Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
Brain teaser time. Say there's a tornado. And say it hits Quaker Steak and Lube, Buckhead Saloon and Hard Rock Cafe, depositing random restaurant bits in a big square pile.
What do you get?
You get Cadillac Ranch, the newly lacquered "All-American" restaurant in the newly lacquered Settlers Ridge, along the Parkway West. Guitars and photos of Mick Jagger on the walls? Naturally. Hubcaps and license plates on the ceilings? Abundantly. Classic car suspended from the rafters? Perilously. A bunch of Route 66 signs? Ubiquitously. One of those chandeliers made out of deer antlers? Unfortunately.
Cadillac Ranch is a small, fast-moving restaurant chain -- the first location, in Cincinnati, opened in 2007. Since then, they've built new restaurants in eight other cities, including Cleveland, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Nashville and, now, Pittsburgh, with more cities being scouted. Most are in suburban shopping centers, lording over 15,000 square feet or more, promising "chops, BBQ, burgers, cocktails and bull rides."
Bull rides? Yes, there's a mechanical bull, right there behind the bar. Munch was tempted to ride it, but, nah, people are eating. Nobody wants to see Munch's doughy, post-holiday body jiggling back and forth. Set a bowl of vanilla pudding on a washing machine and wait for the spin cycle -- that's Munch on a mechanical bull.
Or on a treadmill. Or while lying in bed, for that matter. These days, there's a whole lotta shakin' going on.
So I guess that means we're here for the food, even though, upon entry, you'll note that this is a bar first and foremost. There's a big, rec-tangular bar right at the entrance, and another long bar against the near wall. Food is not necessarily an afterthought, but neither is it the primary consideration.
Still, the menu offered what the signage promised -- steaks, burgers, chops and more. Munch heard a sports talk radio personality raving about the pulled pork barbecue. Munch trusts the sports talk jabberheads unconditionally when it comes to food recommendations (I mean, have you seen their physiques?), so I ordered the pork sandwich ($9.95). Twenty or so napkins later, it was finished, along with the side of fries (lukewarm) and a reasonable facsimile of Carolina cole slaw. I've had better pork sandwiches. Then again, I've had worse.
Better was the spinach salad ($7.95) that preceded the sandwich plate. Cherry tomatoes, croutons, blue cheese and candied pecans gave the salad a little heft and sweetness.
Although the restaurant is part of a chain, each menu features a couple of "local" favorites -- in this case, we have a Pittsburgh steak salad (topped with fries, of course, at $13.95), and a black-and-gold burger ($9.95), which is blackened and decorated with blue cheese, so, I'm just sayin', wouldn't that make it a black and blue burger?
Gets me to wondering if this sandwich-naming obsession is shared in other cities. Does the Indianapolis location have a blue and white burger? Do restaurants in Miami have teal and orange burritos? Do restaurateurs believe Pittsburgh-area diners will eat anything, so long as it has "black and gold" in the description?
On second thought, don't answer that.
Munch escaped the place with a $21 tab. In this case, you get what you pay for. You won't love the food here, and you probably won't hate it, either. But, if you do, you can shift your digestive system into reverse on the mechanical bull. Yee-haw!
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