Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Out of Town: Pittsburgh Three-fer!

A while back, my wife and I visited Pittsburgh to see family. We ate out a couple of times, and I wanted to get some of my impressions written down. It's been about a month now since I ate at these restaurants, so I hope I didn't miss too many details. Here goes:

Hoss's Steak and Sea
Address: 4813 William Penn Hwy, Murrysville, PA 15668
Website: http://www.hosss.com/
Genres: American, steak, seafood, salad bar
Check Constraints: None
Chain: Yes | More Pittsburgh Locations: Yes

  • Soup & Salad bar ($5.99 lunch, $6.99 at dinner)
  • 1/4 lb burger ($0.25 with salad bar)
  • Soft drink ($1.89)
Hoss's Steak and Sea is a Pittsburgh/West Virginia regional chain, so if you're not in those areas, you're out of luck. It's one of my wife's family's favorite places.

Hoss's is an interesting sort of place. When you first enter, you're in a line like you'd be in for any buffet. One of the main features of the place is a salad bar, but they do offer other items like, well, steak and seafood. They're listed in a giant menu on the wall, which is a little overwhelming for a first-timer like me. I ended up taking the easy way out and getting the soup/salad bar plus burger option. That was what the rest of the group got anyway. We placed our order at the end of the line and were taken to a table. A waitress came by with our drinks and, a bit later, the burgers.

The salad bar seemed a tad small, but it did have plenty of good options. Everything was fresh and topped off (except, initially, the macaroni & cheese which was refilled later on). They had all the standard fixings on the center bar. There were a couple of noodle salads, including an interesting one with steak bits in it. That one was pretty good. They had soups, some other hot things like the macaroni, and nacho stuff on another bar. They usually have a chicken noodle and a specialty soup. Saturday's was Loaded Potato, which was quite good. I thought there was a third soupy option, but I don't remember. They have some different breads and bread toppings on a smaller bar off to the side. The last bar had a good number of dessert options including Jell-o, cookies, cakes, ice-cream, and various toppings for each. I had bread pudding with a raisin topping that went with it.

When the waitress brought the burgers, they came plain, and she told us we could take them up to the salad bar and top them how we wanted. It was an interesting option that I hadn't seen before, but the salad bar didn't have a whole lot of interesting options that fit for a burger. I ended up with shredded cheese and bacon bits. The burger comes on more of a roll-type bun than your standard bun.

Overall, it's a pretty good salad bar place with plenty of options and good prices.

Restaurant: Minutello's Restaurant and Lounge
Address: 226 Shady Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Website: None
Genres: Italian
Check Constraints: Unknown
Chain: No | More Pittsburgh Locations: No

  • Chicken Parmesan early-bird special ($11.95)
    • Bread
    • Cup of wedding soup
    • Chicken Parmesan
    • Lemon Ice
Minutello's feels like it fits the "hole in the wall" category. The building is in a more commercial area with taller buildings, and the building itself is taller than the restaurant. It is not, by far, downtown Pittsburg, but it has more of a downtown feel to me. If you're from Omaha, it feels a bit like the Old Market area, but not as focused. There is no parking directly for Minutello's to speak of except for street parking and a larger parking lot across the street. You enter the building from the sidewalk right off the street and head down a small flight of stairs into something that's not really a lobby.

We came somewhat early to get their early bird specials, and had no wait. In fact, there was only one other table occupied in our seating area. The area had 16-20 tables and the space was broken up by several large columns. Wall decoration was the typical Italian/French chef motif, but was otherwise sparse. Lighting was good though. There was another room off to the right which was dark. It may have been more seating, but I couldn't tell. Later, I noticed a bar in another section off to the right which had a few more people.

Part of the reason we came for the early bird specials was that veal parmesan used to be one of them. We had a couple of fans of the veal parm in our group, and they ended up getting that anyway. The price was about $17 for that and I think $14 as a special in the past. The prices may seem a little steep at first for a special, but there was a lot of food. They included soup/salad, the main dish, and dessert. Not only that, but the portions were pretty big.

The chicken in the chicken parmesan, for example, had to be at least eight ounces, drenched in cheese and sauce, and a large plate that was filled out with noodles. You actually get a choice of noodles with a couple of the dishes. The chicken was nice and tender, and there was just the right amount of sauce and cheese.

The bread came in a basket. It was good, but nothing stood out about it. I think it was sliced bread, rather than rolls. The cup of soup was pretty average sice, but it was good stuff. If you've never had wedding soup, it's a brothy soup with spinach, little meatballs, and tiny noodles. I forget the name of the noodles, but they're just tiny dough balls smaller than a pea. I first heard about it through my wife's family. This soup was heavier on the greens, but it was pretty good.

They tell me that Minutello's spumoni is amazing. I don't think I've had spumoni at all yet, and we didn't get it here because they were actually out that day. There was even a vampire-in-the-light-like hiss from one of the goofballs of the group when the waiter mentioned they were out, but I don't think the waiter heard. I decided to go with the lemon ice instead, and I am not sad about that choice. Maybe I don't know what I'm missing with the spumoni, but the lemon ice was awesome. It was about two scoops worth, and the texture, sweetness, and sourness were all perfect. This lemon ice will be hard to top.

It was a delicious, filling meal. The earlybird special was a great price for the amount and quality of food. It seemed to be lightly trafficked, but they tell me that the place is packed by 8 pm.

Restaurant: Pasta Too
Address: 5260 Library Rd, Bethel Park, PA 15102
Website: None
Genres: Italian
Check Constraints: Split checks acceptable, group gratuity unknown.
Chain: Yes | More Pittsburgh Locations: Yes


  • Lasagna ($11.95)
  • Side salad ($1.75)
Pasta Too was mentioned by a family friend (the same who hissed at the Minutello's waiter) for their large portions. On his suggestion, we all went one day to check the place out. It's a pretty nice place with a fairly open seating area, interesting ceiling designs, and a nice large window. One might expect this window to overlook a lake or a nice mountain vista, but it instead looks out at a big gas station, large intersection, and some trees. You can't have everything, I guess. The kitchen is somewhat open to the dining area as well, which was a bit odd. It's hidden behind some half-walls, but you could still hear them chopping, pounding, and cooking away.

They brought bread to the table with some plates holding some sort of seasoned olive oil. I'm not sure what was in it, but it had some reddish flakes. The bread were small loaves of soft Italian bread cut into slices, and it was very good with the oil. The side salad was pretty typical, and had plenty of mixed veggies. I think I had Italian dressing, which was good. They didn't put too much or too little on, but other than that it was pretty average.

The lasagna was impressive though. It almost didn't look like much because there was nothing else on the plate. This was, however, quite a brick of lasagna measuring in at about 2" x 3" x 4". Twenty four cubic inches of delicious lasagna. I wanted to be able to finish it, and I tried. That was a mistake. I made it through about three quarters and had to stop. I should have stopped at about half to try some of the desserts.

I had no room for any of these fantastic things I'm about to describe. First of all, while we were eating, we noticed a LARGE cake sitting on a table in the dining area. It was a cylinder probably about a foot tall and a foot in diameter. We thought, "That can't be real," but we were wrong. That was their actual carrot cake. They serve a full length slice from that and it's technically intended for two. It looked to be about two average slices stacked on top of each other. They also have this cake in chocolate. I think they called it the Chocolate Tower, but I could be mistaken. My wife and her brother got tiramisu, and the friend got some other dessert that I would have picked. I unfortunately didn't try any because I was out of commission, but the sizes of those were impressive as well. They were smaller than the cake, but I think the cake was priced a bit higher as well.

Overall, the food was great. The prices may have been a bit on the high side, but you get one and a half or two dinners worth. Be prepared to take some home with you.

BONUS: Vincent's Pizza Park
(pizza, Pittsburgh chain)

I don't have a lot of info on this one at the moment, but I wanted to mention it. Vinnie's is another one of my wife's favorite food places in Pittsburgh. They have very large pizzas that, when you order to go, come oblong shaped on a bit of cardboard and wrapped in paper. They are extremely greasy and have a big thick outter crust. Generally they cook the crust too dark for my wife's family. My mother-in-law has said that she always asks for the crust "light", and in my opinion it's still pretty thoroghly done. It's also cut irregularly such that you get some really long, skinny slices or some huge ones. This time around we had a cheese pizza. Like I said it's quite greasy, but it's good stuff and very filling.

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