Feast Liberty: So many places to eat and drink you'll need 2 nights - here's your guide
June 9, 2016 12:00 AM
The award-winning "Figgly Wiggly" Manhattan created by Kimber Weissert for Wallace's Tap Room at the Hotel Indigo in East Liberty.
Chef Adam Kucenic, co-owner of Muddy Waters Oyster Bar in East Liberty, creates a seafood tower with three trays of oysters, lobster and shrimp.
The Swartz with mozzarella, sweet Italian sausage, red onions and pistachio at Pizza Taglio.
Tony Giaramita hand tosses Roman pies at Pizza Taglio.
Panna cotta served at The Livermore.
An antipasto plate with a selection of cured meats at Pizza Taglio.
The top of a three-level seafood tower from Muddy Waters Oyster Bar in East Liberty features oysters, lobster and shrimp.
The Duke of Anjou, made with gin, Poire Williams, Curaçao, mint and agave, is served at The Livermore.
By Dan Gigler / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Live Maine lobsters nightly and roast prime round of beef on Thursdays!”
The ad for Gammon’s Restaurant in the Aug. 29, 1962, Post-Gazette promised an evening of posh fare in the grand neighborhood. On the same page, a headline blared in bold, black type: “Renewal Unique in East Liberty, Biggest Here Yet.”
That story detailed a $46 million, 257-acre redevelopment and said a big comeback was just around the corner for the neighborhood, which “had started to droop economically after World War II, much like an old lady of breeding and wealth dozing in her rocking chair.”
Apparently she kept dozing. The redevelopment was a disaster and did nothing to stop the tidal pull of city dwellers to the suburbs (not just here, but in every American city). East Liberty languished for decades.
In the new millennium, a trickle of development that began with Google and Bakery Square has given way to a full-on deluge that includes high-end apartment and condo buildings and a pair of sparkling new hotels — Ace Hotel in the former YMCA building and Hotel Indigo of the IHG conglomerate.
Since they’re surrounded by a virtual murderers row of talented restaurateurs, we came up with two nights out — drink, appetizer, dinner, dessert and a nightcap — that begin and end at the hotels.
Like 15206 versions of Hotel California, you could check into each place and never leave, such is the quality of the food and the libations at the Ace’s Whitfield restaurant and Indigo’s Wallace’s Tap Room. But for the purposes of this exercise, you’ll get some exercise and meet your FitBit daily steps goal while gorging on some of the finest food and drink in the city.
Feast Liberty: Your map to 2 nights of dining adventure. (Click image for larger version)
Whetting the whistle
Start the evening with a cocktail by simply heading downstairs from your hotel room.
At the Indigo, Wallace’s Tap Room bartender Kimber Weissert is a member of the 1 percent — in that her outstanding take on a Manhattan was one of six finalists out of 600 nationwide in the 2016 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience, held in Manhattan (naturally) in April.
Her take, the “Figgly Wiggly” — with Woodford Double Oaked bourbon, sassafras, sorghum bitters, Sorel and a fig syrup — is a perfect evening opener, whetting your appetite for the night ahead.
At the Ace, try their take on the same classic, the “East Liberty” with rye whiskey, a house sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier and cocoa bitters.
Now for a snack before dinner. Few pairings are as perfectly posh as oysters and bubbly, and Muddy Waters Oyster Bar chef Adam Kucenic offers both in a fun environment. East Coast oysters are $3 apiece, West Coast $4 and a chef’s tasting combining both into a dozen is $36. Oysters Rockefeller or chargrilled oysters are $15. All are complemented by a nice list of sparkling European and California whites.
Or you can make your way just across Centre Avenue to Sonja Finn’s Dinette in East Side. Highly regarded since it opened in 2008, Dinette’s modern take on food put East Liberty back on Pittsburgh’s culinary map.
The specialty here from the two-time James Beard “Rising Star Chef” is gourmet pizza, but instead try a platter of the Grilled Shishito Peppers with Goat Cheese, Fried Almonds and Fleur de Sel sea salt ($9). Or the Mixed Salumi Plate with House Pickled Vegetables ($10) and a splash of wine from the budget-friendly list. All are priced under $52 a bottle and all are available by the glass.
Speaking of wine, pop into the Wine & Spirits premium store next door and grab a bottle of your favorite red or white to take to your dinner destination, Pizza Taglio (it’s BYOB).
Bottle of vino in tow, head back to Highland Avenue and Pizza Taglio for the excellent Roman-style pizzas from Anthony Giaramita, scion of the family behind Mount Washington favorite La Tavola. Mr. Giaramita, a warm and gregarious host, gave up a successful legal practice to share his pizza passion with the world, and the law’s loss is our gain.
The Greenpointer ($14) combines mozzarella, spicy sopressata and Mike’s Hot Honey, a Brooklyn product that infuses wildflower honey with chilies for an excellent mix of sweet heat. The Carbonara, inspired by the namesake Roman pasta dish, is guanciale, Pecorino béchamel and black pepper with a beautiful Jidori egg yolk in the middle ($14).
The more highbrow dinner pick is the Twisted Frenchman, whose name refers not to its chef, Andrew Garbarino, but to his cooking style. “French food is the love of my life, but I’m a modernist at heart.”
Former Post-Gazette dining critic Melissa McCart recommended the lamb-wrapped lamb chop ($36), “a rustic presentation on the bone, paired with sous vide technique in cooking lamb sausage that jackets the chop.” She also liked the ever-changing vegetarian selection ($28) because “no two diners get the same dish.”
Dessert and a nightcap
While the desserts at the Twisted Frenchman may be too tempting to pass up, if at this point you can still move, finish the night with dessert and a drink.
If Dinette was a harbinger of a new look East Liberty, chef Brian Pekarcik’s Spoon made it official with its 2010 opening. Head there for a sweet treat paired with a dessert wine, like the citrus ricotta cake ($8) with a glass of muscato.
Panna cotta makes for a perfect post-pizza bite, and The Livermore’s vanilla, salted carmel, lavender version ($8) makes a perfect cap to the evening along with digestifs like the Down Pueblo Road with mezcal, Cynar, ginger and lemon. That will keep you warm walking back to your hotel.
Dan Gigler: email@example.com; Twitter @gigs412.
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