Welp, I’m home. Hartford hasn’t changed a bit, but there’s something to be said about being alone and in a real bed again. I’d like to thank Intex and Xanax for keeping me sane and asleep this summer. You’re the real heroes! And without further ado, the last fifteen favorites on the last leg of my summer in Pittsburgh.1. Apis Mead & Winery, Carnegie, PA
Not only is the drive up to Carnegie a gorgeous one- take 121N for a beautiful panoramic view of the city, but the town offers a quiet respite from the noise of Pittsburgh. A glass of mead- a slow one, of course, as it will knock you off your feet, is perfect in the heat. And the flavors are vibrant, ranging from mango habanero to lemon bourbon and more.
2. Arsenal Ciderhouse, Lawrenceville, PA
This neat little ciderhouse is like the Bedfellow’s mullet- business in the front and a party in the back, pouring up meticulously curated drafts and growlers of their dry and sweet ciders, almost Riesling-like. Head outside for a rotating food truck party any day of the week.
3. Atlas Bottleworks, Lawrenceville, PA
Arguably the best craft beer selection in Pittsburgh- not that I don’t love the various iterations of six packs and dogs all over the city, but really, where else can you grab a bottle of Grist Mill or Draai Laag and head next door with a popcorn to get drunk off the Royal Tenenbaums? Hipster? Tipster. And they have the coolest damned shirts in the city, aside from Mister Grooming & Goods, of course.
4. Aqueous at the Nemacolin Resort, Mill Run, PA
The ideal end to a day at Fallingwater is, of course, Fallingwater-inspired cuisine. Themed restaurants didn’t end in your childhood, not by a long shot. From teetering planks of meat to cigar-inspired pop tarts, complete with ash trays, granita ash, and a burnt raspberry cinder, it’s as impressive as its inspiration.5. Pamela’s Diner, all over Pittsburgh, PA
While we were in it for the admitted ego rush, the hotcakes are the real stars here- buttery in the middle and crispy on the outside. They’re deceptively thin- you’ll feel like you can eat two orders and power through half. That just makes for better leftovers. Skip the potatoes- they aren’t that special, we prefer the cakes wrapped around sausage or bacon.
6. Spoonwood Brewery, Bethel Park, PA
Not only is the beer top-notch, with the rich, berry and chocolate-heavy Lola, but Spoonwood offers equally delicious food. Family companions Peggy, Rob, and I loved the peppadew pizza with proscuitto, peppers, and goat cheese, as well as their pepperoni pie.
7. Bluebird Kitchen, Pittsburgh, PA
I was initially divided on Bluebird- their savory foods were hit or miss, but I was won over with their pastries. How won over? I came back for a whole week and kept calling to see what their daily cakes were after falling in love with a black sesame and yuzu Arnold Palmer cake on Instagram. And the ensuing selection did not disappoint- brown butter, sage, and nectarine jam cake one day, peanut butter chocolate crunch the next, and a glorious PB&J cake to follow. Their macarons cannot be ignored, either- French toast with a cinnamon brown butter cream is downright breakfasty. I just wish they shipped back home.
8. Black Dog Brinery, East Greenville, PA
These guys were exhibiting at Picklesburgh, the city’s first pickle-themed party, on the Rachel Carson Bridge. I was struck by their flavors and minimalistic combinations and brought home a large jar of pickled pineapples, infused with paprika, vinegar, honey, and a little cayenne to pop on burgers and grilled chicken.
9. Paris 66, Pittsburgh, PA
On one of my last nights in the ‘Burgh, I tucked into a steak-frites formule right out of Paris in the middle of the Strip. Perfect Pimm’s Cups and macarons demonstrated the sweet versatility of the 66 as well as the savory side.
10. Tootie’s Italian Beef, Pittsburgh, PA
Holy sandwich heaven, that’s some mac and cheese on Italian beef. Oh, with giardiniera, provolone, and bacon, to boot. Had enough yet? Tootie’s will throw some more meat on it if you ask nicely, too- pulled chicken or hot sausage, in what they dub ‘The Barnyard’.
11. Sammy’s Famous Corned Beef, Pittsburgh, PA
If Katz’s Deli and the diner from Pulp Fiction had an illicit love baby in Pittsburgh, it would be Sammy’s. It’s a Yuengling at 9AM kind of dive with one of the most tender, fresh brisket sandwiches I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, slathered with crisp onion slices and housemade Russian dressing. So excellent, and smoking is allowed.
12. Ritter’s Diner, Pittsburgh, PA
Where else can you get fried green tomatoes, hotcakes, grits, and Greek lemon soup 24 hours a day? All-night diners are classic city staples, but this one beefs up the menu with Southern cuisine and Midwestern hospitality. It’s a Shadyside landmark.
13. Gaucho Parilla Argentina, Pittsburgh, PA
Who would wait three hours in the rain for a sandwich? You would if it was the size of your head and piled high with steak, horseradish, and Argentinian chimichurri on freshly charred bread. ‘Nuff said, the photo speaks for itself.
14. Lil’s Pretzels, Harrisburg, PA
RIP, my loving relationship, because this pretzel was supposed to be for my loving Bedfellow. Due to a two-hour traffic delay and no food for miles, I callously ate it in the car with Lil’s homemade honey mustard. Harrisburg is home to my favorite hot sauce, Torchbearer, but even that’s blown out of the water by this Amish treat.
15. Evanilla, Harrisburg, PA
Sorry, Bedfellow, I ate these, too- hip little doughnuts out of the Broad Street Market made by a dynamic duo scouring the countryside for local treats. The Queen Bee with caramelized almonds and honeycomb and Espresso Toffee gave me the ‘buzz’ I needed for a twelve hour drive home.
That’s all for now- who knows where work will take me? I mean, I know. Chicago is next on our route, so come September, you can expect the best coffee and doughnuts in the city as well as an insane dinner at Alinea to celebrate my existence in the Windy City.