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Kennywood may be more difficult to reach than rival parks, and may be served by only two hotels, but it beats all its rivals in eating choices. The 13 mile drive from Kennywood to Station Square is called the South Side Corridor. Thirty restaurants lie along this corridor. They include some of the best restaurants in the city, and the very inexpensive. They include almost every category from Steak to Seafood to Asian. They occur in three clusters : 13 around the Marriott Courtyard on The Waterfront right at the base of Kennywood Hill, ten along Carson Street halfway between Kennywood and Station Square, and seven at Station Square clustered around The Sheraton. However, you must leave Kennywood by 10 pm, because these restaurants close at 11 (except EatnPark). We recommend starting early, eating breakfast at one of these restaurants, entering KW at 10:30, eating a late lunch around 3 pm at the Park Cafe, snacking at various counters during the day, and leaving KW just after dark so you can see the lights and perhaps ride a few coasters in the dark, but still reach a restaurant in time for a leisurely dinner. And some of these restaurants demand time. It would be unfair to pay a hurried visit. One of the reasons we recommend a three day trip for out of towners is to allow time to sample several of these restaurants, soaking up the ambience of Pittsburgh.
Mallorca's. If you would like one outstanding meal while in Pittsburgh, stop at Mallorca's. It is the second best Spanish / Portugese restaurant we've found in America, surpassed only by the Lobster Pot in Provincetown out on Cape Cod. But no wonder : the owner and chef are from Portugal and the manager from Spain. Mallorca's is on Carson Street, a red brick building on your left across from the bridge as you drive from Kennywood toward Station Square. It's been here since 1992. You can eat either inside or out in the courtyard (to the right in the photo at left). Mallorca's has great soups, salads, desserts, fish items and wines, but what they're famous for is their Paella, the national dish of Spain, a saffron seasoned mix of seafood and rice. Our favorite version, Paella Velencia, mixes seafood, chicken and Spanish sausage. When it's available, the Flounder is great. If you're in town on a hot summer day, try the cold vegetable gazpacho soup. Portions are huge and the food is delicious. They use only olive oil --- no butter. If you're just not a seafood fan, they have excellent veal, chicken and prime rib dishes. Wine Spectator Magazine in 2003 gave Mallorca's its Award of Excellence for its collection of 300 kinds of wine, mostly Spanish, Portugese and French. If you sugared out on all the Kennywood food, then slept in the morning after, you might stop at Mallorca's on the way out of town and have a soup, salad and glass of wine for an early lunch.
Mitchell's Seafood is on the waterfront at Homestead, across the parking lot from your Courtyard Marriott. Mitchell's does a great job with the different seafood items considering its location 500 miles from the nearest saltwater. They do it by flying everything in fresh everyday from the Chesapeake, Cape Cod, and the Gulf. The menu changes daily, reflecting what's available. If they have the seafood gumbo, order a cup for an appetizer. If the Georges Bank Scallops or Blue Crab are in, take one of them for your main course.They fix the scallops with spinach, mushrooms, potatoes and sea salt, and the crab with a simple alfredo sauce. If those are unavailable, try the Chilean Sea Bass or Yellowfin Tuna with stir fry vegetables. Prices of any of these will be somewhere in the teens. Or you might try one of their platters, which run about $20-23, but would be plenty for two. We especially like the Combo Platter, which includes shrimp, scallops, cod, fries, hush puppies and coleslaw. We spend a lot of time on the coast, and eat at a lot of seafood restaurants, and this is one of the best. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxing after a hard day at Kennywood : polished wood, soft red leather, glass, and, if you prefer, the patio overlooking the river with plenty of trees. The wine list leans heavily toward whites. A lunch stop might include a bowl of chowder or bisque, a salad, and an $8 order of pan roasted wild blue mussels with white wine, garlic and tomatoes. Also see top left.
Bravo Italian Kitchen (Waterfront) is a 21st Century updating of Northern Italian cooking. Kids love the Wood Grilled Chicken Pizza with seared peppers, basil, tomatoes, mozzarella and feta cheese. If you're into Lasagna, Mama's Lasagna Bolognese has three thick layers and drowns in meat sauce. The best entree is Twin Filets Scampi, topped with shrimp, asparagus, mashed potatoes and scampi butter. Among salads, we like Insalata Mista, a pile of field greens, bacon, tomatoes, gorgonzo and balsam. The Caesar dressing is better than the house Italian. The Italian wine list is excellent. Owners call this "white table casual," $12 - 20 per person. There is a children's menu, but with pizza, who needs it ?
TGI Friday's (Waterfront) is open for lunch and dinner.If you're up for steak after all day at the park, they offer a New York Strip, Flat Iron and Classic and Petite Sirloin. The Baby Back Ribs are pretty good, but if you like ribs, we suggest the Jack Daniels Glazed Ribs. As a matter of fact, we think their Jack Daniels Grill is their best offering. You can order Chicken, Shrimp, Steak, or Chicken all glazed with Jack Daniels then grilled. Adults might appreciate the array of Margaritas available, since nowhere in Kennywood are alcoholic beverages sold. TGIF's also has good coffee. There are five kinds of chicken, of which we like the Peruvian Herb Roasted Chicken and Dragonfire Chicken. Six salads help balance all those Potato Patch Fries. If you never tried a Slider, this would be a good place to start. There are also five Pastas.
EatnPark (Waterfront) is Pittsburgh's version of Jerry's, Big Boy or Elby's. These are low cost family restaurants, but this is a very classy version. As you sit inside, you'd swear you were in an upscale, trendy, pricy establishment. The menu corrects that illusion. The excellent buffet -- soups, salads, breads, desserts--will fill you up, and there's a Friday-Saturday midnight buffet and a Saturday-Sunday breakfast buffet. From the seafood menu there's Sole, Cod, Scrod, or Salmon. They offer four Chicken entrees, three steaks, plus pork chops and liver & onions. The breakfast and lunch menu is extensive and the tea and latte column is pretty extensive. EatnPark specializes in Milkshakes, and you can order some pretty exotic flavors, such as Mocha Java or an Oregon Chai Tea Shake. If you really want to fuel up for a long hard day at Kennywood, try the Bananas Foster French Toast. If you stop for lunch on the way home, try one of their five Black Angus Burgers. The most expensive entree is $9.
Uno, The Chicago Grill, seems at first glance to be a classic pizza and burger joint. Certainly, they offer some great pizzas and burgers. The Farmer's Market Pizza, Spinoccoli Pizza and Old Chicago Classic Pizza are the best of their deep dish menu, the Roast Eggplant Spinach Pizza and Spicy Shrimp Pizza lead the flatbread pizza list, and there's a Daily Pizza Special. Uno's offers three Paninis, eight classic sandwiches, plus calzones, sliders and seven salads in large or small sizes. But the big surprise comes when you flip over the menu and find three pages of full dinner entrees. There are eight pasta dishes, including their famous Rattlesnake Pasta, seven chicken dinners, led by Chicken Milanese, four steaks, seven fish items, ribs, and 15 appetizers.
Red Robin specializes in gourmet burgers with plenty to satisfy other tastes. There is the Royal Red Robin, which tops off three strips of hickory smoked bacon, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes with a fresh fried egg. The Mushroom Burger, BBQ Burger and Guacamole Bacon Burger are worth a try, but the fireworks come with the Alarm Burger (pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, tangy salsa, tomato, lettuce, chipotle), Monster Burger (two huge beef patties with the usual tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pickles and cheese), and Chili Cheeseburger (beef patty, chipotle, cheddar, and red onions buried in homemade chili). For the burger averse, there are soups, wraps, quesadillas, salads, fajitas and pastas. Ten very good beverages and three great desserts finish things off.
Fuddrucker's doesn't lose its focus with anything else : it's a burger place and proud of it. Nor is it into gimmicks. They just do basic burgers better than anybody else. But they cover all the bases : a Three Cheese Burger, Inferno (jalapenos , pepper jack cheese and onions), Chipotle BBQ Burger, Swiss Melt Burger, Bacon Swiss Burger and Lone Star Chili Burger. Dieters get a Buffalo Burger, Turkey Burger and Veggie Burger. There are grilled or fried chicken burgers and a Rajun Cajun Spicy Chicken Burger. Five salads complement all these burgers and there's a full component of teas, milkshakes, sundaes, and floats.
Damon's has positioned itself as a classic sandwich stop, although it does have a solid menu of full entrees. The star of the show is the Steamboat, a loaf of that fresh hearth baked bread filled with tender pork drowned in barbecue sauce and topped with two kinds of cheese. Then there's the Southern Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich, Prime Rib Sandwich, and Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. Hoagies include the Aztec Chicken Hoagie (fire roasted chicken smothered in pepper jack cheese), Bistro Turkey Hoagie and Mushroom Jack Brisket Hoagie. Add to this six salads, a soup of the day, five fish dinners, two rib orders, four chicken dishes and three steaks.
Longhorn Steak House (interior shown top right) is a very good steak restaurant with very reasonable prices. The four dinners they're famous for are Flo's Filet (7 oz. hand seasoned), Porterhouse (22 oz. New York strip chargrilled), Outlaw Ribeye (18 oz. hand rubbed and grilled over an open flame), and The Big Sky Bleu (9 oz. topped with melted bleu cheese, then served atop a bed of red wine glazed portabello mushrooms). If none of these appeal to you, there are 10 others. The best of the appetizers are the Shrimp - Lobster Chowder and Texas Onion (large onion petals lightly battered, fried and served with a dipping sauce). There are four salads, ribs, salmon, shrimp, lobster, and Honey Mustard Chicken. Desserts include Key Lime Pie and Fried Cheesecake. Bring your camera; the Longhorn is right below the 12 chimneys, a dramatic sight.
P. F. Chang's is in the middle of the Waterfront complex, with a block of retail stores between it and the Marriott. This is Corporate Chinese, but it's very good. It offers a Cantonese menu with a few Sichuan items. We like the Moo Goo Gai Pan, Ginger Steamed Salmon, and Sea Bass marinated in spinach soy sauce. On the vegetarian side, the Eggplant And Scallions stir fried in chili pepper sauce is memorable. If you like Sushi, try a Cantonese version : Ahi Tuna rolled in Chinese spices, wok seared and served cold with spicy mustard. The Pin Rice Noodle Soup is outstanding. Menu items are designed to be shared. Decor is very classy.
Panera's is across the street from P. F. Chang's, also in the middle of the Waterfront complex. It began as a bakery specializing in gourmet breads, evolved to a breakfast spot, and has become a great place for lunch or a light snack anytime. There are various kinds of bagels, croissants, rolls, muffins, scones, baguettes and pastries. We're especially fond of their sourdough bagels. They offer 10 signature sandwiches. You can even order three kinds of boxed lunches, each including a sandwich, salad and cookie. Five salads, soups, and the usual upscale teas, coffees, cappucinos, frappacinos and juices round out the menu. There are tables indoors and out on the patio. We're most impressed with the Asiogo Roast Beef Sandwich, Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich, and Smoked Turkey on Sourdough. For breakfast, we think the Assorted Seasonal Fruit Bowl is their best offering, although it's intended to serve several, so is far too much for just one person. All of these other menu items should not obscure the fact that their bread is still the best in town.
Rock Bottom is a beer lover's fantasy. They take pride in having a certified brewmaster on premises and winning over 100 awards for their various brews. They urge you to ask the waiter to recommend the perfect beer to match whatever food you order. They offer light lagers, wheats, pale, amber, brown and dark ales, and other specialized flavors. Faced with this lineup, the food has to go some to be noticed. They've got six salads, 10 appetizers, 10 sandwiches, four burgers, three pastas, four pizzas, nine entrees, and six desserts. And they use their alcohol in their best items. We like the Bourbon Barbequed Salmon, Stout Basted Ribs, and Stout Onion Soup, Jamabalaya With Red Ale Rice, Bourbonzolaburger, Stout Cheesecake, and the Stout Hot Fudge Sundae. For teetotalers, the Flank Steak Chili, Angus Beef Meatloaf, and Smoked Chicken Enchiladas are the best of the rest. Among the appetizers, the Brown Ale Brushed Ball Park Pretzels and Asiago Dip With Beer Bread stand out. Designate a driver.
If you have several kids or a youth group with you, consider Dave & Buster's (Waterfront). There's the second best arcade you've ever seen, a pool hall, combination pool & table shuffleboard hall (shown right), a bar and a surprisingly good restaurant. Its entrees range from $13 - 19, and the menu has all the offerings : seafood, steaks, chicken, ribs, soups, salads, and burgers. In the center of the complex.
Yokoso's is a Japanese steak house and sushi bar in the center of the Waterfront complex. It is very popular so if you plan to drop in for dinner on a Friday or Saturday reservations would be a good idea. Yokoso's is proud of its policy of using no MSG; it cooks with olive oil and vegetable oil. The extensive Sushi Bar menu includes 84 items, of which the Dynamite Salmon Roll and the Alaskan (smoked salmon, asparagus, avocado and flying fish eggs) are the individual highlights, and the Sashimi Platter (tuna, salmon, whitefish, shrimp, crab and yellow tail) and Vegetable Sushi Medley (asparagus, avocado, tofu skin, and cucumber roll) are the best of the dinners. The Seaweed Salad and Green Onion Soup are great sides. Over on the dinner menu, everything comes with Japanese Green Onion Soup, House Salad, Shrimp Appetizer, Hibachi Vegetables and Fried Rice. We like the Scallops, but the Hibachi Chicken, Twin Salmon, and Vegetable Delight are fine alternatives. There's a five item children's menu and 11 combination dinners, mixing and matching chicken, steak, salmon, scallops, lobster and shrimp. One of the more unusual items you might overlook is tucked over there among the side orders. It's the Tempura Udon (thick noodles in a hot broth with seaweed and shrimp). Try it as an appetizer if nothing else.
If you're arriving or departing around lunch, you really should stop at The Double Wide Grill on Carson Street. It will be one of your wackiest eating experiences. The Double Wide is a gas station converted to a restaurant. The outside still looks like the old gas station, but inside they've built the bar around the base of the hoist and left most of the tools and equipment hanging on the walls and a green pickup up on the hoist(see top right). They're only open 11-3. Some of the items are just fun, like the Hubcap Potatoes (hand breaded garlic and herb seasoned red potatoes served on a hubcap), Build Your Own TV Dinner, or 7 Up Pancakes. But don't let it fool you. There's some serious cooking here. The Crab Black Bean & Corn Fritters, Brie & Spinach Stuffed Portabello, Avocado Sandwich, Portabello Reuben, Beef Chile Omolette, Rebel Yell Jalapeno, and Tilapia Taco are very creative, unique and delicious. If weather permits, you really need to sit outside and soak up the Carson Street ambience, this being one of the great streets of Pittsburgh and America, every bit the equal of the French Quarter, Greenwich Village or the Riverwalk.
Primanti Brothers is on your left halfway up Carson Street. It's not a big place but it doesn't need to be. It is one of the city's most famous restaurants and they only serve one thing : a sandwich that has come to be called The Primanti. Joe Primanti and his brothers started the business in 1933 with a wooden lunch stand serving produce workers and truck drivers over in the Strip District across the river. Now there are 16 locations around the city and The Primanti is recognized as an American Culinary Classic by the James Beard Foundation. The famous sandwich recipe is grilled meat, fried potatoes, sliced tomato, coleslaw and provolone cheese between two thick pieces of Italian bread. There are a few options, such as onion or fried egg, but most fans take their Primanti straight. Any deviation and it's not a Primanti. No rye bread, no wheat bread, no other cheese, no lettuce. And the fan base is huge. The Food Channel, Travel Channel and ESPN drop by when they're in town. Native Pittsburghers now living elsewhere drop by for their once a year Primanti when they come home for a visit. Tourists drop by. Kennywood fans consider Primanti's as much a part of their annual visit as the Jackrabbit or Noah's Ark. Even KW staffers frequent the place.
Nakama is Pittsburgh's most famous Japanese steak house and sushi bar. Located halfway up Carson Street, it has been named not only the best Asian restaurant in town, but the best overall restaurant, by the Post Gazette, Pittsburgh Magazine, and even several airline magazines. The Sushi Bar features the Spider Roll (soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber, kaiware and crabstick) and Hanelai (eel, crab, avocado, cream cheese and tobika). We're not huge sushi fans, but these two items are the best sushi we've ever tasted. Among the appetizers, we like the Onion Soup, Squid Salad, Seaweed Salad, and Tai Maki Rolls (two crispy rolls filled with vegetables and served with duck sauce). Our favorite dinners are the Seafood Combination (lobster, shrimp, scallops), Hibachi Scallops, and Seafood Diablo (shrimp and scallops over udon noodles). Nakama offers six fine steak and three chicken entrees, plus a column of combination dinners, mixing and matching steak, chicken, scallops, shrimp and tuna. It is easy for this menu to focus attention entirely on the food, but in truth, Nakama's is as much about entertainment as about the taste buds. The chefs who perform at your table, fixing your meal right in front of you, are at least half the total experience. Their flamboyance and dexterity with all those knives and flames are worth the visit.
Hofbrauhaus is on the river, two blocks from Joseph Beth Bookstore. Expect a wait to sit inside, but you can walk through to the riverfront patio. Hofbrauhaus was founded in 1589 in Germany as a royal beer hall and opened to the public in 1828. In 1937 John F. Kennedy was caught trying to smuggle out one of their famous mugs. If you're a beer conneisseur this is The Place, but the food's great, too. Among appetizers, the Soft Dough Pretzels, Fried Pickles, Potato Pancakes and Sauerkraut Balls are the best, although the Southside Combo is almost a meal in itself with four cheeses, cold cuts, basil, tomatoes and chive bread. Hungarian Goulash is a MUST. This is one of Pittsburgh's greatest items. Order only the small bowl. The large is a meal in itself. Entrees are a German lover's Paradise : Mettwurst, Bierwurst, Sauer braten, Schnitzel, Bratwurst and Kasseler Rippchen. We especially recommend the Wurstlteller, a sampler of three wursts with sauerkraut and potatoes. For a couple or party of three there is the Schmankerlplatte, a Bavarian Sampler Plate of schweinbraten, smoked pork chops, three wursts, sauerkraut, fried cabbage and potatoes. There's Oktoberfest Schweinshaxe, a slow roasted pork shank with crackling, sauerkraut and bread dumpling. Classic sides start with red apple kraut, sptazle with cheese or haxen sauce, and German potato salad. Apfel Strudel is the Dessert de Rigeur, but there's Black Forest Chocolate Cake or Windbeutel.
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