Best Bets for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week 2012

This weekend, expand your palate with some injera, yucca and nopales (plus a recipe for Kik Alitcha -- What?!)




Vegetable Plate from Abay, Bean Tostada from Alma, Chiles Rellenos from Verde
 

I remember my first Restaurant Week in New York in 1997. It was such a magical week because it allowed me access to restaurants I could not otherwise afford (you know, because I paid a bazillion dollars to live in an apartment the size of what is commonly called a “closet.”) For 19.97, I could get a ticket to an amazing prix fixe three course meal in hard-to-get-a-reservation restaurants such as Gotham Bar & Grill, Union Square Café and Nobu (in its heyday at the time). Such good memories!

The Restaurant Week phenomenon has spread and has done wonders for local economies – generating anywhere from $4 million in Charlotte to $20 million in Chicago.

Pittsburgh started on the trend gingerly, but this summer our Restaurant Week offerings are definitely amazing. What I love about it is that there are restaurants that are decidedly Pittsburgh “classic” cuisine, but there are also restaurants that give you the opportunity to travel by plate to global destinations. And while it’s wonderful to have pasta and pierogis, this is a great chance to go on a date or take some friends to discover injera and yuca.

But with so many options, where must you go? My best bets for healthy and veg treats are ethnic restaurants that will expand your palate — Abay Ethiopian Cuisine, Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen, Tamari Asian Latin Fusion and Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina.

Top Pick: Abay Ethiopian Cuisine

I rejoiced when Abay opened in East Liberty (just as I rejoiced when bubble tea first appeared on the Pittsburgh scene years ago!) In my book, there’s no better harbinger of diversity (hence, economic upswing) than ethnic restaurants. Abay is offering an amazing Restaurant Week menu with options such as Ye’Abesha Gomen — a dish with kale, peppers, ginger, garlic and onions slow-cooked in a mild sauce, Misir Wat — red split lentils simmered in spicy berbere sauce (berbere is one of my favorite spice mixes EVER, so try it!) and Kik Alitcha — yellow split peas simmered in a mild and flavorful herb sauce (you can find a home version of the recipe below!)

The best thing about the menu is that you can pick and choose from the selections to create a combination plate to enjoy with your injera — that spongy Ethiopian crepe/bread that accompanies every meal. Ethiopian food is definitely a fun experience, not only because it tastes so delicious but because it stimulates other senses as well -- you can eat with your hands and the exotic spices infuse the air for a truly transcendent dining experience.

My other top picks share a Latin American thread in common. Tamari is an interesting fusion of Asian and Latin food (hey, have you ever tried soy paper?) And have you had yuca? I grew up with it. It’s a starchy root vegetable that is almost but not quite like a potato. You can get a yuca patty with black eyed pea fritters at Alma Pan Latin Kitchen! You can also try yucca chips at Verde Mexican Cantina and some cactus (that’s right — called nopales) with some of the best mixed drinks in town.

So round up the crew and spend the weekend stimulating your taste buds (and our local economy at the same time!)

And after you’ve tried it at Abay, enjoy this recipe at home ...


Vegetable Plate with Injera from Abay (Kik Alitcha in the foreground)
 

  Kik Alitcha

Yellow split peas simmered in a mild and flavorful onion and herb sauce.
From Abay Ethiopian Restaurant


Ingredients

  • 2 cups yellow split peas
  • 1 quart water
  • 8 cups onions (large dice)
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup garlic/ginger mix
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. turmeric

Preparation

1. Sift through and discard off-color peas.  Thoroughly rinse and drain peas.  
2. Combine 1 cup of oil and onions in pot.  
3. Caramelize onions on medium-high heat.  Stir frequently.  
4. In a separate pot, boil split peas in water until soft.  Drain.  
5. Place caramelized onions in food processor.  Add turmeric.  Process.  
6. Place processed onions back in pot.  Add garlic/ginger.  Stir.  Add water.  Add yellow split peas.  
7. Cook on high heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  
8. Reduce to medium to low heat and cook until peas become soft.  Stir frequently the entire cooking time.

More from Brazen Kitchen:

How to Eat Avocado on Toast Like a Boss

How to Eat Avocado on Toast Like a Boss

Brazen Kitchen: This trio of recipes for avocado on toast is inspired by the profane and profoundly funny Thug Kitchen.
Polenta Hiding Greens

Polenta Hiding Greens

This ultimate creamy comfort food is filled with surprises.
Walnut Falafel

Walnut Falafel

An elevation of a classic Oscar party-worthy hors d’oeuvre.
Strawberry Knotweed Popsicles

Strawberry Knotweed Popsicles

Healcrest Urban Farm helps us learn to love this invasive weed with one of the most unexpected and best popsicles you’ll ever taste.

Hot Reads

Review: Sienna Mercato

Review: Sienna Mercato

Matthew Porco, one of our Chefs of the Year, designs the menus at Sienna Mercato's downtown establishments.
An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

PittGirl has had enough of the criticism of fanatics and asks the media to stop labeling everyone.
Film Noir Fall Fashion

Film Noir Fall Fashion

Fall into autumn with a fashion landscape awash in black, white and nifty shades of gray.
8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

Hoping to take a leaf-peeping road trip? Keep food at the top of your priority list and consult our lineup of eight destinations, most within 150 miles of the city.

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Awesome Hyperlapse Video Takes You Through Pittsburgh at Warp Speed

Awesome Hyperlapse Video Takes You Through Pittsburgh at Warp Speed

Instagram’s new Hyperlapse technology was made for Pittsburgh.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 8 Best (Not) Restaurants in Pittsburgh

The 8 Best (Not) Restaurants in Pittsburgh

Food trucks. Pizza boats. Bagel Clubs. The best on-the-run food in town.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
The Steeler Way is a Figment of Our Imagination

The Steeler Way is a Figment of Our Imagination

After another embarrassing incident, PittGirl says it’s time for Steelers fans to face the truth.

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments


Grilled Flatbread That'll Blow Your Mind

Grilled Flatbread That'll Blow Your Mind

During the long weekend, prepare this summer-inspired pizza, which features spelt dough, a colorful array of tomatoes and other CSA treats.

Comments


Your New Pre-Game Bar is in Dormont

Your New Pre-Game Bar is in Dormont

Forget the parking and the mad North Shore rush. Before you head to Heinz Field, make a stop at Cain's Saloon then head for the T.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Checkmate!

Checkmate!

Use these bookends to keep your office area looking smart.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Local Blogger Wants to Help You Make Something 'Seriously Delish'

Local Blogger Wants to Help You Make Something 'Seriously Delish'

Jessica Merchant of How Sweet Eats will release her cookbook this fall.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
Time to See Ballet Under the Stars

Time to See Ballet Under the Stars

This weekend, the PBT presents its annual production at Hartwood Acres under the night sky.

Comments