Friday, January 18, 2013

More Than Just Dogs at Station Street

A visit today to Station Street Hot Dogs reveals terrific expansion of their menu--to very good effect. We remember the old Station Street Hot Dogs, which was an old-fashioned frankfurter joint and we were so pleased when chef Kevin Sousa of Salt and Union Pig and Chicken reopened the old place on Station Street with a redecoration that kept the old drive-in vibe and served up a delightful assortment of dogs, both traditional and wacky, all done just right. Terrific fries didn't hurt, either.

Well, today's visit was eye-opening. Although Mary Alice opted for the crowd-pleasing House Dog and fries I ventured further afield with the falafel sandwich, a special for the day. Although the falafel is enough for lunch I really couldn't resist the assortment of tacos that have been added to the menu--$5 each. Duck confit taco just called out to me and I caved.

The falafel sandwich, wrapped in a thin flatbread was just extraordinary. Falafels were mixed with cucumber, tomato, cheese, some greens and sauce into an extraordinary tasty mix. Mix is the key word as the ingredients were so nicely combined in the wrap that each bit was an explosion of varied flavors.

The duck confit taco was outstanding. Crispy bits of duck mixed with roasted brussels sprouts, apple slices, pickled onion and a few other things. Wow is all I can say.

Even if you've been to Station Street for the dogs, the new menu deserves a re-visit. Also available are ramen noodle dishes which will save for another trip.

Station Street on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lunch at the Waynesburger

A neat little spot for a meal while on the road. Last week we were on our way back from a Washington DC trip. We were headed for a place in Shippensburg for lunch when we happened upon Waynesboro, a pleasant Central Pennsylvania town on rt. 316, north of I70 and south of Carlyle. Upon entering town were were met with a sign promising the best gyros in the universe. Although our search for the ultimate shwarma continues we did find an enjoyable lunch stop at the Waynesburger. A note to folks from Western Pennsylvania. Despite the name (a play on a major food group) this place is not in Waynesburg but Waynesboro.

Anyway--although the sign touted gyros, burgers and shakes are a staple here as well. Shakes come in 51 flavors but I'm afraid we skipped  them for this outing. I did have a delicious cheeseburger. There is nothing gourmet going on here, just a flavorful, not too dense, hamburger patty inside a conventional bun with the toppings of your choice. A treat.

Mary Alice opted for the Greatest Gyro in the Universe. She got a well-made gyro with moist, flavorful meat and the usual extras. She allowed as how the tzatziki was not to her taste and I thought the addition of feta sprinkles was a little odd but on the whole a perfectly good gyro.

Lastly, we had onion rings. These were a member of the battered school of onion rings as opposed to the breaded. I won't take a position on that theological argument but these were very tasty. Hot, crispy, filled  with actual rings of onion, they were accompanied by a container of something resembling Russian dressing, provided as a dip. Not something I'd had before but I liked it.

A $15 tab covered the whole business including drinks. If I came by this way again I certainly stop by.

Waynesburger on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lunch at Emiliano's Mexican Restaurant

Finding ourselves up on Rt. 8 making a visit to the Harvest Valley food stand, we looked for a place for lunch and came across Emiliano's Mexican Restaurant in the Richland Mall.

Bottom line: a pleasant place for an OK Mexican meal if you happen to be in the area at lunch time. The Gibsonia location is one of three places that this local, family owned chain operates. I give them big pluses for decor with cheerful colors, interesting deco on the walls, mosaic tables, etc. Service was quick, friendly and altogether pleasant.

As usual you are started with chips and salsa. Totally ordinary chips and supermarket-grade salsa. Nothing to write home about.

The best thing we had for lunch was Mary Alice's choice of the chicken and rice soup (cup $2.49). A slightly spicy broth was loaded with crisp vegetables and nice-sized pieces of white meat chicken. Very tasty.

Her flauta plate ($6.99), one chicken and  one beef, came with the usual accompaniment and was totally adequate, neither more nor less.

I ordered Huevos Rancheros ($5.50) although it turned out that what I got (and paid for) was Huevos with Chorizo ($7.29). The huevos were scrambled with the chorizo which was in small pieces. I can only say that it tasted better than it looked, which I guess is better than the reverse. The scrambled egg and sausage mixture was so strange looking that at first I wondered where my eggs were. Beans and rice with it were fine. I don't know if the Huevos Rancheros comes with eggs sunny side up which is what I'm used to. When I still thought that's what I was served I mentioned to waitress that I was a little surprised at the scrambled eggs rather than sunny side up and she certainly didn't say, "Oh,  if you got huevos rancheros they would be sunny side up."

A perfectly pleasant meal for a reasonable price.

Emiliano's Mexican Restaurant & Bar (Gibsonia) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

E2 dinner with family and friends

Last night we had another spectacular and delicious meal at e2, the unique and funky eatery in Highland Park. Our daughter Alison and son-in-law Germaine joined us for a dinner with our friend Lela, visiting from California. Alison and Germaine practically live at this place so they had no trouble making choices from the menu but the rest of us struggled to make choices between so many attractive options.

Alison was pleased to note that with the onset of fall Arancini ($10) were back after a hiatus for the summer. These  are wonderful little balls of rice and mushrooms that are breaded and deep fried (how could that be bad?) and served in a slightly spicy red sauce with shaved cheese. An order consists of three nice sized balls and was perfect for our table of 5. Also ordered with appetizers: White Beans with Parsley. Served with a generous pile of grilled bread, this is a mild but flavorful way to start off the meal.

Incidentally, e2 has no liquor license so feel free to bring your own bottle. The $6 corkage is a good trade against adding $30 or $40 to your meal. We brought a bottle of Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc which was delicious.

On to the main courses:
When  I was here with the No Rules Eating Club it was the middle of ramp season and e2 had gone a little crazy (in a good way) with using those wild garlics in a variety of dishes. I had a pasta dish that included ramps, pancetta and other goodies in a cream sauce and it was spectacular. Well, no ramps this time but the Campenelle ($18) with corn, bacon, wild mushrooms and greens in a cream sauce was a delicious alternative. Campenelle, which means bell  in Italian, are an uncommon pasta consisting of a wide noodle which is rolled into a bell shape with frilled edges. The whole "mess" (as Kate Romane, the chef, would put it) was a rich melange of tastes that came together beautifully. Although I've said cream sauce it is much lighter than any sort of alfredo and there is no cheese present.

Grilled Prosciutto
Two other folks went  for the Meatballs in Red Sauce with Spaghetti ($13). The meatballs were dense and meaty with excellent flavor. Alison went for one of her favorites, an appetizer of Grilled Prosciutto ($9) stuffed with mozarella and basil. The prosciutto is rolled up with the cheese and basil inside and then grilled until crisp. Served with red sauce and shaved asiago, this is hearty fare and certainly worked as a main course for her.

Lela picked the Olive and Caper Tapenade along with the Beet and  Arugula Salad ($9). I can attest to the appeal of the Tapenade, served with more grilled bread. Rich and salty, we took the little bit left over home to enjoy today. The salad was large with a nice helping of beets and cheese and dressed with a honey vinaigrette.

No meal at e2 is complete without one or more of their fabulous, homemade desserts. In fact, if you're eating there on a crowded night you might want to get your dessert order in before ordering your dinner--just to make sure they don't run out.

Salted Caramel  Apple Crostata
We picked Salted Caramel Apple Crostata a la Mode ($6) along with  Chocolate Ganache Tart ($6). Both were great although my "I would order that again in a heartbeat" award goes to the Caramel Apple. Flaky pastry wrapped up the apple filling and the whole crostata was drizzled with caramel. Alongside were cooked apple slices and two scoops of vanilla ice cream, also drizzled with caramel. Wow, that was tasty. The Chocolate Ganache Tart was a dense dark chocolate cake served with whipped cream. Although it was terrific it was similar to other dense chocolate cakes I've had.

All in all, another unique and delicious meal filled with unexpected tastes. E2 is also good value for the money given the quailty of the food. A bill of something over $100 for five people is a deal in my book.

E2 is part of a wonderful revival of Bryant street in Highland Park--certainly as far as restaurants are concerned. Park Bruge is down the street and we noticed that Teppanyaki Kyoto has opened across the street. We'll  need to check that one out.

E2 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bridge Ten Brasserie

After celebrating the grand re-opening of the South Side Library Mary Alice and I sped down Carson Street to the Bridge Ten Brasserie. We knew it was on 10th St. but we lacked the courage of our convictions and turned back before reaching the location hard by the 10th Street Bridge. In fact, it's part of the Holiday Inn Express. The great blessing there is that there is free parking in the hotel lot ($5 valet at dinner). If you've never spend half the night looking for a parking space on Carson Street you have no idea what a blessing that is.

Seated in the bar area we found ourselves the only guests on a rainy Saturday. The bar is a nice looking, modern space with plenty of stainless steel and dark wood with windows that look out on the terrace that fronts 10th St.

Greeted by the maitre d', a genuine Frenchman, we were seated and quickly began our lunch with the rillettes  de canard appetizer. This brought on a rectangular crock filled with preserved duck meat and topped with a rich layer of duck fat. The dish was accompanied by slices of grilled house-made bread which was given a bit of butter or oil and topped with a sprinkle of perhaps parsley. Whatever it was the grilled bread was delicious and a perfect foil for the rich preserved duck and duck fat.

For our main dishes I chose the Salade Auvergnate. This has always been one of my favorite lunch time dishes in France although you don't see it much here. The Bridge Ten version is somewhat different from what I'm used to with bleu d'Auvergne cheese rather than Cantal but the combo of greens, cheese and ham is still a delicious one.

Mary Alice had one of her favorites, a Croque Monsieur. Prepared on excellent bread, also made in house, the ham was topped with beautifully melted cheese and accompanied by a salad of greens and tomatoes. There is about twice as much sandwich as is needed--two could easily share this for lunch. Even more, its accompanied by a full plate of frite. The frite had an excellent potato taste but weren't as crispy as they might have been. I'd say: cut them thinner and blanche before frying.

We ended up with the clafoutis, a traditional French dessert from Limousin and normally made with cherries. Their version used blueberries (excellent at this time of year) and they studded a thick, pudding-like cake that made a sweet end  to our lunch. Two cakes were perfect for the two of us to share.

There is a nice but small assortment of wines and I enjoyed two glasses of a very nice Bordeaux, Cote de Bourg.

During the course of lunch we had a chance to meet the owner, Dave DeSimone, who many will remember from his writing about wine for the Tribune Review. He's making a real effort to bring authentic French food to Pittsburgh and plans a number of events plus various regional menus in coming months.

We enjoyed our lunch and look forward to trying other items on a return visit for dinner with the No Rules Eating Club.

Bridge Ten Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 3, 2012

Meat and Potatoes

Meat & Potatoes on Urbanspoon

No, that's not the subject of the post, it's the name of the restaurant. Well, I guess its also the subject of the post. So confusing.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Meat and Potatoes. If you remember Tony Pais's Cafe Zao in the Public Theater's O'Reilly Theater building then you should forget it because it's closed and it's now occupied by Meat and Potatoes. 649 Penn Avenue is the address. Here's the website: Meat and Potatoes.

We went there on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012

A note about the pictures: There aren't any. That's because we're sort of new at this and haven't figured out the whole pictures of food with the blog thing. We're working on that and we're going to do better next time, promise.

What did we think?

Its an attractive space, done in dark wood. A bit crowded and really, really noisy.

Let me stop right here. You should know that the No Rules Eating Club has a thing about noisy restaurants. Maybe we're crazy but we like the idea that you can have a conversation at dinner and the people you are speaking to can actually hear you. Sadly, too many restaurants don't get it. Most of the blame rests on modern concepts in restaurant design which emphasize clean, modern spaces with clean modern furniture. Unfortunately, that means an acoutically live space with nothing to absorb noise.

Meat and Potatoes bills itself as a Gastropub and they do have a large list of beers as well as a reasonable wine list. Margo and I both tried the Farmhouse Ale which was a Belgian style beer served in a cute little  snifter. Tasty but not particularly memorable.

But on to the food. As is our practice we started with a set of appetizer things that we shared.

Short Rib Flatbread was the hands-down favorite. A tasty, crusty crust topped with meltingly delicious short rib meat, gorgonzola and cheddar and topped with arugula. We could have eaten this all night. Of particular note: the crispy flatbread stayed crisp, did not become soggy from toppings.

Bone marrow--comes right there in the bone, split open. You get a spoon, a knife, 6 slices of grilled toast and condiments: salt, capers, pickled onions, gremolata. Outstanding, if you like marrow.

Liver Pate, was really more a rillete or meat paste. If you are thinking rectangular pate cut into slices, this is not for you. Duck liver and not much else judging from the taste served in a little pot with grilled bread. Not a favorite of the table.

Kobe Corn Dog was a fun item. Served on a stick it's a delicious hot dog covered in a fried corn meal wrapping. Tasty. Served with a homemade spicy ketchup that was a big hit.

For main courses Margo and Richard split the Pig Ear Salad and the Mussels in Curry. Pig Ear Salad was just great. Greens along with pickled radish and red onions in a mustard vinaigrette topped with a fried egg plus "croutons" made of friend pig skins. I'm a complete sucker for salads with fried egg and the way the yolk mixes with the dressing and the greens to create this unctuous combo. Egg in this case, however, slightly too cooked with a yolk  not as runny as I would have liked. Pig Ear croutons, however, the total bomb. Salad a major success.

Mussels were truly fine. A nice big plate, plenty for two people, of perfectly cooked mussels, sweet and tender. So easy to overcook mussels but these were delicious. Curry sauce was rich and a bit spicy--enough so that you noticed but not enough to make eating it unpleasant. Jim had the mussels as well.

Mary Alice and Gary both had the Pappardelle. Wide  noodles in a rich bolognese sauce that featured short rib, pancetta and pork shoulder. A big hit.

Barbara had the Wild  Mushroom Risotto. Just OK.

There were a variety of great sounding desserts but we passed, too full.

Service was very pleasant with a nice waitress who knew her stuff. Food showed up as expected and we were  neither rushed nor left waiting excessive periods of time. Aside from the noise level a really pleasant experience with some terrific food highlights.

Would we go back? Perhaps on a different night if it were less crowded and quieter. Lunch might be a better choice for this place. They have brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

Located at 649 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15222. Website:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

And so we begin

Welcome to the No Rules Eating Club. What is the first rule of the Club? Naturally, that there are no rules.

So, who are we? We are 6 Pittsburgh eaters who get together pretty much every month, usually on a Saturday night to find some neat new (or old) restaurant in Pittsburgh. Our objectives? Have a great time, eat some great food, discover new tastes.

Who else we are:
Mary Alice, a life-long Pittsburgher, born on the South Side, 16 years of Catholic education, worked at Pittsburgh Public Schools, various non-profits and then 22 years as co-owner of the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont--recently sold to a new owner. Loves just about all food except sushi. Particularly mad about liver.

Richard, partner of Mary Alice, worked in a variety of boring jobs until he and Mary Alice opened the bookstore. Loves just about all food except liver. Not partial to chicken but crazy about duck, rabbit and all forms of pork.

Margo, still works at the bookstore, originally from New York, loves just about all food. Not partial to red wine.

Barbara, mostly retired although still freelance writing, loves hiking, travelling and eating--not necessarily in that order. Loves just about all food and wine. Partial  to vegetables and fish.

Jim, still working as a sex therapist, loves all  food, particularly partial to red meat. Not a drinker.

Gary, partner of Jim, works in public health, loves all food, partial to meat. Not a drinker.

Well, there we are. Hope you'll enjoy our ramblings and tastings. See the next post for our most recent meal.