Monday, July 18, 2011


5997 Penn Circle S.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

BRGR is located in Pittsburgh's New Hotness neighborhood. Several excellent restaurants have opened up within the last few years in the gentrified East Liberty corridor. BRGR is up there on the talk of the town list.

Burgers have been around since the Stone Age; however, not with the combination of spiked milkshakes. Which, by all things relevant, may be equivalent to the invention of the wheel.

Stacy and I have been to BRGR several times. We have also taken friends and family to show it off. So I’ve tried a bunch of the burger/fries/spiked milkshake combos, which are basically a Happy Meal on steroids. All the combos have been delicious. The ambiance is great, with the choice to sit on a rare rooftop deck.

BRGR is a great place for multiple occasions: happy hours, a pre-game meal on weekends, a spot to take out-of-town friends, etc. etc. Long story short, eat here.  


BRGR on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gran Agave

152 East Bridge St.
Homestead, PA 15120

Gran Agave is located in the Waterfront of Homestead, PA. An authentic Mexican restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA = ballsy. Pittsburgh has its chain Mexican restaurants, all of which are good. But an authentic Mexican restaurant is definitely a risk.

We were meeting some friends at the Waterfront and decided to grab dinner before meeting them. We got down there at around 6:15pm and had to park close to California. It gets packed very early, so get there earlier. We tried Rock Bottom but of course there was a wait and no seats at the bar. We had just had a bad experience at Yokoso so we did not want to risk it. So we went to Gran Agave and were seated right away.

After waiting roughly fifteen minutes, our waitress finally came to get our drink orders. I’ve had chain Mexican restaurant margaritas and wanted to see how it compared, so we ordered one. You know when you go to a fast food joint and the fountain drink tastes like pure syrup? Well, magnify that by a million and that is a margarita from Gran Agave. I forced down maybe four gulps and did not get a slight taste of tequila, only syrup. After the four sips my stomach was already churning. I put it aside and hoped the food would be better.

My chicken burrito and Stacy’s chicken taco salad came out quick. So that was a plus after it took a while to get our drink orders in. We could immediately tell that there was something off about the chicken. My burrito sat in a pool of water from what looked like chicken that was frozen prior to cooking. Stacy’s chicken taco salad was not a taco salad but more of a pool of chewy chicken. We were not impressed with the food, at all. I ate a decent amount of my burrito because I was hungry. But my stomach hated me for several hours after.

The employees were nice, but the food and drinks were mediocre at best. I’ve had authentic Mexican several times in the past and this place did not even compare. We were not impressed and will not be returning.


Gran Agave on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 21, 2011

Yokoso Japanese Steak House

153 E. Bridge St.
Homestead, PA 15120

Stacy and I went to the Waterfront for our Friday dinner date. Initially, we were thinking P.F. Chang’s. “Ummm, it’ll be about a two hour wait” says the peppy hostess. Eff that. Next stop, Rock Bottom. “Hmm, it’ll be about an eight day wait. Do you want me to put your name down?” No. Next, Gran Agave. “How about you try again sometime in July.” Then, from the heavens, a light shines on Yokoso. “We can seat you right now.” Hibachi it is.

Now, when I think Hibachi, I think bursting flames that singe your eyebrows, shrimp flying through the air like a circus act, stacks and stacks of vegetables that leave you immobile after consumption, hilarious Hibachi chefs that are comedians during their day jobs. The general ambiance created a great initial impression. Then our chef came. Felipe was his name.

We were prepared for high-flying seafood acrobatics, but it never came. Not a single shrimp tossed at my face, not a single onion volcano, not a single joke from Felipe about how Americans are morons. The food was decent, but could have easily been cooked at home. The service was excellent minus Felipe’s nonchalant attitude towards Hibachi.

Maybe Felipe just had an off night. Even Jordan never had a perfect game. If you’re looking for crazy Hibachi, unfortunately I just can’t recommend Yokoso. It’s good, just not the best.


Yokoso Japanese Steak House on Urbanspoon

Pho Minh

4917 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224

We went to this place on Saturday for lunch. I was starving, no surprise there. So we thought we would try something new. We heard of this place through word-of-mouth, but would have never known it existed otherwise. They do not advertise, nor does there storefront shout “COME EAT HERE!” Nonetheless, I have never eaten Vietnamese and this place was apparently some of the best.

We were greeted by the extremely nice 3’-2” Vietnamese owners who appeared as though they possess some ridiculous Kung Fu skills but only use them on unruly Americans. We kept our composure and were seated. The place is tiny. With the exception of a few Vietnamese pieces on the walls, the decorations are neutral. Very simple but nice.

Stacy recommended I get the chicken Pho. I had no idea what chicken Pho meant but chicken, Pho, how could one resist? The dish came out within ten minutes in a bowl the size of Heinz Field. As the aromas wafted the room, I checked out this so-called chicken Pho. Broth, noodles, bean sprouts, chicken, cilantro, so on and so forth.

Stacy dowsed hers in Sriracha hot sauce and dug in like a pro. I followed suit. Little did I know that the Sriracha hot sauce makes a pansy like me cry like a schoolgirl. I toughed it out.

As the meal progressed, we glanced at the table to our left which was full of Vietnamese teenagers. You know the feeling you get when a group of teenagers speaking a foreign language look at you then laugh, like you are doing something completely idiotic? Yea, that happened. Maybe it was because the Sriracha made the mucus and tears flow freely, or maybe it was because we were eating broth soup with chopsticks. After the teenyboppers had their fun and left, we noticed the owner eat a bowl of Pho. He scooped the broth and noodles into a spoon then ate from the spoon, not the chopsticks. It all made perfect sense.

Minus the minor embarrassment of being an uncultured Westerner,  Pho Minh is delicious. A lot better than Campbell’s chicken noodle soup that’s for sure. The total was $14 plus tip. Not too many Burghers have tried Vietnamese cuisine so give it a shot.


Pho Minh on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Church Brew Works

3525 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Church Brew Works is a fascinating place located in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood. The restaurant sits inside the old St. John the Baptist Church which was originally built in 1902. This place is as tough as the steel workers that made Pittsburgh famous, having been through industrial booms, fires, recessions and everything in between into the palatial restaurant it is today.

In 1996 a couple businessmen had the brilliant idea of converting the church into a restaurant that pays homage to Pittsburgh, architecture and, well, beer. The substantial undertaking modernized the structure while remaining true to its history. The original Douglas Fir floors were restored to perfection as well as the ornate stained glass windows that decorate the church’s transepts. Massive arched colonnades open the nave to the altar which, naturally, houses the glass-enclosed beer shrine. This is the best part of it all. Italians enclose their most prized sculptures in glass, we enclose beer. Awesome.

The ambiance gets an A+ in my book, but what about the food? Surprisingly, a multi-paged eclectic menu can please just about every palate. I imagine the choice of the fare was to attract people from all walks of life. Of all the choices, what do we always get? Pizza. They have excellent wood-fired brick oven pizza. The traditional cheese or pepperoni is a sure bet, but get crazy with your selection. You won’t be disappointed.

From the exciting architecture to the great food, Church Brew Works has it all. This is a solid place to meet your friends after a tough day at the office, or get dinner before a night on the town.


Church Brew Works on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 31, 2011


5527 Walnut Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Pamela’s served President Obama breakfast at the White House. They’re kind of a big deal.

Breakfast food is hard to screw up, yet hard to excel. That is where Pamela’s found their niche. They are better at making breakfast than us common folk. People come from far and wide to try this place. So it goes without saying that Pamela’s has proven themselves worthy of their accolades.

I frequent the Shadyside location many a Saturday morning after a night of pretending I’m still in college. The breakfast special which includes two eggs, your choice of meat and your choice of their famous crepe hotcakes is the Holy Grail of hangover cures. I can’t quite figure it out. The crepes are one of those dishes you can attempt to recreate yourself but never quite grasp the flavor of the restaurant’s secret ingredients. I guess they just have a magic touch.

It really is hard to find negatives but for the sake of the blog, I’ll play devil’s advocate and force one.  Being that Pamela’s is so popular, both the lobby and dining room get packed. I’m talking packed like you may get lucky with the 89-year-old grandma next to you packed. If that’s your thing then this place is even better. If not, it is just a slight criticism for a guaranteed great meal.

Pittsburgh is proud to call this restaurant home. If you’re visiting the area, GO TO PAMELA’S. If you’re a Yinzer, GO TO PAMELA’S.


Pamela's (Shadyside) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Suite 9
2000 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Just to give a quick rundown on Stacy and me, we met at my brother’s wedding. She was from Virginia Beach and eventually moved to Pittsburgh after over a year of long distance dating. Her backyard was literally the beach. Then she moved to Pittsburgh. Crazy, I know. To make a long story short, she gets homesick. She misses her family, her friends, the beach and their food. So as an attempt to bring home to Pittsburgh, I wanted to take her out for fish tacos. I went to my trusty restaurant alibi, Urban Spoon, for input. I wanted an authentic seafood joint where casual attire is encouraged. All fingers pointed to Kaya.

Located in the Strip District somewhere between 538,147,937 Steelers stores, this place fits right in with the creativity of the neighborhood. The interior is pretty intense. The owners tried hard to reproduce an island feel, maybe too hard. The artwork on the walls and tables is something to behold. But that’s where it should have stopped. The palm tree bar stools are slightly over the top. I’m pretty sure a trained monkey handed me a coconut rum drink at some point. But regardless, I appreciate the attempt to bring the islands to Pittsburgh.

We went for brunch and were seated right away. We knew we wanted the fish tacos and mango salsa as an appetizer, but our waiter was still very nice in explaining the specials. Throughout the meal, the service was there when it needed to be and distant when it wasn't. So that was a plus.

Our salsa came out during the Samoan fire twirling exhibition. Just as Stacy was pulled into the hula dance train, she retreated back to our seats. 

We were still working on the appetizer when the fish tacos came out. I think Kaya was attempting to replicate Primanti’s with the absurd amount of cabbage slaw. Once I sifted through the slaw, the tacos were great. I didn’t think the three tacos would fill me up but it did.

Being that I’m from Pittsburgh and haven’t experienced seafood directly from the boat, I was impressed. Stacy mentioned she had had better fish tacos but as far as an island oasis in the middle of Pittsburgh is concerned, she was also impressed. Kaya succeeded in bringing Stacy a bit closer to home. Overall, it was a fun meal. I recommend you try Kaya.


Kaya on Urbanspoon


130 S. Highland Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

This is the restaurant that spawned my interest in cultural restaurants. Our friends Adam and Jenna are obscure restaurant all-stars. So they pointed Stacy and me to Abay. Being that I am new to the culinary world, I was a bit nervous. But hey, I’ve given sky-diving a shot so I can give Ethiopian food a shot too.

The restaurant is within walking distance to my place so the surroundings are familiar. Located on the outskirts of the Shadyside restaurant corridor, this place stands out as one of the most creative and authentic. This is remarkable being that the owner, Jamie Wallace, did not have any prior ownership experience.

The impressive aesthetics make you feel as though you are actually in an Ethiopian kitchen. The simple wood chairs and tables are sufficiently spread out amongst the light wood floor. Ethiopian art modestly decorates the burnt orange walls.

We were seated immediately by the kind staff. Once again, we notified the waitress of our culinary naivety. So she took the time to describe the who, what, when, where, why and how of the cuisine. After hearing her knowledgeable spiel, we went with the combination sampler with Zilzil Tibs, Gomen Besiga and Doro Wat. You want to hear something humorous, listen to a Yinzer attempt to pronounce Ethiopian food. I guarantee it was painful for the poor waitress.

The food was served within fifteen minutes on the traditional Ethiopian flatbread platter. The coolest part – you eat with your hands. This brought me back to my days in the Winkler household when our saint of a mother had to constantly remind her devil children of proper table etiquette. Yet somehow, every meal, us devil children insisted on eating with our hands. Eons later, my wish came true.

The flatbread, which in time I found out is called injera, is broken into pieces and used to scoop up the meats and vegetables. This combination was pretty delicious if I must say so myself. To make matters much better, Stacy filled herself up earlier in the game by going with a soup appetizer, thus leaving a large helping to fat ass over here. Stuffed and content, the meal was over in a flash. 

Abay isn’t so much a restaurant as it is an experience. It’s an opportunity to try something new. It's an opportunity drift away, take three weeks off of work and travel to Africa to experience Ethiopian culture. I had a great time and would certainly recommend Abay to both the adventurous eater as well as those just looking to experience something cool.


Abay Ethiopian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spice Island Tea House

253 Atwood St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Spice Island Tea House is tucked away on Oakland's Atwood Street where champion beer chuggers run amok. In fact, if you are walking there at the right time, you may be cordially invited into a Pitt house party to shotgun beers.

This dive restaurant has a small awning and minimal storefront with the inside closed off with knickknacks. It almost appeared as if it were hiding the inside from its surroundings. And maybe that was precisely the point. If the building were in an uppity neighborhood it would stick out like a sore thumb. But it worked perfectly being that it is in Oakland.

Once inside, the first thing I noticed was the minimalist and simple decor. Back in the 13th century when I went to college, we would toss together any hand-me-down pieces of furniture and arrange them as Feng shui as possible. By frat boy standards that basically meant stuffing as many tv's in a 200 square foot space as possible. But the table arrangements in Spice Island took me back to those days. A table from a garage sale here, a few chairs from a church basement there. It worked great, especially because of the restaurant's location.

Our waitress was as nice as can be. I admitted my culinary ineptitude, which she rebutted with a simple description of each of her favorites. She claimed they had "the best Pad Thai in the world." I wanted to broaden my Thai cuisine horizons but with this claim how could I resist? So I went with the Pad Thai. Stacy was feeling adventurous and went with a new choice. I will spare you the horror of attempting to type whatever it was.

The food was in front of us in no time. It came out on a smaller platter that appeared as though I would be leaving unfulfilled. As we ate I realized it was a visual distortion and that a food coma would ensue by meal's end. The taste was unlike that of many of the other Thai restaurants around. And the peanuts were not as dominant.

My favorite Pad Thai thus far was at Typhoon. So I am not in total agreement with our waitress. But it was still an excellent meal nonetheless. 

The total bill including tip came in at under $25.

Overall, this was a very pleasant and unintimidating dining experience for us novices. 


Spice Island Tea House on Urbanspoon


242 S. Highland Ave. #100
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

Typhoon is located on South Highland Avenue which is on the border of Shadyside and East Liberty. The neighborhood is far enough away from the raucous of Walnut Street yet still has its own distinct stores. Just down the street, the gentrification of East Liberty flourishes.

Entering is somewhat comical as it is reminiscent of a young thespian attempting to find the opening in the stage curtain. I spent what seemed like an eternity finding the seam in the entrance drapery. When I finally did, the majority of the diners were staring at me in anticipation as if I were Jerry Seinfeld about to do stand-up. 

Finally in the restaurant, I was pleased with the ambiance. Contemporary yet not over the top. Original, yet soothing colors. Fancy yet inviting. Each group is seated at a proper distance apart so you can hear your group but your neighbor's conversations are muffled.

Our pleasant waiter was there in a heartbeat and was detailed while remaining simple in his descriptions of the Thai cuisine. I opted for the Shrimp Pad Thai, four out of ten on the Spicy Richter Scale. Stacy decided to diminish my masculine flame and went with a seven out of ten. 

Stacy was in the midst of describing her 58,254 bridemaid's dresses for the upcoming wedding season when our food came out to save the day. The over sized mound of deliciousness swayed Stacy’s attention from laced sequence or God knows what to the meal at hand. Once we started to feast, I don't think we said a word. Or maybe we did and I just wasn't listening. Regardless, the point is the Pad Thai was delicious and stole my attention. 

After I unbuttoned my belt and allowed my food baby to laze, the waiter brought over the damage in an Asian-themed Yahtzee cup. I didn’t know whether to insert my debit card or roll for that much-needed four-of-a-kind.

Overall, this restaurant is one of my top five favorites in Pittsburgh. I will be returning.


Typhoon on Urbanspoon