Sunday, August 30, 2009

Week 3: Patron Mexican Grill

I love Mexican food. 

But before we get into that, I can't help but write this entry with a side comment about the similarity between all types of Mexican food (I'll allow Jim Gaffigan to comment --- see minute 5).

Although I'm no stranger to chain Mexican restaurants, I do love a good authentic meal, and that is just what I found at Patron Mexican Grill on RT 19 in Wexford (leaving the Pittsburgh zip codes for a bit).

I went to Patron last week for lunch with some coworkers; here's the run-down:

-          The atmosphere is amazing --- floor to ceiling in authentic Mexican decorations.  The booth that we sat in had to have been shipped in from Mexico: carved wood (each booth includes a different landscape) and hand painted. 

-          The meal comes with warm chips and homemade salsa, but don't eat too much before hand!

-          I ordered a quesadilla, very enjoyable and well within the budget of a once a week place for lunch.

That's all for now --- short one today.  I'll be busy getting ready for classes to start tomorrow!

Patron Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Week 2: Mineo's Pizza

I’m sure that based on the title of this posting you have deduced that this is not a review of Tessaro’s in Bloomfield (as promised in my last posting). I’m sure you can sympathize with how this came about --- it was pizza week for me – that week every three months where your body decides to abandon normal food pyramid requirements and the only thing that will satisfy your craving is pizza. Probably not the healthiest of weeks for me, but certainly very appetizing…

Tessaro’s will come in the not too distant future, but for now, my cravings lead me to…

Week 2: Mineo’s in Squirrel Hill (2128 Murray Ave-- on the hill a bit before Forward Ave.)

I think that it’s safe to say I have had my share of pizza --- I grew up in Jersey, which has delicious “we-are-right-next-to-New-York” style pizza. In South Jersey, we fold our pizza in half, and we eat each slice in less than three bites, saving all of the crust for last. I’ve lived next to the most popular pizza place in Shadyside for the past two years, stopping by on many a last minute dinner (or late night snack) run. And I’ve been known to eat a stuffed crust from Pizza Hut backwards every once in a while.

I think that it’s tough to compare pizza places --- regions and styles have so much to do with it. I don’t believe that I have a single “favorite” pizza place in the States. However, I will comment that if I was to expand this discussion to an international scale, then the best place in the world that I’ve been to for pizza was Naples, Italy (or “Napoli, Italia!” --- Italian restaurant owner says while shaking his arms and welcoming me into his establishment). As pictured below, I was in Naples last summer and enjoyed a slice in which I hand picked the tomatoes in the restaurant’s side yard (grown in the rich Mediterranean soil), and the chef made the sauce right there --- the freshest pizza I have ever encountered. It was absolute heaven (wipes drool from chin).

Don’t let me get too side-tracked ---- I’m supposed to be talking about Pittsburgh! I went to Mineo’s in Squirrel Hill (also located in Mt Lebanon) for the first time last night with two of my Industrial Engineering friends at Pitt. I had basically fasted all day in preparation, and we chose to order a large plain to share, dining in. Allow me to summarize:

· The pizza comes out hot enough that you can’t touch it with your hand (let alone your vulnerable tongue) for at least five minutes after it arrives at your table --- torture! However, once you do eat it, you realize it was worth the wait (and the fasting).

· This pizza is about 90% cheese (and consequentially very embarrassing to eat). My coworkers suggested bringing silverware, and I stupidly did not heed their warning. Bring silverware; you’ll need to cut the pizza if you want to have a chance at eating all of the cheese, and the plastic silverware that the restaurant provides just doesn’t do the trick.

· The atmosphere is a typical pizza shop --- counter to order, bench seating, very casual and always filled with customers (so I hear, at least).

· Instead of fountain drinks at inflated prices, they have $.85 vending machine soda cans, which I love. I don’t feel like I’m being ripped off just for wanting a Cherry Coke with my cheese (and the aluminum is recyclable as opposed to styrofoam cups).

Bottom Line

Mineo’s has very enjoyable pizza at a price that is definitely within a college student’s once a week budget. So, check it out, you won’t be disappointed!

That's me in Italy, pre-haircut, eating the best pizza in the world (and throwing up the typical American peace signs --- very classy)

Mineo's Pizza House (Squirrel Hill) on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week 1: The 17th Street Cafe

The 17th Street Café

I write this week's posting from my new apartment, sipping a glass of wine, watching my favorite movie, the American President, and very well fed after a delicious meal at Nakama. However, Nakama is not the topic of this week's blog posting (I'll save its review for another week).

I thought that I would make my inaugural review one of the best restaurant I've found in my four years in Pittsburgh – the 17th Street Café (at 17th St in the South Side, one block off Carson towards the river).

Let's flash back to two Friday's ago, when I first visited this restaurant…

Taking advantage of flexible summer work schedules, I left work at 4PM to catch an early dinner and a Friday night movie premier (500 Days of Summer --- I strongly recommend it). I met my ex-roommate (who even though we don't live together anymore, we still see just as much of one another) in the South Side for what she told me was a celebratory dinner (what we were celebrating would be announced in person).

I found the 17th Street Café after a quick Google search of bistro-like restaurants near my new apartment. What can I say? Sometimes the places I find are after careful research, but it turns out that some of the best places I find are happened upon after a rash restaurant search on the way out of work…

Upon entering, I find an uncanny resemblance to an establishment that my best friend in Brooklyn and I frequent, Bar Toto. Although we chose not to drink, I would have been all for homemade Sangria or a nice fresh squeezed margarita (a tough thing to turn down, if you know me at all, you'd easily understand). Here's a quick run-down of our meal:

- Our free appetizer (print out the coupon from their website) of stuffed peppers over breaded mozzarella made me realize that I have no business trying to pretend to cook Italian.

- Make sure to take full advantage of the bread --- fresh-baked and heavenly.

- House Salad (with chick-peas --- one of those accompaniments that I forget I love until a genius chef decides to throw them in my salad at the local bistro)

- And the main course – a penne in a white wine sauce with chicken and prosciutto. YUM! (I only had room for half, and I enjoyed it again for lunch on Saturday)


This restaurant is run flawlessly:

- I left the restaurant with a pen in hand that read, "Return this stolen pen to the 17th Street Café for a free order of Fried Zucchini" --- what a great idea!

- Two days after my visit, I found a letter in my mailbox from my waitress, Kaelyn, thanking me for coming and welcoming me to the neighborhood.

SOMEONE is an expert at running restaurants, and I think that somebody is Pat (restaurant owner --- he'll introduce himself before and after your meal).

So, I can't recommend it enough --- I plan on taking my mom when she visits in September and cashing in on an order of free Fried Zucchini.

A few more things I think will be helpful to readers….

The Price:

I'd deem this a once-a-month priced restaurant for poor college students, and a once-a-week priced restaurant for young professionals. We could spend a bit above our college student budget because, as I said, we were there to celebrate --- and what were we celebrating? My ex-roommate was offered three full-time jobs that week --- talk about a reason to over-eat!

The Details:

Check out their site linked above

Next on the Agenda:

Tessaro's in Bloomfield (I've heard great things about those 'Burgher Burgers!)

17th Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Challenge

It has been 300 days since I last posted in my blog. That's 300 breakfasts, 300 lunches, and 299 dinners (Water's boiling right now for tonight's meal)…

Most of those meals were homemade, many from last minute stops at Chipotle, but a good portion came from delicious independently owned restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. This brings me to the point of today's posting. My three favorite things lately have become:

1. Eating

2. Pittsburgh

3. Telling people how much I love eating in Pittsburgh

And here I am, one semester away from graduating from Pitt, applying for full time jobs like it's a full time job, and realizing that I better hit all of the great undiscovered restaurants in this town just in case my career takes me elsewhere.

Here is my vow to you, loyal readers (all 1 of you). I will visit one eatery in Pittsburgh that I've never been to each week. Then, I will report back to you with my findings.

Here are a few things that you should know about these postings:

- They'll never be negative, if I have a bad experience; I'll just choose not to talk about the particular eatery that I attended. Life's too short to be negative (and especially too short to write about negative things --- it takes twice the effort of thinking of a negative thing, and it provides no reward).

- They'll be on a random basis; I can't guarantee which day of the week I'll sit down to write.

I've never been more in touch with what I want then when I was blogging, and what better time for some self reflection than the time that you're looking to start a career?

WEEK ONE: The 17th Street Café; I'll report back shortly.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to a semester of delicious food and enjoyable reflection.