Marty Martindale

Pittsburgh’s lofty Mt. Washington, once known as “Coal Hill,” took second place recently in USA Magazine’s most beautiful view category. From it diners gaze at the glittering sprawl of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers as they converge to form the mighty Ohio River. The scene is brightly illumined by the lights from Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle and more than 15 of the city’s 446 steel bridges.

Pittsburgh “was a steel makin’ town” for more than a century. Her exports  provided the sturdy spines of her country’s loftiest sky scrapers and attracted workers from China, Poland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Syria, Thailand, Greece, Korea and Ireland. Pittsburgh was top of the steel heap! This changed by the 1980s, and along with it Pittsburgh’s new industrial direction:  bioengineering and robotics. Most wholesale merchants to the steel industry went retail with a wide range of their world’s food favorites, frequently adapted over the years to their hard-working trade. For instance:

•     Heinz Ketchup is a native thing. If you think Ketchup tastes delicious, you can make just about everything you eat delicious.

•     Pierogies, (Polish raviolis) found at restaurants throughout Pittsburgh, reflect Pittsburgh’s eastern European heritage. Filled, then boiled, then sautéed in butter, these delicious dumplings were usually filled with potato, cheese or cabbage.

•     Isaly’s original Klondike Bar first appeared in 1929. The vanilla ice-cream bar dipped in chocolate then wrapped in silver paper cost only a nickel then.

•     Wildly popular Isaly’s Chipped Ham was introduced in 1933. One recipe for Barbecued Ham was a mixture of 2 lbs of the meat, a chopped onion, a cup of ketchup and a cup of Coca Cola.

•     A ‘Pittsburgh Salad’ is any salad topped with French fries.

•     “Steak Pittsburgh,” or “steak black and blue,” is a quickly charred steak on its outsides leaving the center rare. This steak preference came about when steel workers threw steaks onto the side of  massive, smoldering foundry furnaces, then repeated for the second  side. Steak done.

•     Currently Pittsburgh is home to Kevin Sousa’s geniusly-inspired Alchemy Dinners, served by special arrangements with Kevin at the Bigelow Grille in the Doubletree Hotel Downtown.

•     Pittsburgh Strip District:  Dubbed Pittsburgh’s new “Main Street,” is a mix of restaurants, night clubs, specialty grocers and boutiques. Find everything from tapas bars to Irish pubs. It starts just across from the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center and runs along Penn and Liberty Avenues, extending to the 16th Street bridge.

In and away from the Strip are a variety of restaurants visitors are bound to enjoy:

This is a personal attention place for breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunches.  Weekends, one of their specials is a Butternut Rissoto. Omelets are  abundant in size, juice glasses generously tall. The Coca’s famed for its Wild Mushroom Omelet, Almond French Toast, Brie Salad and Honey Maple Ham and Cheddar Wrap made with apple butter, cream cheese, cheddar and caramelized onions. Fun décor.

This is the showplace of Portugal-born, chef-restaurateur Toni Pais. He has partnered with The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in Theater Square, the heart of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. The Zao specializes in the foods of Portugal, Macau, Timor, Brazil and Mozambique. This is carried out with their crusty, white Portuguese bread made with corn meal, rather cake-like in consistency. Be served this along side Kangaroo with Fig, Fresh Sardines, a Portuguese Clam Soup, Spinach Raviolis, Duck Syrahmisso, Corvina Portuguese, Chicken Hungaro or a special Zao Timbale. Some evenings  evenings folks enjoy Wine Flight nights or the Craft Beer School.

In the former St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, the restauranteurs at this  on-site microbrewery serve up irreverent interpretations of the classic Pittsburgh Pierogie which may be Rattlesnake, Cactus or Buffalo & Chili Pierogies. They also offer a Pizza Pierogie from a wood-fired oven. The Works also proudly serves Morgan Ranch Kobe Wagyu steaks. Special brews are Celestial Gold, Pipe Organ Pale Ale, Pious Monk Dunkel and Rotating Blast Furnace Stout, each hand-crafted.

Everyone should wish an Enrico would set up shop in their town. Great bakery out front churning out giant macaroons amid big decorated crusty breads and specialty biscotti. Enrico’s great café is down a small walkway to the back featuring Italian Beans with Greens, Homemade Soups, Big Fat Salads plus Cannoli from Sicily, Ricotta Pies, his Chocolate Macaroons and more!. Every last Sunday of the month register for breakfast and stay for Enrico’s bread baking school, “about 900 tricks of the trade,” he promises. Sign up for First Fridays each month, bring a bottle and enjoy an Enrico’s First Friday Dinner surprise from his woodburning oven. .

Positioned near the Duquesne Incline atop Mt. Washington, on Grandview Avenue, the LeMont affords the dinner the City’s prize-winning view. She’s also recipient of the AAHS’s Five-Diamond Award and AAA’s Four Diamond Award. The LeMont is a perfect setting for Tableside Steak Diane or Chateaubriand for Two on any very special occasion.

Breakfast and Lunch at four locations where early Pittsburgh funk is the décor of the day here. However, it in no way detracts from the elaborate mouth-watering crepes filled with fruit, topped with whipped cream, fancy hotcakes, their Devil’s Carb Corner, popular Dinnerburger, Jane T’s Slow Roasted Pork BBQ, LaFeria (Peruvian) Veggie Tripple Sandwiches and more.

Call this “Italy Central.” There’s no tables here to sit down and eat, but opportunities galore to carry away a quick snack or ingredients for fancy Italian dishes. Established in 1902, “PennMac” is a mammoth, bristling Italian emporium stacked to the ceiling. Find their huge olive bar, olive salads, cheeses from around the world and posted by country, cheese cakes, giant dried filets of salt cod and much, much more.

The famed Primanti Bros. Sandwich is a sandwich with fries, coleslaw, tomato and onions inside it. Fried egg on top? Optional. They were invented during the Depression so workers could hold their entire lunch in one hand and continue working with the other hand. Try their side of Smallman Street Fries, French fries topped with chili, cheese, bacon and sour cream.

Wholey’s is noted for serving the “Best Fish Sandwiches” and famed for this for generations. They ask only three questions when you order the “Big Fish”:  Fried or Broiled? Cod or Whiting? Bun or roll? Part of their success is their secret breading process. Some days they serve 400 pounds of fish in sandwiches. While this goes on, the fish-buying crowd is entertained by  unexpected fun visitors, dynamic fake animals and sometimes live music.

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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