If you missed Friday’s post…well, you don’t actually have to read it. But you should! Otherwise my feelings might be a little hurt.
…Okay! Here are the other five capsule reviews, as promised.
While most of the pizza shops in Pittsburgh are pretty lousy, there are some quality pies to be found here, and Mercurio’s is definitely one of them. After splitting a good but not great pesto pistachio flatbread for our appetizer, Dana and I got the bianca and prosciutto pizzas, respectively. Wood-fired pizza is just so far beyond any other kind. I do the best I can at home with an oven that maxes out at 500 degrees, but you simply can’t achieve this kind of crust at anything below 800. As much as I wanted to keep eating my pizza, I knew I needed to save room for gelato, and I’m glad I did. A medium grants you up to three flavor choices, so I went with the tiramisu, vanilla caramel cashew, and dulce de leche, all of which were fantastic. Shadyside isn’t exactly my favorite neighborhood, but you can bet I’ll be visiting here again soon. Rating: 9/10
Another neighborhood I’m not overly fond of is the South Side. Since I’m not much of a drinker anymore, this makes sense. But amongst the never-ending stretch of shitty dive bars, there are some good places to eat. Again, Dana and I needed to each get an appetizer to hit the $30 dining card minimum, so she got the artichoke red pepper hummus, and I opted for Piper’s version of French onion soup. Both were quite good, although I prefer a non-Stilton cheese. For the main course, I decided on the chorizo mac and cheese, which I enjoyed, but ultimately I regretted not going a little more British Isles and trying the lamb and smoked chestnut or the Guinness stew. Dana’s order was even less British than mine – a Thai chili seitan wrap. I didn’t see bread pudding on the menu, sadly. It wouldn’t have mattered though, because in addition to being quite full, we had to rush to the hospital to meet baby Opal (AKA Lil’ Jim). Rating: 7.5/10
For many years, I refused on principle to eat here or at any of the food kiosks that sprang up in Schenley Plaza when I was an undergrad. This is because I viewed them as the direct cause of the demise of Scotty’s cart. Scotty was an incredibly nice, funny dude in his fifties who grilled fantastic barbecued chicken and sausage sandwiches outside of Hillman Library, right across the street from the plaza. The sandwiches were three or four bucks, and usually he’d throw you a free drink, whether you were a regular or not. While he apparently didn’t have express legal permission to grill in that spot, he’d been there more than a decade when I arrived at Pitt as a freshman in 2005. But just a month (and a dozen or so chicken sandwiches) into my first semester, suddenly the Man could no longer look the other way, and Scotty was forced out. The kiosks were open a few months later. This is what is known as “not a coincidence”.
Nonetheless, scars do fade, and armed with another dining card, I let go of my grudge and ate at The Porch. To start, we got the cast iron cornbread and an order of crispy taters, both excellent. The potatoes were served with a delightful curried ketchup. I never use ketchup anymore, but this stuff was different. Unable to decide between the Porch burger and the prime rib sandwich, I asked our server for his thoughts, and took his recommendation of the former. While it was a tasty burger, I didn’t find it terribly impressive given its $16 price tag. Dana had the veggie burger, which she liked a lot. Scotty, wherever you are – this place ain’t got shit on you. Rating: 7.5/10
I’d only been here once before our double date with Alyssa and Brian, and that was just for drinks the night of Dana’s departmental graduation ceremony. A cursory glance at Yelp reviews told me to expect solid, albeit overpriced, food and lousy service. Fortunately, we got only the former, as our server was capable. After getting the chips with all three types of salsa they offer (two of which were middling at best – not a great return on nine bucks), I had an order of brisket tacos. They were decent, but nothing exciting. Perhaps the lamb barbacoa, which I strongly considered, would have been more satisfying. On the whole, I feel like this is one of those notorious “more popular than it has any right to be” Pittsburgh establishments. Rating: 6.5/10
Cam had promised to take us to brunch many moons ago, and we finally got around to going toward the end of the summer, on what ended up being a double date with him and Jess. Tin Front has a buffet brunch for 13 bucks wherein you receive an entree and access to a small buffet, which included breakfast potatoes, mini muffins, and a few other items. I ended up going with mac and cheese for my main dish (good, not mind blowing), and ate my weight in potatoes and corn muffins (both amazing), with a mimosa to wash it all down. I also tried a bit of Dana’s Bloody Mary, made with habanero-cilantro infused vodka, and reconfirmed that I fucking hate Bloody Marys. Dana forced everyone at the table to help her finish her banana Nutella French toast, which makes her just the worst. Rating: 7.5/10