Bar Louie opens North Shore location, free appetizers

After doing the Race to Anyplace at Heinz Field on Saturday, my team of faithful spinners decided to refuel nearby at the freshly opened Bar Louie next to Burgatory in North Shore Place developments. 

After six hours on a spin bike, we appreciated that we could walk right in and sit on a chair more comfortable than the bike seat. A round of beer in, the bartender informs us of a special free appetizer. Simply check in on Facebook and show your server and get a free appetizer. I’m sure this is for a limited time, so visit soon to get that offer.

  
I got the Chicken Nachos thinking they would be a good small recovery size, but boy was I wrong. This could have fed the entire team. I was happy with them. Very happy in fact, while I quenched my dehydrated body with an ice cold beer. 

I was happy I couldn’t finish the plate, especially when I went to log the nachos into MyFitnessPal. 1,532 calories. Ouch!

Good news for the upcoming baseball season that the nachos are a SHAREABLE appetizer that pleased my palate. Hopefully Pirates fans enjoy the the offseason additions of Bar Louie, Burgatory and soon North Park Lounge to their pre- and post-game hangout options.

Frickle, Bill's Bar and Burger

What is a Frickle?

A frickle is a breaded, fried pickle or pepper served at Bill’s Bar and Burger. It appears as an appetizer on the menu and is sized and served for general table sharing.

The peppers aren’t too spicy, so you shouldn’t have to worry about which you pick up.

Frickle, Bill's Bar and Burger

As for Bill’s Bar and Burger, the server was pleasant but messed up our order. The turkey burger was well cooked and delicious with the siracha slaw. The bar looks like it would be a nice happy hour spot, an upgrade from the location’s predecessor.

I was there for lunch and they were able to easily have us in and out in an hour. With some focus on service, the place shows some promise. Alas, downtown may be the last Pittsburgh neighborhood without a BRGR or Burgatory.

Foie Gras from Twisted Frenchman

Our Twisted Date Night for Restaurant Week

With adventure in his heart and a grumble in his stomach, one night TasteBudA decided that Wednesday would be the best opportunity for a date night during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Winter 2016 edition. His top choice after browsing the menus was The Twisted Frenchman, and so he made the reservation.

The Twisted Frenchman is located in the space formerly of Abay, a past favorite of ours. The interior was chic and the clientele dressed up. TasteBudA made mention that the neighborhood feels plucked from DC and not the East Liberty he grew up with.

My cocktail, the Vogue, was a vodka, white cranberry and lime martini/Cosmo with an orchid ice ball floating.

the Vogue, was a vodka, white cranberry and lime martini/Cosmo

Across the table, The Frenchman cocktail was served with billowing clouds flowing down the martini glass. Apologies for not capturing the magical display.

TasteBudA was very pleased with the Potato and Leek Soup, course one from the PRW special.

Potato and Leek Soup

I had the most delectable piece of foie gras that I’ve ever tasted. Both dishes were plated wonderfully and explained in detail upon delivery.

Foie Gras from Twisted Frenchman

For our main courses, TasteBudA had the duck while I had Salmon.

Rohan Duck, parsnip, sweet potato, grapefruit, foie emulsion

The pomme purée stole the show for me. The applewood smoked purée paired with the braised leeks were a match made in heaven. The salmon was, in my opinion, a little undercooked to my standard liking. But since salmon is a safe thing to eat raw, I ate it as the chef intended.

Salmon, béarnaise, braised leeks, potato nest

TasteBudA wishes we had saved this destination for a Valentine’s Day affair as it was quite romantic. Alas, I get to pick the restaurant for that occasion. The $90 8-course chefs tasting menu from Twisted Frenchman sounds great, but I have set my sights on somewhere else already. More to come on that later!

A Fine Plates Dinner at Nine on Nine

For a midweek, light dinner before a Pittsburgh CLO show of Wedding Singer, Nine on Nine fit the bill wonderfully.  

It’s not always necessary to have a big dinner, so while trying to stay light ordering 3 “Fine Plates” as our meal was an affordable pre-show dinner.

    
The Salmon Pizza ($10) is a four piece dish of salmon, roasted tomato, cilantro, fresh jalapeño slice and red onion drizzled with wasabi aioli. It’s almost like a topped nacho in composition. The jalapeño adds a zip to each bite. 

The Swordfish Carpaccio ($13) has the most delicious pickled mushrooms EVER! It’s entirely possible that these mushrooms could be their own dish. 

    
The largest mussels that we have ever eaten are featured in Zuppa di Mussels ($14). The unique preparation incorporates a sauce of tomato, olives, capers, artichoke and pastini. Usually I would describe mussels as cooked in a bath of wine and broth, but these are very different. Great actually. Imagine pasta and mussels in one dish where all you want is bread to sop up the goodness.

All in all. Dinner for two, including wine, for under $60 before tip is an affordable, refined meal before a show in Pittsburgh’s cultural district. 

Lupi and Leo’s, lunchtime buzz of Route 30 in Greensburg

Visiting Lupi and Leo’s in Greensburg was like a throwback to a visit at Stoke’s Grill on McKnight Road before they made the unfortunate decision to add a bar.

Lunchtime at Lupi and Leo’s probably gets a good response as this sandwich and soup spot thrives as a non-chain option along the overly corporate Route 30. For my first visit, I decided to divide in and get both a cup of soup and a sandwich.
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The soup was a thick and creamy White Chicken Chili. While tasty, it was quite heavy and I immediately started to regret getting a full sized sandwich. It would have paired nicely with a salad because fresh veggies would have been a refreshing contrast. L&L promotes that the soup recipe is super secret, definitely a homemade favorite.

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After a gut-busting soup, my sandwich arrived with CURLY FRIES! The roasted turkey sandwich was deliciously grilled to give the sandwich a nice grilled cheese crispness. The roasted turkey and cole slaw were a match made in heaven and could be served as their own side dish.

Hands down, when you visit, try the sunflower oat bread! It’s available on The Rachel, Chicken Salad Sandwich, Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich and sometimes on the Grilled Cheese of the Day.

The biggest unanswered question … Why is the logo a pair of shoes?
Maybe that answer can be solved on the next visit.

BYOB Scouting at San Lorenzo in Lawrenceville

TasteBudA and I dined with a couple of friends in Lawrenceville at a new restaurant, San Lorenzo Ristorante. Excited at the prospect of a new BYOB restaurant, I decided to go off-diet and understand what this restaurant is really made of.

The restaurant is bigger than it appears from the outside, probably seating 40 comfortably. We were greeted promptly and sat at a quiet table. Our waitress immediately asked if we wanted our wine bottles opened. Of course, we did.

Browsing the menu, we opted for a trio of appetizers to share at the table before setting sights on the entrees. Calamari, meatballs and greens-and-beans.

The Calamari rings were cooked with a mixture of olives and capers in a tomato-wine broth. The broth was good, but unfortunately very salty. The meatballs were the size of tennis balls so the appetizer portion of two pieces was fine to cut and split at the table. On the contrary of the calamari, the meatballs were lacking something. They were good, but lacked the seasoning or flavor you would want to be wowed. The greens and beans were okay. Unfortunately Matteo’s set the bar very high with that dish and while San Lorenzo prepared a good dish, I wanted the slightly spicier portion from Matteo’s.

Our entrees, pictured throughout, arrived piping hot and we descended upon them and conversation let up.

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Tavern Food Refined – Discovering “Fine Tavern Dining” in Mount Washington at Bigham Tavern

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week started strong at Bigham Tavern as we met friends for dinner on Monday night. The three-course offering was available for $20.14, which was quite the steal. Go!  It will surpass your expectations with some of the finest quality food that I’ve ever had at a “tavern.”


Appetizer: BLT heirloom caprese
A lightly fried green tomato, topped with layers of locally grown heirloom assorted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spinach and fresh basil, bacon, blue cheese crumbles, and topped with a honey balsamic reduction drizzle
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So, I got the appetizer without the bleu cheese – it just isn’t my thing.  The friend green tomato was hot and from the assembly of the dish, I knew I was in for a fine meal.  The dish was remarkable. The salty bacon complemented the balsalmic drizzle and fresh ingredients below.  The slightly crunchy fried green tomato topped the dish well.   To be honest, I would have eaten this on a hamburger bun as my meal.  But it’s restaurant week, so you splurge.


Main Course: Bayou burger
Aged sirloin burger, stuffed with pepperjack and jalapeños, topped with fried pickles, crispy onion straws, siriracha mayo, side of house made chips
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The burger was the highest quality burger I’ve ever had.  The burger was stuffed, as the menu listing indicated and cooked to absolute perfection. A steak knife was used to hold the masterpiece together.  It was a little tough to get your entire mouth around the burger, so as you can see, the fried pickles came on the side. The burger was spicy, but not over the top. While I didn’t measure it, I bet the burger was a 1/3lb of meat. It held together remarkably well.  The bun was soft and slightly toasted, I believe.  The chips that came on the side were also delicious, but I left many of those on my plate and set forth to conquer this burger.

Frankly, the burger was too good not to finish!  After the burger, it was time for a break. We sipped our beverages and enjoyed conversation, asking the waitress to hold off on delivering the desserts for about 20 minutes.


Dessert: The Bigham signature sundae
CARAMEL SEA SALT GELATO TOPPED WITH CRISPY BACON AND BUFFALO SEASONING
Seriously, you didn’t expect it to not have bacon on it, did you? You need to try this to believe it.
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Ok, ok. This is where things got a little rough. The caramel sea salt gelato was great. It was creamy and a perfect mixture of salty and sweet. My first bite was heaven. However, I caught the buffalo seasoning on my second bite – that wasn’t so heavenly. The entire table agreed, that we were on board with the gelato and even the smoky, salty bacon bits on top, but the buffalo seasoning was quite strong. We assume the seasoning they used was from one of the multitude of offerings on wing night (Wednesdays). Less seasoning may have been okay, but no seasoning would have probably been preferred. None of us finished the dessert – though we weren’t that hungry by that point anyway.

I commend the chef for thinking outside the box and taking a risk. I would absolutely get it again without the buffalo seasoning. I suggest if you go there for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, that you do the same.

Trying the Kentuckyaki (drunken teriyaki) marinade at Open Bottle Bistro

Friday night date-night brought us to the new Open Bottle Bistro in Shadyside on Ellsworth for our first visit.  We made reservations on OpenTable, but probably could have just walked right in.  We were able to sit on the cute patio off the back of the restaurants where we enjoyed a nice dinner.

Our waitress was great and very patient with us.  Though she listed off 5-6 special features of the evening, I decided to order from the menu.  Most of the specials seemed priced much higher than menu items, which also deterred me from ordering them.  Though it was nice to hear the price with each feature as it was read, because not all servers do that.

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To begin our meal, we shared a Medley of Spreads served with cucumbers and tomatoes.  Since the table service also included a refillable bread basket that we also took liberty to refill once. The medley was a white bean pâté , fava bean pâté & hummus – all good.  TasteBudA and I each favored different spreads, so it comes down to a matter of texture and preference.  I thought the portion of spread you received was great for only $9.

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I also ordered one of the Soups of the Day – a gazpacho with some saffron and fresh veggies.  It was lightly seasoned and of course served cold.  After having more bread than I should have I didn’t finish my soup.  It was missing just a little something, but I couldn’t really put my finger on it.

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I was torn between ordering the Filet Mignon Kabobs or the Steak Tartar of Prime Filet Mignon.  I went with the Filet Mignon Kabobs at the waitress’ suggestion.  They come marinated in a Kentuckyaki-sauce, a bourbon infused teriyaki. The kabob was in fact very delicious, though the teryaki didn’t have as strong a bourbon flavor as I was hoping to make it super special.  The meat was cooked as ordered and was plentiful on the skewers.

I decided to substitute the saffron rice for asparagus.  If you look at the photo above, you may miss the asparagus, because the substitution only got me 4 stems.  For a $20 entree, I was marginally underwhelmed. Perhaps my substitution was ill-advised.

Our service, however, was stellar.  Taylor, our waitress was attentive and very pleasant.  You could tell that she liked her job and was very knowledgeable about items coming from the kitchen.  I would go back, sit in Taylor’s section and certainly give Open Bottle another visit.  This visit would probably only get a 3.5/5 for me with most of the credit going to the service and the medley of spreads.  Next time, someone else gets to order for me.
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