Pittsburgh isn’t exactly known for having a wide breadth of ethnic food. Nonetheless, the place continues to surprise in terms of variety. Take, for example, the Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland Park. In case you couldn’t tell by the name, the place is Thai and has a surprisingly interesting menu. I say surprising because while it’s relatively sizable like many Thai spots, some things I had never seen before.
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.
One thing I miss greatly about life in LA is the great Chicken Katsu Curry. So when a friend suggested we meet in Little Tokyo for lunch, I was excited by the prospect of getting some of that which I love. She suggested Zip Sushi and Izakaya and while I usually hate the prospect of sushi, the izakaya part intrigued me. Plus the izakaya part included Chicken Katsu Curry.
To some it is easy to write Japanese food off as sushi and stuff. Yet, I love Japanese food and have no need for sushi, which means I love places like Toronto. Why? Because Toronto has a diversity of Japanese food to offer, like ramen and curry. One of these places is Gyugyuya, specializing in Japanese curry. Situated right next to a popular ramen spot, it was strangely empty inside and waiting for my wife and I to eat.
After crossing the border back into the good old USA from Canada, it was time to visit a border-crossing restaurant – namely Saigon Bangkok (the borders being Vietnam and Thailand, which of course don’t even border each other). Where many Asian restaurants purport to be one thing while offering additional options, Saigon Bangkok unabashedly offers multiple options and keeps them limited to just that. While I’m a fan of both cuisines, in this case I concentrated all my efforts on Thai.
Over in Shadyside, Noodlehead may rule the Thai food scene with low prices and good eats. But atop Squirrel Hill, looking down upon Shadyside, sits Bangkok Balcony. This top-floor restaurant fancies things up a bit and has a whole lot more food to offer. Yet, we all know that more options doesn’t necessarily mean better food and I had every intention of finding out if Bangkok Balcony fell into this trap.
A long time ago in a state far, far away, I fell in love with a little something called Umami Burger. As “umami” is a Japanese word and not exactly trademark-able, it was inevitable that I would run across a restaurant using the same name at some point, but was still surprised to find a place called Umami in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Why was I in such a place? Oh, to please my wife who likes a little something called Jeni’s Ice Cream. But that is neither here nor there. What really matters is Umami.
Noodlehead is a funny name for a restaurant. But then, Deadhead is a weird name for people who follow a band called the Grateful Dead. I know you’re thinking apples and oranges, but hey, if you like noodles, why not be a Noodlehead? In this case, though, the noodles are limited to the Thai variety, but Noodlehead has plenty to offer.
With a school like Carnegie Mellon around, you would expect Pittsburgh to have some good Indian food. It’s not racist, it’s just common sense. Yet, it took me until recently, when a white guy invited me to All India (I apologize in advance for the music that autoplays on this site) to see what kind of Indian the city could muster. And what a mustering it was “” with a menu as long as a case study, I had a hard time deciding what to order, but fortunately I was with a large group and I was going to get to try a lot of things.
You know how some restaurants don’t seem to have an identity? You know, like Jack in the Box but in full restaurant form. Well, Sun Penang in Squirrel Hill is one of those restaurants. The only identity it really has is “Asian,” but Asian covers a lot of groups and so does Sun Penang. From Thai to Dim Sum to Malaysian, it is a hard place to choose a meal, but choose I did.