Hungry For Something Good? Where We're Eating in September
We're visiting a neighborhood butcher, an old-school gem, a contemporary classic and more. Plus, we talk to Matt Gebis of Espresso a Mano.
photo by Erin Kelly
Befriend Your Butcher: Butcher on Butler
Lead butcher/co-owner Mike Rado and his crew rehabilitated the historic but abandoned butcher shop Foster’s Meats in Upper Lawrenceville and reopened it as Butcher on Butler in February 2014. Just about everything in the refrigerated cases was raised within a two-hour drive of Pittsburgh; Elysian Fields lamb, Serenity Hill pork and Jubilee Hilltop Ranch beef are some of Rado’s favorite products. Because the butcher shop’s stock is tightly curated, it’s a good idea to call ahead if you want something specific. If it’s not in stock, the shop generally can get it for you within a day or two.
5145 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/781-2157, facebook.com/butcheronbutlerpgh
Photo by Anna Dukovich
Old School Italian Sandwich Shop
I’m so enchanted by this family-run, casual dining spot in Munhall. “Old school” refers both to the actual old, rehabilitated schoolhouse that houses the restaurant and to family matriarch Rosemarie Cook’s old-school recipes. The first generation Italian-American woman (her family emigrated from Calabria) serves crushable sandwiches such as The Playground (Chicago-style Italian beef with peppers or hot giardiniera), plus a rotating list of house-made daily specials such as eggplant parmesan, hot sausage, stuffed shells and lasagna.
609 E. Ninth Ave. (entrance in alley), Munhall; 412/205-3866, oldschoolitalian.com
photo by Hal B. Klein
Yuva India Kitchen + Bar
Indian restaurants in Pittsburgh (and most of the U.S.) typically revolve around an all-you-can-eat buffet. While that makes for full bellies, it also makes for hastily prepared, mediocre food. Yuva India owner Navin Kohli decided to do away with the buffet and focus on quality meals made in small batches. It’s working. Lunch especially is a good deal, with prices topping out at $10.99. I’m partial to the Railway Lunch, a deeply spiced and slightly warm lamb curry that’s served with a salad, basmati rice and naan. Sip a mango lassi while you’re eating.
412 S. Craig St., Oakland; 412/681-5700, yuvakitchen.com
photo by Adam Milliron
It’s nice to see that the opening of Morcilla, Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2016 Best New Restaurant, hasn’t affected the quality of Cure, Justin Severino’s flagship. Severino still spends several nights per week in the restaurant’s kitchen, and when he’s not there the rest of his well-trained kitchen team keeps things flowing. I’m down to go to Cure simply for the nationally renowned charcuterie and a well-crafted cocktail, but I’m also digging the pasta specials and small plates such as beef tartare and sockeye salmon crudo.
5336 Butler St., Upper Lawrenceville; 412/252-2595, curepittsburgh.com
Sichuan Gourmet (Oakland)
I love that Sichuan Gourmet owner Wei Yu decided to forgo Americanized menus for the Oakland outpost of his Squirrel Hill Sichuan restaurant. Go there for classic, fiery Sichuan specialties such as mapo tofu, chongqing beef hot pot and cumin lamb, but don’t overlook rustic dishes such as homestyle tofu — fried triangles of tofu flavored with sliced beef, leeks, celery and ginger in a mid-spicy sauce — and shredded potatoes with vinegar.
328 Atwood St., Oakland; 412/621-6889, pittsburghsichuangourmet.com
photo by erin kelly
Growing Up Fast: The Vandal
The Vandal is growing up. A year in, the hip Lawrenceville eatery now is a one-stop shop for hungry Pittsburghers. The curated breakfast — and slightly larger brunch — menu is rounded out by the full-service Parlor Coffee bar (served in mugs made by local artists). Lunch is quick, tasty and provides enough variety on the menu to please a group of diverse eaters. Executive chef Csilla Thackray is crafting an expanded dinner menu that’s beginning to show promise. Another plus? Customers no longer have to wait in line to order; there’s table service.
4306 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/251-0465, thevandalpgh.com
Espresso a Mano | Owner
Matt Gebis, 33, was at the forefront of third-wave coffee in Pittsburgh when he opened Espresso a Mano in 2009. Gebis worked in various positions at La Prima Espresso prior to opening the espresso bar and coffee shop in Lower Lawrenceville.
What makes an awesome cup of coffee?
It’s made from attention to detail and hard work throughout the entire chain. It starts at the coffee farm and the processing of beans at origin. Then it’s on to importers buying coffee that was handled well and to the roaster that pays attention to how it’s roasted. Then it’s up to us to make sure that all [of] the hard work that happened throughout the chain is tasteable and present in the cup that we prepare.
Where is coffee in Pittsburgh right now?
I think what’s happened is that excellent, or at least very good, coffee is expected now, whereas 10 years ago it was the exception to the rule. Before, it was just La Prima and Tazza d’Oro, but now when places open up there’s already a high standard that everyone wants to exceed. The bar has been raised. You expect a well-pulled espresso or a tasty brewed coffee.
What’s driving coffee in Pittsburgh now?
The next phase, if you can gauge from what’s happened in other cities, is that you start to see a lot more smaller roasters who are focused on quality and sustainability and are producing fantastic coffee. I bet that’s what’s going to happen in Pittsburgh. Right now you still see a lot of nationally recognized roasters [being sold at area coffee shops], but I think and hope we’ll see more local micro roasters. It’s a difficult thing to do, but I hope that’s what’s next.