Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Well let's just get the Ugly out of the way first--I haven't posted since January 18th?!?!  Where has time gone? I swore that I had posted more recently; I guess I need to get all those posts out of my head and typed up! I have all kinds of stuff for you all--cookie recipes, decorations, restaurant reviews...So let's start with a couple of those.

We'll start with the Bad. J & I recently took an awesome bike ride on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and planned ahead to stop for lunch. We had a Groupon for Local Bar + Kitchen, which opened last year in the South Side. We were excited to snag the Groupon some months ago, as Local looked like a really cool place, and well, we like to support local business.

We did take time to browse the menu and decide, as many items did appeal to us. The first thing that disappointed us was when we asked the waitress for a beer list, she said they had just changed several beers, so she didn't want to give us one. We could see a large chalkboard of what we assumed were draft beers, so we said we would just look at that. I ordered a Blue Point blueberry ale and J ordered a Chinook IPA. I was excited for the Blueberry ale as, after a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine several years ago, I was hooked on them. We were disappointed when the beers arrived and they were bottled. We wish she would have just let us see the draft list and helped us choose something that was currently on tap.

I decided on the Chicken Quesedilla ($9), and opted for the "with soy ginger filet tips for $3", as well as indulging in an order of Diesel Lounge Fries--fries loaded with cheese, bacon, sour cream, and chopped green onion. J ordered the burger with Swiss cheese and the cinnamon sweet potato fries. Both looked good upon arrival.

 The fries, however, were not what I expected based on the description. The dish didn't look appetizing at all, was missing the sour cream and green onion garnish, and was overall low on the presentation scale. They scored pretty low on the OMG YUM! scale as well.

My quesedilla was good--but just a note, the with soy ginger filet tips does mean chicken and beef both. I assumed that it was one or the other, but perhaps a closer look at the menu wording would have made me question the waitress as to whether that meant either/or or both. The filet tips were good, but I barely caught any hint of the soy ginger.

J's burger was "so-so". Average, in J's opinion, and believe me, J eats a lot of burgers. Basically everything looks good on a menu until he hits the burger section and all other considerations are off. So I trust his viewpoint of "average" held some water. The best thing about our meal was honestly J's cinnamon sweet potato fries. They were fresh, crisp, and...OMG YUM!

We also had the unfortunate timing of late afternoon when the Penguins were playing, so it got very loud and crowded partway through our visit. Typically, J & I make an effort to go out in the afternoons in South Side versus evenings, due to the desire of avoiding such crowds and noise. It seems to be a very popular place among the young crowd. It has a great setup for watching sports, the menu is appealing, and the interior makes a comfortable vibe for socializing. But I think some of these "young bucks" are missing the boat on some of the other neighborhood gems.

Overall, our experience at Local falls at about a 3 on a scale of 1-10. The couple of menu items that were good did not make up for the ones that weren't, or the lax service. Even though they have pizza (which we LOVE) and brunch (which we love even MORE!), I am not sure we are willing to give Local another go.

On the flip side of that , a couple of weeks later we had a great experience at Mario's South Side Saloon. My cousin A was in town with her new beau, Canada. While A grew up near Pittsburgh, Canada obviously didn't, so we began the afternoon with some tourist adventures. We started with a ride on the Monongahela Incline to Mt. Washington. I hadn't been on the incline for years. It was really great. Even when you live in a city for a long time, it's great to see your city from a tourist point of view sometimes. We spent a lot of time taking pictures from Mt. Washington, visited St. Mary of the Mount church (A & Canada could see it from their hotel room and were curious), and made a quick stop at a church rummage sale to see if we could find any treasures. After arriving back to Carson Street, we headed to Mario's.

We went there partially because there is some family history for us there--our great-grandfather built the building, and opened a men's clothing store that operated for many years. Our grandparents lived there, and A's mom lived there for a few years as a child.

We ordered some beers and took our time with the menu, as there is a lot to choose from. A & Canada decided on the crab dip and wings for appetizers, and J & I ordered fried pickles. If you have never had them, it sounds weird, I know...but they are SO. GOOD. Unfortunately, our waitress came back to let us know they were actually out, so we ordered the feta cucumber dip with fried pita bread. Our dip came first and we all dug in. The dip was delicious and the pita bread superb. It was warm and doughy, not greasy and not too crisp, and was a perfect complement to the cool, crisp cucumber dip. The wings also got a thumbs up. The crab dip, we all agreed, was a little too strong on the spice (Old Bay, I assume). J & I like things spicy, but it was just a tad too much and overpowered the crab.

Moving on to the meals, J had the spice burger, which is topped with jalapenos, banana peppers, and hot pepper cheese. While it didn't knock his socks off, J did find the burger satisfactory. A's Reuben came, and while I don't eat them, I have to say it looked delicious. On top of that, it was HUGE! The only reason she had leftovers was because she had already indulged in appetizers and got full. Canada went with traditional spaghetti and meatballs and cleared his plate. I typically do not order things out that I can make at home, so spaghetti & meatballs is usually something I bypass. However, just like A's sandwich, Canada's pasta dish made me reconsider what I order in future visits. Oftentimes when dining out, I much prefer to sample appetizers and add a salad or soup to top it off. As a French Onion Soup fiend, I had to try the soup. While it wasn't the best I had, it was a good soup and topped with the perfect amount of bread and melted cheese.

I'd rate our visit as a 7 on a scale of 10. Great atmosphere for a weekend lunch, however if you go for dinner, particularly on the weekends or during sports events, be prepared for more of a crowd. The staff is very friendly and great to talk to. We will definitely be going back to try more menu items, but the feta cucumber dip is always going to top our list. One of the best appetizers we have ever had! Now if I can just get those fried pickles...