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.

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. 

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.

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

giardiniera from Proper Brick Oven Tap Room

Proper Brick Oven Tap Room, great addition to cultural district

Proper Brick Oven Tap RoomDowntown Pittsburgh’s cultural district transformation is nothing short of impressive. While Butcher & The Rye and Grit & Grace are getting a lot of press lately, Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room has recently won me over as my new favorite spot downtown. Located on Seventh Street next to the Benedum Center, it’s impressive to walk in and see the brick oven right in front of you with seating should you want to watch the chef make each and every pizza by hand.

On my first visit to Proper, it was a quiet winter weekend afternoon with no large performances so as you would expect, the place was slow. TasteBudA and I sat at the main bar which boasts an impressive selection of rotating craft beers from breweries local and afar.  In fact, I learned there is a brewery I’d never heard of from Millvale!

Beer flights of four 4 o.z. pours are just $9 and a great way to taste a selection of new brews.  I ordered myself a flight to start and for my lunch ordered the Carnivore Pizza.

San Marzano tomatoes / house-made sweet and hot Italian sausage / spicy pepperoni / bacon / house-made mozzarella

Carnivore Pizza from Proper Brick Oven Tap Room
Carnivore Pizza from Proper Brick Oven Tap Room

The pizza was fantastic.  The crust was nice and soft but held the massive amount of meat toppings well.  I really enjoyed the mixture of sweet and hot sausage on the pizza.  Much to my luck, the pizza went well with the beers I selected on the flight too.  Next time, I may have to sit by the oven so I can see the artist – er, chef – at work crafting this pizza.   While I didn’t really want to share, I did find it in my heart to offer TasteBudA a slice, though he didn’t oblige.

TasteBudA got the Sausage & Pepper Puccia. While usually you envision Italian Sausage to be in link form, this sandwich was served butterflied and coated with melted provolone cheese. Flavor-wise the sandwich was on point.  TasteBudA’s only critical comment was that the sandwich may have sat and cooled off too much while my pizza finished cooking.

Sausage & Pepper
hot Italian sausage / roasted sweet and hot peppers / roasted garlic spread / provolone

 Sausage & Pepper Puccia from Proper Brick Oven Tap Room
Sausage and Pepper Puccia

I saved the best part for last.  By far, the most exciting part of my meal was the homemade side of giardiniera that I ordered with my pizza. The best way to describe the taste is to envision pickled vegetables drained of the salty, vinegary brine and tossed in an Italian dressing. The spicy pickled house vegetable mix was delicious and will surely keep me coming back for more. In fact, I stopped in on St. Patrick’s Day to have a flight of beers and a side of giardiniera.

Giardiniera from Proper Brick Oven Tap Room
Best Damn Part of the Meal: The Side of Giardiniera

Proper is a top-grade place that can certainly hold its own among other downtown powerhouse restaurants.  When you stop and think about it, it fits in nicely to compliment the offerings in the cultural district.  Fine-dining pizza isn’t something other cultural district restaurants hang their hat on, so I hope they take the opportunity to stand out for their pizza.  Personally, I look forward to going back for the pizza.  But if I’m being totally honest, I’d go back just for more giardiniera.

Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week at Butcher and the Rye

One of the hardest restaurants to get a reservation for for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week was Butcher and the Rye. From the creators of Meat and Potatoes, initial feedback on Butcher and the Rye involves a surprising menu. Considering the “Butcher” name, you would think it would be a steak-heavy menu, but in fact it is the vast array of meats that compliment the whiskey selection (the Rye). Beef, pork, duck, rabbit … if you can hunt it, I bet it will probably appear on the menu at some point.

So for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, a $35 tasting menu was the perfect way to get to know this new restaurant. Unlike some restaurants, it was great how Butcher & the Rye championed the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week celebration and hung a special banner near the entrance for all to see.

PRW Menu Wall Hanging

Because the items changed daily, new menus were printed each day with the tasting combination of the day.  On January 17, the courses were Salmon Crudo, Pumpkin Risotto, Skirt Steak and Carrot Cake.

Butcher and the Rye
Butcher and the Rye PRW Winter 2014 Menu, Friday January 17, 2014

Read More

Executive Express Lunch perfect for downtown business people

Some restaurants have what it takes to put out multiple courses in a lunch hour and some don’t. Habitat Restaurant in Downtown Pittsburgh has it. Their clever 4-courses-1-plate approach is genius for the downtown worker trying to get in, get lunch and go during the lunch hour.  They call it the “Executive Express” lunch which is regularly priced at $18, but for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Winter 2014 is discounted to just $14.

Executive Express Lunch at Habitat Restaurant
Executive Express Lunch at Habitat Restaurant on January 14, 2014.  Only $14 for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week.

Pictured above, the Executive Express Lunch items are a chef’s choice selection of a cup of soup, small salad, small sandwich and small dessert. In my opinion, you may not find better portion control anywhere else in the city.  Four courses at other restaurants take over an hour to eat and contain large portions.  At Habitat restaurant, I think it’s actually quite refreshing to have all four courses served at once.  Have a rough morning at the office? Gorge on the dessert course first.

Best of all, Habitat takes reservations on OpenTable so you know before you leave the office what time you’ll be seated so you can plan – and if necessary shift – your lunch hour accordingly.

Lunch at Meat & Potatoes for PghRestaurantWk

Autumn Salad
Autumn Salad from Meat and Potatoes during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week

Today on the third day of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, I had my third dining experience of the celebration at Meat & Potatoes for lunch. The special for the day was an Autumn Salad, Chili-crusted Grouper Tacos and Tiramasu.  The special at M&P changes each day, so it’d be difficult to send anyone back to have an identical dining experience.

Grouper Tacos
Grouper Tacos from Meat and Potatoes during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week
Tiramasu from Meat and Potatoes during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week

Autumn Salad. The salad was good, even though I ate around the blue cheese since I’m not crazy about that. The dressing was a blackberry vinaigrette, which came atop the salad. Though you can’t tell from the picture, the candied nuts had rolled to the bottom of the bowl and were a nice crunch after eating my greens. The beets were sliced thin, which frankly made them difficult to wrangle with a fork. Overall, a nice salad, but would probably opt for something else next time.

Chili-Crusted Grouper Tacos. The tacos themselves were grouper, pico de gallo with a light slaw. Very nice flavor profile and a light but filling entree. The fries came as a surprise, or I missed when the waitress read the menu to us. They were a nice compliment to the taco, though if I had to choose between fries and a third taco, i’d choose taco every time.

Tiramasu. Dessert was served in a cute little mason jar, common for desserts at M&P. However, this dessert was either frozen and let melt too long, or the cream never set. The dessert was soupy. Did it taste bud, oh heck no. It was delicious. But I think it lacked a little on execution. M&P is certainly a hot spot downtown and my lunch may not have been their finest hour, but it won’t stop me from going back. The place has a nice ambiance which any office worker would welcome as an escape midday.

Meat & Potatoes on UrbanspoonThree courses in the lunch hour is tough. (Habitat knows what they are doing with the Executive Express lunch which is four courses on one plate.) Since it was a lunch meeting, it didn’t break my heart that it ran over the hour.