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

Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar, the good, the bad and the ugly

Benjamin’s has been subject to the prophecy “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” Each time we go we have a different experience, which typically discourages us from going back. Alas, because we live so close, it’s always on the top of our minds. This results in repeat visits of ranging happiness.

Overall, I’ve been to Benjamin’s about ten times. The notes below represent experiences, but may also be contradictory.

The Good:

  • I love the decor and ambiance.  The fireplace adds a level of calm, casual and cozy to the room.  There is something about eating to “fire-light” that is almost romantic, but in a platonic sort of way.
  • Happy Hour prices are great.  Every drink is discounted during happy hour and all of the appetizers are as well.  I also enjoy that there is no fryer, so I can avoid the greasy unhealthiness that bar-food typically is.
  • The BLT is served with an egg.  a BELT? a BLET?  Regardless, the B(acon) L(ettuce) and T(omato) sandwich is amazing because the bacon is cooked just right and there is no lack of it either.  Dare I saw there is borderline 1/2 a pound on one sandwich?
  • A meeting room is available if you need to meet with a group for a post-work pow wow.  It’s very nice and private. but is available with pre-reservation only.

The Bad:

  • The service is only good if they are either not busy, or you are with a large crowd.  It’s almost as if you need to make it a point to get yourself noticed by the bartender/waitress (usually the same person).  Most times they could use an extra person working.  I don’t dislike the people working there, they just have too much distance to cover and they have a hard time providing equal levels of quality (or not) service.
  • Twisted sides.  Mind you that their menu is mainly burgers – the sides don’t seem to pair well with the burgers for me.  The coleslaw is curried, the broccoli is asian-fied with soy and wasabi, homefries don’t hit the spot when you want french fries and potato salad has blue cheese.  While I understand the lack of a full kitchen limits the menu, most burger eaters are more traditional with their palates.  Can I get a bag of local potato chips or even just carrots and celery?

The Ugly

  • The place has two rooms – the bar with the fireplace and a lounge with a few tables, a couch, TV and pool tables.  When the bar area fills up, the waitstaff has point blank indicated “we don’t serve in that other room.”  With other walkable options on the block, it’s unfortunate that they’d limit themselves to serving just one room and not strive to reach their full serving capacity/potential.  The rude attitude we got when we asked (and denied) to sit in the couch area and watch the penguins game caused us to flat-out leave.
First batch of pretzels was extremely salty.
The appetizer basket of pretzels was extremely salty.
Benjamins BLT
Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato … and Egg. It is amazing.
Rosemary-Balsamic Goat Cheese & Green Apple
The Rosemary-Balsamic Goat Cheese & Green Apple Burger always has too much goat cheese for me, but the apple is a great burger topping that I now use at home.

Benjamins Western Avenue Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Summer Melt at Brownstone in Toronto

Northside Sandwich Week – June 17-23

Northside will soon be celebrating their second “Northside Sandwich Week” and I’m excited to say that their Sampler event falls on a day when I am available to attend this year.  NSW is June 17-23, 2013 with their Sampler event on Thursday June 20.

Northside Sandwich Week

I look forward to seeing what components or flavor combinations restaurants will choose to highlight.  When it comes to the world of sandwiches, the sky is the limit.  Unless you are gluten-free.

Summer Melt at Brownstone in TorontoMy favorite summer sandwich to date has got to be the open faced chicken sandwich melt I had in Toronto topped with strawberries.  Can a northside restaurant top that? Challenge issued!

Close your eyes at Mullin’s Diner, you might enjoy the food

imageLet’s be real for a second. Pittsburgh is a blue-collar town with some pretty cultures that still honor the older times. For some reason, on an absolute whim, I decided to go to Mullin’s Diner one morning for a late breakfast. Luckily I was with two friends, if I were with TasteBudA, I’m sure he would have insisted we turn around before even sitting down.  Walking in, you feel like you are eating in a Pep Boys next to the guy changing your oil.  It isn’t overly clean or inviting, but after 3 steps into the door none of us felt like turning back now.

It seems like a place overrun with regulars.  As we walked in, it felt like all eyes were on us.  The waitress was surprised that we needed to look at a menu – literally 1 menu.  That’s all we got between the 3 of us.  After the shoddy service and atmosphere lowered the bar so low, it was a welcoming surprise that our food was pretty good.  Though I’d have been scared to look into the kitchen the prepared our food, the eggs, sausage and homefries that I ordered were hot and didn’t need seasoned. My friends equally enjoyed their cheesy eggs with toast and cheeseburger with fries.  Looking at the burger – sure it looks rough – but it was clearly hand-pressed and cooked to temp.  I’d probably return and get one of those to go.  Eating a nice burger on the grassy northshore might hit the spot one of these days.

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Mullin's Diner on Urbanspoon

Lola Bistro to host 20th Wine Exchange

The Pittsburgh TasteBuds are pleased to announce that Lola Bistro will be the host venue of the 20th Pittsburgh TasteBuds Wine Exchange.

Lola Bistro20 Questions Wine Exchange
hosted at Lola Bistro
Tuesday February 19, 2013 starting at 7:30pm
$30 Fixed Price Menu
Paid as $5 online RSVP and $25 on restaurant bill.
(price includes tax, gratuity and corkage)
Make your RSVP here and join our Facebook Event to spread the word!

AMUSE BOUCHE
this will be a surprise from the chef

APPETIZER
Seared Sea Scallop
Chervil salad with argon oil and black currant gastrique

ENTREE
(Choice of one:)

Braised Beef Short Rib
Herb polenta, rapini and tangerine jus

Chicken Pot Pie
with a house made pastry bowl

Moroccan Vegetable Stew
with Israeli cous cous

DESSERT
Available A la Carte

price includes tax, gratuity and corkage


Disclaimer: The Pittsburgh TasteBuds advise that all attendees are accountable for their own responsible drinking. Participation in the wine exchange is optional.

Lindos disappoints, food lacks seasoning and service

Steelers Omelet at Lindos
Though it is called a “Steelers Omelet” to be thematic, many will call it a western omelet – ham, sausage, onions, peppers and cheese.

When it comes to breakfast meals, I’d like to think the bar isn’t set too high. Typical breakfast fare includes eggs, pancakes, french toast, waffles, and is sometimes with sides of meat or vegetables. Though breakfast can be fairly monotonous and lacking variety, a restaurant that serves breakfast should concentrate on quality of execution using fresh ingredients. Lindos on Western Ave of the North side (near CCAC and Heinz Field) offers breakfast every day of the week, so we stopped by one morning to check out this cute little space.

Lindos Greek Omelet
Spinach, tomato, gyro meat and feta cheese.

Walking in, the restaurant feels like a stereotypical diner, right down to the vinyl booth seating.  We were quickly sat and offered coffee.  The waitress took our order and it went down hill from there.  The place wasn’t too busy, but there were a few college students taking advantage of the weekend breakfast buffet for only $6.99.

Peek inside Steeler Omelet
A peek inside the Steeler Omelet at Lindos

During the half an hour wait for our omelets to be served, the waitress which took our order was no where to be seen.  Another waitress serviced a nearby table, but ignored our request for coffee refills saying she’d let our waitress know.

Alas, when our omelets arrived they were bland lacking any sort of evidence of being seasoned.  TasteBudA even looked at me and said “Seriously, how often do you see me salt my food.”

Lindos on UrbanspoonWe took enough bites to feel like we’d be tied over until lunch, and then called it quits.  Though we were hoping to discover a viable breakfast location fairly close to home on the northside, we were disappointed with the service and food from Lindos.  Maybe omelets aren’t the way to go at Lindos, but judging from the subpar experience, we will likely not return to give it another shot.

PhotoBlog: James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy

Cajun Fried Oysters
Fried Oysters. Jumbo oysters, cajun spice breading, deep fried. Creamy horseradish dip.
Pipe Bombs
The - perhaps inappropriately named - "Pipe Bombs." Flank steak, jalapeños, pepper jack cheese in a crispy wonton wrapper. Creamy Guiness steak sauce
James Street Cobb Salad
James Street Cobb Salad. Grilled chicken, peppered bacon, egg, avocado, tomato, candied onion, crumbled gorgonzola, crispy pasta sheet.

James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy is a great space with many creative dishes and live music, trivia and beer tastings throughout the week. Check out their website at http://jamesstreetgastropub.com/ or read our previous review.

Speak Easy Album Cover

Speaking Easy, June wine exchange set for northside

Pittsburgh Pirates Professional Football Club 1933This June our 16th Wine Exchange Event will be held at the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy.   James Street is an awesome place located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s North side that will delight your taste buds with not only its food but with its drinks as well.   The owners of James Street have taken an old forgotten spot and turned it back into a hit with live entertainment downstairs in the speakeasy (where we will all be) to a main dinning and bar area that brings everyone in to watch our black and gold on TV to enjoying great food and drink with family and friends.

Pittsburgh Steelworker

We are highly excited for June 5th, 2012 when we all gather together in the Speakeasy to enjoy awesome food, wine, music and fellowship. We plan on taking everyone back in time to  1930’s Pittsburgh, when trolley cars filled the streets, steel mill smoke filled the sky and Art Rooney was creating what ended up being the most popular team in town…40 years later.

Pittsburgh Trolley CarSpeakeasy Microphone