Tag Archives: restaurant review

Reviews: Muddy Cup and Good L’Oven Cookie Shop

26 Jan

So, it’s basically Snowmaggedon 2.0 this week if you are anywhere in the Northeastern part of the United States.  I’m into it.  I wish we had this weather in December, but you know what, I’M NOT IN CHARGE OF THIS STUFF.  But you know what I am in charge of?  Finding AWESOME coffee spots in my new neighborhood. Because delightfully tasty, warm drinks and baked goods go well with a blizzard, ya dig?

If you’re from the Avalon or Bellevue area, I am happy to report that there is a new Muddy Cup on Lincoln Ave. and it’s got a delicious little neighbor.

Muddy-Cup-Good-Loven-Exterior

 

I absolutely love the charm of Muddy Cup.  I liked the old Muddy Cup and I love the new Muddy Cup just as much.  My eyes didn’t know where to settle, I wanted to take in everything!!  I found that they had lots of drink options and the pricing was right in line with most of the other coffee places I frequent.  I decided to try something completely different than I normally order (an iced Americano) because sometimes you just need some hot comfort on a cold day, amiright?  I ordered a specialty latte, the Banana Foster.  Ummmm YUM.  Banana and cinnamon?  Hell yes.  All of it, give it to me.

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Unlike some other coffee places which shall not be named, there is tons of light in this place so you could actually read a book or a newspaper without going blind.  If you know me in real life, you know that I’m a huge coffee snob and I give this place 2 very enthusiastic thumbs up!

Take a look:

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Adorable, all around.  Bonus:  the owner is super friendly!  Check out the Muddy Cup Facebook page and give them a like – I love supporting small business owners, don’t you??

While she was making our drinks, we noticed that the Good L’Oven Cookie Shop was in an adjoining room.

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Both spaces had such a wonderful mix of antique pieces, one-of-a-kind vintage charm, and just oozed character.  I could’ve hung out all day and checked everything out!  Actually I kept joking with the owner that I wanted her to decorate my apartment.  Not only did Good L’Oven have JARS FULL OF GIANT COOKIES, granola bars, and biscotti, they had an assortment of other items for sale by local artisans.  Jewelry, jams, honey, I mean I couldn’t even tell you everything she had!

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Can you even?  I can’t.  You should check them out on the Good L’Oven Facebook page, which they seem to keep up-to-date with what baked goods are in stock.  She does special orders for events if you’re in need of something specific.  I can’t wait to try all the different flavor and I will absolutely be picking some up for Valentine’s Day.  You know, for myself.  Because I’m single.  It’s okay to eat your feelings on Valentine’s Day – that’s a universal rule.

If you’re in the area, I absolutely insist that you stop by and try a cookie.

419 Lincoln Ave.  Bellevue, PA 15202

 

Review: The Taj Mahal

7 Jan

Moving to a new area can be extremely stressful, but luckily it also offers plenty of new restaurants, coffee shops, and local haunts to try out.  A friend of mine invited me to check out one of her guilty pleasures the other day:  The Taj Mahal Restaurant on McKnight Road.

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Now ya’ll know how much I love Middle Eastern food, so I was very hopeful that I would like authentic Indian cuisine.  I mean, we all know my addition to Patak’s sauces, right??  Well imagine my surprise when we were seated and I noticed tons of Indian people dining around us.  That’s usually a good predictor that the food is going to be on point.  The day that we happened to go, the only option was the lunch buffet.  Which…I mean….now my expectations are totally out of whack because buffets are usually gross, right?

WRONG.  You guys, buffets aren’t always gross!  This one was really really delicious!!!  The buffet was extensive and included cold/salad type options, entrees side dishes, appetizers, and desserts.  They included vegan and gluten-free options too, plus did I mention that it’s between $8.99-$9.99 depending on which day you go for lunch?  There is way more to the buffet than what these photos show, you should just go there and see for yourself.

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First, I thought it would be a good idea to try a little bit of anything that didn’t look familiar.  How do you know if you don’t like it if you don’t try after all?

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I didn’t remember to take pictures of all the names of these things, but I tried different chicken, lamb, tofu, and even goat dishes!  I can’t even tell you what most of these things are but I definitely ate $9.99 worth of all of it!  And to be completely honest, the tikki marsala was on point.

Dessert was equally delish!  I got the rice pudding dish and these balls of goodness, but my real favorite was the MANGO PUDDING.  I mean come on.

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Whew!  I spent the rest of the day in my fat pants, that’s for sure, but I regret nothing.  Bottom line:  delicious, affordable, authentic, and YOU SHOULD GO.

Happy 4 Years SFTS + A Review of Alihan’s

6 Oct

It’s a big day at SOLE For The Soul!!!  I’ve been keeping this blog for exactly FOUR YEARS today – that’s pretty crazy if you think about it!  We’ve come a long way together, me and you.  We started out trying all the best restaurants in Pittsburgh, talking about sustainability, and going on adventures.  Then, when we started making healthy changes and getting fit together.  I like the new us, don’t you?

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Seriously though, I’m so appreciative of all you guys who consistently come back and check out what I’ve got going on, share my recipes on Pinterest, and stalk my Twitter.  Love you guys! ♥


 

It seems appropriate to get back to our roots on such a big day, so I’m happy to do a little restaurant review today of a new-to-me place called Alihan’s in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.  I didn’t take very many pictures when I was there on Friday night, but that’s because I was busy catching up with my favorite cousin.  We don’t get to see each other very often, so we had plenty to talk about – and wine.  So, yeah.  Little known fun fact about where I’m from (New Castle, PA): it’s an unexpected little pocket of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean culture.  When I’m craving the tastes of home, lamb on the rod is probably the first thing I start talking about so when my cousin found Ailhan’s on Yelp we didn’t hesitate to make a reservation.  (I would strongly suggest making a reservation because they get pretty busy if there’s a show nearby.)

The space is small but charming and not overly kitsch-y.  There is an outdoor patio with a gorgeous view of the Roberto Clemente bridge if you’re into that sort of thang.  The 20 mile an hour winds on Friday didn’t make that very inviting, though!  Inside, there was an unexpected water feature that I was impressed with.  We knew it was BYOB, so we had each brought a bottle of wine and were happy to find out that there is only a single corking fee per table.  We ordered the cold appetizer platter and WOW.  It was basically heaven in my mouth.  From left to right, the plate offered feta, tabbouleh, char-grilled eggplant salad, stuffed grape leaves, yogurt sauce (I didn’t try this), hummus, and baba ghanoush.  Everything was so delish.  The stuffed grape leaves were absolutely perfect, so many places don’t take their time on so they end up rubbery and tasteless.  I was impressed!

Not sure about grape leaves?  I say try them – they are low calorie, high fiber dark veggie that are full of calcium, iron, and vitamins A&K. One cup of grape leaves actually provide you with an entire day’s worth of Vitamin A!  Also, the char-grilled eggplant salad was not something I even thought I would like but I could not stop eating it!  Mixed cold platter for the win guys.

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We decided to split an entree – neither one of us wanted to take home any leftovers since we both had plans for after dinner.  Of course we ordered the lamb shish kebob with white rice.  I’m not going to lie, I am a lamb snob.  I can’t help it, I’ve been eating it all my life and it’s one of my favorite proteins.

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This may not look like a very large portion, but the pieces of lamb are bigger than they look.  They use a pepper and tomato marinade before they char-grill this lamb on a rod.  Let’s just say I was kind of regretting the decision to share.  They weren’t over-seasoned, and you could taste the caramelization from the marinade.  They were cooked perfectly with a great char and a tender inside.  The rice was so fresh, we both were surprised at how good it was since it’s kind of an afterthought.  The whole time we just kept saying that we would come back again and again.  I will not be sharing next time, I will say that.

What else can I say?  Our server was helpful, attentive, charming, and knowledgeable (that can make or break a place for me).  It’s right next door to a parking garage, but there is plenty of on-street parking.  And, if you want to know anything else leave me a comment I guess!  As far as I’m concerned, this place is a little hidden gem in downtown Pittsburgh.

Hey You April Fools: Guest Blogger Takeover!!

1 Apr

Thanks for stopping by!  Today is sadly not the day that people say – “April Fool’s!!  You’re not really 30!!!”  Because I am.  As of yesterday.  Womp womp.  Anyway, instead of hearing me complain about how old I am you’re in luck!  SFTS has linked up with a ton of other local Pittsburgh Bloggers for an April Fool’s Day Switcherooski (just go with it).   Today’s post comes from DeAnna and Tony of D&T in the burgh, two local foodies who love to write about restaurants in the area. If you’d like to a mini-tour of a local green building, head over to Red Penn Mama and check it out.  🙂  Happy April Fool’s Day!!


 

Before we get into this blog post, we must issue an apology. A write-up of Piccolo Forno is way overdue!

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Before the Lawrenceville dining scene was the “power house” it is now, Picollo Forno was holding down Butler St with pride. Long before Cure, Tender, Tamari, Industry and Franktuary, Domenic Branduzzi was making amazing wood-fired pizzas, homemade pasta, and paninis for the masses. Piccolo Forno got its start back in 1989 in the Strip District next to La Prima Espresso, Dom’s Parents were the original proprietors (Antonio & Carla), however Dom opened the Lawrenceville location in 2005. He still operates under the original creed of his Father “Fare Tutto con Amore” or “Make everything with love”. Dine here once and you will understand that.

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I love the feel of the dining room, exposed brick walls, marble tabletops, black and white photos of Italy, open kitchen, and the absolutely gorgeous wood-fired oven. It’s open without being loud; it is intimate without feeling stuffy. Our server tonight was Maria and she was wonderful, she was there when we needed her but not hovering around. She’s good Dom, def a keeper. Along with Cenacolo, this is our favorite BYOB in the city, so don’t forget to bring your favorite bottle or in our case bottles.

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After we cracked open our first bottle, we decided how we wanted to conquer the menu. For our apps we went with the Crostini di Fegato- chicken liver mousse on toast and the Polpete Toscane- baked pork/beef meatballs with fresh green herb sauce. Both apps were knockouts, D preferred the Crostini and I preferred the Polpete, but we devoured both. The mousse was creamy, served on a perfect crostini with capers and sweet onion jam. The Polpete were dense but not heavy with a crisp exterior and that fresh herb sauce would be delicious on anything!

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If you are going to Piccolo Forno for a nice couples night out we suggest sharing a pizza and a pasta for your entrees. Tonight we went with the Cavoletti e Taleggio pizza, brussel sprouts and pancetta with Burrata and Taleggio cheeses. D and I have had the pleasure of eating pizza in Rome and Tuscany, Dom’s pizza is just as amazing. In fact just tonight alone we heard 3 different tables say “This is just like what we had in Italy”. The crust is crisp without being crunchy and has just the right amount of chew to it. You can never go wrong with brussel sprouts and pancetta, so putting them on a pizza just seems like a natural fit.

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We were trying to decide which pasta to share but then Maria told us the special, Cocoa rotini, with a beef heart Bolognese. Once we heard that, the choice was made. It was fantastic, the cocoa was not overly sweet, it has a more earthy flavor and the Bolognese was great, the beef heart was not intense but there was that faint ‘minerally’ taste you get from eating organ meats. Let me say that I love (even more than usual) that my wife was all about ordering the chicken liver mousse and beef heart Bolognese.

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We had to make sure to leave room for dessert so we didn’t polish off our entrees (but they will make some amazing leftovers). Now, I usually hear Tiramisu and just automatically order it, however another dessert caught my eye. I ordered the Chocolate Tartufo (google it) and D ordered the Dream Bomba (similar to Tartufo). My dessert was chocolate gelato with zabaglione cream center covered in cocoa powder and chopped hazelnuts, it was like a pimped out nutella! D’s Bomba had peanut butter gelato with a caramel center covered in a milk chocolate shell and then drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter sauce. Both desserts were stellar, but I say mine was the winner (sorry D). HA! Along with our desserts, Maria made us great cappuccinos.

If you want some real deal Italian food but do not want to endure the 10hr flight, make the drive to Larry-ville. It is as close as you can get to authentic cuisine in this area. So remember- bring some wine, order pasta and pizza, and order dessert and coffee, and above all else relax and enjoy.

Piccolo Forno

www.piccolo-forno.com
Also on Facebook

412-622-0111

3801 Butler St
Pgh, PA 15201

BYOB!
Reservations only for parties of 5+

Hours:
Mon-Sun: Closed
Tues-Thurs: 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-11pm


 

If you’d like to read some of the other posts from the Blogger Event, click on any of the participants below:

Sean’s Ramblings

Small Town Dad

Sole for the Soul

Syntaxxerrorrr

The Firecracker Blog

The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog

The Steel Trap

West of Mars

Ya Jagoff

Yinz R Readin

Yinzster

Yum Yum PGH

Review: Pittsburgh Taco Truck

22 Jun

On Thursday, the stars aligned.

As we were driving down Perry Highway for a random afternoon delivery, we spotted it.  The Pittsburgh Taco Truck was parked in the lot at The Coffee Buddha and the windows were up!  Finally, finally, finally!  My schedule is just so hectic that I don’t have the luxury of running off to random places to enjoy food anymore.  Every once in a while I find that I catch a break, though, and can take advantage while en route to something work-related.

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Food trucks are a relatively new addition to the Pittsburgh area.  In fact, three years ago I had never seen one (and no, the ones near CMU don’t count – they don’t move around and their food is absolutely horrible)!  But now, Pittsburgh is embracing the food truck craze and I think we owe a lot of it to the Pittsburgh Taco Truck, who used social media, old-fashioned elbow grease, and righteous indignation toward city policies to start the revolution.  This year, Pittsburgh Magazine named them the best mobile food restaurant.

This was their menu on Thursday:

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Christina ordered the 1/3 lb. Angus Ground Beef with Cheddar Jack and Salsa and also the Chicken+ Bacon + Cheddar.  She was nervous about the Sriracha cream, so she asked if he would put the avocado cream on instead.  Success!!  Two very enthusiastic thumbs up from the picky eater.  Don’t repeat this, you guys, but she said she preferred their taco shells to Smoke’s.  I think its because they doubled up on the shells and it complimented the amount of filling.  It’s all about the ratio for her, people!  I wanted to grab a pic, but by the time I thought to look over – they had mysteriously disappeared…

I ordered the Spicy Jerked Chicken w/ Avocado Cream which was excellent.  (It also mysteriously disappeared before a photo op).  That jerk chicken is spicy with a capital “S” – this little guy packed more punch than I thought it would.  No complaints, I like some heat.  I also ordered the Grilled Flank Stank (medium) w/ Kimchi.  So good.  I mean, so so so good.  If you’re not sure what kimchi is, its Korea’s most recognizable dish made from cabbage.  It’s super salty and can be made at varying levels of spice.  I honestly am not sure how spicy this taco was because my taste buds were still feeling the heat from the Jerk Chicken taco.  Either way, it was deliciously salty and tasty.

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Some other things I love about The Pittsburgh Taco Truck:

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Did you notice this in the first pic?  How awesome is that?!  If you didn’t notice it, they proudly advertise it.  Just bringing focus to that fact gets people thinking about it.  It sets a best-practices standard for other food trucks too, in my opinion.

While writing this post, I was checking out their Facebook page.  I noticed that on different days the menu board described the Flank Steak “grass-fed” and some days it didn’t say that.  So, I did what any blogger would do and I took to Twitter.  In the time it took me to write one paragraph, I tweeted the truck and got a quick reply.

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Excellent customer service, sustainable values, and generally awesome food.

If you’re ever wondering where you can catch the Pittsburgh Taco Truck, check out their social media:www.facebook.com/pghtacotruck

www.twitter.com/pghtacotruck   OR  just tweet them @pghtacotruck

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