Month: July 2011

Aladdin’s Eatery – Guest Blog by Jerome McButters

Aladdin's Eatery on Urbanspoon

SO you want to eat Healthy or Healthier…

Healthier options are hard to find. We really don’t have places that specialize in pure healthier eats that I’ve found yet, but one place I know is right in my neck of the woods and produces a unique and flavorful blend of approaches to nutritious (and delicious) food. When Aladdin’s opened up a few years back I was extremely skeptical. To be honest I am not really a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, but when I first tried Aladdin’s I soon took to their take on the flavors of the land of Jafar, Aladdin, and The Genie. With so many choices that cover most every food need you won’t be dissatisfied with the menu (especially the desert- go with the carrot cake!). But the great thing about this place is the fact that you can still eat healthy and not sacrifice any flavor. A small part of a strip mall in the North Hills, I wouldn’t call it the ideal location, but the restaurant is the right size allowing for minimal waits and great customer service.

When I first went there years back I tried what they call a Pita Pitza, which quickly became my favorite type of menu item, so that’s what I selected to try this last time- The Aladdin’s Chicken Pitza to be exact which came recommended by our waitress. GARLIC ALERT!!! BE WARNED (as I was warned)… if you are selecting this place the day of a meeting or a date, you may not want to be within 20 feet of someone you are trying to impress without vigorously brushing your teeth and using mouthwash. On the bright side- if there’s a vampirepocalypse this should ensure your safety for a few days. But to garlic lovers everywhere- live dangerously. For starters, however, I went with a side salad with a substitute dressing, the Almond Nut dressing. The salad came at a great side portion, but the dressing is what makes it. It’s more of a paste than anything, but boy does it pack a flavor. It comes sort of bitter but it has a hidden kick to it, which you really have to try. Very smooth taste, and is almost like a hummos feel.

But the main focus is the Pitza, which is basically a pizza, but instead of dough, there are a few pitas made together as the base, complete with chunks of char-grilled chicken, diced scallions, green peppers, Garlic sauce, and Honey Dijon dressing, this item is easily my favorite. It has sweet taste with just a little crispiness from the pita with the fresh bite of the green peppers. As far as flavor goes this has the right amount since you aren’t overwhelmed by garlic, or the Dijon dressing in the least bit. And as far as portion goes, this is just the right size. As Goldilocks would say, “it’s just right,” so it’s perfect for those of you watching portion control. Unlike traditional pizza which fills you up on the dough really fast, the pita as the base is light and actually gives off a good bit of taste the way Aladdin’s has their pitas made. For those of you that love anything Dijon and love chicken as much as me, this is a must have and comes recommended from more people than just me. Taking into account the taste and unique presentation, as well as the healthier eating factor I give this a solid 8.5 out of 10 for a meal.

If you ever find your way to the North Hills, and you like Hummus and have a taste for something different, you have to try Aladdin’s. It’s something you don’t get to have everyday and you won’t go home disappointed.

Addition by Chris Jobes – Jerome and I went to lunch at Aladdin’s 2 weeks ago and I found myself more impressed with the food than previous times before. Like Jerome I ordered a Pitza but I chose Farrouk’s Falaffel Pitza that has Tahini Yogurt dressing topped with chunks of falaffel, yellow pepper rings, and diced tomatoes and garnished with chopped parsley. I have yet to find a perfect falaffel in Pittsburgh and chances are that I won’t. I did like that the falaffel was broken up on the Pita Pitza and the yellow pepper ringsreally brought out flavor that was also matched nicely with the Tahini Yogurt. We also started lunch with an order of hummos, that by itself was average. If you have had one chick pea right? What made the hummos at Aladdin’s so much better is the hot sauce that was offered to us. If your server doesn’t ask if you want it, make sure you ask for it because it is totally worth it. We kept it on the side because at first we weren’t sure if we would like it, but next time that is getting mixed in early on! Inside the hot sauce was a typical blend of savory spices all mixed together with a mediterranean feel, I think they hit this hot sauce perfectly!

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Pittsburgh Burger Co. – July 16, 2011

Pittsburgh Burger Co. on Urbanspoon

I finally made my way down to the Pittsburgh Burger Co this past weekend, and I have to say that I am really surprised at the negative feedback I am seeing on Urbanspoon. Pittsburgh Burger Co is located where Fuddruckers previously was in the Waterfront. Not much has changed inside if you have previously been in Fuddruckers, the biggest change I noticed was that now you are seated at a table and the food is brought to you instead of ordering as you went in and had to pick it up yourself, that is a nice change. My waitress was Robin who was one of the friendliest waitresses I think I have had in some time in Pittsburgh.

Onto the food, I ordered a Bison Burger with Cheddar Cheese and Bacon. All burgers come with lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickles. You can add garlic mayo, bbq sauce, hot sauce and honey mustard at no charge and ketchup and yellow mustard are already at the table. Also, all burgers are served with bottomless fries! These fries, these fries were T-A-S-T-Y TASTY! They had a great crisp bite and the extra selling point is that they are a bottomless portion, but I have to say I was pleased with the amount on the plate and didn’t need to reorder. The Bison Burger was tasty as well, it was juicy and had flavor to it. My only downside is that if you would’ve just put the bison burger in front of me without ordering it I couldn’t tell you the difference between Bison and regular burger. Pittsburgh Burger Co offers 6 other types of Wild Meats which I plan to try each and every one of them and I’m sure I will find something unique in there.

The thing what I like most about Pittsburgh Burger Co compared to Burgatory and (even though I haven’t been to them yet) BRGR and among other trendy burger joints is that Pittsburgh Burger Co keeps it simple. The place inside is nice, not overdone, they have a bar in the back and flat screens throughout. Its just enough. I keep getting the feeling that these new places are made to be unique and sacrifice on the food a little, if you don’t like the Pittsburgh Burger Co I think you are one of those people who are looking for a different food trend and atmosphere rather than the overall quality because based off of the food I had Pittsburgh Burger Co has great quality.

Mediterranean Grill – By Guest Blogger Blake Tarr

Sometimes even the best of us rib eating, hamburger chomping, red meat engulfing, hot dog swallowing, “if it ain’t once move it ain’t getting eating” American needs a slight change of pace. This is what brought me to the Mediterranean Grille in Squirrel Hill. Before I begin my analysis of the food on I would like to be quite frank. “I don’t like food, I love it. If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow, I will return tomorrow night with high expectations…pray you don’t disappoint me.” This quote is from the character Anton Ego from the movie Ratatouille. THAT’S NOT HOW BLAKE ROLLS! This holier than now approach to food makes me sick; foodies go suck on a celery glazed lemon compote with a beautiful chiffonade of greens and truffles picked from a garden when magical unicorns and happy Smurfs attempt to avoid Gargamel.

Blake likes food if the food tastes good! Simply and plain, and the Mediterranean Grille has good food. I went on that rant because I am no expert in Mediterranean cuisine. I don’t pretend to be. If you have a Ph.D. in hummus and can tell the subtly tones left behind after sampling an order of tabouli, this review is not for you. All I know is when my taste buds command my hands to bring some more of that grub back up to my gullet; I have found a place I will be returning to.

The first thing you notice at the Mediterranean Grille (MG) is that you may need Navy Seal Team 6 to find this place. The storefront resides on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, which is becoming hotbed for international cuisine catering to a bustling college crowd eager to prove they are more cultured than their coal-mining parents. A neon sign in the window is the only landmark that can lead you to this hidden gem. When you walk in the dark hallway, you are immediately forced downstairs to an area which contains multiple offices, yes; we are dining in an office building. My first trip to the MG, I was sure a doll on a tricycle was going to come out and ask me “Would you like to play a game?” But then ahead of me resided my holy grail.

In a room that resembled more of a dance studio than restaurant, you sit down in a pretty cramp room which has mirrors all over the walls. Now one thing about Blake is as much as Blake loves food, he loves Blake even more, so being able to watch Blake as Blake ate, stupendous. After waiting a bit to be seated, it was clear that there were not many people staffed in this establishment. After a nice talk with one of the waitresses, who while maybe not the most expeditious server, made up for it with sheer hospitality! I was given the back story of the place without even asking. Apparently the restaurant is a family owned endeavor ran by a mother and her daughters please cue the song “Family Affair” by Sly and the Family Stone, while you read the rest of this review. Blake absolutely has a soft spot for family owned establishments.

My introduction to the food involved the Mezza platter. This hefty platter is meant to be shared! It contains hummus, baba ghannouj, tabouli, feta cheese, and calamata olives. Opa! The exciting thing about this platter is not the components, even though they accompanied each other nicely. It was the pita! The pita was soft and warm when it arrived at the table, clearly just prepared, not sitting in the back of the kitchen pleading and hoping it gets selected like a puppy at the kennel. My personal taste does not favor baba ghannouj, but everything else was delicious.

My next choice was the artichoke heart salad. The description of this tasty morsel states artichoke hearts smothered with a sesame tahini sauce, and fresh lemon. Smothered, was definitely an accurate description. If you like tahini sauce, you will love this, which almost was a tahini soup with as much sauce as was used, but Blake screams, “This was scrumptious!” The artichoke hearts meshed well with the sauce for a refreshing taste on my tongue that made me crave my entrée. Based on the size of this dish I can only assume it was meant for sharing because you are provided with an overabundance of food on this dish also.

Lastly, I finished with a few wraps to end the meal. The Gyro Wrap consists of your standard toppings of lettuce, tomato, onion, in a wrap with a sour cream sauce. The Falafel Wrap consists of falafel with again the same toppings as the gyro wrap but the tahini sauce is the closer, telling the sour cream sauce, you had a good run, hit the showers buddy. There was nothing special about either wrap, good but not great….hmmm maybe I do have a little Anton Ego in me……a little. Both wraps held true to the restaurants theme of huge portions, but flavor wise, if you have had a gyro or falafel before, there is nothing novel here.

In summary, I enjoyed my trip to the Mediterranean Grille, if you can find a Sherpa to take you there, I would say go. The establishment is reasonably priced with their main plates between $12 -20. This is not going to be life changing, life inspiring, culinary transcendent food which leaves your taste buds in a mind blowing speechless haze. It is a wonderful change a pace to all of us who are half caveman and typically only dine on unsuspecting animals found in The Jungle Book. Blake just liked the food, and that is absolutely okay for me!

Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

Frank’s Pizza & Chicken (North Hills)

Frank's Pizza & Chicken on Urbanspoon

Let me first state the Urbanspoon only has 2 of the 4 Frank’s Pizza & Chicken locations and they don’t have either location that I usually go to so I just picked one to use as the tag. The location I visit is in North Hills or Ross as they list it, I usually only visit them for lunch because I don’t have a location close to my house. My normal order is usually the Buffalo Chicken Salad which has popcorn chicken size bites of chicken breast tossed in buffalo sauce then served with french fries, lettuce, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, black olives and topped with mozzarrella & provolone cheese. Always, and I mean ALWAYS get the house-made Ranch dressing. I could write a review of the salad, but I wanted to give you more, so I went with what they call “Our Famous Buffalo Chicken Pizza, Our Housemade Specialty and #1 Seller!”. If you view the picture above, doesn’t that just make your salivary glands go crazy! The description Frank’s uses is “Tender cuts of chicken breast tossed in a buffalo sauce and topped with mozzarella and provolone cheese on our hand-tossed dough. Includes our house-made ranch dressing for dipping. Simply mouth-watering.” Yea that description does just fine! The North Hills location has at least been open for a year, maybe even more and I have never ordered anything bad, my grandmother even thinks their pizza is the best pizza she has ever had and she’s 96 so she’s had enough pizza in her life to make a great judgment call! If you like Buffalo Chicken, go to the source and order it from Frank’s Pizza & Chicken, as they say on the menu “No thanks if it’s not Frank’s!” All the Frank’s locations I know of are all delivery and pickup, no eat in, but the North Hills location does have some outdoor picnic tables for the summer.

Frank’s Pizza & Chicken (North Hills)
101 Rochester Road
North Hills, PA 15229
Phone- 412-931-5040
Web- http://www.frankspizzaandchicken.com/
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Franks-Pizza-Chicken/129258007123055
Twitter – https://twitter.com/frankspizza1

Mad Mex (Monroeville)

Mad Mex (Monroeville) on Urbanspoon

Raise your hand if you haven’t been to a Mad Mex location…I’ll wait… Really? My first trip to Mad Mex was a while back and it wasn’t for food, just the Big Azz Margarita special. On almost every holiday or special day Mad Mex does some type of Big Azz Margarita special and they are totally worth it! I remember being there during the 2008 Presidential Election watching as Barack Obama was announced the President elect, and me and my friends rushed home to watch his speech seeing as Mad Mex wouldn’t turn the sound on (still pissed about that!). Every time I am there it is for some Big Azz special, well yesterday I took my friend Rachel for a belated birthday dinner (Happy Birthday Rachel!) and we made sure we got there for the happy hour specials. I started with a Big Azz Black Cherry Margarita on the rocks (not a big fan of frozen) and if anyone from Mad Mex is reading this I need to mention that the Cranberry Margarita’s need to return, I haven’t seen them in a while and they were the bomb (.com). Where was I? Oh yea, the Margarita was on point as usual and Rachel was hyping up the Grilled Chicken & Corn Burrito which she had the last time. It has fresh local corn with grilled chicken, roasted chilis, goat cheese, monterey jack cheese, pico de gallo and mexican rice all stuffed in side a square (really?) burrito and topped with colorado sauce. Grilled corn salsa, sour cream, and guacamole are on the side. The thing that won me over about this burrito was the goat cheese, never have I ever had goat cheese in something at a mexican restaurant. Mad Mex gets bonus points for that!

My standard at Mad Mex is usually the “Nacho Momma’s Taco Platter” and is ground beef taco’s, it’s pretty idiot proof and the standard in mexican food. I am also a fan of the Chicken Chimi.

WE BROKE INTO THE TOP 10!!!

I noticed on Friday that Yinz Hungry has broken into the Top 10 blogs of Urbanspoon Pittsburgh! My goal since adding to UrbanSpoon was to get into the Top 10 and it has finally happened! I have to say that we aren’t too far from #9, but have plenty of work to do until we reach #1! I will not stop! I hope you won’t stop either! Our badge of honor is posted on the top right of the blog and will change as we move up (but hopefully not down) the leaderboard!

*** 7/11 UPDATE : As of this weekend we have moved up to the #9 position!
*** 7/13 UPDATE : As of today we have moved up to the #7 position! Ain’t no stopping us now!