Pittsburgh’s Charming Historic Grand Concourse Restaurant

Grand Concourse pittsburgh

The Grand Concourse Restaurant is a place most proud Pittsburghers know and frequent for special occasions. As their website boasts, most Pittsburghers find this destination of fine dining to be “unmatched in grandeur”. I would, for the most part, agree. This grand historical building and the glamorous décor details create an amazing fine dining ambiance. Although I am very grateful, and consider myself lucky to be treated to a dinner here, I was slightly disappointed in some aspects of the food.

As a former railroad train station, the Grand Concourse preserves the charm of the Progressive Era. With statement cathedral stained-glass vaulted ceilings, marble columns, and a dramatic staircase, guests are easily impressed. I know I certainly feel the elevated atmosphere as I enter the formal restaurant. With all of our city’s modern transformations, it’s nice to visit a place so authentically historic. Beyond the main dining area, is the waterfront dining section, offering views of the downtown cityscape and the Smithfield Bridge.

Grand concourse pittsburgh waterfront dining
From grandconcourserestaurant.com

Grand Concourse is best known for its award-winning opulent brunch buffet, which I have fond memories of attending regularly as a child. My most recent visit was an overdue Valentine’s day dinner. My Valentine booked us for an 8:30 reservation on the Saturday post-holiday. Even though we arrived 10 minutes early, we still had to wait about 15 mins past our reservation time for our table. This wait was  disappointing, but allowed me to decide what to order from the vast Dinner menu. While waiting, a very upset customer complained to the maitre’d that his table’s meal arrived cold 45 minutes after ordering. As we walked to our table the main dining room appeared full, but the waterfront area was only half seated.

To start we received delicious, warm buttery bread rolls and crackers paired with a rich smoked salmon pate spread. I ordered a lobster bisque and my BF ordered a Seasonal Goat Cheese Salad of strawberries, candied pecans, poppy seeds, with white balsamic and a warm goat cheese crouton.

My thoughts that the kitchen was behind and understaffed, were confirmed as my soup did not arrive until about 10 minutes after my BF’s salad did. When it did there was soup on the edge of the bowl and splatted on the rim…!?

I did not enjoy the soup. It was very one-noted with only the taste of creamy lobster stock. But somehow still with only a tiny about of actual lobster in it. I craved seasoning, green onions, vegetables, or really anything at all to break up the single boring thick lobster stock element.

Overall, my main dish did not disappoint. I ordered the Ultimate Seafood Mixed Trio of  grilled salmon, crab cake and coconut macadamia shrimp. I enjoyed all three. The salmon and crab cake were of great quality, moist, and cooked well. The coconut shrimp were flavorful, crispy and not at all greasy.

The sides on the other hand were lack luster. I selected the side of parmesan risotto to go with it, but was not impressed. It just seems like cheesey rice to me. The kind sold as a rice side from the grocery store, in the cardboard box with the special seasoning package. I usually LOVE a flavorful cheese-based risotto, so I was disappointed. I had ordered asparagus, but was given broccoli. It came in this huge chunk, without the leaves even removed. Seemed an odd, no-effort-required way to serve broccoli. At a fine dining place I expect more. All they did was chop a huge chunk off the bushel and steam it. I didn’t bother to even try it. When I go out to eat I want to have food that I couldn’t have prepared myself. I put more effort into preparing my broccoli at home.

My boyfriend enjoyed his Filet Mignon prepared with maître d’butter. He did note it didn’t seem to match the price, compared to other exception filet experiences he’d had elsewhere. Again the sides of reggiano potato croquettes, asparagus did not live up to much. The “potato croquettes” actually just seemed like dollops of bland mashed potato that had been fried to achieve a crispy outer shell. Again seemed to be lacking unique flavor to make this side truly enjoyable and delicious.

Our final choice of the evening was the Bananas Foster Creme Brulee. While beautifully presented, totally “Instagram-able” and overall enjoyable, I again think there was a missed opportunity to make this dish truly delicious. When the title of the dish says “Bananas Fosters” I expect the bananas to be caramelized! They were served raw on top of the creme brulee. I LOVE warm, sweet, melt in your mouth caramelized bananas and was truly shocked and disappointed with that lackluster aspect of this dessert.

Grand Concourse Dessert

Overall we had an okay trip to the Grand Concourse Restaurant and I really am lucky to be treated to a meal at a fine dining establishment. The atmosphere is very picturesque and interesting with charming notes to history everywhere you look. Our service was friendly and professional. Our meals we’re of good quality overall, just lacking in flavour and that extra deliciousness that I crave when I’m going out for a fine-dining meal. Maybe the cuisine is intentionally basic. During each course I wanted more. More dimensions of taste & seasoning. This is sounding like the harshest I’ve ever been on a restaurant I’ve written about. I however don’t think I am being very subjectively opinionated. These critiques are just the truth from my objective experience. I’m not an expert food critic, nor a food photographer, just sharing my experience in comparison to other fine dining experiences I’ve also shared on my blog. It’s still a given that every Pittsburgher should experience the atmosphere of the iconic Grand Concourse for themselves, just like we all should indulge in a Primanti’s sandwich.

Grand Concourse Restaurant

Save

Save

Continue Reading

Red Orchid Thai Restaurant

Thai Food Red Orchid

Before I moved to the North Hills of Pittsburgh, I wasn’t at all familiar with the area. My only experience with the area was the Ross Park Mall on the central McKnight Road. One pre-move renovation day, two 26 year old guys working hard to install laminate turned hungry. I had been attempting to remove the most hellishly suborn wallpaper for a solid 6 hours, so I turned to trusty google to discover take out options in the area. I’m not the pizza or sub kind of gal, and I really wanted to reward myself for battling the impossible to remove wallpaper, so I looked for Thai. My search lead me to the Red Orchid on Babcock Boulevard, less than 10 minutes away. Our take-out Thai more than satisfied, definitely the reward 3 reno crazed people needed. My BF and I have been hooked on Red’s Orchid’s Thai food ever since. They’ve recently expanded their dine in area, which my BF and I finally took advantage of this past Saturday.

We started with, what else other than, the classic default Asian appetizer of Crab Rangoon.

Red Orchid North Hills

My go-to main dish order is the Green Curry with shrimp, which consists of broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, eggplant, basil mixed in a green curry paste & coconut milk. It is delicious, but seriously spicy. I order the lowest spice level at a 1 and it stills instantly makes me cough, my nose run and indigestion instantly flare… but I still LOVE the taste. Seriously it’s delicious, even if I can only handle a bit at a time. Usually when I order take out I combat the spice by adding more coconut milk or yogurt. I am sissy when it comes to spicy, but truly even my BF thinks it is spicy for a level 1.

north hills green curry

My BF tried something new, the Thai Panang curry with coconut milk prepared with broccoli, carrots and bell peppers. He ordered a spice level 5, so I was too scared to try it myself.

north hills thai food

We also ordered my other favorite dish, the Pineapple fried rice. Its stir fried with egg, pineapple, cashews, carrots, onion, scallions, and raisins which all combine to create the most delicious nutty flavor. Once I start eating this dish, I have a hard time stopping.

north hills pineapple fried rice

I would really encourage anyone in the North Hills area to step up their takeout experience by ordering from the Red Orchid, or to stop in for the dine-in experience.

Save

Save

Save

Continue Reading

Turn Overripe Bananas into a Delicious Loaf Cake!

Banana & carrot cake ingredients

Do you always have overripe bananas, too mushy to enjoy?  I am often guilty of this food crime. I love to hide overdue bananas in a cake or loaf, with carrots! Yes a cake with both a fruit and a vegetable can be delicious. Check out the recipe below to easily create a moist & flavorful cake with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, but never thought could create a cake! My pantry is always stocked with these versatile items, from my local Pittsburgh Giant Eagle.

Overripe Banana & Carrot Loaf Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup mashed overripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • 3/4 cup mix of light & dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup  vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrot
  • vest of one large navel orange
Cream Cheese Icing
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (more or less depending on sweetness you want)
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream (more or less depending on consistency you want)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • vest of 1/2 of a large navel orange

Recipe Execution

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9×5-inch loaf pan or sheet cake pan by spraying with cooking spray or lining with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and stir.
  3. In a separate bowl combine mashed banana, brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract to whisk together.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl. Add the shredded carrots, coconut, pecans, & orange vest gently mixing together until combined with no flour pockets.
  5. Pour into prepared pans.
  6. Bake the thinner cake pan for 25-30 minutes. Bake the larger loaf pan for 50-60 minutes. Or when a toothpick or fork comes out clean.
  7. Let cool completely.
  8. To make cream cheese icing: Use a hand mixer to blend the butter and cream cheese together. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla and the cream and blend until creamy. You may want more or less cream depending on the consistency you desire.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Continue Reading

Pittsburgh North Hill’s Breakfast Spots

North Hills Breakfast Spots

On the weekends, I love to sleep in and go to an affordable typical American breakfast with my BF. Not an overpriced brunch in the city with champagne or bloody marys, but a relaxed breakfast with no makeup and sweats.  Living in a suburban area, the North Hills of Pittsburgh, we have plenty of homey breakfast choices.

The Island Bean Coffee

island bean mcknight road
Photo from islandbean.com

No morning is complete without coffee. If you can’t already guess by my taste in wine, I love my coffee sweet and flavorful. I haven’t explored all the coffee shops in the North Hills, but my favorite so far is definitely The Island Bean. This is actually a small drive-through right off of McKnight Road by the new Block Northway. Their lattes can be customized through a huge lists of flavors. My favorite so far is the coconut cream, while my BF likes the Nutty Squirrel 🙂 Seriously an upgrade from the bitter lattes of Starbucks we are all used to.

Island Bean Menu

First Watch Cafe, McCandless Crossings

First Watch is a chain, but a very quaint modern farmhouse chic daytime cafe. Not only is the decor & color scheme farmhouse fresh, but the menu is vast with breakfast, brunch and lunch items. First Watch is known for using high quality,  fresh & organic ingredients with many healthy options and fresh pressed juice offerings.

I love their egg hash dishes. The “Skillet Hash – Parma” is two cage-free eggs atop fresh, seasoned potatoes, Italian sausage, house-roasted Crimini mushrooms, onions and tomatoes with melted Parmesan, Mozzarella and fresh herbs. It’s very filling, only about $13 .

first watch egg hash
Photo from First Watch’s Instagram Feed

Eat’n Park

I love a breakfast at Pittsburgh’s  family-owned restaurant chain Eat’n Park. As a teenager this is the place I would go with my friends after every jr high dance, sports game, or any weekend we couldn’t find anything better to do. We’d have fried appetizers, milkshakes and grilled stickies. Now I love to go for good, affordable coffee and pancakes on a weekend morning.

🙂 @eatnpark

A post shared by Kris Wigg (@kristinawigg) on

The Yinzer community is strong here, there’s just something so nice and comforting about coming to Eat’n Park and seeing the hard working employees & patrons, their Pittsburgh pride & friendliness is evident.  Their Caramel  Macchiato Latte, is definitely full of sugar, but it so delicious for a treat. A bonus on top is that it comes with a free refill, that I usually take to go. My go-to Eat’n Park is the one right in front of the Ross Park Mall (7370 McKnight Rd) the other smaller location down McKnight is very slow.

love you a latte ☕️

A post shared by Kris Wigg (@kristinawigg) on

 

I love @eatnpark coffees a whole latte ☕️ #PGWEEKLYFEATURE

A post shared by Moscato Is My Mantra (@moscatoismymantra) on

 

Comment and share with me what Pittsburgh area breakfast spots you love!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Continue Reading

Emiliano’s Mexican, A Love Affair

If you know me, you know I love Pittsburgh’s Emiliano’s Mexican restaurant. This obsession dates back half a decade when I discovered the Southside location via my college friends. If someone had a birthday we probably we’re getting out of the dirty South Oakland (Pitt’s off-campus housing area) and venturing to the Southside for divine margaritas and delicious food.

Post-college I moved about 2 blocks away from the Southside location. I used to joke that the SouthSide Works was the “most dangerous part of town” for me to live; since I was within 2 blocks of Emiliano’s, the Cheesecake Factory and Saga Sushi, as in close enough to be dangerous to my waistline and bank account.

Here I am in the summer of 13′ glowing from an Emiliano’s margarita bliss.

A post shared by Kris Wigg (@kristinawigg) on

 

I spontaneously celebrated National Tequila Day in 2014, aka in my world a valid excuse to get my BF to go to Emiliano’s.

Celebrating national tequila day at emilanos 😝😝😛 with @pciarrocchi7

A post shared by Kris Wigg (@kristinawigg) on

My whole love affair with a Mexican restaurant is actually unexpected because I don’t love tequila, nor do I eat beans, peppers, or anything at all remotely spicy. What I do love are chips. cheese, chorizo, and avocado, which Emiliano’s dishes are filled with.

I have two favorite dishes at Emiliano’s, the grilled shrimp quesadilla and the Choripollo. Emilian’s grilled shrimp quesadilla is unlike any I’ve had elsewhere. The shrimp are sweet, tasty & meaty for a $12.99 appetizer, but the best part to me is the cheese. I’m unsure what type of cheese Emiliano’s uses (it’s yellow) but it is delicious and sweet as well. This dish is perfect for me since it’s not an overwhelming amount of food. I can indulge in my margaritas chips & salsa too without feeling too guilty 😉

Source: Emiliano’s Yelp Page

 

My other favorite dish is the Choripollo, a marinated chicken breast topped with chorizo sausage and a delicious white cheese sauce. For 14.99 this dish is amazing. It’s a huge chicken breasts doused in the cheese & sausage mixture, served with rice, tortillas, guacamole salad and more taco cheese. I always have plenty of leftovers with this order.

 

Source: Emiliano’s Yelp Page

 

Their margaritas on the rocks with a salt rim are my all time favorite drink, besides Moscato. I crave them, ask my BF. These margaritas are smooth and refreshing not sickly sweet like many bar versions can be. It is a good deal to get the pitcher of margarita on the rocks, if you are with at least one other person and you each plan on having more than 1 margarita. Think of it as an investment 🙂

 

 

This blue margarita below is a bit of an upgrade, made with DeKuyper Blue Curacao.

Margaritas

A post shared by Kris Wigg (@kristinawigg) on

 

One time I ventured into another specialty drink, although I sadly don’t remember what it was.

Rainy Saturday afternoon at Emiliano's

A post shared by Kris Wigg (@kristinawigg) on

 

My boyfriend explores the menu more than I do. His recent favorite dish is the Chipotle Pork Wings, three  slow-smoked pork ribs basted in a sweet and spicy chipotle-bbq sauce, served over a bed of rice and black beans. For 14.99 this is another amazing quality meal full of flavor.

You can't buy happiness, but you can buy BBQ Pork Wings.

A post shared by Emiliano's Restaurant (@emilianospgh) on

 

Last February Emiliano’s hosted a fun Valentine’s themed promo where if you shared your date pic to social, you’d be entered to win a prize package. Here’s our cheesy pose 🙂

Emilianos Mexican Pittsburgh

I truly love this place, it might be my favorite Pittsburgh restaurant. Anytime we are going to splurge and go out I always petition for Emiliano’s. Since we now live in the North Hills of Pittsburgh we will even visit the Cranberry Emiliano’s location.  Which makes me even more excited that Emiliano’s has announced they’re opening a location in McCandless Crossing! Now Emiliano’s will be all but 1o minuets away from me. I better start saving my meals out budget to prepare! I’ve already told everyone I know how excited I am haha 🙂

Emiliano's suburbia style #cheers

A post shared by Kris Wigg (@kristinawigg) on

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Continue Reading