Tag Archives: dormont

Conversatin’ Fridays: Mama, I’m Movin’ Out

After a quick three-day jaunt out of town, I am back in Pittsburgh to finish what I really started last week: Moving out of my lovely apartment in the loveliest lil’ borough of Dormont. I packed up the books (Eighteen boxes! Not counting the cookbooks!), then the movies, then the records, which  meant, of course, that I’d have to eventually get around to packing up my kitchen.

Which I’m still in the process of doing. I spent nearly all day in and out of the kitchen, wrapping up glasses and plates in newspaper, stuffing boxes full of random utensils, stripping off the worn and dingy shelf paper, finding the right box to hold all of my spices and baking accessories. In one little kitchen there seems to be so much that needs to be done. You have to wonder how it only took two years to pack this much intricacies into a room. It feels like there’s something in every corner.

Tomorrow movers come in to transport my beloved yellow kitchen table (known as “Goldie”) and chairs to its new home in Shadyside, where the affluent and intellectual will surely sense that I do not match the delicate inner workings of the neighborhood and reject me, sending me right back into the arms of the South Hills.

It’s not that I’m not looking forward to trying out Shadyside. I sort of lived in that area while in my undergraduate years at Chatham, but I always stuck to the Squirrel Hill side of the campus. I know of good places to go, but mostly specialty spots, places that I wouldn’t necessarily visit on a regular basis. I need the rundown on the staples.

While I attack the rest of my apartment, I ask you affluent, intellectual types out there: What is there to do in Shadyside? Best coffee shop? Best restaurant? Best place to grab a cheap lunch? Any suggestions?

Jose & Tony’s


I spent a lot of time in Chicago wistfully searching for the right dirty little Mexican restaurant in which to get my dirty little Mexican food fix. I wasn’t looking for gourmet, I wasn’t looking for upscale. I didn’t want to try Rick Bayless’s latest venture (well, okay, yes I did, but that’s not my point). I wanted street corner, hole-in-the-wall, greasy, gooey food that might be as delicious as it is potentially deadly.

One of my friends, knowing my proclivity for down and dirty Mexican grub couldn’t believe I hadn’t been to Jose & Tony’s, a combination dive bar and dive restaurant in the area. I had passed by it, certainly, but had never ventured in. Seeing as it was amidst the happiest of hours and we were both in need of a cheap drink and an even cheaper taco, he took me over there to try the place out.


This is a trying time for dives. Used to be that dives received special consideration from visitors and subsequent critics. Now that everyone gets to be a critic, slamming a place is as easy as going on Urbanspoon and writing about how terrible the food was, how cheesy the decor, how rundown and slightly unkempt a place is. In the cluttered world of online reviewing, dives are no longer held apart for their unique charms.

It’s an especially trying time for dives because they are still considered, and will probably always be considered, cool, at least in some respects. Young hipsters like dives because they bring them face to face with the common man. They also like them because they tend to be really cheap, allow smoking, and half empty.

But people are starting to ask more of dive bars and restaurants then just being half empty, smokey, and cheap. The normal, discriminating, non-hip diner got wind of the whole dive appeal and sought to understand it for his or her self. And that’s when the secret was blown: A chock full of charm as they are, many of these places serve food that is just this side of mediocre.

The dim lighting and the dingy surroundings might be okay for the place’s base clientele, but here these people had made a special trip in to try a place and all they were getting was mediocre food and stares from the regulars. A show like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives may make every place seem like a big family, but most dives have their own inherent, unstated rules for their regular customers.

A show like DDD also shows a place in the best possible light, which means that obvious attractions of a dive, like smoking, would be removed for the purposes of filming. You can’t have Guy Fieri marching into a smoke-filled bar to declare its meatballs and roast beef unbelievable. The clean-cut nature of the Food Network would simply not allow it.

Anyway, I’ve gotten off the subject. But yes, for dives, these are hard times. Only in a theoretical sense. Most of these places have owners who couldn’t give a damn about what some one-time customer has to say about their restaurant’s draft list and hamburgers. These places build a reputation on the people who come in time and time again. They don’t really need to be courting outsiders.


As for me? Well, I felt right at home. Wes ordered a Deluxe California Burrito, which came before us a gooey, gloppy mess of delicious. The sheer amount of sour cream would have grossed out my vegan partner, but I had to say, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a restaurant over use a condiment to such a delightful extreme. I noticed from a quick bite that the enchilada sauce had a little heat to it, which worked especially well with all that cool sour cream.


I ordered a bean taco in a flour tortilla and a chicken taco in a corn tortilla. There were some decent ingredients underneath the fearsome layer of shredded iceberg. The beans were maybe a tad over cooked, a little sludgy and heavy, but the chicken was surprisingly tender and flavorful. For two bucks, they weren’t going to be the freshest, best tacos, but they were certainly superior to their fast food counterpart. I got what I expected, no more, no less.

Restaurant standards are a personal issue. I personally don’t like going to most Italian restaurants, because no matter the quality, I always feel kind of ripped off (of course there are exceptions). Many people would probably not want to go to Jose & Tony’s because they would be looking for a standard of service, atmosphere, and food quality that is simply not in line with this kind of operation. If it helps to think of it as a bar with tacos, then think of it that way.

I got my greasy taco fix, I got to share a pitcher of margaritas for an insanely low price, and I got to catch up on the Women’s World Cup (blaring from a large TV in the corner). You could do a whole heck of a lot worse for a Monday evening.


Jose & Tony's on Urbanspoon

It’s Springtime: Time for Hot Dogs!

We have a lot of treasures here in Dormont, some of them barely known (Mekong), some of them highly celebrated (Dor-Stop), but many of them rankable among the city’s best dining choices. In a contest among the city’s hot dog joints, Dormont Dogs would be tough competition.

Part of the appeal is the simplicity of the establishment. Located just off of Potomac Avenue on Glenmore Avenue, the restaurant is about the size of an efficiency apartment. It’s long enough, but skinny, and visitors are almost immediately greeted by a tall counter and board of hot dog options. Seating is fairly limited – a few tables squeezed inside, plus a larger picnic bench outside for – so it’s not the ideal place for a large group to dine in. But while the cramped design may emphasize basic function over comfort and accommodation, the menu is a perfect example of maximizing the options within a limited realm of cuisine.

As far as the actual hot dogs go, there are at least fifteen different variations on the menu. Dogs are available in meat or vegetarian form. The buns are fresh from Potomac Bakery just around the corner. In addition to the dogs, there are chips, homemade sides like potato salad and coleslaw, and even a thrifty Po’ Bo, this one a handy snack of tomato sauce and mozzarella piled on a crunchy baked hot dog bun. Candy and pop are also available. So yes, lots and lots of options. But obviously, the hot dogs are the stars here.

And take the spotlight they do. You can opt for a Plain Jane or a classic Chili Dog, but you can also take a walk around town via the many street-named hot dog choices. Pictured above is my choice from my last visit: A Louisiana Avenue veggie dog, complete with hot sauce and Cajun coleslaw. The veggie dogs that Dormont Dogs use are far better than your average tofu dog. While many veggie dogs can be mushy and unsubstantial, these have a casing that allow for an extra crunch and even mimic the folds of a meat hot dog. Coupled with the spicy, crunchy slaw and added heat from the hot sauce, the dog still maintained a definite flavor. The bun was crispy on the outside, soft inside, and soaked up the extra juice from the coleslaw. As a device for wiping up extras, it served its role perfectly.

My dining companions both opted for the Texas Avenue Dog, heavily adorned with chili sauce, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and Fritos for an extra salty crunch. The chili was laid a bit thinner than on a normal chili dog and for good reason. This was not a dog that needed a whole heaping of each topping, but rather compromised amounts of each. The sour cream was maybe a bit heavier than I would have personally preferred, but I bet it was absolutely delicious when taken in with the sharp cheese.

You might already have your hot dog joint of choice, but if you’re looking to try something new, you should take a visit to Dormont and try out the neighborhood in hot dog form, or you can forgo the local theme and opt instead for a Dog Father – pepperoni, salami, mozzarella, romaine, banana peppers, and Italian vinaigrette – or try out a classy Bruschetta Dog, with olive oil- marinated tomatoes, creamy pesto, and Parmesan. Whether meat-eating or veg-loving, you’re bound to get a good dog for your buck.

Dormont Dogs on Urbanspoon

Good Morning, Salted Caramel Bread Pudding!


Behold last week’s treat from Sugar Cafe. Some people like to get their sweet fix early in the day, some like to get it following dinner. Me, I’ll take my sweet fix any how and any time I can get it, which is how someone like me ends us eating a donut and bread pudding in the same day (and probably some Girl Scout cookies too). It is also how someone like me will never, ever be a super slender person.

Whatever. If you and I were playing a game of “Would You Rather…” and your question was, “Would you rather be super fit and perfect looking but you could never eat any unnecessary calories, meaning no desserts, no snacks, no extras OR would your rather eat anything you like, but have to work out at least four hours a week and maintain a fairly active lifestyle to maintain even the slightest hold over your fitness?”

I’d go for the latter. In a heartbeat. What is the worth of living if I can’t eat something like salted caramel bread pudding? Isn’t this why we make and share and eat these things? Because they, in some way, contain the love that we feel for ourselves, feel for others? If cooking is an act of love that you perform for others, couldn’t eating something purely for taste and desire be considered an act of love for yourself?

Good Morning, Dor-Stop!


While I’d love to crawl out of bed early each Saturday to explore the vast array of delicious breakfast options that this city has to offer, it’s more than likely that Saturday mornings are spent sleeping in, then cooking a late breakfast in my own kitchen. This is a perfectly reasonable way to enjoy a weekend morning, but it has been limiting on my breakfast experience around town.

Another obstacle in my path to local breakfast domination is that I have one of the best diners in the area mere blocks away from my apartment. The Dor-Stop on Potomac Avenue draws in a consistent flow of weekday traffic, but it is the weekends that are the big deal here. Visitors from all around the area bring their loved ones. People line up in the cramped entrance way or shuffle about outside, sipping cups of coffee and waiting for their table. The wait – which is never more than fifteen minutes – is more than worth it.
Dor-Stop on Urbanspoon

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Sugar Cafe Article Posted!

On the Dormont-Brookline Patch:
The Local Table: Kelly James and the Sugar Cafe Add a Little Extra Sweetness to Dormont

This Week on the Dormont-Brookline Patch: Sugar, Sugar!

So normally, I am about five steps behind the happenings around town. Recently, I’ve become more in the know about newly opening restaurants, the buzzed about places, the comings and goings of the food life in Pittsburgh. Yet, I’m never on top of a story.

Well, when you live down the street from a hotly anticipated, soon-to-open cafe, you keep your eyes peeled for signs of life. But how I found out that the Sugar Cafe was going to open on Friday morning wasn’t good scouting, but some terrific luck. My pal, Jackie, who lives right down the street from me on West Liberty Avenue, was walking back from my apartment on Broadway sometime after midnight on Thursday, when she spied that the slowly deteriorating paper shrouding the big windows of Sugar Cafe had finally been torn down. I received a text and that was that.

What a little blurb on the blog doesn’t tell you is that I have become borderline obsessed with this place. Okay, that’s a bit of a hyperbole. But for someone who has trouble working at home, it’s become a minor godsend. I get off the T a stop early at Potomac, stroll down to the cafe, have a cup of coffee, pastry (I’m just pretending that everything in the cafe is magic and doesn’t have calories), and sit down to write for a while. I know the whole thing of going to a cafe to write is seen as sort of pretentious, and maybe it is. You know what else it is? FRIGGIN SWEET.

For my first weekday evening in the cafe, I got to sit down with the owner, Kelly James, to discuss her fantastic opening weekend. I definitely suggest reading the article, but more importantly, I highly recommend the Sugar Cafe. Come by any weekday between 5:30 and 6:00, and you’ll likely me see there, typing and sipping away.

(Note: Article is not live on the site as of yet. I will update post when it is active.)

Sugar Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sugar Cafe Opens Today!

The much buzzed about, highly anticipated bakery-coffee shop, Sugar Cafe, opens today. I will definitely be making a stop in to sample the goods, take a look around, and enjoy the taste of something brand spanking new in our humble little borough of Dormont.

For more info on Sugar and its owner, Kelly James, check out the following links. And of course, check out the cafe itself, located right by the Potomac T Station on Potomac Avenue.

– “New Cafe Coming to Dormont” on the Dormont-Brookline Patch
– “Sugar Café will make Dormont’s Potomac Avenue even sweeter” on PopCity
– “On the Table: Unique Pittsburgh bakeries flourish with special dessert treats” on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Kellypastry: Kelly James Twitter

Also, apologies for my relative quietness this week. First it was too busy, then it was too nice outside to concentrate on typing. Rest assured, I have a ton of new posts coming up, including trips to Chaya and Sababa in Squirrel Hill. I’ve also been working on a few new features to debut, hopefully by the middle of next week, to run in addition to the general chatter that goes on around here. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that I can get down to some serious writing business this weekend.

But seriously, how freaking gorgeous was it out there today? After work, I walked home, so that I could soak up the unseasonably warm weather and take a few shots of my beloved neighborhood. It seemed like the entire borough was out to enjoy the few precious days of respite from the cold. My favorite shot:


Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. The temperature is going to drop drop drop come Sunday.

Good Morning, Potomac Bakery!

I have yet to have anything from that was less than delicious from Potomac Bakery, but a mix of at-odds schedules and my workplace’s proximity to Graham’s Bakery in Mt. Lebanon has kept me from becoming a frequent customer. I should probably be thankful for this: The last thing I need is more food obsessions to empty my wallet and expand my waistband.

But the occasional  treat is alright by me. I used photographing the Valentine’s displays at Potomac as an excuse to try two delectable little tarts, a cherry pastry tart and a blueberry tart with Linzer torte pastry for the dough. They were the perfect pre-V-Day sweet treat, and at a $1.50 for the pair, well worth the money. Heart-shaped cakes and cookies and cupcakes with mountains of frosting and sprinkles are all well and good, but I like to keep my baked goods simply and classy. (Cause Classy is my middle name…. Immediately following “Not Remotely,” of course…)

In regards to the picture, tea and pastries has become my absolute favorite thing to come home to after a long workday. I’ve always been a fan of the British scheduled tea-time, as it helps break up the day without making too much of an interruption in the middle of a work flow. Not to mention it’s a great excuse to drink a hot beverage and snack on something tasty.

Were I able to, I would have a private ten-minute tea time every day, just around four, when my energy was getting supremely low and I needed something to push me through the last hour. Instead, I’ve taken to coming home from work, making a pot of coffee in the French Press or warming up a mug water in the microwave for tea, finding something on the sweet side to indulge in and just sitting down at my kitchen table to enjoy a few minutes of solitude, quiet, and light snacking.

Perhaps with that post-work dream state in mind, I will be making more stops in at Potomac Bakery in the future. I’ve already got a plan for a few preserves-stuffed, sugar-dusted cookies I spied the other day while in the shop.

This Week on the Dormont-Brookline Patch: Neighborhood Options for Local Sweethearts on Valentine’s Day

I really need to get out of the habit of writing event or holiday – specific posts, but this week’s article on the Dormont-Brookline Patch focuses on neighborhood establishments that are offering a little something special for Valentine’s Day. If you live in the South Hills area and need a place to take your loved one on February 14th, definitely check out my article. It could be the difference between life AND death. Or, you know, it could just steer you to my favorite gyro restaurant in town, It’s Greek to Me on Brookline Boulevard. Either way…

As for my V-Day plans, I’ll be hanging with my partner and all will be swell. I don’t really go in for Valentine’s Day. It’s not a single-person bitterness thing, cause I’ve had plenty of relationships during the “holiday,” it’s just a sense of pointlessness that is too overpowering for me to enjoy the manufactured nature of the celebrations. Say what you will about the “commercialism” of Christmas, that time of year still seems to mean something more than what is given and received. That time of year has so much meaning to so many different people of the world, it seems ridiculous to dismiss it based off of American capitalist tendencies.

Whereas Valentine’s Day, although it is sweet that we have a day dedicated to the celebration of courtly love, is not even a traditional Christian holiday anymore. Why? Cause in 1969, the Roman Catholic Church presented the question: Who was St. Valentine, and why do we have a big ass holiday to honor him? And when they couldn’t come up with a good enough response (“…. he was… a martyr…?”), they decided that while it was all well and good that people were going to continue to celebrate the holiday, they would no longer honor it as an official church-sanctioned occasion. Good riddance, I say.

Still, I find the holiday a little unsettling in how it encourages people to save open expressions of love for a specific day of the year. Not that all who celebrate V-Day do that. As a matter of fact, most of the couples I know who do something special on February 14th are the kind of couples who are openly and expressively in love with one another. They don’t need the day to tell them to appreciate and celebrate their love, but they take it anyway, cause why the hell not?

But a holiday that at best is unnecessary and at worst a commercial waste of time, money, and intellect is not a holiday for me. Maybe I’m completely missing the full picture.

Anyone out there doing something special for Valentine’s Day?