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Category Archives: Dinner

Mac & Gold Truck / Coffee Buddha – Perry Highway (North Hills)

The food truck craze didn’t catch on with me right away.

It took several years of skepticism, misunderstanding, and denial before I really opened up to having a good food truck experience.

Is that weird?

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I guess I just didn’t understand what was so great about them. I had only seen trucks like BRGR, Franktuary, Nakama, Dozen (RIP), etc; well-established restaurants that just happened to be in a different location for a day. “Like, okay, wow. I can get a milkshake in Bloomfield. Woooooow”.

So you can imagine my surprise when I found the Mac & Gold Truck.

Mac-and-gold-Pittsburgh-Events1

Image from Nak You Out

There are few things finer than a well-executed macaroni and cheese. The noodles need to be soft, but not watery. The cheese needs to be smooth and velvety, but not “pasteurized food product”. And seasonings or additions are very dangerous, but can make or break the whole mac pile.

Enter: Mac & Gold.

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Mac & Cheese, $6    Rosemary Garlic Fries, $3

Let me start out by saying “yes, those are breadcrumbs”. They’re amazing breadcrumbs. I’m pretty sure they’re panko breadcrumbs, to be precise.

And yeah, those are hand-cut fries. With rosemary and garlic.

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They use nice, thick, textured (I think) elbow macaroni along with the best cheese sauce I think I’ve ever tasted in my life. It’s bold and flavorful without being too rich. It’s what Velveeta wishes it was. Hence the name, I’m sure, Mac & GOLD. I get it!

The fries are done up rull good – meaning, of course, that they are nice and crispy, with that little bit of browning on the edges.

They have lots of amazing-sounding add-ins, such as lump crab, mushroom, braised beef, and lobster. But I’m not one to mess with perfection. Though I might add some Sriracha if I’m feeling a little spicy.

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(same as above, zoomed out to show hot sauce & scale)

I’ve tracked down Mac & Gold in a few different spots – most recently on a 15F degree day on Penn Ave. in the Strip district – but the photos in this entry are exclusively from Coffee Buddha; a delightful hangout on Perry Highway in the North Hills that hosts a cavalcade of food trucks every week.

We saddled up to the cozy bar next to the register and ordered some iced coffees. The gentleman served us some cold brews in mason jars – DAMN YOU MASON JARS, THE CUTEST WEAKNESS!

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The coffee was exquisite, even after I doused it in half & half. It was also reasonably priced, but my husband paid so I don’t remember how much it was. WOOPSIE.

So in summation:

Mac & Gold + Coffee Buddha (especially together, but even on their own) = 10/10 RATING ON THE SCALE OF ALL THINGS SACRED TO ME. Congratulations, everybody.

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Check back next week for more nommy nom nommers!

Special Edition: West Penn Hospital – Bloomfield

West Penn

West Penn Hospital Image courtesy of New Pittsburgh Courier

Last Wednesday night, my boyfriend and I were completely stumped as to what to make for dinner. He wanted pizza, and I hadn’t eaten in three days. Then we remembered this hot little spot, right on Liberty Avenue. We had never been, but heard good things.

hospital arm yeeouch!

Morphine IV – An exotic delight!

The courteous wait staff had us seated in a room within minutes! I never expected such prompt service. It didn’t take long for them to administer some liquids. Jon had a Mountain Dew, and I had a Morphine IV. Maybe my expectations were a bit high, but the morphine left me dizzy and in lots of pain…ew! Our waiter said this was highly uncommon, and brought me several more drinks to try, including a “GI Cocktail”; liquid antacid, vicous lidocane, and an anticholinergic. The waiter (who insisted I call him”doctor”, whatever) said I should drink it like a shot – which I did – and it was NASTY. Do people really order this stuff??? It was like jager, but didn’t make me blackout.

Okay, actually, it was exactly like jager.

The staff couldn’t understand why I didn’t like the drinks, so they decided to move us to our own private suite on the eighth floor; ooh, la la! I guess it was kind of a hotel/restaurant, and my complaining entitled me to a two night, three day stay!

They brought out the first course, and unfortunately I was too wasted to take a picture of it. But it consisted of a shot of cranberry cocktail, a soggy/burnt english muffin, and some other stuff. I took a few bites of the english muffin, but felt too sick to finish anything. Jon had enough already and stormed out, so I was dining alone. How embarrassing. 

My waiter must have ended his shift. Didn’t get a chance to tip him out. Oh well. My new waitress was nice, and asked what I’d like for my next course – lunch. She listed off their mainstays: ham sandwich, turkey sandwich, tuna salad sandwich, chicken sandwich. I said “Anything without meat?”.

“We could make you a grilled cheese?”.

“Perfect,” I said, before falling back asleep. Hours later, I woke up to this:

lunch

Grilled cheese, soup, ginger ale – $$$?

My grilled cheese was excellent. Buttery, but not real-buttery. I mean, it was very buttery, but it wasn’t real butter. I think it was that Promise stuff. Somebody fried it up nicely, though the bread was stale. The tomato soup was honestly the best thing I ate the entire time I was there. Didn’t mix well with the ginger ale, though. My tummy felt upset, but I reluctantly put in my order for dinner. At this point, the Maitre d’ had explicitly suggested I not eat anything that would give me heartburn. Obviously, that message hadn’t reached the kitchen. After a few more hours of tv, sweating, and pain, it was dinner time.

Dinner

French Bread Pizza, Double Cranberry Juice Cocktail, Small Salad, Orange Sherbet – $$$?

They called it “French Bread Pizza”. It smelled like “French Dead Pizza”. I took one bite and tossed it out. But to be fair, I didn’t really have much of an appetite left. I did try to eat the salad, without the dressing, and got most of it down. I don’t really think it’s fair to call lettuce and carrots a “salad”, or even a “tossed salad”. Dessert, the orange sherbet, was half melted and tasted like styrofoam.  After this atrocious meal, Jon came back, dismayed that I was still THERE, and smuggled in some Sun Chips and a PB & J for me. I’ve never had to actually smuggle food into a restaurant before. It gives you an idea of just how nasty the food was! It was almost as if it wasn’t really a restaurant at all!

It felt like I had been there for daysand they ended up bringing me another breakfast. More soggy english muffins. I didn’t even look at the tray. The wait staff had had it with me, and they decided to let me try their specialty; “The Liquid Diet”.

Liquid Diet

Beef Broth, Cherry Jell-O, Cherry Italian Ice, Cranberry Cocktail, Hot Tea – $$$?

How visually appealing! Everything was great about this meal, except the beef broth, which I guess nobody realized is non-vegetarian. I love how it looks like a big black hole in this picture. That’s what it smelled like, too. If black holes had a smell.

The Jell-O was the best thing I had tasted in years, or what felt like years. Coincidentally, it was the only thing I could really keep down. The italian ice had its pros and cons. Pros: cold, not-solid, didn’t taste like styrofoam. Cons: Melted, not-orange flavor, tasted like plastic.

A liquid lunch and a liquid dinner will do wonders for an upset tummy, and for a weary hotel/restaurateur like myself. I hit the hay (by the way, the beds – UGH!) and woke up to a bountiful breakfast which I was, again, too lazy to photograph. It consisted of French Toast (grilled cheese without the cheese) and Special K, with lots and lots of cranberry juice cocktail to drink. It tasted terrible. I devoured it anyway. At this point, I think I just wanted my money’s worth.

It wasn’t long before they presented me with my third and final lunch — the coup de grace:

SALAD!!

AHHH A SALAD!! – $$$??

This masterpiece also came with tomato soup and french fries. I wiped my eyes in disbelief before taking a bite.

“Yep, that’s a real cucumber!”. To hell with freshness. This was the first thing I ate there that wasn’t brown or red. Finally, my appetite was back. I went a little overboard.

more salad

To hell with it.

As you can clearly see, I ruined the salad by taking out the onions and tomatoes, and adding ranch dressing and french fries. Whatever. I finally got to leave.

West Penn Hospital is a TERRIBLE restaurant, but it had its advantages:

  • Mostly-friendly wait staff
  • I felt weirdly healthier after leaving
  • The view was nice
sunset

The end!

I give West Penn Hospital a 4/10 rating  for food, and a 10/10 rating for not killing me.

 

"Look at that blubber fly!"

“Look at that blubber fly!”

The Grateful Deli – Bloomfield

Hey, it’s 2013! I’m a vegetarian now! Why? Because I wanna.

lisa

I tried to be a vegetarian in high school more than a few times. But soft pretzels and nachos, though meatless, apparently aren’t the things you should be eating on a vegetarian diet. Officially entering my “late twenties”, I felt up to the challenge to really focus on the things I put in my belly. At midnight on New Year’s, I put down the pigs-in-a-blanket and picked up…well, a glass of punch. Everything else had meat in it. My goal: to widen the spectrum of my dietary intake. Try new things. And you know what I did yesterday?

I ate a tomato.

Not just one tomato. I ate every cherry tomato in my side salad. I have never willfully eaten a tomato of any kind. They were delicious.

But I have some leftover entries, pre-veg, that I’d like to share with you – including this one!

bufchix

Bertha’s Buffalo Chicken – $8.50

Deadheads will appreciate the menu, which is full of song and band references. But unlike the song says, you may actually want this Bertha to come around more often. WINK. I’M TALKING ABOUT THE SANDWICH.

The chicken is absolutely doused in buffalo sauce, which I can only imagine is hot sauce and butter. I always liked this sub because the chicken was in little bite-sized chunks, and always tasted fresh – their ingredients are all superb. Although the sandwich pictured above wasn’t the freshest I’ve ever had, it was the only one that wasn’t supa-phresh.

The chicken is the meat of the sandwich, literally and figuratively. But the fixins are what really make it outstanding. It comes with red onions, but who needs those? I’m still not a big onion fan. So I suggest leaving them off. You’re left with a heaping, very generous layer of blue cheese crumbles and a “drizzle” of ranch, as they claim on the menu. If you’re lucky, the cap of the ranch bottle will pop off while they’re “drizzling” your sub, and you’ll get a massive puddle of it like I did. The ranch really makes the sandwich. Don’t be afraid to slather is on there. After all, you’re already eating a fucking huge sandwich – what’s an extra 150 ranch calories?

You know that Subway smell? “Oh man, I smell bread and dishwater. Mmmmmmmmfivedollarfootlongs.”

subway anus

Subway is a joke. Their meat is awful. Their bread sucks. All of the Grateful Deli’s subs come on warm, toasty, soft bread. The warm bread gets your sub all melty, and the end result is deliciousness. Get extra napkins.

So there you have it. If you eat meat, go get a Bertha. If you’re a vegetarian like me, go buy some Morningstar Chik N’ Patties. I haven’t perfected an imitation Bertha yet, but I’m working on it.

If you don’t eat meat and you find yourself at the Grateful Deli anyway, try their humongous House Salad. It’s got mixed greens, nice hunky lettuce, pine nuts (go on with your bad self, Grateful Deli, damn!), onions, tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, and two big bread crouton things.

salad

House Salad – $6.50

As you can see, I wasn’t quite ready for the onions and tomatoes when I had this salad.

Doesn’t matter. It was still yummy.

They also have a couple vegetarian sandwich options, like a Hummus Sandwich, but I’ve heard they are “just okay”. Get it on the honey wheat bread, if you can.

House Salad: 9/10.

Bertha’s Buffalo Chicken: 11/10. All the way up to eleven.

The Cage – Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill Cafe

Is it The Squirrel Hill Cafe? The Cage? The Squirrel Cage? Ask five people and you’ll get five different answers. But by any name, this place is the home of many things I love: cheap Yuengling pitchers, Dracula pinball, and quite possibly the best cheeseburger in the city.

I ventured out to The Cage for last night’s Penguins game against the Mighty Ducks (Disney TM lolol) with my friend Andy. They generally don’t get busy until after 8:00, and business can lead to them running out of important things — like hamburger buns. Luckily, we made it early enough for the full bun effect. We shared a pitcher of Yuengling and each got a burger with fries. There’s been a lot of talk of “the best burger in town” lately, with gourmet burger joints popping up everywhere you look. Wingharts is pretty good. Burgatory is better. But nothing compares to The Cage.

cheezberg

Cheeseburger, $3.75 & Fries, $1.50

Just look at it. And don’t worry, they do have lettuce/tomato/pickle/etc toppings, but I hate all of those. I got my burger with American cheese. They have swiss, provolone, and pepperjack as well. And let there be no confusion – $3.75 is not a “special” or “happy hour” price. IT IS $3.75 ALL DAY. EVERYDAY. I hate to harp on the price, but I could have easily paid $10-$15 for this meal anywhere else, and I still would have been elated. I decided to shell out the extra $1.50 for fries because the burger’s default side is potato chips. The fries are pretty much identical to Primanti Bros, except better.

The bun was soft and fresh, and toasted a little on the inside to avoid that godawful soggy thing that happens with other buns sometimes. The burger itself was cooked perfectly, medium-well,  and was about 1.5″ thick, which I think is perfect. It was also smothered in melted cheese. I made sure to fashion a large ketchup pond on my plate for optimal dipping of both the burger and fries.

Sip of beer. Bite of burger. Fry. Repeat.

I’ve never done Ecstasy, but I can’t imagine it’s better than this meal. 10/10 BECAUSE I SAID SO. Also “Best Burger”, in my opinion. And that’s all this blog is – PAM’S AWESOME OPINION. And you all love it.

haha

Haha.

-P

Squirrel Hill Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sun Penang – Squirrel Hill

Sun Penang

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Hot Plate

When I think of Pittsburgh neighborhoods with the best Asian food, Squirrel Hill is at the top of the list. Both Forbes and Murray are stacked with dozens of options, with varying styles and price ranges. Sun Penang, until recently, had gone under my radar. But after hearing a rave review from a friend, I just haaaad to try it.

As a picky eater, I’m the first to admit that I tend to go for the safest bet at a new restaurant. With all my might, I held back and did not order the General Tso’s like I normally would. For a restaurant like Sun Penang, I wanted to try something new. They have several different menus, offering some of your more traditional Chinese and Thai fare, but the real draw is the dim sum menu. Dim sum refers to bite-size dishes typically served in a steamer or on a small plate (thanks, Wiki). Personally, I would classify it as “weird-ass dumplings and fried stuff”, which somehow seems less eloquent.

Sun Penang is a little on the pricey side, but the luxury is fully realized in the decor. Long drapes line the dimly-lit walls, and leather and mahogany coat the rest of the interior. The bar was stocked with an alarming amount of whiskey for an Asian restaurant. I love whiskey, but the romantic atmosphere (even though I was dining alone) compelled me to order a glass of Cabernet. After much deliberation and wine-consumption, I chose three dim sum items: the Fried Shrimp Ball, Chive w/ Shrimp (dumpling-type thing), and Lotus Leaf Sweet Rice.

Shrimp Ballz

Fried Shrimp Balls, $3.50 & Sutter Home Cab, $5.50

The shrimp balls (God, I wish they had a more appetizing name) came out first, and were warm and crispy. Fried to perfection.It’s always a little unnerving to eat something simultaneously fishy and puffy. Get over the initial shock, and these little guys can be pretty tasty. Douse them in the accompanying sauce (see photo) for the full flavor effect. Next up, the Chive with Shrimp.

Dumplin'

Chive w/ Shrimp, $3.50

Sorry this photo doesn’t really do these guys justice. These steamed dumplings were filled with a mixture of chive and shrimp in a creamy tartar-sort-of thing. It was kind of a crab rangoon texture, but without cheese. I thought they were totally delicious. I love the squishyness of the outside of the dumplings – yom yommers. Suddenly, I remembered I had more food to eat.

Lotus rice

Lotus Leaf Sweet Rice, $5.25

As I was so kindly informed so as to not make an ass of myself, you are not supposed to eat the leaf! Don’t do it! Instead, peel back the layers of lotus leaf to uncover the steamy mass of food locked within – sticky rice, with chicken, shrimp, shittake mushrooms, I think some kind of pork?, and other miscellaneous goodies. The lotus leaf gave the whole dish a very earthy taste. Different from anything I’ve ever had, and definitely not your everyday American-Asian food. Everything was cooked very well and the sticky rice was sweet and delectable. Sadly, I could not finish it. But never fear!

to-go bag

Cutest doggy bag ever!

I got to take my leftovers home in this handsome bag with a little umbrella poked in the side! It doesn’t get much cuter than tiny umbrellas, folks.

Seeing as how I am still without a good rating system, I’ll divvy out a nice 7.5/10 for Sun Penang. It’ll leave you feeling full, worldly, and totally Kawaii!

SO KAWAII

^_^V

-P

Urbanspoon

Thai Gourmet – Bloomfield

Thai Gourmet

It’s February, which means you’re either getting over or getting into an illness. I fall into the latter category – I currently have a pretty nasty cold. I considered just ordering in tonight, since it’s snowing and freezing and I didn’t really feel like leaving my warm cocoon, but the idea of yummy Thai food propelled me out of bed and down to Liberty Avenue.

Thai Gourmet is an adorable little nook sandwiched between a tobacco shop and a laundromat. The dining room is intimate, with a long diner-style counter and bar stools as well as tables. The multicolored twinkly lights are so endearing. The whole vibe of the place is just so pleasant.

Service was prompt and friendly as I popped a squat at the counter. I was the only person eating at the “bar”, but the tables were all full of very happy looking customers. Yes, I was one of those “table for one” people.

Alone

Anyway, I ordered the Nam Prik (or the “N6” if you are uncomfortable saying “Prik”) – coconut w/ curry powder, yellow bean, deep fried broccoli/zucchini and crinkle-cut carrots. I also had Jasmine tea to soothe my throat.

So jazzy!

So jazzy!

Nam Prik

Nam Prik & Jasmine Tea - $10

The Nam Prik is served with your choice of meat. I am generally a meat-eater, but I tend to enjoy this dish with tofu generally. Thai Gourmet utilizes the 1-to-10 scale of spiciness with their menu, so I ordered mine at a 7.

The best way to describe the Nam Prik (curry-looking stuff in the bowl) itself is like a thin, saucy relish. There are tiny bits of peanuts in it, which gives it a very classically “Thai” taste. The spiciness combined with the sweet coconut flavor is absolutely delicious. Some Thai places don’t come through with very good accuracy on the 1-to-10 scale, but mine was definitely a strong 7. Just perfect.

I got a whoooole lot of food for $10, but I wish they gave you more deep-fried veggies. There were four pieces; two of broccoli and two zucchini. I understand that they are more so an accent of the dish than the star of the show. But man, I could eat like a pound of that fried broccoli. It is complimented by the sauce soooo well.

The noodles were cooked very well – maybe a little too soft, but I’m picky about noodles (as we all know from my last post) so I’m not really worried about it. The whole meal was AMAZING. I can’t say enough good things about it. The bed of raw veggies (spinach, really good iceberg lettuce, bean sprouts, crinkle-cut carrots) totally completes the meal, giving you a nice break from the intense spiciness every once in awhile.

Considering the adorable atmosphere, friendly service, and deliciousness of the food Thai Gourmet is getting a big 9/10 rating from this lady. I swear I’m going to come up with a better rating system soon.

Oh! And I got a fortune cookie for dessert.

Fortune

8)

It did! Making the 5-minute trek to Thai Gourmet dramatically improved my mood. I’d recommend it for the healthy and sick alike. Personally, I’m still sick. But at least my tummy is full.

-P

Thai Gourmet on Urbanspoon