After hearing such great things about the place, I finally had to check out The Commoner in Downtown Pittsburgh. It’s one of those newfangled trendy spots (located inside the similarly trendy Hotel Monaco), but unfortunately the lunch menu isn’t as vast as the dinner menu. But burgers were still on the menu so I was eager to try one out.
Dear New York: Your pizza is overrated. Sincerely, The Unvegan. Yes, that’s right. It’s probably not the most original thing to say, but if New York leads the world in pizza I can only agree in terms of quantity. Yes, there is good stuff there, but the water is a damn myth and I have found plenty of amazing pizza elsewhere, especially in Pittsburgh. Take for example, Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room in Downtown Pittsburgh, my most recent pizza experience to continue setting the tone for great pies.
When you think of an “old world deli,” what comes to mind? Perhaps some amazing cured meats? Italian or rye bread (depending on which part of the old world). Maybe cheeses that aren’t synonymous with Kraft or Velveeta? Root beer floats and pierogies probably don’t cross your mind, but when it comes to Szmidt’s Old World Deli, which has recently reopened in Downtown Pittsburgh, they are certainly worth trying.
Located in the middle floor of the gigantic Sienna Mercato in downtown Pittsburgh is a place that goes by the name of Mezzo. Unlike the balls of meat that dominate the floor below in Emporio, this floor specializes in cured meats, cheeses, pastas and pizzas. The wait can be nuts, but thanks to Pittsburgh’s own NoWaitApp (no they aren’t paying me for this) we were able to be seated just as we arrived.
Apparently Winghart’s in Downtown Pittsburgh’s Market Square had itself a bit of a fire problem. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this when I wen down to try one of their famous burgers. Yet, having made the trek already I ended up eating at DiBella’s, an “old fashioned” sub place. I could imagine that it was a pretty popular lunch spot, but at night it was completely dead.
Over in Downtown Pittsburgh is a pretty cool spot called Sienna Mercato. Instead of relegating itself to being just one restaurant, it’s instead divided into 3 floors, with the bottom one called Emporio and dedicated to the art of meatballs. As a lover of meat, this clearly sounded great to me so we paid a visit to the bottom floor.
After many days abroad, one might think I wouldn’t jump right into another ethnic meal after returning to the USA. Well, you’re right, because my first stop was Taco Bell, but after that set my stomach straight it was time for a meal at Nicky’s Thai Kitchen in Downtown Pittsburgh. Nicky’s sits on the fancy end of the Thai spectrum, which is usually something I try to avoid because cheap Thai is awesome, yet I was willing to give Nicky’s a try.
EDIT: Grit & Grace is now a noodle bar, but I’m guessing it is just as delicious as before.
While some parts of the country might have Asian fusion around every corner, Pittsburgh has (most likely for the better) avoided much of this. There is, however, a spot downtown called Grit & Grace that has welcomed that sort of cuisine. It starts with a little something they call American Dim Sum. It’s nothing at all like actual dim sum aside from the fact that it is in small servings, but it is quite delicious. We had some of the Pork Belly Bites (with orange, chili, garlic and ginger) and Kimchi Balls (with rice and cheese). They were both incredible, and the balls surprisingly so because I have a rational hatred of kimchi and these tasted nothing like it.
Downtown Pittsburgh might have some shiny new restaurants, there are still some spots that remind me of my native Detroit. One of these is Mike & Tony’s Gyros, a Greek place that has American favorites like burgers as well. As we stumbled our way to a Pirates game, this seemed like the best place to stop and grab some much-needed food. We were met by a griddle, spools of meat and smiling faces that told us of an $8 special including a gyro (painfully pronounced like gyroscope), fries and a drink.
One of my favorite books of all time is The Catcher in the Rye, so when I heard there was a new restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh (as of November 2013) calling itself Butcher and the Rye, I was immediately interested. The place does take its name from the book, but rather than be some sort of gimmick, the restaurant is essentially devoted to meat and whiskey. And it’s from the people behind Meat and Potatoes. So, yeah, this was my kind of place and a perfect spot to take my wife for her birthday.