Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
Summertime is the season for new loves, and Munch is always on the lookout for a new Dear One of Munch (DOOM), especially when the sun is shining and the birds and bees are flitting about.
Greater wordsmiths than Munch have written of nascent love, starting with a sweet and spicy kick to the tongue, sliding warm down your throat and leaving you satiated and sluggish afterward. Why does the experience of new love resemble a plate of barbecue ribs, you ask?
She is the lovely hostess, chef and server at The Dream Bar-B-Q in Homewood, a place that has long enticed Munch on drives up North Braddock Avenue by smoking its meats on the sidewalk, a beacon for passers-by.
On this night, Munch rounded up North Side Friend of Munch (NSFOM), making his inaugural visit to Homewood; Professionally Attired Friend of Munch (PAFOM), who came from work; and Atkins Friend of Munch (AFOM), who Munch hoped to treat to a low-carb meaty meal in light of his diet.
We strolled through the smoke and into the bare-bones 'cue joint to be greeted with a smile by Simone, perched behind hot trays of meat and sides. With the help of a gentleman manning the grill outside, she's responsible for the spread.
When told we were first-timers, she insisted we try just about everything. First, she passed around a sample of chicken and rice, juicy and spiced with some red pepper. Then, she handed over some cabbage that tasted like it had been dunked in a stick of melted butter -- right up Munch's alley.
The fastest way to Munch's heart is through my stomach -- preferably with a side trip to the taste buds -- and Munch was in love at first bite. Simone had future DOOM written all over her, and she was just getting started.
The Dream serves up mostly combinations of chicken and ribs and sides. Munch ordered the rib dinner ($9.50), with mac 'n' cheese and yams. AFOM, who is famous for his musical Steak-a-Week ritual, appropriately ordered the Meat Lover ($9.25), a mix of ribs and chicken wings, with collard greens and green beans. PAFOM got the chicken wing dinner ($8.50), adding potato salad and mac 'n' cheese. NSFOM followed with the chicken wing dinner with sides of chicken and rice and collard greens.
Like the cabbage, the green beans and collards were heart-attack buttery. The mac 'n' cheese was gooey with a perfect bubbly crust on top. The yams were heavily sweetened with brown sugar and cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. PAFOM reported that the potato salad was low on mayonnaise, with tangy basil and onion flavoring.
The chicken wings were full wings -- not little Buffalo wings -- and were best with The Dream's sweet honey mustard sauce.
The stars of this soul food show, though, were the ribs -- just crispy enough on the outside and fall-off-the-bone juicy. They come smothered with a choice of mild or hot sauce. We selected hot, which provided a good kick without overpowering with spice.
PAFOM slung his tie over his shoulder while sampling one of Munch's ribs, noting that this is not a meal to be enjoyed when nice clothes could get in the way of the sauce. The ever-accommodating Simone pointed out the restroom, predicting correctly that napkins would not be enough for our sticky fingers.
AFOM was enjoying the meal heartily and attempting to do Dr. Atkins proud, until he noticed that the rib sauce, too, had an unmistakable infusion of brown sugar. Would this carb revelation derail his dinner?
"Eh, you only live once," AFOM proclaimed, as he dove back into his ribs.
The portions were exceedingly generous: the rib dinner had more than a half-rack size that you would order at a chain restaurant, leaving Munch to wonder how big The Dream's half-rack ($15) might be.
Weighed down by our meal and staggering out the door, we offered our sincere thanks to our BBQ provider and praised her cooking.
"It's made with love," Simone said with a laugh.
A smitten Munch couldn't have put it any better.
The Dream Bar-B-Q is at the corner of North Braddock and Hamilton avenues, Homewood.