Vendors at Pittsburgh International averaged 3 critical violations over the last two years vs. 14 when the Post-Gazette checked 4 years ago.
Munch has a problem with commitment -- at least when it comes to the Strip District. Munch will pop that beautiful brown bag head into storefront after storefront, see something delicious, and then move right along without buying it for fear that Munch will see something better somewhere else.
All too often, Munch just gets a coffee and goes home. It's a sickness, really.
Point being, Munch had been inside the Penn Avenue Fish Company plenty of times. But Munch had never even spent a dime there, not even on those soups that always look so inviting on cold days.
The place was appealing enough to deserve a special trip, Munch thought. So Munch grabbed Esteemed Editor Friend of Munch (EEFOM), who needed some cheering up due to an early-morning parking ticket, and headed to the Strip for lunch.
The Penn Avenue Fish Company opened last year, run by alumni of Benkovitz Seafoods. It isn't a big place, but it was jam-packed with offerings for lunch. There are separate areas for sushi, soup, fresh fish, a deli counter and sandwiches.
Although Munch found some of the sushi specialties appealing (Munch smiles at the thought of the spicy seniorita roll), Munch and EEFOM both decided on sandwiches with a cup of soup (only $2 each when ordered with a sandwich).
The cheery cashier steered EEFOM to a swordfish sandwich with "Nasty Nate's BBQ Sauce" ($8.99), and Munch chose a $9.99 special tuna sandwich with cheddar, avocado, jalapenos and barbecue sauce (Nasty Nate again, Munch presumes). Munch was pleasantly surprised when the cashier asked how Munch would like the tuna cooked. "It's sushi grade," she explained, "so you can get it rare if you want."
The thought of raw fish on bread sort of weirds Munch out, so Munch chose medium rare. And when the sandwich arrived, Munch was not disappointed. Never before has Munch ordered a $10 sandwich and thought that it was a bargain. But this piece of tuna honestly could have cost that much alone. It was huge and perfectly cooked, with sections flaking off as Munch bit into it.
EEFOM's sandwich was equally good, with both the ciabatta roll and the swordfish surprisingly moist, and the barbecue sauce tangy but not too sweet. As if the hunks of fish (which were grilled, not breaded or fried) weren't enough, both sandwiches also came with sides of coleslaw and pasta salad.
That's not to say the place is perfect. EEFOM felt that his shrimp bisque was a little on the bland side, Munch could have used a tinge less mayo on the coleslaw, and the place seriously needs a better drink selection. Call Munch an iced tea snob, but Munch doesn't want to be drinking Lipton with sushi-grade tuna.
That said, next time Munch is wandering around the Strip District, Munch knows where to stop and pull out the wallet. Munch is already craving the fish tacos ($5.99), which the friendly cashier promised were "out of this world."