Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
Go ahead. Read the headline and yuk it up.
It is inherently funny in a juvenile sense, the juxtaposition of those words. But, geez, we're grown-ups here. So, enough with the passé knee-slapping about a place named after the spherical bearings that connect the control arms to the steering knuckles in a car and a brewery honoring the 214-year-old county named for a stream that was titled as such by Native Americans because of the toothy, aquatic rodents that made it their home.
Or is there some other reason it's funny that I'm missing?
Kidding aside, the entendre-heavy Ball Joint is the brainchild of husband and wife Bryan and Amanda Fyock and peddles in meatballs, but not just any sort. These are all-chicken meatballs made from high-quality (cage free, no GMOs, hormones or antibitotics) relatively locally sourced chicken from Gerber Amish Farms in Kidron, Ohio, and nine house-made sauces ranging from Buffalo to Marinara to a Cajun Dry Rub.
At a buck a ball, I tried three, which made for a nice little nosh -- the Honey Chipotle, which was a bite of sweet heat; the zesty, tart and pun-ny BALLsamic Zing; and the spicy Buffalo.
Signature Italian meatballs of ground beef and pork are also available individually for a quarter more and are used to great effect in the Spaghetti & Meatballs hoagie ($6.95 regular, $8.95 large), which is like the grown-up version of the spaghetti sandwiches we all invariably made as kids (or at least I did). Several meatballs packed into a toasted garlic bread baguette, then topped with the house marinara and a "made-in-house-by-hand" angel hair made for a delicious bite of nostalgia.
The fresh pastas are also available in a platter of Pasta Ragu Bolognese, along with two meatballs and garlic toast for and in the Cheesy Bacon Amazing Mac (both $7.95).
First, I'd challenge anyone to find another place in the region that sells platters of fresh pasta for under $8. Second, as one who could conceivably eat macaroni and cheese for every meal and orders it whenever I see it on a menu, I can say without hesitation this is excellent stuff.
The large, handmade macaroni is covered liberally in the Cheesy Bacon Awesome sauce, which is just that: awesome. This isn't bacon and cheese but rather bacon in cheese, as in they blended bacon, then cooked it down, reducing it into their secret combination of cheeses. The dish is then topped with extra bacon, cheese and buttered bread crumbs, then baked and served with two chicken balls in the same sauce and garlic toast. Outstanding.
Opened earlier this year, The Ball Joint was part leap of faith, part family history. The idea germinated from the Fyocks making meatballs for a dinner party some five years ago and grew from there. Bryan Fyock also is a descendent of the Rubino Family, longtime produce purveyors in Beaver County. Some mementos of the family business hang on the walls.
And the Fyocks aren't the only creative food entrepreneurs in town. Just about a mile away, down the hill from Geneva College on the Seventh Avenue main drag, the poured concrete floors and basic paneling walls of the old industrial supply building where the Beaver Brewing Co. opened its tap room last year is basically devoid of any charm, warmth or personality -- normally a bad thing. However, all three are exuded in scores both by brewmaster and proprietor Dan Woodske (who works the room like the mayor) and his beers, some of which are as good as they are novel.
A self-taught brewer, the Chippewa resident was a regular 9-to-5 type before opening his nanobrew four years ago. He has since been written up in Beer Advocate and Draft magazines -- sacred texts of the beer geek set -- and takes something of a mad scientist approach to brewing.
For instance, some extra Mosaic hops and roasted malt Mr. Woodske said he had lying around were whipped into Malty Mosaic, a refreshing and crisp brown ale ($3.75). He's making a series of beers with tea, like the English Breakfast Brown Ale ($5), and annually makes a Pecan Pie Nut Brown. A house favorite is the I.Porter.A., a mashup of a porter and an IPA ($4.75).
I tried the Watermelon Wheat, made with Huell melon hops from Germany and a ton of fresh watermelon -- 16 percent of the beer by Mr. Woodske's estimation.
"If someone asked you what a watermelon tasted like, you wouldn't give them a Jolly Rancher," he deadpanned.
Another seasonal offering, the Tangerine Nightmare Pale Ale ($3.75), is made from German Mandarina Bavaria hops Mr. Woodske said he'd read about and wanted to try. The result is very drinkable and dangerously smooth at 9.2 percent ABV, with a gorgeous hazy orange hue and citrus bite.
For entertainment, there is a pinball lounge in the back and an old school Nintendo 8-bit system in the front.
The Ball Joint may partner up with Beaver Brewing to deliver food directly to brewpub patrons, which undoubtedly will spawn any number of dumb jokes but also a real treat for fans of craft beer and quality food.
The Ball Joint is at 3410 Fourth Ave., Suite C, Beaver Falls; 724-384-1336 or iwantballs.com. Beaver Brewing Co. is at 1820 Seventh Ave., Beaver Falls; beaverbrewingcompany.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org (there is no phone).
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