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