Dining Review: Renovated Redfin Blues gives diners a special setting
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Why a city built on three rivers is not chock full of riverside dining spots has always puzzled me. I know that our riverbanks were once the province of dirty steel mills, but I thought we had gone beyond that. Wouldn't it be nice if we could redd up more of our waterfront and create lots of new eating destinations where one can enjoy river life with his sandwich or sirloin?
Thank goodness for Redfin Blues. This unique little eatery hangs out over the Washington's Landing marina docks on the Allegheny River. It has existed since the marina was developed in the early 1990s. The restaurant space was originally called Trolls and became Redfin Blues when new tenants arrived in 2003. The space has once again changed hands, and the new team has totally renovated the old site and vastly improved the layout of both the restaurant and the terrace.
The new owners are Clint Pohl and partners. Pohl has a long history of creating successful dining destinations in Pittsburgh. His Andora restaurant on Mt. Nebo Road in Ohio Township and Halo on East Carson Street on the South Side are popular with Pittsburgh's most demanding diners. The Pohl group gutted Redfin's interior and improved the esthetics by reducing the size of the bar inside the restaurant and moving the outside bar. Now the bar flows seemlessly from interior to exterior on one side of the building. This means that the entire deck is reserved for diners, where before a large portion was dedicated to the Tiki Bar.
Redesigned railings on the deck have opened up the river vistas and allow those dining outside to have an unobstructed view of passing herons and barges and racing sculls. Best of all, the plastic chairs and wobbly tables that once provided seating have been replaced with handsome and sturdy tables and chairs and canvas umbrellas. The deck now seats 90, plus 30 seats on the side patio surrounding the outside bar. There are 28 seats inside the restaurant. Although the very casual ambience of the old Redfin Blues remains, the new Redfin has raised the standards of comfort, style and service. Even the tiny kitchen has been improved. Unfortunately, the kitchen cannot be enlarged because of other buildings on the property.
Chet Garland, the talented chef at Halo, is currently dividing his time between Halo and Redfin Blues. The Redfin kitchen is minuscule, and the riverfront crowd is not looking for fancy food, but Garland is creating a menu that will satisfy all while using fresh, quality ingredients and simple preparations.
Appetizers include the usual suspects such as nachos ($7), Buffalo Wings ($8 for 1 pound) and Crispy Calamari ($9). I prefer the spicy Buffalo Calamari ($9) or Buffalo Fried Shrimp ($10), which are served with ranch or blue cheese dressing. All the dressings are made in-house. More in keeping with my new healthy eating style, however, is Peel and Eat Steamed Shrimp ($10 for 1 pound, $18 for 2 pounds). These smallish (41-50 shrimp per pound) shrimp would also make a great entree choice with a salad. They are served with fresh lemon and cocktail sauce, both of which are harmless additions to the calorie or fat count. Another prime candidate for the low-carb crowd is Seared Ahi ($10), which is served with wasabi, ginger and soy. Fish 'n' Chips ($8) was my partner's choice for an entree.
Salads are large. A wedge ($5) of iceberg lettuce with tomatoes, bacon and bleu cheese and a classic Caesar ($5) were welcome additions to our dinner. If you prefer a more traditional Pittsburgh dish, go for the Ranch, also $5, which includes french fries on top of the usual salad produce.
Sandwiches are numerous and include a choice of fries, slaw or pasta salad. All are served on BreadWorks sesame kaiser or hoagie buns. Vegetarians will appreciate the Portobello Burger ($7). The marinated and grilled giant mushroom cap is topped with roasted red peppers and provolone cheese. The Grilled Salmon Sandwich ($9) is served with Redfin's special remoulade sauce.
Entrees are served with a house salad. There are fajitas ($10 for chicken, $11 for beef) and pastas ($12 for chicken angel hair), sirloin steak ($15) and barbeque chicken ($14).
You can't have a waterfront restaurant without fish. The menu offers Chilean Salmon ($14), grilled with a teriyaki glaze, and served with fresh grilled pineapple. Block Island Swordfish ($17) is treated with Cajun spice and blackened on the grill. The popular Andora Crabcakes are re-christened Redfin Crabcakes ($24) and taste as great as ever when enjoying them overlooking the mighty Allegheny River.
Kids are welcome at Redfin and have a menu of their own. There are chicken fingers or hamburger for $5 or hot dog or grilled cheese sandwich for $4. These come with a choice of fries, slaw or pasta salad.
The tiny kitchen at Redfin means that desserts must be brought in. The list changes frequently, but all desserts are of top quality and are $5.
The wine list is focused on affordable bottles of the usual grape varieties. There is an Italian Pinot Grigio for $20, a fine Martin Ray Chardonnay from California for $30 and a California Pinot Noir for $20. House pour is 5 ounces for wines. Glasses from the $20 bottles are $6.50. Since there are five glasses in every bottle, I find the price of the wines by the glass excessive. The beer selection is extensive. Sadly, all are in bottles. Domestic bottles are $3.75, micros and malts are $4.75, and imports are $4.75- $5.75. Hopefully Redfin will eventually include draft brews in its lineup.
There is live musical entertainment from 7 to 11 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. There also is free docking below the restaurant deck for boaters. With a hiking and biking trail that runs from Heinz Field to Millvale skirting the property, fresh-air lovers can get to Redfin Blues on foot or two wheels. Whether arriving by land or by water, the welcoming deck at Redfin will not disappoint.
The young wait-staff wear casual uniforms and deep tans. They are friendly and helpful, adding to the overall pleasure of the Redfin experience.
The location is obviously Redfin's greatest asset. Pittsburgh has nothing else quite like it. It is a delight to see this great spot now get the kind of management and attention to detail that it deserves. There can be no more attractive place to dine in the open air with a view of our great city on the banks of one of our three rivers. You might have to wait for a table on weekend nights but even the wait is enjoyable in such a spot.John Beale, Post-Gazette
Paul Tebbets, manager of Redfin Blues restaurant at Washington's Landing, displays the "all you can eat" crab legs.
Click photo for larger image.
100 Waterfront Drive
Hours: Lunch and dinner: Sunday-Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.-midnight.
Basics: Pittsburgh's best riverfront location, this is a casual bar and grill restaurant with a great view and newly remodeled deck and menu. Expect to wait for a table on weekends when the sun is shining. Live music Thursday through Sunday in summer.
Prices: Appetizers, $4-$11; entrees, $12-$24; desserts, $5; wines: $5.50-$8.50 for a 5-ounce pour. Beer: $3.75-$5.75
Summary: Smoking; accessible; major credit cards accepted. Free parking in marina lot.
First Published July 6, 2006 12:00 am