I'm not done traveling yet! Or at least, I'm done in real life but still have several more Travel Tuesday posts to share with you over the coming weeks from more North American travel destinations. Today, I'm heading east to Pittsburgh, PA. I was there a few weeks ago for a conference in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh (and while the Cubs were in town playing the Pirates, no less!) and had an opportunity to explore a bit of their Cultural District, which was where my conference and hotel were conveniently located. This stretch of downtown is dotted with several popular restaurants, galleries, bars, boutiques, and theaters. I dined out a few times while in town and have some great recommendations for your next trip:
The Sonoma Grille
The Sonoma Grille is a bright west coast-inspired restaurant serving up a seasonally inspired menu. Our server let us know that the majority of the dishes on the menu change on a regular (sometimes daily) basis depending on what's in season and what fresh ingredients are available to the chef. This is always a sign of a flavorful meal to come, in my book.
I was starving when we arrived at the restaurant, but wanted to make sure that I selected a lunch that wouldn't leave me feeling sluggish since I had to give a presentation shortly after lunchtime. I decided on a soup and salad combo beginning with the root vegetable salad. The salad began with a bed of baby watercress topped with sweet roasted root vegetables like red and golden beets and turnips along with some shaved Parmesan and sugary glazed pecans. It was all tossed in a very light vinaigrette, which was perfect since the vegetables and the nuts lent some nice sweetness to the salad on their own.
The Sonoma Grille also had a vegetarian French onion soup on the menu, which had me very intrigued. While a vegetable broth could potentially have less flavor than the traditional beef broth, This one was full of tender sweet onions and had a nice peppery bite. It was topped with generously sliced piece of rustic toast and bubbly melted Jarlsberg cheese. This soup was simple, but deliciously well done.
Meat and Potatoes
That evening we ventured back out in the Cultural District in search of a nice casual spot for dinner. We ended up at Meat and Potatoes, a cool gastropub with a great menu of not only meat and potatoes, but an eclectic beer and wine list, and cheese and charcuterie selection. It was unseasonably warm that night so we sat on the patio and enjoyed dinner with some very interesting people watching.
We started by sharing a small plate off the bar snacks menu. I love Brussels sprouts so the fried Brussels sprouts served with lemon aioli were right up my alley. The sprouts were crispy and nicely charred, but not super greasy-- and dusted with garlic and Parmesan cheese. The lemon aioli was creamy and tangy and perfect for dipping. I could have ordered another batch of these and munched on them all evening.
I wasn't looking for a huge dinner that evening, so the Meat and Potatoes flat bread menu was exactly what I was looking for. I settled on the short ribs flat bread, which was perfect for that night: a manageable size topped with hearty toppings to make for a smaller, but filling meal. The flat bread crust was really nice-- thin, but still soft and chewy and it was topped with a flavorful combination of melty cheddar and blue cheese along with tender shredded short rib. The rich meat and cheese was nicely complemented by peppery arugula, pickled onions, and a thin layer of spicy horseradish. The flavor combination is classic, but it was a fun twist on a flat bread.
Both of these restaurants were great and if you've got more time while you're there, we had heard from several people that Butcher & the Rye is a great option for farm to table pub food and that Sienna Mercato is the place for modern Italian food.