Who knew that Pittsburgh had so many phenomenal restaurants? On a recent trip, I discovered some of what the 'burgh has to offer.
What that really amounted to was experiencing what the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group has to offer - seeing as I ate at 3 out of 4 of their restaurants during my stay, with a few other spots along the way.
Habitat was where we managed to get a reservation for Valentine's Day Dinner - a motley crew of 5 co-workers dining at this restaurant located in the Fairmont Pittsburgh. It was upscale, featuring local ingredients with dishes inspired by flavors from around the globe.
Fresh Tandoor Baked Naan
This flavorful naan came served with spreads including the best hummus I have ever had in my entire life. I still stand by that statement - it tasted like straight-up chickpea euphoria.
Roasted Organic Beet
Served with goat cheese, wild flower honey and berries - this was a beautifully plated dish. I loved that the beets tasted so earthy and natural.
Carrot Ginger Soup
This was phenomenally fresh and simple - it truly just tasted like carrots and ginger. I couldn't eat a ton of it, but it was delicious is small doses.
For my entree I went with the striped bass after much back and forth, based mainly on each dishes accouterments. The striped bass came with a a chickpea panisse that was disappointingly dry, Castelvaetrano olives, tomato marmalade and chive cream that was crazy good.
The striped bass was very well cooked and overall, I enjoyed the dish though I wasn't blown away. My favorite part of the meal remained the hummus!
Some of the other entrees that intrigued me were the Black Cod with mushrooms and turnips and the lamb rack because I <3 Lamb.
I also loved that the menu had an extensive vegetarian portion - with 4 entree options including Chickpea Ragout and smoked heirloom carrots that tempted me to go veggie for the night.
We also had two amazing desserts - one with macadamia nuts, bananas, and other deliciousness and one that was a classic brownie sundae with lots and lots of chocolate. Both were addictive.
This spot was right around the corner from our hotel and was a standard tacos, margaritas and guac spot. The one thing that stood out was the fact that their Premium Margarita featured Grand Marnier - the secret ingredient to a killer marg.
The margarita menu is extensive and each carefully cracked concoction sounds better than the next. Pineapple Jalapeno? Grapefruit & Sage? Spicy Cucumber? How's a girl to choose? All that I sampled were A+, though I will admit the Grapefruit & Sage was lacking any real grapefruit flavor.
I love the DIY guacamole menu - pick your base and load up on add ons that range from more traditional (corn, mango, green onion) to out-there (tuna belly, shishito, sesame seeds). Each item comes at an additional cost, but building my own guacamole was one of my favorite parts of the meal! I highly recommend mango or pineapple for a sweet touch, pepitas for a bit of a crunch and queso fresco because...cheese.
Get them all. Seriously. You can't go wrong. My absolute favorite was the Baja taco - in fact, it was probably my favorite fish taco, or taco in general, ever. The description is simple enough - tempura white fish, jalapeno lime aioli, white cabbage slaw and cilantro. I'm not sure what made it so amazing - but it was life-changing.
Also incredible was their namesake "Tako" taco - grilled octopus, harissa aioli, preserved lemons, mizuna greens & herbs and pickled red onion. This was the most smoky, charred tasting thing I have ever eaten - with the hint of lemon, it was killer. Not to mention it was perfectly tender - not chewy like octopus can sometimes be. Who knew that an octopus tentacle nestled in a corn tortilla could be so good?
The second time I went to Tako, we ordered the TACO BIG BOARD.
It's big. 12 tacos. 4 girls. We made a dent, but didn't come close to finishing it. Each taco is more than generously sized - we sampled a good variety including the Tako and Baja again because I insisted, along with the Chorizo (carmelized onions, roasted poblano, romesco, fried egg, queso fresco, arbol hot sauce, cilantro), Mushroom (roasted maitake, garlic aioli, truffle huitlacoche salsa, brussel sprout salad) and more.
I definitely need to go back to try the Duck Confit and Korean tacos.
Some of the best I've had - so fresh, and the "whipped lime" was so creative and different. Big eye tuna, seaweed, spicy soy dressing, whipped lime and rice crackers. Phenom.
On my last night, I dined at this Pittsburgh staple, also by Richard DeShantz. Another gorgeous space, I wasn't sure I would love this spot since I wouldn't consider myself a meat and potatoes kind of girl. I'm definitely more of a "vegetables & fish for the most part" girl.
That being said, I spotted pot roast on the menu, and that is a huge comfort food for me. A very random dish that brings me back to my childhood and eating it with red cabbage.
So many people recommended it that I decided it was worth a shot - plus, it was named one of Food & Wine's Best Gastropubs in the U.S. in 2014.
These cocktails were STRONG. I had two during my meal - both tequila based, obviously. The first was a special - basically a mezcal mule. It was strong and smoky and I could only drink it in small sips. The second was a lot sweeter and smoother - The Mexican Honeybee - Espolon tequila, lemon, smoked local honey, orange bitters and a mezcal rinse. Let's pretend I know what a mezcal rinse is, shall we?
*Okay, I Googled it, and I'm pretty sure it just means they literally rinse the inside of the glass with mezcal before pouring in the cocktail.
Is it dinner if you don't get unhealthy Brussels Sprouts? Not really.
These were fairly simple - Parmesan and lemon aioli - but tasted great.
These were a special the night that we went to Meat & Potatoes - lamb ribs served with crunchy chickpeas ensure that I would be ordering it. The flavor was GREAT, but the meat wasn't as tender as I would have expected from a place that prides itself on it's meat!
Mushroom Ragu Side
HOLY GARLIC. You really couldn't even tell that these were mushrooms they were so over-seasoned with garlic.
Braised chuck roast, baby carrots, turnips, cipollini onions, parsnips, mashed potatoes and horseradish gremolata.
WOW was this tender and just as comfort-food-y as I had hoped. I didn't even miss the red cabbage because of the combination of gravy + onions, parsnips, turnips and baby carrots. WOOT FOR ROOT veggies.
The mashed potatoes weren't out of this world, but I've never really met a potato that I didn't like.
This really hit the spot, as Pot Roast always seems to do when it's well done.
This group outing results in ordering a TON of food - I was put in charge of ordering appetizers for the table - a roll I relish. I also love relish on my hot dog rolls.
Anyway. Social House Seven is like the Pittsburgh version of Tao. Large, fancy inside with a huge Asian-fusion menu and koi fish swimming until a clear glass panel when you walk in the door.
Among the items that we sampled:
CHEE CHEE FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
CRISPY ROCK SHRIMP
KI KING BROCCOLI
STEAMED PORK DUMPLING
GRILLED SHISHITO PEPPERS
Grilled over a robata grill and served with whipped feta, these were very unique and very delicious. The texture made it impossible to think you were eating cauliflower. Though my coworkers didn't seem too thrilled, I thought they were great!
Sea Bass Pumpkin Noodle
This entree was SO good. I seriously loved it and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the whole meal in general. Squash ribbons and snow peas slathered in a red curry broth with red curried coconut with a big hunk of sea bass on top. While the fish was a little dry, the squash noodles and curry sauce made up for it.
Wouldn't be a trip without a donut spot!
Pittsburgh's most well-known doughnut shop seemed to be Peace, Love & Little Donuts so we had a dozen delivered to the office on Valentine's Day (DUH!)
While these doughnuts didn't make the top 5 list, they were delicious, as all doughnuts are in their own special way ;)
I liked the fact that these were little - though it didn't stop me from eating them throughout the day. If anything, it made it easier to "just try one more...."
I was shocked to find that my favorite flavor was the one coated in mini M&Ms! Never would have guessed that.
Peace, Love & Little Donuts has "Groovy" donuts (the simple ones, like cinnamon and glazed), "Far Out" donuts (frosted donuts with flavors like strawberry, mocha, and chocolate), and the donuts that are more my speed - "Funkadelic" (frosting + crazy toppings).
Overall, I was impressed with the food scene in Pittsburgh. There were tons of other places I wanted to try, and I never got my Pittsburgh Pierogies, but I left with a new favorite taco!
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