Square Cafe

Square Cafe on UrbanspoonTasteBud B told me he’d never been to Square Cafe before, so I decided to share the experience with him.  We were fortunate to be seated right away because it is a weekend morning hotspot, especially when the weather cooperates and there is outside seating.

I had a very delicious crepe with brie inside, drizzled with honey and covered with fresh fruit.  Very light flavors, but a filling meal.  The food was excellent and the service was great.  Square Cafe put some thought into this dish too – instead of the typical heavy fruit syrup, the honey was sweet and light.  The fruit was very fresh.  Compared to a few weekends ago when TasteBud B chose the better meal at Bistro To Go, today I seemed more pleased with my meal.

TasteBud B went with a very hearty breakfast with some very creative flavors – at least on the menu.  What hit the plate was a slightly different story.  The Square Breakfast with chicken apple sausage, oatmeal raisin pancakes, and scrambled eggs.  The eggs were cooked perfect – and needed no additional seasoning or condiment.  Unfortunately the sausage was dry and the pancake, as you can see was covered in both powdered sugar and a whipped topping.  The whipped topping melted into a milky mess on top of the hot pancake and he just ended up pushing it off to the side.  It was as if the pancake wasn’t cooked completely.  Much like a par-cooked cookie, the middle was a little doughy, which only added to the heaviness of the pancake.

On a bright note, his Cafe Americano was well brewed and only $1.80!  Oh, and how can I forget my Caramel Latte which was phenomenal.  The atmosphere was young and bright.  Great for a morning breakfast spot on a spring day.

Square Cafe on Groupon, March 27, 2011

Cinco De Mayo Destination

Fajita Grill on Urbanspoon

TasteBud A and I went with the boys on Friday night on an expedition to find the perfect BYOB destination for our Cinco De Mayo wine exchange.

BYOB Mexican restaurants aren’t exactly plentiful in Pittsburgh.  Through word of mouth, I found Mexico City Tacos and Burritos.  But we went to test out the venue several weeks ago and left with a bad taste in our mouth – both service and food.  With Cinco de Mayo fast approaching, we needed to come up with an alternate location for our group of 25 to gather.  All I can say is “Urbanspoon Rocks!”  There, we found Fajita Grill on Ellsworth Ave.

After downing 5 baskets of chips and salsa, all four of us sampled the combination platters.  Jorgé should have thought of putting bacon and shrimp in traditional Mexican food long ago!  Between the four of us, we had each of the three options.  I had the Pollo (chicken).  TasteBud A had the Beef.  And our comrade David had the Scallops.  Each platter is a base of meat with both shrimp and bacon!  The bacon added a nice smoky, meaty flavor. I thought this was a unique flavor addition to traditional Mexican combination platters.  The shrimp, if it were already de-tailed would have been perfect to pop in your mouth or roll into the tortilla.

The default salsa served with the chips and the meal was very good – rivals a personal favorite salsa found at El Campesino!  I say default salsa, because there is a range of heat levels each diner can choose from.  I also sampled the Colorado salsa.  It was a pastier salsa that you spread on your tortilla like butter.  It ranked 2nd from the hottest on the salsa scale, but I found it to be more flavorful than hot.  For those of you who have been reading, I do like spicy/hot flavors.  But FLAVOR is the key.  I don’t just want to burn my tastebuds, I want to be able to taste the rest of my dish and use the heat to compliment the food.  The Colorado salsa did just that.

TastedBud A enjoyed his combo platter – except for the featured meat – the beef.  He found it tough to chew.    The meat wasn’t consistently cooked through either.  Some slices were cooked medium well – some medium rare, and the pieces that were fatty just didn’t make eating them in a tortilla shell very easy.

Whereas the pollo and beef platters came with a decent amount of meat in them – enough for 2-3 tortillas, the Scallops platter came with just 4 scallops which were smaller than the shrimp.  Although they tasted well, David didn’t find them as filling.

So even though the combo platters resulted in mixed reviews, the highlights of the meal outweighed the downfalls and we succeeded in finding our Cinco de Mayo wine exchange location.
For me, the highlights were:

  • the chips and salsa that began the meal were tasty and plentiful
  • the fact they were BYOB, with a mere $5 corkage fee
  • the restaurant was a good size and ambiance for a group gathering

I hope to report another positive experience after the wine exchange 🙂  I’ll post more about our wine exchanges later.

Pizza in the Strip!

Bella Notte Pizza Pasta & More on Urbanspoon
Tastebud A Here!: Like any typical Tuesday I was working downtown and was hungry for something good and cheap. Many of my coworkers always told me that Bella Notte had really great pizza for a good price. And they were so right!

Pizza by the slice is 3 dollars, small additional charge per topping. For just over 5 dollars I had a single slice of Pizza with Pepperoni and Mushroom and a iced tea. The slice was HUGE! I could hardly finish it. I also added some ranch dressing with my pizza because face it…Ranch goes with almost anything! It was so good, the toppings were fresh, the pizza was cooked just right. I was afraid by doing a single slice that my pizza would come out over cooked but they were on there game during the working day lunch hour. If you also work in the strip they are pretty quick on getting your food out to you. I told the young woman who took my order that I had to be at work by a certain time and she made sure that my pizza came out fast and she dropped off the bill when my food came. There is nothing worse when you have to rush you food during your lunch hour.

This would also be a good place to sit outside and eat and to take the family for a good pizza. I did see they had some outside seating as well. They also have more than just pizza and if the pizza is good then im sure the rest of the menu items should be amazing.Make sure you stop in the next time you are shopping in the Strip District buying your yinzer gear or produce at Wholeys! I can’t wait to go back!

The TasteBud Report: Chili with the Works

Saturday April 10 marked the first chili cook-off I’ve ever attended.  Area restaurants battled head to head with their best chili dishes at Chili with the Works.  Mother nature cooperated well as a mob of Pittsburghers sampled the best chilis in Pittsburgh.  Aside from chili, an “I Made It” marketplace was setup inside a vacant storefront.  Overall it made for a nice day out in Pittsburgh.  Kudos to SouthsideWorks for hosting.

And as far as this TasteBud is concerned the winner is … PITTSBURGH SPORTS SAUCE.  For those of you who have never heard of this company – we hadn’t either until this festival.  Pittsburgh Sports Sauce made chili with their very own award winning sauce for the base.  It was smoky and sweet with a nice flavorful heat to it.  My vote for best chili went to them.

After leaving the festival, I was at a loss for how to contact them as their website does not appear to work, which is disappointing.  Since I can’t offer much insight on how to enjoy what I thought was the best chili Pittsburgh had to offer, I will describe some close runner-ups and one establishment that really underwhelmed.

Honorable Mention #1 – Tusca Tapas
Tusca Mediterranean Tapas on Urbanspoon
Tusca had a very unique offering which is sometimes very advantageous at cook-offs likes this.  A Colorado Chili was featured.  The food, service and presentation were unique to all other vendors present.  This chili was slightly sweet and very well flavored.  It was not like a traditional thick chili, it was fairly brothy.  One highlight to the sampling was that instead of cornbread, the chili was served with a small sticky bun.  I feel Tusca took a traditional blue-collar dish and added a white-collar class to it.  Congrats!

Since I can’t direct you to Tusca to try it, because I can’t find it on their menu, I found a similar recipe.  Don’t forget to bake some sticky bun’s either.  The cinnamon complements this chili well!

Honorable Mention #2 – Triangle Bar and Grill
Triangle Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
This traditional chili was served piping hot, had plenty of meat and felt very Pittsburgh.  It was very hearty and perfectly flavored.  I like my chili to have a kick and Triangle Bar and Grill didn’t disappoint.  I may even have to go see about visiting “The home of the battleship” to see what they are all about.

Better Luck Next Year: Southside 86
I had high hopes for the Hines Ward restaurant – what Steelers fan wouldn’t.  But I was very disappointed in the offering.  The chili tasted like they used all tomato paste and no tomatoes.  The meat chunks were large but gritty as if they really scraped the blackness bottom of the skillet after browning the meat.  Perhaps the chili on-site is much better, but their offerings in mass quantities need refined.  Sorry #86!

I look forward to more cook-offs this summer.  Wonder what is next … if you hear of any, let us know!

China Taste

China Taste on Urbanspoon

Tastebud A here and all I have to say is one word about this place….Yuck!
This past Saturday, TastebudB and I were hanging out and decided to order some food. We ordered from China Taste on the Northside.
I ordered General Tso Chicken with Fried Rice. The Chicken had nice flavor, but the sauce was sweet…General Tso is suppose to be Spicy! If I wanted a sweet chicken meal I would have ordered a Sweet and Sour Chicken or something with Duck Sauce. The Rice was probably the worst part about it. It was white rice that may have had a yellow dye which gave it this neon yellow glow. It wasn’t the best and I have had much better Chinese take out (I will try again soon and post)
I honestly can’t remember what Tastebud B had…I know he had a sort of Chicken Veg. meal, maybe he will post his thoughts but I know we were both unhappy. We will do Chinese take out again someday and hopefully it will be a better experience. Tastebud B has yet to go to Chan’s Tea House in Westview. It is amazing. We will go there soon and post so we can direct everyone to a good place for Chinese Food.

Whiskey Hollow Grill

Whiskey Hollow Grill on Urbanspoon

Last night, TasteBud A and I met a couple friends and crossed the river into the South Hills for a change of pace. The Whiskey Hollow Grill had been getting great reviews on Urbanspoon so we decided it would be our next adventure.

I ordered the Salmon Fingers for an appetizer and the Chicken Chimichanga for my entree. The server recommended a margarita as her specialty so I went with that as well. In the words of Rachel Ray “Yum-o!”

Salmon Fingers: Fresh shrimp or salmon strips in a sweetened coconut breading, served with a ginger soy dipping sauce and our homemade voodoo sauce.

The Salmon Fingers were served with two different sauces. It was basically a nicely breaded piece of salmon made like a fish stick. TasteBud A enjoyed the special voodoo sauce. I preferred the ginger soy dipping sauce. I think this was a well priced appetizer. Only $4.95 and the pieces were moderately sized.

Chicken Chimichanga: Tender chicken breast cooked with garlic, onions, cheddar cheese and seasoned with southwest spices, rolled in a crisped tortilla and topped with cheddar cheese, tomato salsa, sour cream and double pepper sauce, served over shredded lettuce.

Exactly as described, the entree arrived and I almost regretted getting an appetizer because I was sure I would never finish my plate. The presentation of the dish was very appetizing – sometimes with Mexican dishes that is a challenge. The chicken was cooked superbly! It was shredded and arrived moist and tender inside the perfectly cooked tortilla. I wish there would have been a slightly thicker bed of lettuce under it. The crisp, cool raw lettuce was a nice balance but the serving size wasn’t proportional to the size of the chimichanga.

Oh, I finished my plate myself – only sharing one bite of the entree with Tastebud A. TasteBud A on the otherhand barely put a dent in his Pittsburgh Salad with Crispy Chicken. He said his salad tasted good, but was probably a safer item on the menu to order. I mean, really, who can mess up adding chicken tenders to a salad – haha.

All in all. I’d recommend the place. The service was friendly and prompt, but we really were one of the few customers there. Let us know if you try Whiskey Hollow out! I think next time, I may have to order the Seafood Chimichanga or the Fresh Salmon Gyro Salad.

Tastebud A here. I know Tastebud B pretty much gave you our whole experience but I wanted to give my 10 cents 🙂 I sampled some of Salmon Fingers that Tastebud B ordered, they were really good! It was full of flavor and the voodoo sauce was nice and creamy.

For Dinner I ordered the Pittsburgher Salad. You had a choice of steak, grilled or breaded chicken. I went with the breaded chicken and picked Ranch as my dressing. The salad was BIG! …which was a good thing! Mixed greens, tomatos, onion, mushrooms, cucumber, cheese, french fries and chicken. The whole thing was piled high. The waitress was smart and brought 2 cups of dressings.

The whole thing was great but I couldn’t finish. It was just a lot of food! Next time I’m going to be more exciting in my menu option. I’ve been a bit boring so I’ll switch things up a bit.

Thanks for reading everyone and hopes this helps!

Holiday Traditions through food

Today is Easter.  Many people have traditions of attending a religious gathering and having a meal with family.  And I got to thinking … I wonder if there is a certain type of restaurant that would get extra business because the menu suggests Easter.  Buffets, perhaps?  I wonder if Old County Buffet is booming.  Brunches, even?.  Is Easter just accepted as one of those holidays that people have family meals and don’t patronize restaurants?  Racking my brain, I bet Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all fall into this category as well because they are more religious in nature.

Since I’m not visiting family for the holiday, I wanted to share a little anecdote I have to keep the holidays interesting and new.

If you’d like to enjoy celebrating the holidays a little differently and starting your own tradition, try to experience the holiday from another country.  If you can’t travel, there are often many nice restaurants of a foreign influence.  Sure this requires a little research, but gaining the new knowledge and mystery in unraveling it is part of the fun.

For example, at Christmas time, I had a large gathering of friends join me at Abay Restaurant (see my review on Urbanspoon).  Abay’s menu is of Ethiopian influence, so I was sure to have Doro wat and injera, a typical Christmas meal according to Santas.net

How am I celebrating my Easter, do you ask?  I don’t make a big to-do over Easter day.  The weather is beautiful, so I’ll do some gardening and eat light today.  I had better work off all those tasty calories from my wonderful breakfaster yesterday with TasteBud A.  I can almost still taste the Sugar Maple Pecan.  

So for now, I’ll look forward to my next holiday.  Cinco De Mayo!  Now, I just have to find a nice place that can experience what Cinco De Mayo is all about.

A Must Go!

Bistro To Go
415 E Ohio St – Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 231-0218 – www.bistro-togo.com
Bistro To Go on Urbanspoon

Hello! TasteBud A here! Saturday evening TasteBud B and I were walking around E. Ohio Street after stopping at Ritas Italian Ice. On our way around the block we came across Bistro To Go. The next morning (the day before Easter) we decided to stop in and give it a try before our venture to the Zoo.
We were greeted with a smile by the front end cashier and we informed her that we were first time visitors. They promptly showed us breakfast and lunch features. Tastebud B and I both decided on breakfast.
For our order we opted to keep it simple and inexpensive and we each went with a $5 breakfast combo. We also took advantage of a beautiful morning and decided to sit in the courtyard.

TasteBud A: Scrambled Eggs with Cheese, Wheat Toast, Sausage

TasteBud B: Sugar Pecan Maple French Toast, Sausage & Fresh Fruit

TasteBud A review:

I was looking for something simple and easy. I figured that most places can’t screw up what I ordered. The sausage was very good and had great flavor. They gave me a nice thick slice of wheat toast which came already buttered. The only thing that I would have done was asked if there was a cheese selection for my scrambled eggs. They sprinkled the eggs with a generic cheese that turned hard as it cold. Other than that it was good! Excellent coffee as well! Even though I enjoyed my breakfast, I believe that Tastebud B made a better choice!

TasteBud B review:
I feel like I had the better menu selection and seeing my food hit the plate proved my case. I received two hearty pieces of french toast with a sugar maple coating and pecans nestled on top. The flavor in this dish packed a real punch. The sweetness of the french toast was a nice balance against the tasteful breakfast sausage. Whereas the sugar maple syrup was heavy, the side of fresh fruit added to the plate with a refreshing, lighter mouthful.