Welcome to Pittsburgh (Part II)

Today's topic: the food.

There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, that eating out in Pittsburgh was characterized primarily by huge portions of mediocre food. Eating in wasn't much better; when we arrived in town, we asked around for the best produce and were uniformly directed to the Strip -- where we found produce that was no better than what we could find in our local Safeway store in California.

But things have changed rapidly, and for the better. Over the last few years, Pittsburgh has grown enough competent mid-range (and a very few high-end) restaurants that people can have online debates about their merits.

Take, for example, these micro-reviews (many of which I disagree with -- If the State of California could sue a restaurant for abusing the reputation of a wonderful region, then it should go after Monterey Bay, which is just awful; Vivo is very good but very uneven; I've been to DeLuca's more than once, and I just don't get it; Caruso's for pizza? Are you kidding?; Mad Mex is pleasant but it isn't even Mexican, let alone the best Mexican in Pittsburgh).

Or, try this post over at Tea Leaves (dead-on-balls-accurate for items 1 - 3).

I took a stab at prompting discussion, here.

Peter Machamer's wonderfully idiosyncratic Eating, Drinking, and Living Well in Pittsburgh is still available, but get your copy now or help Peter find a publisher, quick.

Eating in? High quality produce is available via farmer's markets throughout the region, in a Whole Foods Store in East Liberty (with another one on the way in the South Hills), and to East Enders at the East End Food Coop (since 1977). Excellent meats, cheeses, pastas, and breads are available at Whole Foods and in the suburbs at McGinnis Sisters and John McGinnis (Route 88 in Castle Shannon). The produce I've seen recently in the Strip has certainly improved, and in the Strip you can always find excellent fish and meat, bread and produce, and lots of cheese. The point is that you don't have to go down there to find it. The arrival of Whole Foods seems to have helped across the board; even if you don't shop there (and it can be expensive), other markets, both large and small, have improved the quality and variety of what they sell. Even the suburban Giant Eagle supermarkets now stock some organic stuff.

Local food festivals cover a variety of national and ethnic cuisines in wonderful fashion -- if there's a schedule of all the Greek food festivals available on-line somewhere, please let me know! Staples for Indian, Asian, and Greek cooking, and probably for other cuisines that I don't know about, are easily available.

There are some local food traditions that I'll never understand -- cookie tables at weddings; "wedding soup" (years ago, on my first visit to an Eat n' Park, I asked the server what that was and she replied, "you must not be from around here"; french-fries-inside-the-sandwich -- but these are distinctively Pittsburgh, things that remind you that this isn't a foodie's New York, and it neither will be, nor wants to be. But there is plenty to keep your stomach happy.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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