Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
Munch has taken up running as a way to work off all of the, erm, munching.
It's not something Munch really wants to do, but eating a giant bowl of pasta or a french fries-adorned sandwich feels even better when you get out and move around a bit beforehand. It seems like you earned it.
Recently, Munch took a run through the Strip District. Let me tell you, friends, this was not a good idea. Running past sizzling meat on sidewalk carts and through the smell of baking doughnuts and roasting coffee is pure torture.
But if Munch wasn't running, Munch might have missed a good thing.
Tucked into a small storefront in the 1900 block of Penn Avenue is a new BYOB Thai restaurant, Little Bangkok in the Strip. Munch drove past it on many occasions, but on foot Munch moves slowly enough to pick up on just about everything.
Hopefully, Little Bangkok benefits from foot traffic in the Strip most days, because when Munch, Dear One of Munch, Sister of Munch and Boyfriend of Sister of Munch showed up for dinner on a Friday night, the restaurant was completely empty.
We felt a little awkward as we were escorted through the silent restaurant to a table. The space looks like it was assembled between two existing buildings; it's a narrow restaurant with high ceilings and one cinder block wall. We sat down, and before long, music filled the void, although it was an odd mix of heavy metal and soothing Thai songs.
"Do you think they sell the soundtrack for this restaurant?" SOM quipped.
We forgot about the music, though, when the appetizers arrived. DOOM said the "golden crab wontons" ($5) had "the best crispy crust I've had in a while," and the "crispy veggie Bangkok rolls" ($5) and chicken satay skewers ($6) were equally satisfying. We all agreed that the peanut sauce that accompanied the chicken was particularly excellent.
The entrees were equally impressive. DOOM ordered the Drunken Noodle -- stir-fried rice noodles and tofu with spicy basil sauce, vegetables and eggs ($11).
"I'll go as far as to say this is my favorite preparation of tofu I've had in a while," DOOM, a tofu connoisseur, noted.
BOSOM, a man of few words, ordered Pad Kra Tiem with beef -- a stir-fried dish of beef and vegetables in a garlic and pepper sauce ($14). He pulled a tiny ear of corn from the dish and grinned.
His last words before polishing off the whole plate? "I got mini corn. I'm a happy guy."
SOM's entree choice was declared the winner for the evening. She ordered the Thai Rama Chicken: sauteed chicken in a yellow curry sauce with vegetables ($13). The dish was topped with the aforementioned peanut sauce, and the flavors blended perfectly into a chicken-peanut-curry mashup.
Munch ordered the Bangkok Spicy Basil with tofu ($13) and agreed with DOOM on the tofu preparation. Sometimes fried tofu winds up being more fried crust than tofu, but Little Bangkok managed to crisp it without frying it to death.
Dishes are made to order and spice level is measured on a 1-to-10 scale. Munch and DOOM both ordered an 8, and it was pretty spicy without being painful.
"At an 8, I'd definitely take 10 seriously," DOOM said.
The service was attentive without being invasive, despite the fact that we were the only customers in the restaurant for the majority of our meal. Our waters were quickly refilled and extra napkins were brought without asking.
We thought about dessert but were told -- around 9 p.m. on a weekend evening -- that the kitchen had already closed. As we were leaving, a woman came in and asked if she could place an order, but she was turned away. Little Bangkok probably gets a lot of foot traffic during the day, but they'd probably benefit from staying open a bit later on weekend nights to draw bar-hoppers into the restaurant.
This bag-headed restaurant reviewer is glad to have discovered Little Bangkok in the Strip and will likely return. Next time, though, it'd be nice to have dessert.