Vendors at Pittsburgh International averaged 3 critical violations over the last two years vs. 14 when the Post-Gazette checked 4 years ago.
Let's talk about the Pittsburgh patois and the lexicon-on-the-Mon, if you'll indulge Munch for a moment.
Other than "steel" there is probably no other word more closely associated with Pittsburgh than our goofy little plural four-letter word, passed down for going on two centuries from our Scots-Irish forebears, the word that helped us earn the distinction as the "Galapagos Islands of American dialect" according to The New York Times ... Yinz know which one I mean.
Or Yunz. Whichever.
It's not the king's English, but who cares? This is Pittsburgh. The only king around here is King Friday. "Yinz" is something your gram from Greenfield or your cuz from Carrick says all the time, and you love them for it.
But anymore it seems that those who let the "Y-word" fly are a scorned bunch. The term "Yinzer" -- something Munch thought we all were to a degree because Pittsburghers once celebrated our little quirks -- is now used ubiquitously as a pejorative by just about anyone who thinks they're better than their fellow 412 (or 724) neighbor.
Simply put, it's the difference between those who laugh with Pittsburgh Dad, and those who laugh at him. This attitude needs dealt with (past participle intended!). Besides, only Munch gets to pass judgment on strangers like that. Jags.
This brings us to the subject of this week's review: YinzBurgh BBQ in Oakland. The name made Munch skeptical. This place mocking us? Is it purely Pittsburgh pandering (since "SteelerPenguin BBQ" would've brought heat from a copyright attorney)? Or is it a good-natured homage to its city?
After a handful of visits, Munch thinks it's the latter.
Opened in early February by Richard Coursey, a former mechanical engineer from southern Georgia who has made his home here for 15 years, the place peddles the kind of barbecue that Mr. Coursey has been making since he was a boy on his family farm. Mr. Coursey took a leap of faith after quitting his job last year and starting a second career and says he's "standing in his dream" in reference to the little Baum Boulevard kitchen.
For a first time visitor, Mr. Coursey courteously provides a brief BBQ tutorial and explains that all of the meats at YinzBurgh are smoked for hours and seasoned strictly with a dry rub. He adds that no sauce is added by the kitchen, that those are the customers' choices, and dutifully gives a taste test of the three house-made varieties available: Signature Red, a tangy tomato-based red sauce; Honey Gold, a particularly good honey mustard sauce; and Carolina Vinegar (Munch's favorite).
Beef brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken, sandwiches, wings and even tofu are available ($4-$24), along with southern sides such as black-eyed peas, greens, mac & cheese and cole slaw ($2.50-$6).
Accompanied by trusty sidekick, Blonde Barkeep Bud of Munch, we each had a sandwich: she the Beef Brisket ($8) and Munch the Pulled Pork ($7), both with the signature red sauce. This was an excellent overture of well-prepared meats and sauces, with the best yet to come.
We also split a half-slab of babyback ribs ($12) and drizzled them with the vinegar sauce. The rib meat was fall-off-the-bone perfect and the seasoning excellent. But the real star is the smoky scent of the meat. Munch looked like someone on TLC's "My Strange Addictions" practically huffing the takeout bag after the food was gone to catch whiffs of that wonderful woody aroma.
For side orders, we split medium orders of the mac & cheese ($2.50) and the black-eyed peas ($3). The BBBOM said the mac was just so-so, but raved about the peas. We washed everything down with a couple of excellent pops made locally by the Natrona Bottling Co. ($2.25). Though the place is small and primarily made for takeout, there are a few tables where you can stand and wolf down your meal.
Mr. Coursey hopes to expand around his adopted hometown and open a sit-down restaurant. But for now, he's content to work the smokers and the grills and banter back and forth with his Pittsburgh customers. Hopefully they'll rub off on him so he'll shed that silly Southern drawl and start speaking normally.
Just like us.