For a long time I was living a lie. A lie that Marty’s Market in the Strip District is simply a cool grocery store. Upon learning of this untruth, I set out with a couple of the ladies in my life to grab their brunch that was apparently the talk of the town (or at least the talk of a few people in my social circle). The restaurant area of Marty’s Market is set off to the side from the rest of the actual grocery store and there was a table waiting for us when we arrived.
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.
In a place that is one number short of 7-11, I spent my 30th birthday dinner with my wife. That missing number was 7, and restaurant was called Eleven. Now, Eleven is known to have one of the better burgers in the ‘burgh, but it’s not on the dinner menu, so I made do with all the other goodies that were available for the ordering.
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.
There’s something about this time of year that just makes me wants Mexican food. Is it because of Cinco de Mayo? Probably not. In fact, it is probably just that I always want Mexican food. It is a curse, but one that I hoped to find the cure for at Casa Reyna in the Strip District. You see, the Strip District is ethnic food central, so I figured it would have passable Mexican, especially considering Casa Reyna is an extension of a Mexican grocery store.
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.
Essentially the day I arrived in Pittsburgh, a buddy of mine told me I had to get to Meat & Potatoes in downtown. With an unvegan name like that, I didn’t exactly need convincing. Yet, when I took a look at the menu and prices I quickly realized this was a destination for when parents came to town. After all, that whole being a student thing can make eating out tough. But the parents did come, and to Meat & Potatoes we went.
Down in the Strip District is a relative newcomer to Pittsburgh. Called the Thin Man Sandwich Shop, the name really called out to me because I often feel like a fat man trapped in a thin man’s body. It’s a curse, I know. But I digress. Back in the sandwich shop, I immediately impressed by the options they had listed on their chalk board. If nothing else, they were creative with such seasonal sandwiches as Braised Beef Cheeks, Jamaican Jerk Goat Curry and Cashew Butter. I was eager to see if the creativity translated to eatability, which, as we all know, is not a word.
Tucked into the back end of Strip District, a warehouse/ethnic grocery store area in Pittsburgh, is a place called Kaya. Part of the Big Burrito Group that seems to run a big portion of the Pittsburgh food scene. Kaya bills itself as island cuisine, but really has a bit of everything. Including burgers, which I heard were quite delicious, so I clearly had to get one.