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Buying coffee beans in the burgh

Just for reference, what are we talking in $/lb when we say moderately priced? I would say moderate @ $8-10/lb, mid-high@$10-14/lb, high @$14+ -- does this sound about right, or am I way off the mark here?

My sample size is a little small, but I typically find the Commonplace beans/roasts too acidic for regular drinking (esp their espressos) unless it's a latte/cap/etc. -- the espressos are delicious in their own way I suppose, but a little outside my preference/tastes. To be honest, haven't had any pour-over/press/drip made with their beans. Not trying to be a hater -- in fact, super glad to now have a Commonplace shop within walking distance of home -- but just wondering if anyone else finds the more acidic beans/roasts all that great outside of the dairy-based drinks. Perhaps I should pick up some beans soon and give them a try.

Once we start talking Intelligentsia/Stumptown/etc., I would agree that we're in a whole different ballpark, but I really like supporting the smallerl local guys whenever I can, esp when the QPR supports it.

Thanks Panini Guy, lots of great information about what's available around the burgh. Didn't even know about 19 Coffee, which maybe shows how out of the loop I am with the current local coffee scene.

Nov 27, 2012
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Buying coffee beans in the burgh

My favorite Pgh roaster by far is Zeke's (http://www.zekescoffee.com/) on Penn Ave in East Liberty. Really wonderful stuff and a really good roasting palate. I've found that I've really liked their coffee, even stuff that's a little darker than I typically prefer. Not cheap, but small batch, wonderful, and local.

Other than that I find that Whole Foods has a nice selection of decent coffee that's not over-roasted, pretty fresh, and at what I would consider a good quality/price ratio.

I like La Prima and a few other local shops for their espresso (and the associated roasts), but always seem to be a little disappointed when I pick up a medium roast for french press there.

Nov 26, 2012
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Serious Question...Is Pittsburgh limited to Diners Drive-ins and Dives or are there a few good restaurants?

Burma Tokyo is definitely a dive, but pretty darn delicious. I would stick to the most Burmese dishes rather than the other stuff.

If you've been somewhere like Burma Superstar in SF, this doesn't come close, but as the only authentic Burmese I'm aware of in the burgh, it's definitely worth checking out.

Oct 18, 2012
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Fresh Lamb

Salems in the Strip District (http://www.salemsgrill.com/) sells excellent lamb (Halal too, if that matters to you). Left side is a cafe with prepared foods, the right side is a butcher shop and market.

They'll cut anything you want, right off the carcass while you watch. There's meat already in the case, but if you want something special (like double-cut chops), you'll just have to ask for them to cut it.

Unless you slaughter and butcher yourself, I don't think it can get too much fresher. Quality/taste is very good. Maybe not quite up there with boutique lamb like Jamison Farm, but really quite good, especially for the price.

Aug 31, 2012
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Natural/Health Stores and Farmers Markets

Welcome to Pittsburgh. I can't comment specifically on life in the south burbs, but here's a basic rundown of resources for Pittsburgh proper:

City-sponsored Farmers Markets:
http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/parks/farmers_market.htm

The Strip District (Penn Ave and Smallman St, from approx 16th to 23rdt) has many independent shops/vendors/stands/etc. where you will likely find many good things, although the focus in the strip isn't completely on local, it is there, especially in the Public Market: http://pittsburghpublicmarket.org/

Our long-standing excellent Co-Op, which should be right up your alley:
http://www.eastendfood.coop/

There are the national chains like Whole Foods and Traders Joes (recently added a store in the South Hills/Mt Lebanon).

I've never been, but I believe there is a regular farmers market in Mt Lebanon: http://mtlebanonlionsfarmersmarket.com/
And a local natural foods store: http://www.edens-market.com/

You may also want to check out the various CSAs available here in Pittsburgh.

Jun 18, 2012
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Graduation dinner in Pittsburgh?

legume (http://legumebistro.com/) would probably be a good choice, also close by, in Oakland on Craig St.

Feb 09, 2012
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Chinese new year

I can definitely second the recommendation of How Lee in Squirrel Hill from the previous poster's link. My wife and I are long time Sichuan food fans, but are still amazed every time we go to the new How Lee. We sit across from eat other with goofy grins as we scarf down dish after dish. Before we're even done, we're always planning on when to come back and who we can bring with us. Good stuff, and plenty of variety for a new years feast, as long as you don't mind doing it Sichuan style.

For non-Sichuan and any special requests, the long-standing Orient Kitchen is probably the way to go, but as the previous poster suggests, you'll do much better there if you speak Mandarin/Cantonese.

Performance/Event:
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitts...

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How Lee Chinese Food
5888 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Orient Kitchen
4808 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Jan 20, 2012
skoledin in Pennsylvania

decent cocktails in Oakland, Pittsburgh

I can't think if anything particularly worthwhile in that part of town (around the CMU and Pitt campuses), at least not what I would think of as a "cocktail bar". I'm assuming you're looking at walking distance from Legume...

I know the new Legume has a liquor license, have they not started any sort of bar program yet? It may be worth a call to check in case you already haven't.

If it doesn't need to be walking distance, then you have lots more options in Shadyside/EastLiberty/Garfield or downtown.

Unfortunately, we recently lost Embury in the Strip, which was really the go-to place for pre-prohibition style cocktails. Not sure there's anything in town that's comparable right now, but I'd love to be corrected.

Oct 14, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Dish South Side PGH-- Italian

Don't have a bad thing to say about Dish. It's been my go-to place for late dinners on the South Side for years and 1st rec for when newcomers need a great place to go. It's an oasis just a short walk off the mess that is Carson St. (at least on the weekends). Even with a full house, they've always managed to fit us in without too much trouble (I always call ahead if I don't already have a reservation). We usually cut a fairly wide swath across their menu and can't remember any disappointing dishes. Reliably delicious and just a nice place to be.

Sep 30, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

PIT: wholesale cheese recs?

I'm pretty sure Pennsylvania Macaroni (PennMac) has a wholesale/restaurant/delivery operation in addition to their more well-known retail presence in the strip. Depending on how rare/local/etc. you're looking for, they should have a very large range of cheeses available. I think if you're looking for stuff that they can't source, you're probably going to be talking to the cheese-makers themselves to get the products.

Sep 23, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Opinion Regarding My Food Plan

Unfortunately I haven't made it to Vietnam yet, but hope to soon. However, I've eaten through a large number of Vietnamese restaurants on both coasts, make some decent Vietnamese food myself, a large chunk of my immediate neighbors are Vietnamese, and I'm an all around SEAsia-phile. That said, different people like what they like, hence the difference of opinions on Pittsburgh Vietnamese restaurants, even among some of my close friends. Personally, in terms of just pho, I don't think any places here in Pittsburgh approach what I would consider a high standard (ex. Pho 75 in the Washington, DC metro area), but most of them also offer a menu that's more than just soup.

I personally like pho and Vietnamese food in general to have a rich but fresh taste. For me, even strong flavors like fish sauce, paste, etc. should be bright and interesting. If I had to break down the differences in a std bowl of pho tai/nam from the various places:

Trams for me just doesn't taste fresh or interesting at all, stale to some degree.
Vietnam's Pho is a little sweet and cloying without much flavor complexity, but has a few decent notes and isn't that bad overall. Acceptable if you're in the vicinity and don't want head a couple miles up Penn Ave.
Pho Minh tends to be a slightly lighter broth than something like Pho75, but has a nice fresh taste and good complexity which makes for a overall satisfying bowl.

If you're coming in from an area of the country with a large Vietnamese population, with lots of competition for experienced pho fanatics, then you should probably just take a pass here in Pittsburgh, there are more interesting things that really are great. However, if you can't do without or don't get it very often, the bowls here in Pittsburgh are definitely acceptable or better. I don't think I'd be able to live without at least one bowl a week, so wherever you decide to go, you'll be fine.

Hitting the strip on Saturday is something you won't forget or regret easily (except for the crowds if you're in a hurry). Even waiting in a giant line at the Penn Mac cheese counter is all worth it for a quick conversation with Carol and for that morning taste of a little sliver of the bosco tartufo. The first truffle of the day is always the best ;-)

Have a great trip to Pittsburgh!

Jul 15, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Opinion Regarding My Food Plan

Sounds like a great trip! It's a good thing I can't afford to eat like that all the time. That looks like a pretty decent tour of Pittsburgh dining options.

Not to start a flame war here, but I would question your Sat lunch choice of Vietnam Pho or Trams. If you don't really have any expectations of Vietnamese food, you might be ok, but if you're familiar with the cuisine, I think Trams would be disappointing and you might find Vietnam Pho only acceptable. I typically choose to get my Vietnamese fix at Pho Minh (also on Penn), but that's a matter of long running Pittsburgh debate (at last Trams vs Pho Minh).

If you were considering Vietnam Pho on a Saturday, that means you might already be planning on being in the Strip District (Penn Ave and Smallman Ave, 16th-24th St). Saturday is a big day there, and you may be best off just doing a little walking around, and eating street food (tacos! bahn mi!), shopping, and people watching. If you're still hungry and have to get your pho fix, then Vietnam's pho is right there too, but I suspect you'll find lots of other things to munch on.

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Pho Minh
4917 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Jul 14, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Good food in Pittsburgh

You could give Six Penn (http://www.sixpennkitchen.com/) a shot. It's right across the bridge from PNC park. They should take reservatons, and I've never felt under-dressed (or over-dressed) there. If it's a nice day, you may even be able to snag one of the loungy spots on the roof deck.

If you're looking for less-formal or more formal, there's a bunch of options once you cross into downtown -- just let us know and we'll try and point you at some good choices.

Jun 01, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Please help with Pittsburgh recommendations

Hadn't really thought about brunch, but Coca is a great delicious choice if you don't mind the wait.

For bakery, I can only recommend one, although with you being gluten-free it would be such tease... Jean Marc Chatelier in Millvale - http://www.jeanmarcchatellier.com/ - right across the river from Lawrenceville (Coca). You could always get some chocolate truffles for yourself... Millvale is an old town that isn't all bright and shiny and hipster, but it will definitely give you a taste of old-school Pittsburgh and how cheap, gritty, fun, and quirky living here can be. There's also a Pamela's (std. breakfast joint) in the old pharmacy across the street.

If the weather's nice, you could take your pastries and walk along the river a bit: http://www.millvalepa.com/riverfront....

For all-veggie, all-the-time, Quiet Storm is your place and will probably give you a little bit of a feel for the "veggie culture" here. In terms of food, not quite as tasty as Coca, but it's a different sort of thing anyway.

I'll second the Oishii Bento rec, great stuff.

Augie6 is right about asking what you're into. Pittsburgh is a bunch of completely unique neighborhoods sandwiched in fairly close proximity. For example, I can be in 5 different neighborhoods, just a couple blocks out my front door. Some places and areas are more bar&music oriented, while others are quieter and focused on dining and such. Just something to keep in mind as you're cruising around.

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The Quiet Storm
5430 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

Oishii Bento
119 Oakland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Feb 22, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Please help with Pittsburgh recommendations

gluten-free + veggie/seafood makes it tough, but you should still be able to eat pretty well, especially in the East End area. Here are a few things that come to mind. These are generally all best or near-best of class for Pittsburgh, a mix of cheap and not so cheap, and you shouldn't have any trouble finding things to eat at these places.

Lawrenceville: Tamari, Round Corner Cantina
Bloomfield/Friendship/Garfield: Thai Cuisine, Pho Minh, Salt of the Earth, People's Indian
Shadyside: I prefer the Ellsworth vibe to Walnut St, so Harris Grill, Soba, Umi
Strip District/Downtown: Kaya, Eleven, Six Penn, Penn Ave Fish

In general, there are lots of cheap college eats in Oakland around Pitt, some better than others.

That should give you plenty to pick from for a weekend.

Have a great visit.

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Pho Minh
4917 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Thai Cuisine Restaurant
4627 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Umi Restaurant
5847 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Harris Grill
5747 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Feb 21, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Where to buy Basil???

Yes, assuming Pittsburgh area, the strip is the place. Guess I'm also assuming you're talking about dried basil and not fresh.

Specifically, you could try Pennsylvania Macaroni which sells bulk herbs/spices right inside their retail entrance. They also have a large wholesale operation. You may just want to give them a call and let them know how much you need. http://www.pennmac.com/

I'd prefer you support local businesses such as Penn Mac, but sometimes for one-off items like this, Restaurant Depot is really handy. They carry all kinds of food items and equipment, including large containers of herbs/spices/etc. It's not open to the public, you'll need a business tax id to become a member (free).

If you're really talking large quantities, I suspect you may want to find a supplier online who can deal with that kind of volume.

Feb 01, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Where can we eat a special dinner after 9pm on a Sunday night?

Late on a Sunday is generally a tough one, but I think there are a few options, even if they're not necessarily ideal. If you're not willing to do dinner before your movie, the following should be open on Sunday after 9pm, but I would certainly call to confirm and/or make a reservation:

Habitat @ the Fairmont (http://www.habitatrestaurant.com/
)Original Fish Market @ the Westin (http://www.originalfishmarketpgh.com/
)Sonoma Grille (http://www.thesonomagrille.com/
)Terrace Room @ the Omni William Penn

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The Terrace Room
530 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Original Fish Market
1000 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Jan 28, 2011
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Pgh Restaurant Closings/Changes

Spoon is indeed open. Just stopped in last night for a few drinks and small plates on the Lounge roof. Didn't get too deep into the menu, but it looks/tastes promising. Overall not a bargain (I don't think anyone expected it to be), but you certainly can't go wrong with a $5 draft and and set of beautifully cooked frites with truffle aeoli for another $5. Great looking place, luxury ingredients, prices to match, but not outrageous compared to other places around town. The markups on the wine list were disappointing, but a lot of nice interesting selections. http://spoonpgh.com/

Jul 19, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

La Gourmandine, New French Bakery in Pittsburgh

I've also been surprised at all the gushing about La Gourmandine. I know you have to cross the bridge and all, but Jean-Marc Chatellier has been right over in Millvale for almost 20 years working his magic with butter, sugar, and flour - http://www.jeanmarcchatellier.com/

Enrico's is amazing too (ex: the chocolate radicals), but they're completely different animals in my book. I certainly wouldn't go to Enrico's looking for a flaky buttery croissant, and I wouldn't expect to find biscotti, etc. at Jean-Marc's.

Jul 19, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Authentic Sichuan in Pgh N. Hills

They've been open for quite a while now. We used to eat there all the time. In fact, after they opened, there was no English version of their Sichuan menu, so a Chinese work friend and I translated it for them, paving the way for all of us non-Chinese to enjoy the real deal. They've since updated and improved the menu. Things have changed around a little bit there, and I don't think the food is quite as well done as when they first opened, but it's still the only real Sichuan game in town, as far as I know. If you need a fix, it's the place.

I haven't been out there in a couple months, so if you're familiar with real Sichuan cooking, please report back on how they're doing...

They've been open for years now, doing basically the same thing, I'm surprised it's taken this long for anyone in the press to really notice.

Jul 08, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Strip District worth it on a non-Saturday?

As far as I know, Penn Mac is open Sundays 9:30 AM- 2:00 PM (both my experience and according to the website).

In general, I much prefer shopping in the strip when it isn't Saturday. Sure, you may miss a couple of things, but you won't have to deal with the crush of people, and for me, the sidewalk vendors aren't all that important.

You should be able to visit any day of the week and get a good sense for the things that are going on. Think morning-early afternoon though. Even on Saturday, the stores and vendors pack it in relatively early.

If you're specifically going for the tons of people and sidewalks crowded with table vendors, then Saturday is pretty much your only option. Otherwise, any day of the week should give you a lot of good options for shopping (and perhaps a late lunch at Kaya or Enrico's).

May 10, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Local Honey in Pittsburgh?

How much are you looking for? Are you just looking for a jar or two, or thinking something more like 20lbs+?

There are quite a few bee-keepers around, I've never found it hard to find honey, although it's more scarce in winter/early-spring. I doubt there's any fresh spring honey yet, it'll be a little bit longer for that, but folks should still have a little left from last summer/fall.

I've always found at least one bee keeper at the Monday East Liberty market, I'm surprised you haven't run into anyone.

Perhaps someone from Burgh Bees (http://www.burghbees.com/) can point you to something closer to your specific location.

Another possibility for smallish quantities would be the East End Food Co-op, but I can't say for sure what they carry. You can always just call them up and ask.

May 05, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Pre/Post marathon dinner recs in Pittsburgh

First thing that comes to mind for pasta would be Lidia's (http://www.lidias-pittsburgh.com/) in the strip. The unlimited pasta trio may be just the type of quality carbo-loading you're looking for. There are a number of pasta+redsauce options on Liberty Ave/Bloomfield/Little Italy. For something chow-worthy, you could try Stagioni's (http://www.stagionipgh.com/) if they have enough pasta options for you.

For Sunday comfort, I think Six Penn (http://www.sixpennkitchen.com/) would definitely be a good fit, but not sure if the location is going to be problem for you. Another option that comes to mind is Harris Grill, not upscale, but more of a fun, bar, brunch sit outside kind of thing on Ellsworth Ave/Shadyside.

A general option if you're stuck and can't decide is the Church Brewworks (http://www.churchbrew.com/). The food can be a little hit or miss sometimes, depending on how picky you are, but the venue is fantastic and unique, with great beers crafted on-premises.

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Harris Grill
5747 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Apr 30, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

PGH Free Range Whole Chicken: Sources? Don't like some "supermarket" birds anymore :(

Good tasting chicken is an all too rare treat these days, but I'm finding more and more of the "good stuff" now.

I'm pretty much ruined for the Bell and Evans too. I suppose they're a little better tasting than the generic, but not as much as the price would make you think. I mostly buy B&E more for the "sustainability" factor when I don't have anything else.

Our favorite birds are still the ones from the Kretschmann's CoOp (Steve Misra) - http://www.kretschmannfarm.com/ - A little expensive, but worth every cent as far as I'm concerned.

I've also been impressed with the chicken from Mish Farms. Not sure if they're still there, but they used to set up at the Monday afternoon/evening East Liberty Farmers market (the one inside the Penn Circle). Don't remember seeing whole birds there, but I'm sure they'd bring some if you asked ahead.

I've also enjoyed the product from Kennedy Farms at the Saturday morning market next to Home Depot. It's been a while since I've had it, but seems like it was always pretty solid, but perhaps not fully organic/free-range/etc. Make sure you get there early.

Hope this helps.

Apr 21, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Local meat farms near Pittsburgh?

Please let us know what you find and how it goes.

When I used to shop there more frequently, the meat, especially the specialty cuts, sold out very early (well before 9am), so make sure you go early for best selection. They (Kennedy Farms, I think) will also do special orders, so if there's something you need, you can just call them up ahead of time.

Apr 06, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Local meat farms near Pittsburgh?

We get excellent whole chickens via the Kretchmann's CSA (http://kretschmannfarm.com/) - last years were raised by Steve Misera and are without a doubt the best chicken I've ever tasted. From what I recall, around $3+/lb, so they end up being around $20/chicken, but I think they're totally worth it and we get quite a few meals out of one chicken.

Another great source for locally raised meats (and a lot easier to access than the CSAs, Laptop Butcher Shop, etc.) is the vendor(s) at the East Liberty farmers market (I'm speaking of the Sat AM CoOp market next to Home Depot on Sheridan - http://agmap.psu.edu/Businesses/1655). I always found the prices to be very reasonable, certainly better than at the city-sponsored farmers markets and definitely better than at the Strip/Firehouse one.

Most of the non-chicken meat shares I've seen tend to be the "buy x% of animal, get it all at once and put in freezer". I haven't really seen anything that's of the "deliver me a little at a time". Vegetables grow a little bit at a time, large animals tend to be butchered more seasonally, so I think that's reflected in the different business models.

Apr 02, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

New Donut Shop in Strip District?

Some background on the controversy: http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyr...

Feb 19, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Plum Pittsburgh/Shadyside

Andy's (stand in Wholey's)
Chaya
Original Fish Market @ the Westin (also has benefit of being open quite late and fantastic oysters)

I've also heard good things about the sushi at Penn Ave Fish. I've bought a ton of great fish there, don't know why I've never tried their sushi...

Of course, Umi has great fish, but I always think of that more as a place to do omakase rather than just simple sushi. Seems like a waste to just go there for the sushi.

Jan 29, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Cocktails on Mt Washington? (Pittsburgh)

Here's a follow-up.

We ended up going to Isabela (http://www.isabelaongrandview.com/) Friday evening around 6pm and had an absolutely lovely time. The first floor is a small bar/lounge area with just 2-3 tables and a few stools at the bar - very intimate. Further, we had the whole place to ourselves the entire time we were there. Quite a little hidden gem and we'll certainly be returning. Great attentive bartender and we also had a nice conversation with the pastry chef. Super place for nice intimate cocktails, a great view, and even a bit of food.

Thanks for the recommendations! Monterey certainly does have the best view, but I generally tend to avoid it because of the corporate feel and the mediocre at best food. Granted, that probably wouldn't be an issue for just cocktails, so perhaps we'll try it another time.

Jan 26, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania

Cocktails on Mt Washington? (Pittsburgh)

We have some friends coming into town for the weekend and we have late-ish dinner reservations at Vivo on Friday night, but we were thinking of running them up the incline for cocktails earlier in the evening.

When the weather in nice, we usually just try to snag an outside table at Coal Hill Steakhouse (or whatever they're called these days), but are there any other solid options for drinks+view without a dinner reservation?

Has Isabela opened their cocktail lounge yet? I heard they were going to convert the 1st floor dining room into a lounge. Their website says "Coming Soon".

Any ideas?
Thanks.

Jan 21, 2010
skoledin in Pennsylvania