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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!

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ROUND CORNER CANTINA (BRUNCH EDITION) – LAWRENCEVILLE

ROUND CORNER CANTINA (BRUNCH EDITION) – LAWRENCEVILLE

Wow, it’s been almost three years since our last post? Ridiculous. It probably didn’t help that our last article was ominously focused on hospital food.

But you can breathe a sigh of relief, folks, because yours truly is alive, kickin’, and eatin’ all types of crap!

People tend to bring up a restaurant they’d like to try with a tacked-on “I’ve heard good things” type of comment. This was the case when a good friend suggested we try brunch at the Round Corner Cantina.

Over the last 8 or 9 years, I’ve had a handful of good times at the Cantina, especially on those beautiful spring days when the patio is open and the suburban brigade hasn’t entirely emerged from their hell holes. That being said, it can get pretty bro-ish in there. But regardless, I saw a few pictures of the Cantina’s brunch on their Facebook and decided it would be worth a shot.

Ahhhh, brunch. A wise man once said “It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch; but you get a slice of cantaloupe at the end”. At the Round Corner Cantina, I would say it’s equal parts breakfast and lunch, and you get a litany of delicious booze at the end.

Or the beginning. Or consistently throughout the meal.

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Bloody Maria, $4

The Cantina has lots of breakfast booze to choose from, including La Prima coffee, tall cans of Tecate, Micheladas; but I went with the Bloody Maria – just like a Mary, but with tequila instead of vodka.

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The interior at the Cantina has been renovated a bit with new wallpaper, paint, and the appropriate amount of dim mood lighting.

Me and the hubs got Breakfast Tacos. They came loaded with scrambled eggs, queso fresco, cilantro, and tomatoes – and, surprise! Sides of refried beans and rice!

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Breakfast Tacos (3), $10

I just can’t say enough good things about this meal.

The beans and rice should be a meal by themselves. Serve up a cereal-sized bowl of each and I’d be in heaven.

Everything on the plate tasted supremely fresh and legit – no killer, no filler. I’m pretty sure the tortillas are made in-house, possibly day-of. Fresh, soft, and flavorful. Like, perfect.

I don’t even like tomatoes, but the ones they used were like sweet little pops of savory goodness, and every topping worked in with the eggs made sense. Top them all with a little salsa, and you’ve got yourself one of Pittsburgh’s best brunches.

YEP. WENT THERE.

We ended up going back to the Cantina two more times – three weekends in a row – because of the commanding quality of their entire brunch thing. BUTTTTT, nobody’s perfect.

Unfortunately, and we’re not sure why, but the Cantina can’t seem to get it 100% right when it comes to service – and this is by no means any judgement on any particular wait staff. Every server, bartender, or back-of-house person has been great each time we’ve gone. But there are mistakes. We’ve ordered a few drinks that never came, same with some chips and dip that never made their way out of the kitchen. And a breakfast burrito that left a bit to be desired, according to our friendly friend:

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Brunch Burrito, $10 (made “wet”, +$3)

The menu says the burrito will come with carne asada, eggs, salsa, beans, and poblano potatoes. Our friend said, “You know how sometimes when you’re eatin’ a burrito, the filling isn’t mixed well, so you have to keep eating until you find all of them? I kept eating, but they weren’t there!”. Her burrito only had the steak and beans – nothin’ else. Still yummy, but also a big bummer.

As long as you’re willing to encounter some minor mishaps, I can safely say that brunch at the Cantina beats out any $14-$20 brunch buffet. I don’t care. Sue me, Lawrenceville!

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Round Corner Cantina – 9.5/10 on the BRUNCH SCALE OF BRUNCHY PERFECTION.

 

 

Check back soon for more Pittsburgh 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:

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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
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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.

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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.

I haven’t updated in awhile

good news, everyone!

HELLO. THIS IS PAM.

The Critic

Pam!

I am an aspiring writer, working and living in Pittsburgh. I like writing. I like food. I like Pittsburgh.

Let me take this opportunity to explain my intentions with this blog.

I am no foodie. Don’t expect to find rants about kimchi here. I don’t even like tomatoes. Or onions. BUT the foods I enjoy, I enjoy immensely. The intricacies of a peanut-butter & jelly sandwich make my head spin; in a delicious way.

I guess if I had to have a mission statement (which I don’t, because this is my blog, and I do what I want) it would go something like this:

“To provide well-informed, accurate, and ego-less evaluations and opinions on Pittsburgh restaurants.”

That sounds pretty good.

But yeah. Pittsburgh seems to have a new restaurant pop up every five minutes. They can’t all be the next “Waffallonia” or “Pi“, so I’ve taken it upon myself to give restaurants a trial-run for you all. You can thank me with generous donations and heavy traffic.

MORE UPDATES COMING SOON JUST WATCH OUT! DAMN!

Noodles & Company – Market Square

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Photo courtesy of Market Square Pgh

When trying to think of the best restaurant to review for my first entry, I wanted to make sure it was a place completely new to me – you know, for optimal reviewing and stuff. Noodles & Company (which probably spent millions of dollars on the domain name noodles.com) recently opened its big red doors to Pittsburgh’s ever-growing Market Square lineup of upper-middle-class lunch options, and the reception has been really positive. My coworkers have swooned over the place for weeks.

The dining room is pretty spacious and modern looking. The tables and chairs were clean and inviting. But since I took a late lunch today (around 3:00),  I think I may have interrupted their “down time”. The cashier was clearly pissed that she was still at work and barely spoke to me throughout my transaction. Her eyes, the few times she looked at me, screamed “OH, YOU WANT NOODLES TOO? DOESN’T EVERYBODY?! GET OUT”. Regardless, I ordered buttered noodles, a side salad and a fountain drink.

Da Meal

Buttered noodles, side salad, Raspberry Fanta - around $9

Buttered noodles; a cornerstone of my nutrition since preschool. This version comes with “Italian seasonings” and Parmesan cheese. You may criticize me for not ordering a more unique dish; you’re probably right. Noodles & Co. has dozens of noodle-y options ranging from pad thai to pesto cavatappi. Maybe those dishes are better than what I had.

IMO, and as you can probably tell by this picture, there was too much seasoning.

buttered newds

SUP, GREEN STUFF?

Needs less green stuff and MORE BUTTER. But still tasty. The cheese was a nice touch. The noodles themselves were a little tough, which was disappointing. The “regular” size is ooookaaaayyy, for like $6.

The side salad had an awesome peanut-soy-thai-buzzword dressing that will be haunting my dreams…mmm…oh, I can almost taste it right now…

And let’s not forget the main attraction: crazy soda machine!

SODAAAAA

Coca-Cola...from the internet???

Trying to operate this machine makes anyone look like their own grandmother trying to play Playstation. So I didn’t spend a lot of time perusing the different soda options. But they have like EVERY flavor of Fanta, including raspberry. Totally won me over, though the cups they use for their fountain drinks aren’t disposable, so you can’t take them to-go. Bummer.

The coolest thing about Noodles & Co. is the service setup. Placing your order is entirely fast-food oriented, but your food is brought out to your table AND you don’t have to clean up after yourself. All of the staff members that weren’t that one bitchy cashier were super friendly and helpful, so kudos to those people.

Overall, since I don’t have a better rating system yet, I’ll go ahead and give Noodles & Company a 6.5/10 rating. A little better than “okay”, but not somewhere I’d go to treat myself or anything. Maybe next time I’ll try a dish that couldn’t be made by a 5-year-old.

-P