Monday, June 6, 2011

A Weekend in Pittsburgh: Three Culinary Adventures

While in Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Horror Fest and Convention, I was treated to three wonderful culinary experiences.  Thank you to Rachel, Rachel, Josh, Matt, and Danelle for sharing them with me.

Udipi Cafe
The first place I visited was Udipi Cafe in Monroeville.  Udipi offers a fully vegetarian menu filled with South Indian Cuisine.  My dining companion and I ordered a Dosai, Aloo Matar, and Matar Paneer.  Dosa are fermented lentil and rice flour crepes which may be filled with vegetables or meat.  Ours was filled with lightly spiced potatoes and vegetables.  It was served aside a spicy chutney and sambar.  I had never had dosa before, but I was quite delighted by the experience.  The crepe was slightly crunchy and provided a nice texture contrast to the soft potatoes. 

By far, one of my favorite Indian treats is Aloo Matar.  It combines two vegetables, potatoes and peas, which are perfect with Indian spices.  At Udipi, it was slightly spicy and not overly greasy.  The Matar Paneer, peas with soft Indian cheese cubes, was equally delightful.  Both dishes were a little salty for my taste, but I have found that this is common for a lot of Indian restaurants.

I absolutely loved the restaurant, and even as I type this review, I am craving a taste of dosa again.  Although I'm sure it won't be a good, don't be surprised if I'm writing a review of Columbus's own Dosa Corner sometime in the near future.

Oh Yeah! Ice Cream and Coffee Company
My next culinary adventure took me to Oh Yeah! Ice Cream and Coffee Company in Pittsburgh's Shadyside.  Recommended by this day's companions, I was assured that we would find some great dairy-free ice cream there.

Because of my horrifying intolerance dairy, I haven't had my favorite flavor of ice cream since 2006, so I was overjoyed to find that Oh Yeah! had soy mint chocolate chip ice cream.  It was everything I could have hoped for.  It was sweet and minty with just the perfect amount of chocolate.  The soy ice cream base did not leave a greasy film in my mouth like so many soy ice creams I have tried in the past.  Sadly, I was so excited to finally indulge in my favorite flavor, I opted out of getting any of their multitude of mix-ins.  This is an oversight that I will rectify upon my next visit. 

Big Jim's in the Run
Another day, another neighborhood, another great eatery. 

Although I lived only a few minutes away for the better part of four years, I did not visit Big Jim's until it gained national prominence in 2009 after being featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  I have since been there multiple times and every time I love it. 

Big Jim's is a dive, but it is not a typical dive.  First, the servers and client√®le are friendly and don't glare holes into your skull until you sheepishly walk out.  Second, they actually offer substantial vegetarian meals.  Almost every time I go, I get the Veggie Hoagie.  I'm sure I've had other meals at Big Jim's, but the Veggie Hoagie has eclipsed all of my other experiences.  The veggies - a mixture of carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers - are crispy and pair well with the tomato, lettuce, onion, and toasted provolone cheese which tops the overfilled sandwich.  Like most of the food at Big Jim's, it is simple yet delicious. 

I am also fond of their shoestring fries, but I don't know why.  I'm one of those people who prefer nearly burned, thick-cut fries.  The fries at Big Jim's are the opposite of everything I look for in a fry: they are thin, only slightly browned, and a bit limp, but somehow they are still perfect.  I am not fully convinced that the cooks have not laced them with some sort of delicious-making drug (maybe crack.... does crack make things delicious?).  For those who miss Kazansky's Deli and have never been to Big Jim's, this place can help to fill the void.

The food at Big Jim's is both ample and cheap.  If you live in Pittsburgh and haven't visited it, you are missing something wonderful.

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