, then go downstairs and listen to some great live jazz.  I easily give the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy an overall rating and recommendation of:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

422 Foreland St
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 904-3335
Visit the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Smallman Galley

A newer establishment to the Pittsburgh restaurant scene, is the Smallman Galley in the strip district of the city.

The Food

Smallman Galley is an incubator restaurant where there are four different chefs running four different restaurants all in the same venue.  It is a cafeteria style venue where patrons can peruse and make choices from the four different restaurant options.  Every 18 months all four restaurants are replaced with new ones with new chefs.  The chefs are given the freedom to set their own menu, hire their own staff, and run the business the way they want.  Smallman Galley is closed on Mondays so the chefs can attend training sessions by leaders in the restaurant industry.  They are assisted with making business and marketing plans and given assistance to securing financing and real estate in a new city.  I will not be reviewing the individual restaurants in the Smallman Galley because of the fluidity of the menus.  However, on both visits, I had an appetizer, entree, and dessert from three of the four venues and all of the food was terrific!  My first visit, I ordered a drink at the bar, and brought it to my seat, then surveyed and ordered from the restaurants, then waited for the food to be brought by the server.  The recommended order is to: 1. Order your food first, 2. Order drinks or coffee.  3.  Go to your table with your placard identifying your order number.  4. Then enjoy your meal.  Follow that plan and your dining experience will be terrific.

The Service

Everyone I encountered on the staff was friendly, even when it was during a peak time on a Friday evening.  After you place your order, you’re given a placard to display on your table so that the server knows where to bring your fare.  This is very efficient, which is very important to this reviewer.

The Ambiance

Located at the corner of Smallman and 21st Streets, there is a natural hustle and bustle that takes place outside the restaurant.  This is also mirrored inside with an appealing energy to the venue.  The main dining room has a great blend of lighting from both inside and outside.  The bar area is a little crowded, but the communal seating around it reinforces a “galley at sea” aesthetic to it.

Overall

This is a unique eating experience and one that every Pittsburgher and visitor alike should try!  My overall rating and recommendation is:

“Absolutely Must Try!”  Bon appetite!

Visit

54 21st St
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 281-0949
Smallman Galley