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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.

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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!

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!

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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.

Penn Avenue Fish Company – Downtown

Wow! It’s been awhile since I last reviewed a restaurant, hasn’t it? Let’s cut right to the delicious, meaty content. Today was pay day for me. It’s also 63 degrees. These delightful facts led me to want a little bit more out of my lunch break today. My faithful coworker and I set out on a quest for salmon, which brought us to a place I’ve been curious about for a while – Penn Avenue Fish Company. Only it’s not on Penn Avenue.

They DO have a location on Penn Ave. in the Strip District. By the looks of their website, that location is much bigger than the one I went to on Forbes. Let me make it clear – they only serve fish. That said, assuming you like fish, it’s great! They have a huge variety of fresh fish sandwiches (tuna, swordfish, salmon, etc), sushi and cool-sounding soups to tease your appetite. Being a 25-year-old, self-proclaimed “aLtErNaTiVe” person, I totally love sushi, BUT I wanted salmon today, so I got the Energy Lunch – grilled salmon served on a bed of the following: spicy ginger carrot salad, green bean salad and apple cider vinaigrette.

Energy Lunch, $10.99

I’ve never been asked how I would like my fish cooked – that was weird. But I went with medium-well and crossed my fingers. Luckily, I made the right choice! The salmon was grilled perfectly. I’m not sure what the green sauce was, but it was super yummy. Did I mention the salmon was absolutely perfect? BECAUSE IT WAS!

The salads underneath were both pretty tasty, but I was a little sad that they were ice cold. The spicy ginger carrot salad was good, but not really spicy at all – and I’m really sensitive to spiciness. Still very good though.

Did I feel more energized after my meal? Certainly!

Are there sexy men preparing sushi there? Definitely. Yes. Oh my.

Will I start going here once a week? Probably.

For the price (a little steep for everyday-lunching), the atmosphere (relaxed but with a twinge of class) and the taste (mmmmm) I’m doling out a whopping 8.5/10 for Penn Ave Fish Co.

But next time, I’m trying the sushi.

 

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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.

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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

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