On the Table / Gone Fishin': Six restaurants that offer seafood beyond the usual sandwich
Wild striped bass fish & chips, Napa slaw, malt aioli served at Avenue B in Shadyside.
The Original Oyster House in Market Square: Expect a line out the door on Fridays.
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Throughout the year, breaded and fried fish on a bun may be runner-up to Primanti Bros.' slaw and french fry number as the city's official sandwich. During Lent, though, fish sandwiches become the go-to.
Here we are, halfway through the season, when diners may crave variety beyond what's served at the church fish fry or the neighborhood local.
Check out these ideas for where to find delicious seafood for the remaining Fridays of Lent, or for that matter, any other night of the week.
The Original Oyster House: for character
A line snakes out the door for takeout every Friday at The Original Oyster House, a Downtown anchor for more than 140 years. Skip the line and head to the stainless steel bar framed by autographed photos and faded memorabilia, where longtime bartender Bob Harper serves up one-liners and wry observations with pints of Iron City.
The original breaded fish sandwich ($5.75) is the best-seller, though my favorite is the beer-battered Codfather ($6.95) made to order. Carbonation makes for less-dense, more flavorful batter on this slab of fish that's bigger than a giant's hand. Good luck keeping it on the bun. Ask for a fork and be ready for a hairy eyeball and perhaps some ribbing from Mr. Harper.
20 Market Square, Downtown
Avenue B: for an elevated classic
When chef Chris Bonfili opened Avenue B in 2009, he decided fish and chips would be on the menu every day. "When we first saw the space, I felt like it's a dish that said who we were."
Whether it's redfish, striped bass or walleye, the fish and chips dish ($22) includes two pieces of tempura-battered or pan-seared fish. Chips are fingerling potatoes paired with a tangy malt aioli and a side of Napa slaw.
Though fish and chips remains a best-seller, Mr. Bonfili said he also offers at least two additional seafood dishes on Fridays through Lent. He needs to. "On Fridays, we definitely sell a lot of fish."
5501 Centre Ave., Shadyside
Penn Avenue Fish Company: for variety
"Don't be a sinner. Eat fish for lunch and dinner!" reads the sandwich board outside the flagship location in the Strip. A smaller shop for the Downtown lunch crowd tucks into a slip on Forbes Avenue.
Owner Henry Dewey said the English-style cod sandwich ($9) is most popular, served on ciabatta with slaw and a side of chowder, bisque or gumbo for $2. If cod is too straightforward, there are 16 sandwich variations featuring tuna, salmon, tilapia or swordfish.
Sushi devotees flock here for some of the city's freshest choices of nigiri, sashimi, maki and platters. Diners can watch as fishmongers expertly filet beautiful salmon, bass, snapper and pike.
2208 Penn Ave., Strip District
308 Forbes Ave., Downtown
Dish Osteria and Bar: for seasonality
Ask for the evening's fish special or peruse the antipasti, which this time of year includes stunning seafood such as West Coast sea urchin crostini ($9). Thick-sliced bread is slathered with primordial roe dressed with Sicilian olio verde, red chili pepper, chives and lemon. This simple dish is breathtaking.
Maryland shad roe served here for the next two weeks is also a rarity on Pittsburgh menus. The pillowy piece ($9) is pan-fried with guanciale (meat alert), dressed with lemon caper sauce, then served with chickpea fritters and spinach.
It is an earthy delight that can be served without meat, though this Italian variation on bacon is hard to resist.
"I offer these unusual dishes for a very good price," said chef-owner Michele Savoia. "I want to make it accessible so people will try it."
128 S. 17th St. South Side
Spoon: for refinement
Local trout is cured with salt, wild sumac and other herbs at Wild Purveyor in Lawrenceville, which provides fish from Laurel Hill Trout Farm.
As a first course, chef Brian Pekarcik decorates a plate with goat cheese mousse. Thin-sliced trout ($10) serves the center, on toasted pumpernickel, garnished with pickled red onions, caraway seeds and sliced radish.
Creamy deviled egg gribiche and mache in a horseradish vinaigrette balance the delicious presentation.
134 S. Highland Ave. East Liberty
Nied's Hotel: for quirk
Don't be surprised if the bartender calls you "hon" at this Lawrenceville institution that's been "home of the fish sandwich" since 1941.
Breaded haddock on a split-top bun ($6.95) is perfectly fine. It's the local color at Nied's that's the draw. If you're lucky, you'll hear the music of Slim Forsythe, the singing cowboy who lives upstairs in the hotel.
"He may play bluegrass or country or, this Saturday it's Irish music," said owner Jim Nied, who mentioned Mr. Forsythe practiced in the kitchen during service a few nights ago.
"He's an ambidextrous musician, if you know what I mean."
5438 Butler St. Lawrenceville
First Published March 14, 2013 12:00 am