Clevelanders flying to or through Steelers territory will soon be able to get a taste of home. Michael Symon’s Bar Symon will be opening in the Pittsburgh International Airport in mid-June. The menu will feature some of his beloved signature items like the burger with fried egg on top and over-the-top mac & cheese. But if your travels take you beyond the concourse and into the city, there are some excellent dining options.
The husband and I discovered a terrific year old spot last weekend in the cultural district while visiting our son and his wife. It’s called Meat and Potatoes. The name is meant to signal that easy to love accessible understandable comfort food is served here. But Chef Richard DeShantz also uses the phrase-which can be something of a slur, denoting a certain lack of culinary sophistication- facetiously. Because he defines this as a gastropub and in keeping with that concept these most basic of ingredients are the foundation for interesting, inventive, high quality scratch made fare. The four of us gorged on a platter of roasted marrow bones, fried pickles with spicy ranch dipping sauce, smoked chicken wings, Yukon potato skins with cheese and a thick slab of pork belly pastrami on top, a huge bowl of mussels cooked in white wine with a side of frites, gnocchi Bolognese with pancetta and short ribs, and fat smoked pork chop with spicy slaw.
The bar stocks the best artisanal spirits including locally produced Boyd and Blair vodka. Craft cocktails are a house specialty- my Tequila Fizz, a mix of Cazadores Reposado, fresh lime, foamy egg whites, agave, and orange bitters was wonderful. The bar has a great selection of boutique beers and offers absinthe, complete with the requisite ice water and sugar cube.
It’s a handsome cozy space, with chairs so comfy we didn’t want to leave and an appealing urban patio. The crowd was a mix of hatted hipsters and guys in knit golf shirts. The place was packed and full of energy at 11 PM, with people still arriving at that late hour for dinner.
Another downtown Pittsburgh restaurant I want to mention is Elements Contemporary Cuisine. The food is very good, especially the house cured meat and cheese presentations, but what sets them apart from any place in Cleveland- and beyond- is the dessert menu. My daughter-in-law, who would rather eat chocolate than pretty much anything else, literally gasped with delight when she saw the build your own chocolate plate option. There are truffles of every description, solid chunks, bars, brittles and barks, caramel crunch and petit fours. You can opt for three pieces, six, or (just imagine) a full platter.
Pittsburgh’s only 2 ½ hours away- not far for an overnight getaway, even a day trip. The kids just bought a house there so no doubt it’s a drive we’ll be making often. As I continue to explore that city, I’ll periodically share my eating and drinking discoveries.
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