Hungry For Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in December.
We're drinking fermented apples at Threadbare Cider, throwing back oysters at Merchant Oyster Co., eating ribs at Tessaro's and more. Plus, we talk to restaurant industry favorite Mike Sheets.
photo by erin kelly
Funky Apples at Threadbare Cider
The team that brought Wigle Whiskey to Pittsburgh in 2011 has over the years established a reputation for its consistent push toward innovation. In October, they moved forward with their biggest expansion to date with the opening of Threadbare Cider and Mead in Spring Garden. The 10,000 square-foot facility is a cider and mead house, event space, casual eatery and performance venue. Threadbare currently ferments three signature styles of cider crafted by head cider-maker Brian Bolzan and features a menu by executive chef Jay Wess (Dinette) and pastry chef Elise Miranda.
Spring Garden: 1291 Spring Garden Ave.; 412/224-4827, threadbarecider.com
photo by badi wang
The Twisted Frenchman
With his October around-the-block move of The Twisted Frenchman, Chef Andrew Garbarino opened one of Pittsburgh’s most ambitious restaurants. The upstairs space (downstairs is the more casual Bar Frenchman) is a lush dining room inspired by Michelin star tasting menus, such as at Alinea in Chicago (to wit, the chairs are the same chairs) and Per Se in New York. Garbarino cooks French cuisine heavily influenced by modernist techniques. He is offering three-, eight- and 14-course meals in the dining room, as well as an additional 21-course “Chef’s Table” tasting menu.
East Liberty: 5925 Baum Blvd.; 412/665-2880, twistedfrenchman.com
photo by Hal B. Klein
Merchant Oyster Co.
Dennis Marron, chef/owner of Merchant Oyster Co., grew up by the Jersey Shore, and Merchant is part homage to a youth filled with lobster rolls, chowders and foot-long hot dogs. There is a top-flight oyster bar and a nice selection of conservas, high-end canned seafood that’ll make you forget terrible tinned tuna. Add clams, both raw and cooked, to the mix and you’re in for a coastal treat, even if it’s nearer the banks of the Allegheny than the Atlantic.
Lawrenceville: 4129 Butler St.; 412/932-2553, merchantpgh.com
Say it’s Tuesday and you forget that The Cafe Carnegie, like the museums it’s attached to, is closed. You might end up, as I did, on Craig Street in the tucked-away, enclosed courtyard that houses Little Asia. The pan-Chinese restaurant featuring Cantonese, Sichuan and other regional specialties is a solid destination for a quick weekday lunch. Spicy hot-pots, such as paste-chili beef or lamb, are terrific winter warmers, as are milder dishes such as Hong Kong style roasted chicken noodle soup. Order napa cabbage in vinegar sauce for a tart, balancing side dish.
Oakland: 301 S. Craig St. #2; 412/622-0133, pittsburghlittleasia.com
Photo by Laura Petrilla
Tessaro’s in Bloomfield is, of course, best known for its custom-blend hamburgers cooked over hardwood on a cast-iron grill; it’s one of our favorite burgers at Pittsburgh Magazine, too. On Thursdays, the grill also gets stacked with beef and pork ribs, which are cooked to crisp perfection on the outside and succulent, fall-off-the-bone on the inside. It’s a good deal: a half-rack of either animal, plus a side (get the boiled potatoes and dip them in the accompanying melted butter), is $16. Also comes with a free stack of wet wipes, which you’ll need since one shouldn’t try to be dainty while eating these.
Bloomfield: 4601 Liberty Ave.; 412/682-6809, tessaros.com
Photo by Badi Wang
Inspired Italians: DiAnoia's Eatery
DiAnoia’s Eatery owners Dave Anoia and Aimee DiAndrea returned from a September trip to Italy refreshed and ready to introduce new menu items inspired by their visit. Look for spaghetti al limone, a dish they decided to put on the menu after eating in Sorrento; braised and chopped octopus tossed with bucatini and pureed uni; and a traditional, no-frills Bolognese that’s cooked for four hours. The duo also recently introduced hand-pulled mozzarella and ricotta that begins with curd from the fabulous Caputo Brothers Creamery, and pastry chefs Ben Martin and Amanda Rey now are preparing a daily selection of six styles of bread available for dine-in or to-go purchases.
Strip District: 2549 Penn Ave; 412/918-1875, dianoiaseatery.com
Driver | Millie's Homemade Ice Cream and Barista | DiAnoia's Eatery
Mike Sheets is a beloved member of Pittsburgh's service crew. He picked up his first front-of-house job in 2012 as a server at Stagioni and since has worked at celebrated establishments such as Salt of the Earth, tako and Bread & Salt Bakery.
What's your key to providing good service to customers?
Just imagine yourself in their shoes. How do you want to be taken care of? I like really small gestures. For example, you see someone and maybe their dish is taking a while to get from the kitchen or their drink isn't ready, but they have a glass of water. Returning to fill the glass of water shows them that you haven't forgotten about them.
What's changed in Pittsburgh restaurants since you started in 2012?
We're seeing a huge step back [as far as formality]. We're much more casual now than a few years ago. Look at how people are dressed, not just at [DiAnoia's] but at Eleven, Casbah, Cure and places like that. It's more relaxed. The pomp is all gone. Come as you are.
What do you like to eat?
I like eating all the offal I can possibly get my hands on. If you have something like tripe or intestines and it's lovingly and carefully prepared in a way that's interesting, I'm definitely going to eat that. But I really love sandwiches, too.
Where would you go for that?
It's really convenient living in Squirrel Hill. I have How Lee, Chengdu Gourmet and Cafe 33 all right there. I love the spicy Sichuan style dishes.