Once again, the year has brought many changes in my life, which means you loyal readers have seen food from exotic places like Morocco, Puerto Rico and Montreal, plus Middle American places like Hays, Kansas. Sadly, these won’t make it into my best of, as I’m only including places that are new to me and in the places I’ve lived in this year – Pittsburgh and the LA area. Oh and before you jump to the conclusion that Pittsburgh places won’t stand a chance, you’ll probably want to check out Zagat’s Top 17 Food Cities of 2015. I’ll give you a hint – LA isn’t #1. As with every year, there is so much good food so please don’t limit yourselves to just these fantastic places and be sure to check out the Travel page for everything in-between and beyond.
EDIT: As always, Conflict Kitchen continues update the menu for different countries. Rumor has it it’s currently Iranian, but likely won’t be for long.
With the advent of improved relations between the US and Cuba, Conflict Kitchen (which I wrote about back here) decided to switch from Palestinian food over to food representing that land mass 90 miles from Florida. They had done this once before, but they probably figured they wouldn’t have the opportunity again.
By now I have made it pretty clear on this blog and in life that I have no need for sushi. Thus, life in Pittsburgh was good because A) there are very few “good” sushi places and B) my wife got deeply pregnant and could not eat it or convince me to eat it. Thusly, her first meal post-child turned out to be sushi at Sushi Fuku.
Off to the side of Shayside’s Walnut Street is an Italian cafe that goes by the name of Girasole. From the looks of it, you’d expect it to be a little bit dingy and perhaps a little bit pretentious. It turns out it is neither of these things, being both airy and friendly. Yet, I wasn’t looking to make friends, I was looking for some grub.
Just when I thought I knew everything about old school Pittsburgh food pots, Monterey Pub in the North Side was thrust in my face by multiple sources. As an Irish Pub, the place is famed for its Guinness Shredded Beef, which it manages to drop into dishes at every level – nachos, burgers, shepherd’s pie and whatnot. I like Guinness and I like beef, so I was hoping Monterey Pub would satisfy my hunger.
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.
Peppi’s Subs, which has a few locations around Pittsburgh, has a little (big) sandwich called The Roethlisburger (or #7 depending on who you ask). I’m not sure how the sub shop attracted clientele between 1983 and 2004 when Big Ben arrived in Pittsburgh, but I was in no mood to find out when I paid Peppi’s in the Strip District a visit.
Down at the bottom of Squirrel Hill is Chinese spot called Chengdu Gourmet. I heard rumors that it could produce some real Chinese food, so I went down with a wife and a friend to see just how true this was. It turned out the place has both a traditional Chinese menu and an American Chinese menu, so we ignored the latter.
Growing up near Detroit and then living in LA, I must admit I have been spoiled by good delis. Thus, when I moved to Pittsburgh I was shocked to learn that apparently the deli scene was pretty terrible. Because of this, it took me nearly two years to get to Smallman Street Deli – the biggest Jewish Deli in town.
The bar and restaurant once known as Stack’d II quickly became The Ave and has in turn finally become the Tipsy Cow – still in Shadyside of course. And while Stack’d II and The Ave slung cheesesteaks instead of burgers, the Tipsy Cow has taken the original Stack’d’s custom burger concept and upgraded it to make burgers that actually taste like something you want to eat.