Tag Archives: Restaurants

A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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A Party Down in Pittsburgh

As often as I can, I try to get out of town on long weekends and the recent Victoria Day long weekend was no exception. In fact, this time I turned the three day weekend into a five-day road trip and took my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in about 25 years, but remember enjoying my last visit. Initially, we were only going to stay a day or two, go to visit Fallingwater and the Hershey factory, when I realized that Hershey was about three and a half hours in the opposite direction. So we changed our itinerary. It turns out that we had no problem finding tons of things to see and do in Pittsburgh! The city is very vibrant, home to many innovative companies, products and services, has truly fantastic restaurants and plenty of sporting events for the athletic enthusiast. I can honestly say that one out of every four people in Pittsburgh were decked out in black and yellow in an ode to the Pirates, Penguins or their beloved Steelers. This is a city that wears their love of the game on their sleeve…where everyone can see it!

Pittsburgh is a tourist friendly city! When we were trying to find a specific area of a large cemetery, to avoid having us get lost, the groundskeeper gave us an escort over to the exact location… in his cart. The next day, we stopped to ask a police officer how to find the Duquesne Brewery Clock (the largest single face clock in the world – two times the size of Big Ben!). Moments later, we found ourselves with a police escort right to its location!

Over our four day visit, some of our favourite sites included the Heinz Center, the Strip District, Randyland, and Fallingwater.

Of course, during our days of sightseeing we needed energy and found no shortage of great restaurants. For lunch and dinner, whether it was Primanti Bros., an Argentinian steakhouse, or some fun and whimsical donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, you could simply eat your way through the city and walk away a happy camper.

Sports fans, don’t look any further than Pittsburgh, which has an NFL, NHL, and a major league baseball team. During my trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town, and while they weren’t successful on the field, the ballpark was beautiful to see and it was a beautiful spring night for baseball.

Lastly, I have to mention a one-day excursion down to Fallingwater. Built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful country home is about 1.5 hours away from Pittsburgh. It is a a gorgeous drive and should not be missed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a few of the places on my trip, but needless to say, if you’re up for a fun and adventurous road trip, Pittsburgh should be next on your list!

 

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Rose and Sons: All grown up….and delicious!

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the revamped Rose and Sons to take my wife out for our anniversary lunch. Rose and Sons was the first of a unique set of restaurants, such as Big Crow, Fat Pasha, and Schmaltz Appetizing -all owned by Anthony Rose.

Rose and Sons is a tiny hole in the wall, that when originally opened, could best be described as an upscale diner. It was a licensed establishment, with amazing dishes and high-end comfort foods. The location at Dupont only fits about 20-25 people, but it’s always busy and popular.

Back a few months ago, restless for change, Rose and Sons revamped their menu, and instead of a diner, it’s now an old school delicatessen. I was a little skeptical at first, but I’ve heard nothing but good things.

Chopped liver was our appetizer and was absolutely amazing. This was followed by my wife and I both ordering pastrami sandwiches…which is the house specialty, brined in house and smoked at Big Crow. As a funny aside, it was a tough choice for my wife, choosing between that and the smoked turkey, so I jokingly mentioned to the server that if any turkey fell onto the plate, I wouldn’t complain if they left it there. Low and behold, the cook overheard this and put a few pieces of turkey on the side for us to try.

Aside from the sandwiches, we also tried the thick cut french fries, which were served hot, crispy and perfectly salted. Lastly, how could we not share a dill pickle?

All of the food came out hot and fresh and the chopped liver was not only attractively presented, but delicious! The portion sizes were generous and we left stuffed.

Though there were only a couple of servers due to the size of the restaurant, the service was fast, friendly, warm and the employees were very knowledgeable and excited about the new menu. The cook was also extremely friendly and clearly strives to provide customer satisfaction.

The price is a little north of your typical delicatessen and you may end up waiting for a table as it can be busy on weekends, but it’s worth every penny and every minute of your time.

For those that know me, even though there are a lot of restaurants I enjoy, there are very few restaurants that I really look forward to going back to. This is one of them. While I will miss the diner (the patty melt remains on the menu!), I am happy to welcome a superb deli experience!

Rose and Sons
176 Dupont Street
647-748-3287
http://www.roseandsons.ca

 

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Leela will show you a great night on the town!

Recently, when my wife was out with a friend, they went to an Indian restaurant in The Junction area. When my wife returned home, she said she had a great meal and that it was a little different from most Indian restaurants she’d been to.

The place is called Leela Indian Food Bar and they describe their restaurant as “a journey of old Indian streets, with dhaba-style food”. The menu covers all regions of India, but has some different and authentic Indian dishes.

My wife has been wanting to go back for a repeat visit, so this past weekend, we made a reservation and headed there for dinner.

The restaurant is a small, rustic, but modern place, with approximately 30 seats. It has an open kitchen so you’re able to see the entire cooking process. When we arrived, we were greeted right away warmly and seated at a table that was already set for us. We were quickly approached by the server, who was very pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu items. Unlike most servers who don’t make recommendations until you ask, he told us all of his favourites and recommended items according to our tastes.

Even though they prepare all of the dishes as they are ordered, the food arrived quickly. All of the dishes were hot, fresh and everything was really beautifully presented.

During the course of the meal, the server was extremely attentive and made sure our water glasses were always filled. We received the bill soon after we had asked or it, and the payment was taken promptly. As we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, we were thanked for coming, given multiple coupons for a return visit (good for any night of the week….no restrictions!) and headed out for a walk in the neighbourhood.

Whether it’s just a night on the town, a first date, or a family function, Leela has great food, great atmosphere and is something a little different.

Leela
416-769-7777
http://www.leelaindian.ca

 

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How Starbucks Became my “Third Place”

Starbucks Secret Menu

When it comes to my caffeine fix, I will admit that I love Tim Hortons and always go there for my morning coffee. The coffee tastes great and I find it less expensive than many coffee shops.

That said, in more recent times, my visits to Starbucks have become more regular, since my wife and daughter enjoy a number of their drinks, including their “Secret Frappuccino Menu”. In addition, over the last few months, my daughter has asked me to take her to the local Starbucks so she can sip on a beverage and relax in the “big cozy chairs” after a day of skating or other fun activities.

Since I began sharing these experiences with my daughter, I have started to appreciate the Starbucks experience even more. Currently, I frequent my local Starbucks to catch up with friends, have informal business meetings, or get work done without the distractions encountered at my home or office. In fact, between the big cozy chairs, the free Wi-Fi, and some nice music playing, I’m wondering if I really need an office anymore!

During a recent visit, I was surprised to observe how many of the customers at the Bathurst and Joicey location were regulars. What was even more surprising, is how the employees knew many of these people by name, regardless of whether they were a manager, full-time or part-time employee. In addition to the personal touch, I also like how this location usually has seats available. Whether it’s the big cozy chairs, a table for two, or space at the communal desk, they have room for everyone!

I remember Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks saying that his goal was to have Starbucks be the “Third Place” in our lives…home being the first, work second and Starbucks third. Given my recent experiences, I see what he means, and I think that he might have succeeded.

So if you have some time to kill, want to catch up with friends, relax with a book, do some work, or just sip on a tasty drink, check out your local Starbucks.

Starbucks
1-800-782-7282
www.starbucks.ca

 

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Games Night—Stay Latte!

Several weeks ago, as the weather turned colder, my family introduced me to great place for food and fun, located in downtown Toronto.

Snakes and Lattes (S&L) is Toronto’s original board game café where you can dine and play games for as little or as much time as you would like.  With over 1,000 games to choose from, there truly is something for everyone!  S&L now has two downtown locations.  The original location first opened on Bloor Street in 2010, and after much success, they opened their second location on College Street in 2015.

Both locations offer guests a dining experience, however, Bloor Street is more of a cafe, while the College Street location has more food and beverage options.  Of course, the food is almost secondary, to the main reason for going to Snakes and Lattes…..to play games.  In fact, if you enjoy any of the games that you play, they also have an area of the store where you can purchase games (I believe they are the only place in the city to buy the popular game, Cards Against Humanity).

The staff are well educated and can suggest age appropriate games for your group and give you details on how to play each game.  This is pretty impressive given the number of games S&L offers.  The games are divided into zones like card games, strategy, fantasy and more.  Some of the games are ones you have probably never heard of but they do indeed exist!

Snakes and Lattes does not take reservations so it is good to get there early, but if there is a wait, they will take down your number and text you when a table is available.  Even if you have to wait, it is definitely worth it!  S&L provides a fun evening out where you and your friends or family can partake in something a bit different than just going out for dinner or drinks.  It’s an especially enjoyable place to go during the cold winter months.  

Don’t be surprised if you get hit by the bug and end up buying a game you played that night….it’s happened to us more than once.  Alternatively, you can also purchase games from their website.

Now back to Monopoly……

Snakes and Latte’s
647-342-9229
www.snakesandlattes.com

 

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Top 5 Unique Dining Experiences in Toronto

What makes Toronto great is that tourists and Torontonians alike get to truly explore the city through its unique culinary concoctions. Since we all know that great food should always come with great memories, we present our top 5 unique dining experiences in Toronto!

1. O.Noir: Test your heightened senses when you enter the pitch-black dining hall of this restaurant! Run by a team of visually-impaired wait staff, this restaurant gives its customers insight on what it’s like to be blind.

2. 360 Restaurant: Get a breathtaking view of the city when you dine from high above at the CN Tower, and enjoy some unforgettable cuisine by an award-winning team led by Chef de Cuisine John Morris and Food and Beverage Director Peter George.

3. Mysteriously Yours: A fan of dinner theatre, comedy, and murder mysteries? This restaurant consists of a hilariously fun and interactive performance that involves the audience members themselves! At the end of a performance, the audience gets a chance to solve a murder mystery and win prizes.

4. Rawlicious: From thirst-quenching watermelon salads, to beautifully made vegetable spring rolls, Rawlicious serves platters of super healthy and nutritious food. This restaurant has a clear conscience when it comes to eating – there is no wheat, meat, dairy, and refined sugar in anything that they serve their customers!

5. Medieval Times: Knights, horses, armor, weapons, and a castle. At Medieval Times, you don’t enjoy a mere dinner, but a feast while watching an epic battle of steel and steed! Be in awe as the stone walls of this 11th century castle come to life right before your eyes.

 

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