This year on Black Friday, we decided to go down to Pittsburgh’s Strip District and support small business. Now, I will admit that we did stop at Kohl’s on the way home, but our focus on was supporting these small businesses. There are so many different local businesses in the Strip, but I am highlighting the ones we checked out on Friday.
The strip is packed full of amazing food businesses. We couldn’t possibly support all of them in one day. I do recommend checking out these businesses (and even more) if you are in Pittsburgh, whether you live there or are just passing through.
The Pennsylvania Market
Also known as the “PA Market,” this new two story market and eatery just opened in the Strip earlier this month in the Pennsylvania Building between 18th and 19th streets. There are a series of businesses located in the lower level, one of which I will be discussing below.
The top level hosts a wine library and a couple eateries. You can tell that this upper level establishment is brand new and still working out some kinks. It is rather empty upstairs with only a couple of the available stands open and selling food. One of them is serving specialty pizza by the slice. These are artisanal-like pizzas with unique ingredients.
My dad, my mom, and I all decided to try a slice of this pizza. My mom chose the pierogi pizza, because of course a Pittsburgh eatery would serve a pierogi pizza. In typical dad fashion, he chose the sausage and pepper pizza. I was tempted to get the pierogi pizza, but I decided to go with the pumpkin and pancetta pizza. It felt perfect for the day after Thanksgiving, and I just cannot resist pancetta.
Our pizza slices were very good. They were all $6, which I didn’t mind paying because I am used to DC pricing, but my parents commented that it was a lot for a slice of pizza. We thought the crunch of the crust was superb. My pizza had a great saltiness from the pancetta, and that gave flavor to a rather flavorless ingredient (pumpkin).
My sister was not about the pizza, and she ordered mac and cheese and truffle fries from the other eatery. My mom also ordered mac and cheese and Brussels sprouts to share with me and my dad. Our main complaint about this restaurant was how long we had to wait to get our food. We ordered a couple basic things, and it took oven a half hour for the food to be ready. I know this eatery is new, but it really wasn’t busy that day. This isn’t a full-service restaurant. It is order a-la-carte, and they give you a buzzer to come pick up your food when it is ready. It didn’t seem like there should be a half hour wait for this food. However, the plus side was that each of these additional food items were $6, which was the same amount we paid for just one slice of pizza.
With that said, the mac and cheese was phenomenal. It was piping hot with a gooey layer of cheese on top. The cheese sauce was creamy and soul-warming. The pasta was cooked perfectly. They certainly did justice to my favorite food.
I was generally unimpressed with the Brussels sprouts. I am not sure how these were cooked, but they weren’t cooked properly. There was no caramelization of the inside and no crunch to the outer part. In fact, they weren’t even cooked all the way through. They were slightly redeemed in flavor with the addition of bacon, but that was the only thing I really liked about this dish. The Brussels sprouts weren’t even well-seasoned. They desperately needed salt. I was really talking up Brussels sprouts to my parents that weekend, and I don’t think they got a very good example. I asked them to not judge Brussels sprouts based on this experience. I know I could (and do) make Brussels sprouts so much better.
I would be interested in checking this place out again after it has been open for more than a couple weeks. Hopefully they spend some time developing their menu better and work out better pacing in the kitchen.
The Olive Tap
The Olive Tap is located in the lower level of the Pennsylvania Market. It is a quant little olive oil and vinegar store. My sister, my mother, and I checked out this store while my dad was looking for parking.
We were greeted by a very nice man who was running the shop. He was handing us some awesome samples of mostly vinegars. A favorite of ours was the red wine vinegar, which my sister ended up buying. I was intrigued by the peach white balsamic vinegar. It was certainly sweet, but I just couldn’t resist the peach, so I bought a bottle. I can’t wait to make salad dressings this summer with this vinegar.
I love specialty olive oil and vinegar stores. There used to be one in DC by Eastern Market, but the storefront shut down. You can still buy products online. The oils and vinegars at shops like this are just so high in quality compared to what you can buy at the grocery store. They certainly are more expensive than your standard grocery store products, but I find it worth it to splurge on these every once in a while. This could be a great place if you are looking for a unique gift for a food lover. You can even taste it beforehand!
Enrico Biscotti Co.
My dad introduced me to Enrico’s. He is a biscotti aficionado. My mom complains about how often he makes biscotti. My dad and I are good Italians, and we live for biscotti. I am about to hit my prime biscotti season, and I will be making a ton of different flavors for the holidays.
My dad said that Enrico’s is the most well-known places to get biscotti in Pittsburgh. He took me inside to check out what they have. There were so many different flavors of biscotti to buy. They even have they already packaged in bags, so you can get a small bag of one flavor or even a variety pack.
I was also incredibly impressed that they were making homemade panettone. I love panettone, but I have only ever had it the store-bought version from Bauducco. If the store wasn’t so busy, maybe I would have bought some to take home. Maybe someone in our family will make it back there to pick some up before the holidays.
These biscotti looked really good, but we didn’t buy any on that day. The shop was very busy, and we decided to check out the bakery with the street display nearby. It did look like they were getting a good amount of business that day.
My Sweet Lilly
On the same block as Enrico’s there was an outside bakery display. We found out that they are called My Sweet Lilly and had a shop across the street.
This bakery had a nice array of baked goods, from pies and cakes to cookies and biscotti. I think we all picked out some treats to take home. My mom picked out some cookies. My sister bought some pumpkin roll slices. My dad of course chose a variety pack of biscotti. I also got biscotti, but I got the cherry vanilla. I have trouble resisting things that are pink, and I LOVE anything fruity.
These were very well-made biscotti. They were perfectly hard. However, I did find these particular ones to be a tad sweet with the white chocolate. I should have known this would not be my favorite thing, because I am not really fond of white chocolate. I would have liked them better if they had been dipped in milk or dark chocolate, but that is just a personal preference. I thought the flavor of the biscotti was good. It had a subtle hint of cherry without being overpowering. I really enjoyed that it had cherry chunks in them.
In the Kitchen
Our last stop for the day was inside a cooking themed store called In the Kitchen. I saw this store when I was in the Strip last month with friends. I wanted to go in, but I think it may have been closed.
This store is my version of heaven on earth. They have everything you could possibly want for your kitchen, and a ton of stuff you don’t even know you want yet. If it hand’t been Black Friday, I probably would have spent much more time here. However, it was packed! There were certain aisles you couldn’t even walk down because there were so many people. I really did enjoy exploring all the cool kitchen stuff.
The favorite thing I saw in the store were all the pizzelle makers. My dad has an old pizzelle maker at home that was likely my grandmother’s. I have many fond memories of making pizzelles with my dad around the holidays. But how I would love one of these shiny new pizzelle makers! They have pizzelle makers for different shapes and sizes. These makers were so cute and classy.
It was also lovely to see the store decked out for the holidays. There were so many neat plates, towels, serving dishes, etc. that would look great for anyone’s holiday party. This would also be a great place to get gifts for the holidays. I just worry that if I went back to shop for gifts, I’d just buy everything for myself.