Sushi from Original Fish Market

Downtown Pittsburgh Sushi from the Original Fish Market

Sushi from the Original Fish Market
Sushi from the Original Fish Market

When I’m craving sushi before a Pittsburgh Penguins game or a show in the Cultural District, I typically get discouraged and table my sushi cravings for another night, because when I think of sushi it usually means going to a Japanese or Chinese restaurant – neither of which are prevalent in downtown Pittsburgh.  Thus my mind passes over The Original Fish Market and Penn Avenue Fish Company – both which would also have access to fresh, high-quality fish on a daily basis.

Updated Post or Revisit:
May 7, 2012 – Hook, Line and Sinker – The Original Fish Market making a comeback

So before going to a recent Penguin’s playoff game, TasteBudA and I ventured into OFM and had sushi and beverages to gear up for the game.  Heck – if you are going to watch penguins, why not eat like one! On the heels of going to Sushi Tomo, we had a fresh sushi mindset.  Looking at the picture – you can see we ordered the OFM Roll with spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber(top left), Alaskan Roll with salmon, crab, ikura, tobiko (top right) and the Rainbow Roll with crab, avocado, and 5 types of fish.  The OFM Roll at only $8 per roll was the highlight of the spread.  The tuna was spicy, so I caution anyone sensitive to spice.  The Alaskan Roll was good, but the texture of the roe wasn’t something I particularly liked.  The Rainbow Roll was good, but not as good as the rainbow roll from Sushi Tomo.

Our service was great and there was even an interesting table to people-watch.  I recommend sitting in the area off the bar-section and not in the main dining room, because it is more bright and inviting.  We had a nice time, and it wasn’t busy.  If I were in the area and in the mood for seafood, I would go back, but since Sushi Tomo is closer to home – it will likely be more of a go-to place for us.

Mark your calendars: Pittsburgh Best Restaurant Party 2014 on Monday June 2

Want to attend one of the premier events in the Pittsburgh Restaurant industry for half off? Now you can get in for half off!  Get a ticket for only $75 – that’s 50% off!  – available for a limited time through Groupon.

Pittsburgh Magazine hosts a “Pittsburgh Best Restaurant” Party on the first Monday in June each year to honor the 50 top restaurants as voted by Pittsburgh readers.

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BRGR inside PNC Park behind Section 115

BRGR opens location at PNC Park

BRGR at PNC Park
BRGR at PNC Park behind Home Plate on the Main Concourse

Just like the people going to Consol Energy Center and enjoying Burgatory, burger-rivals BRGR have opened up a stand inside PNC Park in a prime location behind homeplate section 115. Pricing is elevated from regular BRGR prices as you might expect, but now you can get a locally crafted burger or milkshake while cheering on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I think it is great that Burgatory, BRGR, Nakama, Primanti’s and other local restaurants are gaining exposure through Pittsburgh sporting venues. I just hope that guests realize that going to the restaurant is a much different experience.

BRGR on Urbanspoon

Stoke's Grill Beer List

Stoke’s Grill adds bar, no longer BYOB

Stokes Grill Beer List
Stoke’s Grill Beer & Wine List

It is with a heavy heart that I report Stoke’s Grill has expanded to add a bar and liquor license to their business. Diners who attempt to bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) will likely not be allowed to open it. Pictured above is a beer list from a recent visit. As you can see, those who enjoyed pairing wine with their Stoke’s plates will be disappointed at the lack of wine selection. The house wines (Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay) are not at the caliber many people opt for when selecting their own bottles.  For beer drinkers, their beer selection is reasonable.

Stoke’s Grill had formerly been known as one of our best kept secrets.  While the food menu has not yet changed, the overall experience will never be the same.  Stoke’s had been on a list of wine exchange venue possibilities for their consistent quality, however the time has come to take them off the list.

Riley's Pour House

Riley’s Pour House hosts first Irish Wine Exchange dinner

Riley’s Pour House is a secret place nestled along the Main Street of Carnegie. While the location has dawned many names over the years, the Riley’s invited in the TasteBuds to host the 26th Wine Exchange Dinner. The event was the first-ever dinner featuring traditional Irish-cuisine.

Private Party at Rileys Pour House
TasteBuds host first Irish wine exchange dinner at Rileys Pour House in Carnegie

Chef Lloyd developed a special menu for the Pittsburgh TasteBuds dinner crowd to feature the best of his Irish dishes.  Sharable appetizers included BLUE BAY MUSSELS and CHERRY STONE CLAMS with redskin potatoes, garlic and cream. Served with a garlic cristini and BAKED KERRY CHEDDAE HOUSE MADE COLCANNON topped with butter and fresh parsley, served with sweet soda bread.  Immediately, as you might expect, guests commented on the presence of potatoes in both dishes – a staple ingredient in Irish cuisine.  Many of the guests had never had Colcannon before.  To my knowledge, Riley’s is the only place in the Pittsburgh area that serves Colcannon.  Everyone was very surprised how well the potatoes and cabbage blended together into a unified flavor.  The mussels and clams served in a cream sauce offset the heavier-appetizer nicely.

For a second course, each guest was able to choose between a shanty salad or coleslaw.  Both are offered on the regular Riley’s menu.  There was additional surprise among the crowd when a slice of potato appeared in the shanty salad.

Pictured below are the delicious entrees that were prepared.  Each dish came out looking picture perfect.  First, the ½ SLOW ROASTED CHICKEN that was served with roasted red skin potatoes, and sweet soda bread.  This was indeed HALF of an ENTIRE fresh chicken.  Every guests who ordered the chicken asked for a to-go box to take the chicken with them to savor later.

½ SLOW ROASTED FRESH CHICKEN

The BAKED SALMON FILET was served with steamed cabbage, carrots, and redskin potatoes. Some saw the dish as the “healthy” option, but were not disappointed by lack of flavor.  It was interesting to see the large cabbage wedge appear on each plate.  Steaming the cabbage is definitely an at-home preparation that I look forward to trying myself.

Baked Salmon Filet from Rileys Pour House
Baked Salmon Filet

The EPICURIAN SHEPHERD’S PIE was traditionally prepared with ground lamb and ground Kobe beef, onions, celery, peas, carrots in a rich brown gravy. The mixture was topped with house-made colcannon.  The dish was very savory and delicious.  It was clear that Chef Lloyd took additional care in preparing each individually portioned dish.

Epicurian Shepherds Pie
EPICURIAN SHEPHERDS PIE

Unlike most wine exchange dinners, dessert was included as an added bonus for each guest.  A selection of desserts finished each guest’s meal on a sweet note.  The crowd was excited when Chef Lloyd emerged from the kitchen so praise could be given for his stellar performance.

In my opinion, Chef Lloyd has become a small celebrity in Carnegie.  His name is placed atop the brunch menu available at Riley’s Pour House during limited hours on Saturday mornings from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  I, for one, look forward to trying his signature pancakes. Riley’s is not just a local watering hole, but a restaurant that can produce great food at the hands of Chef Lloyd.
Riley's Pour House on Urbanspoon

Does Sushi Tomo have the best Sushi in Pittsburgh?

For years, our friend Sarah has told us that the Best Sushi in Pittsburgh is on McKnight Road at Sushi Tomo. Despite that we live just minutes away and drive by all the time, we had never been until recently. It’s possible that we overlook Sushi Tomo because of its location – it’s on the side of McKnight Road that no one pays attention to – and drab exterior. Rest assure, the interior is not as drab.

We were promptly greeted and sat. Our waitress has a great understanding of the menu and was very upbeat. In my experience, upbeat waitstaff mean one of two things (A) they are putting on a face to get a great tip and it’s all just an act or (B) they thoroughly love what they do. For our server, it was certainly the latter.  She made us excited to try things and frankly did a good job with her upsell to the featured roll of the night.

For an appetizer, I ordered the lightest option on the menu. Spring rolls weren’t an option so I opted for the Gyoza, a pan fried pork dumpling. While prepared differently, they were certainly preferential to the steamed vegetable ones we had at Lin’s Asian Fusion. TasteBudA and I split the order and awaited our sushi, which was delivered in no time.

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Our sushi arrived on two plates. The first a special rainbow roll that was being featured for the evening.  The fish was fresh and had all of our favorites on it – tuna, whitefish, salmon and yellowtail.  With 8 pieces, TasteBudA and I each got 4 pieces and shared each of the fishes equally.

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Our second plate was a modified “Rock & Roll maki combo”.  Since the Rock & Roll had eel which neither of us are fond of, the waitress allowed us to substitute the Allegheny Roll for just an extra $1.  Of course, I didn’t explain the components to TasteBudA, who has only recently taken a liking to sushi.  Luckily the caviar didn’t both him and he enjoyed the roll.  It was a little saucy for my liking, but had good flavor.  Also in the platter were two other rolls – a spicy California roll (Crab meat, cucumber, avocado, & caviar) and a Village roll (Yellowtail, avocado, & caviar).  Both of the accompanying rolls were good, standard items.  In the end, the maki combo proved too large for us to finish. Perhaps I need to start ordering more conservatively and progressively add-on items over the course of the meal.

Tomo-Sushi

When all was said and done, we were very happy with our experience.  We left our great waitress a generous gratuity and headed out to meet friends for drinks.

Was it the BEST SUSHI IN PITTSBURGH? It was the best we have had in Pittsburgh – but that isn’t with much of a sample set. Look for us to have more adventures with sushi before we start tossing around the “Best Sushi in Pittsburgh” title.
Sushi Tomo on Urbanspoon

Benjamin’s Burger Bar on Northside showing improvements in 2014

Fried Egg, Bacon, Potatoes, Hot Sauce Mayo Burger from Benjamins Burger Bar
Fried Egg, Bacon, Potatoes, Hot Sauce Mayo Burger from Benjamin’s Burger Bar

Following a very inconsistent showing in 2013, Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar is improving and things could be looking up for them as they enter into a warmer dining season.  Recently I had a lunch meeting at Benjamin’s and was pleasantly surprised with my experience.  I felt very welcomed upon arrival and the server was attentive to my beverage.  Based on this, I’m very optimistic that they have addressed some service issues I’ve had.

Plus. I got a burger that I had either overlooked or was new – the Burger dressed with Fried Egg, Bacon, Potatoes, Hot Sauce Mayo.  I was immediately perplexed at the thought of how to get potatoes ON my burger.  However, I had overthought the situation.  The burger arrived with the potatoes under the burger which held them in place better.  The egg was cooked beautifully though made for a slightly messy burger eating experience once you popped the yolk.  The mess was totally worth it though.  Hands down, this is now my favorite burger at Benjamin’s!  Don’t be scared of the mayo, it’s spicy but nothing for spice-a-phones to worry about.

Looking ahead to summer, I will be keeping Benjamin’s in mind for weekend brunch.  I would expect their outdoor seating that will surely bode well for them attracting pre- and post-game Pirates fans.  Especially considering parking on the nearby streets is free after 6:00 p.m.

Good Luck Benjamin’s!  You haven’t won me over fully, but you’re making good progress. Now, just to await a side dish I can hang my hat on.  I still can’t get on board with bleu cheese crumbles in my potato salad.

Benjamins Western Avenue Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Top 5 Downtown Pittsburgh Restaurants for Picky Eaters

When you dine out with your family or with a group, it can be quite challenging to find a restaurant that will please everyone – especially if there is a picky eater among the group. Picky eaters are most often kids, but every so often adults will have some reservations with dining outside of their comfort zone.

Top 5 Downtown Pittsburgh Restaurant sfor Picky Eaters

I, for one, know a couple picky eaters (adults) who will have a grilled cheese or chicken tenders at home before going out to dinner because they anticipate not finding anything on the menu suitable to them.  It’s my opinion that its 2014 and adults should man-up and start trying new foods, especially since Pittsburgh has great things to offer.  Regardless, for foodies who want to socialize over dinner and invite the picky people along, consider these five downtown Pittsburgh restaurants hand-picked with accommodating items.

Browse this Top 5 List