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Review of Pittsburgh (pgh) area Chow

I just returned from a weekend vacation with my girlfriend in Pittsburgh. I had a great foodie weekend thanks to all of the Chowhound posts and Yelp reviews. Here's a list of the places I visited and my opinion of each restaurant. I hope my reviews can help future chowhounds visiting Pittsburgh:

Salt of the Earth (4.5 out of 5.0 stars): My girlfriend had the gazpacho and the salmon and I had the cockscombs and cod. The gazpacho, salmon, and cockscombs dishes were outstanding and very unique to say the least. My cod entree was way too spicy for my taste. I felt that the spiciness overpowered the cod and the other elements of the dish. I love the concept of Salt (no menus, no bread, laid back atmosphere, etc.) and the first floor seating. I sat on the 2nd floor and don't recommend it because it is very dark and you lose a bit of the atmosphere of the restaurant. I like the fact that Salt wants to push the envelope of what food can be and show that it can be done in a casual atmosphere. Also note that the parking at Salt is non-existent. You have to park in the surrounding neighborhoods, but I was lucky enough to have the valet guys next door take my car.

Eleven (5 out of 5 stars): I went to Eleven for dessert after Salt and I was blown away by the banana cream pie and the chocolate peanut pretzel candy bar. Probably some of the best desserts I have ever had. I also recommend the Teajito drink at Eleven.

Dinette (5 out of 5 stars): I wish all restaurants were modeled after Dinette. I appreciate the fact that Dinette is focused on using local ingredients as much as possible (with some from the rooftop garden). I had the grilled chicken wings, prosciutto pizza, the fresh ricotta pizza, and the arborio rice dessert. All were outstanding and unique to say the least. I didn't think pizza could taste like this until I visited Dinette. The bread-sticks that come with the meal are awesome too. Highly recommend. It seems that some people love Dinette while others hate the restaurant because of the prices and size of the pizzas. I fall in the group of loving Dinette and I don't think the prices were outrageous for the quality.

Reyna's Taco Stand (5 out of 5 stars): I had the beef tongue and chorizo tacos and they were the best I have ever had. The aguas frescas were awesome as well. Highly highly recommend the taco stand. And for $3.00 a taco, you can't go wrong.

Lucy's Bahn Mi Stand (5 out of 5 stars): I've never had a Bahn Mi before, but the one they sell at this non-descript stand is probably the best sandwich I have ever eaten. The BBQ pork goes so well with the cilantro, carrots, and onions. The stand is right in front of the Firehouse Lounge on 2216 Penn Avenue. I never would have found this place if it wasn't for Chowhound. Awesome can't even begin to describe how good this sandwich is.

Spoon (5 out of 5 stars): Spoon is like Salt of the Earth, but with food that is more "in the box". I went there on a Sunday night and the place was half full. I had the "fried chicken", grilled fillet + shortribs, and the strawberry tart. My girlfriend had the blue cheese souffle, the scallops, and the death by chocolate dessert. None of the food blew me away (except for the souffle and the strawberry tart), but all of it was well executed and tasted great. Expensive, but worth the money. The service was wonderful as well. I was concerned that there would be issues having one kitchen for 2 restaurants (Spoon and BRGR use the same kitchen), but they kitchen didn't miss a beat.

Kaya (3.5 out of 5 stars): Kaya sells good food, but nothing that was memorable. The conch fritters were good, the slow cooked pork and banana sandwich was good, the sweet potato fries that came with the sandwich was good, and the limeade drink was good. The service was good as well. None of the food was memorable and I've had food like this at other restaurants. There are definitely better food options in Pittsburgh.

Espresso a Mano (5 out of 5 stars): Probably the best espresso drinks I have ever had. The fact that it takes the barista 10 minutes to make 2 drinks shows you how much they focus on quality. And the fact that they guy can pour the milk into the shape of a leaf into my espresso shows you how much skill he has.

Peace, Love, and Little Donuts (4.5 out of 5 stars): I really like this place. The donuts aren't the cheapest, but they taste great. If you go for donuts, get the half dozen to get the cheaper prices.

There you have it. My review of places I have eaten in Pittsburgh. I'll probably visit Il Pizzaiolo and Kous Kous cafe the next time I'm in town. If you have any questions about the food I ate, feel free to ask me.

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Firehouse Lounge
1301 Merchant St, Ambridge, PA 15003

Pizzaiolo
703 Washington Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228

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  1. I also ate brunch at Point Brugge cafe. The eggs benedict with the crab cake were awesome and the mac and cheese is good as well. A good place for brunch. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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    Point Brugge Cafe
    401 Hastings St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

    1. Great report! You can put me in the love Dinette crowd.

      You really got to experience a lot of what Pittsburgh has to offer food wise, including Lucy. If you like to cook at all, and you have access to good French-style baguettes, I highly recommend taking a stab at making your own banh mi. I follow the recipe below, with some minor modifications (little less garlic, addition of tablespoon of finely chopped lemongrass if I can get it, substitute mint for basil, substitute cucumber for daikon if the latter is not available):

      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

      4 Replies
      1. re: Whigsboy

        Wow, Whigsboy, this recipe looks complicated. I will definitely consider making it in the future. A bahn mi is delicious so yit is worth the effort.

        1. re: manhong

          It looks far more complicated than it is. Chopping up the ingredients for the meatballs and toppings takes some time, and personally I've always had issues keeping my meatballs in a true ball-shape when frying them in the pan (or even when they're baked!), but I can tell you it's worth it, AND you'll have plenty of leftover.

          At Christmas, we made a double batch of the meatballs, bought a bunch of baguettes, chopped them up into small chunks, set out all of the toppings and mayo, and basically had make-your-own mini-banh mi appetizers. They were a huge hit.

          1. re: Whigsboy

            That's good to know Whigsboy. Thanks for the info.

            1. re: Whigsboy

              Tip to keep meatballs round when baking them- bake them in a small muffin tin.

        2. Glad you reported back and glad you had a good time!

          1. I am so glad you took my rec for Lucy's. Try Cafe Raymond's next time....order the breakfast items, his specials are always great and his pastries, breads

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            Cafe Raymond
            2103 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

            1 Reply
            1. re: six dower

              Six Dower,

              Thanks for the recommendation on Cafe Raymond. I'm definitely going to try that place next time.

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              Cafe Raymond
              2103 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

            2. Thanks for your reviews. Nice to see you enjoyed yourself.

              1. I must say, Manhong, your review of Salt, where I have yet to eat, has convinced me more than any other review I've read that I ought to try it. And thanks for letting us know how your weekend turned out.

                1. Thanks the reviews. The cockscombs are one of my favorite apps at Salt. I can't comment on the mains as nearly all have changed since I've been in Cali. My favorite spot to sit is at the kitchen bar - earlier in the evening before it gets too crowded.

                  I'm with you on Dinette, though I don't really care for the breadsticks. The toppings are quality and applied in the right amounts - I don't mind paying for them. The fritto misto, and salads are also awesome, and the servers friendly. Hard to beat.

                  I really recommend seeking out Il Pizzaiolo, a lot of pizza fanatics say it's one of the best in the country. Even if it soudns like a boring pizza, order the Margherita DOC - if you don't like it, I'll paypal you the cost. (offer only available to manhong)

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                  Pizzaiolo
                  703 Washington Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Rodzilla

                    Rodzilla,

                    I agree with you that a great place to sit at Salt is the kitchen bar. That and the long tables on the 1st floor are great places to sit as well.

                    Dinette really showed me why the chef was a semi-finalist for a James Beard award. I liked the breadsticks because they were unique and nothing like anything I have ever had, but I can see why you don't really care for them. I'll definitely try the fritto misto and salads the next time I'm in town.

                    I wish I had another day in Pittsburgh to try Il Pizzaiolo. I only had 1 meal available for pizza/Italian and my girlfriend said that she preferred to try Dinette over Il Pizzaiolo because Dinette had a website and we would know what we could get. However, the next time I'm in town, I'm definitely trying Il Pizzaiolo.

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                    Pizzaiolo
                    703 Washington Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228

                    1. re: manhong

                      Nice, I need to get back there myself once I hit town again. You can find the equivalent to those breadsticks in the foreign isle of most super-markets.

                  2. manhong,

                    Thanks for posting this.. I have to comend you on your food choices... SOOO many times when given out suggestions people end up going to some off the wall place recomended by a hotel or someone on the street.. (not always bad, but end up being step above cheese cake factory)

                    Not many people (even that live in or around PGH ) have tried most of the places. LOVE the fact you tried Renyas and Lucy's ...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Augie6

                      Thanks Augie6. Chowhound was really helpful for me in my food choices for Pittsburgh. I am definitely going to refer to Chowhound the next time I'm looking for food anywhere.

                      After going to the places that fellow Chowhounders recommended, I realized that the food in Pittsburgh has so much to offer outside of Primanti Bros and De Luca's (which are mediocare at best). I couldn't believe that there was a line outside of Primanti Bros on a Saturday at 1:30 p.m. when you can get a Bahn Mi sandwich or a taco at Reyna's for a much cheaper price and better tasting food.

                      1. re: manhong

                        I always had a love / hate relationship with Primantis.. Growing up in Pittsburgh I think it is more of a pride ordeal than the actual sandwhich.(maybe blind pride at that) The shop in the strip has some value of being more of a landmark, but food is not anything special .

                        FAT HEADS in the Sout Side is IMHO is LIGHT YEARS ahead of Primantis in every aspect.

                        1. re: manhong

                          Pamela's is the pittsburgh chain with charm, a loving crowd, and GOOD FOOD. So good that Obama had the exec chef come to the white house to cook pancakes (they are midwestern style, just to warn ya).

                          The Original Hot Dog Shop also has its... charm. it deserves it's nick: The dirty O.

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                          Original Hot Dog Shops
                          3901 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

                        2. re: Augie6

                          You definitely had a nice tour of some of the best Pgh has to offer. Appreciate the reviews. Agree with the others that I'm glad you gave Reyna's tacos and Lucy a try. We don't have a ton of street food here, but what there is is often very good.

                          Several new places coming on line soon that should be excellent by the time you're here for your next trip.

                        3. Thanks for the great reviews! I'm glad that you enjoyed your visit and tried the street vendors in the Strip...I always refer to Lucy's banh mi as the best sandwich in the world...At least it is to me!

                          http://burghfeeding.blogspot.com/sear...

                          1. I just returned from a meal at Vie restaurant in Chicago (a 1 Michelin star restaurant) and I thought that Salt of the Earth is still a better restaurant than Vie. I hope the owner/chef keeps up the good work at Salt.