On a recent Friday night, my family and I were vacationing on a charming little town’s Main Street that is lined with culinary delights.
We scored an outdoor table at a very busy, fancy place called One Thirty One East -- its Main Street address -- that describes itself as a “world fusion freestyle restaurant.” We savored a happy-hour spread of fried oysters with house hot sauce, crispy-fried Brussels sprouts and a flatbread with tomato jam and cheese curds, along with local beer, wine and “grown-up soda.” Then we strolled a bit, passing a bustling Italian restaurant and market as well as a music-filled Irish pub.
We stepped into a Ukrainian food store to have a look around and bought an undecipherable but delicious imported frozen treat for my son, and then we settled in at a brand-new meadery to sample and then savor a glass of its mead, or honey wine, over a few games of chess.
It was all a lovely surprise -- especially considering that we were just a few miles from home and from Downtown Pittsburgh in the borough of Carnegie.
We’ve been to Carnegie before, and eaten there, too, but on this pretty Friday night, visiting some of its new places, I was struck by how much seems to be going on food-wise along East Main Street.
• One Thirty One East just opened in April and is booming, based mostly on word of mouth.
• Apis Mead is holding its grand opening on Friday.
• Slice on Broadway, a new outlet of Beechview’s acclaimed pizza shop of that name, is holding its grand opening this Sunday, Aug. 3.
• Kasai, a sign at which describes it as a Japanese sushi and teriyaki restaurant, is to soft-open at least by the following Friday, Aug. 8, in time for that night’s second-Friday-of-the-month Carnegie Crawl along Main Street.
That’s run by the Carnegie Community Development Corp., whose executive director is Joanne Letcher. She says that some new and longtime food businesses have taken advantage of business-attraction and facade-improvement grants, but otherwise, “People are just discovering a unique location” -- one that also has several artsy shops, two theaters and other charms. And lots of parking, points out One Thirty One East co-owner Michelle Eibl, who says, “We’re up-and-coming!”
You could check it out on the Carnegie Crawl. Or, go on your own crawl some nice night, like we did -- the past two Fridays in a row.
Here are a few places to consider, heading from east to west on East Main Street toward the bridge over Chartiers Creek:
Portofino’s Pizza: 231 E. Main St., 412-279-4060, carnegiepizza.com. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m. to midnight Fri.-Sat. and noon to 10 p.m. Sun. Fairly standard pizza-shop stuff but it’s independent and the menu is huge, and includes calzones, strombolis and wedgies. One of the pasta selections is “Portofino's Dinner” ($11.50), which is described as, “Grilled steak, grilled chicken, fresh garlic butter sauce, onions, tomatoes, served over spaghetti noodles & topped with feta cheese.”
Riley’s Pour House: 215 E. Main St., 412-279-0770, rileyspourhouse.com. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri. and 8 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. A landmark Irish pub that opened in 1979 serves expected fare such as fish-and-chips, lamb stew and shepherds pie; regulars recommend Chef Lloyd’s soups, including “Cock-a-Leekie” ($4). This summer there’s grilling on Fridays and Saturdays in the “garden tent” outdoor space next-door. This past Friday, they closed the block of Main Street in front for live music.
Don Don Chinese Restaurant: 214 E. Main St., 412-279-5567, dondonchineserestaurant.com. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon to 10 p.m. Sun.
Apis Mead & Winery: 212 E. Main St., 412-478-9172, apismead.com. 4 to 10 p.m. Thurs., 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. Mead (honey wine) by the glass, bottle and keg. Bring your own food (see accompanying story).
PaPa J’s Ristorante: 200 E. Main St., 412-429-7272, papajs.com. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sun. (Sun. brunch until 3 p.m.). Having opened ahead of its time in 1987, this big place still is going strong. The huge menu includes the motto, “Beautiful food simply prepared to be shared with family & friends” and the interior spaces are pretty, too, with tables topped with linen and fresh flowers. Grab a seat outside or in the open-to-the-street piazza. But if you’re just strolling, take the cannoli -- from the dessert case in the market area at the entrance.
Kasai: 146 E. Main St., 412-279-5500, website under development. Opening for lunch and dinner “any day now,” according to one of the owners earlier this week, it will serve a variety of sushi and hibachi dishes as well as bento boxes. The name is Japanese for fire.
Carnegie Coffee Co.: 132 E. Main St., 412-275-3951. 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Absolutely lovely coffee shop opened last summer in the old post office, which also houses a pharmacy, and continues to expands its food options, with more sandwiches and sides daily.
One Thirty One East: 131 E. Main St.. 412-276-1205, onethirtyoneeast.com. 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Tues.-Fri. and 5 to 10 p.m. Sat. This 82-seat “world fusion freestyle restaurant,” in a completely remodeled space that used to be Ciao, is co-owned by Michelle Eibl and Executive Chef Bernard Bereksazi, who met when they both worked at the very popular Cafe Georgio in Bethel Park. She says her Culinary Institute of America-trained partner “likes to cook a little bit of everything,” and hence the wide-ranging daily specials. As she talked on the phone this week, she was working on one of the two house barrel-aged classic cocktails: the gin-based Aviation. They also sell a barrel-aged Sazerac.
Kolos International Food: 114 E. Main St., 412-969-4149. 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sun. Halia and Yevhen Lutsiv, from near Kalush, Ukraine, have run this store for about nine years. All kinds of kielbasa and other meats, cheeses and other refrigerated and frozen foods, and unusual stuff, such as large jars of what looks like water. We asked and were told it’s birch sap. What do you do with it? “Drink.”
Slice on Broadway: 108 E. Main St., 412-276-0200, sliceonbroadway.com. Co-owner Rico Lunardi wants to keep the menu and the experience the same as the original Slice on Broadway in Beechview, but with this outlet’s opening -- from noon to 3 p.m. this Sunday, Aug. 3 -- he wants to add some items. One is a stuffed-banana pepper pizza that deconstructs the iconic Pittsburgh starter by topping the crust with sausage, peppers, sauce and cheese. The new location also has a case to display pizzas, calzones and other treats -- “You know how you eat with your eyes,” he says -- to grab-and-go, or to eat on stools in the window or in the small vault that has been turned into seating, too. This location won’t sell beer and wine yet, but Mr. Lunardi grew up with Dave Cerminara, so he’ll just send customers to the meadery up the street.
Nazcar’s: 106 E. Main St., 412-278-2117. Bar (no food).
Pennsylvania Fine Wines and Good Spirits: 102 E. Main St., 412-429-2870.
Sunset Pizza & Grille: 38 E Main St., 412-276-3103, https://sites.google.com/site/sunsetpizza/ It looks like a typical pizza place, but look for the Turkish specialties. It’s owned by Sadi and Diane Bircan; he’s from Turkey, and they used to operate Cafe Anatolia, Downtown. Turkish specialties include “Cigarette Borek,” deep-fried rolls of phyllo dough filled with feta, and various kebabs. Sunset now also serves canoe-shaped flatbread called pide, including one with sucuk, a Turkish beef sausage.
Duran’s Restaurant & Lounge: 12 E. Main St., 412-276-7803. Fairly standard menu includes the 14-ounce “original Cumpburger,” and they do Sunday breakfast.
There are other interesting places to eat and drink in and near Carnegie, including Cafe Delhi (Indian fast food in a former Catholic church at 205 Mary St.), Barb’s Country Junction Cafe (breakfast and lunch in a barn-shaped building at 155 3rd Ave.) and, on Washington Road/Route 50, Gab & Eat (breakfast-and-lunch landmark) and 99 Bottles (bottle shop/beer bar with food, including a Chicken and Waffle Sandwich served on pecan waffles). At 415 W. Main St., you’ll find the hand-dipped gourmet apples and other chocolate treats of Applelicious.