Food and Sports in Pittsburgh

I’ve spent much of my life around AFC/NFC North cities: Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and to a degree Pittsburgh. Size-wise, Chicago and Detroit are much bigger than the other three, and Chicago is a cut above all of them in just about every way. Naturally, then, I’ve always lumped Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh together as basically the same city just in different locations.

View of Pittsburgh from above Point State Park
View of Pittsburgh from above Point State Park

Well, no diss to my current home city Cincinnati – which I do love and appreciate – but after a recent trip to Pittsburgh, I have to say I’m quite impressed. The architecture downtown is unique and diverse, especially the PPG campus which looks like a modern day castle or fortress. Sharp angles, black glass and steel framework cut into the skyline in a way that’s both beautiful and ominous. Market Square nestles cozily between high-rises, resting on olden days brick roads, giving it the feel of a small town square. Then, a few blocks away is Point State Park, where the skyscrapers give way to a stunning view of the famous three rivers converging. The view from the point is a perfect blend of nature and industry – rushing rivers, rising hills and plenty of trees set a scenic backdrop for a myriad of stately bridges, colorful houses and unique commercial buildings.

One poorly shot video of downtown Pittsburgh on a gloomy day…

But enough romanticizing downtown Pittsburgh…let’s get to the point of the blog: food and sports, food first.

Places to Eat in Pittsburgh

I was only in Pittsburgh for a day and a half, but I did manage to find two great restaurants and an amazing bar.

Seviche

Seviche in Pittsburgh
Seviche in downtown Pittsburgh

Seviche is a Latin-influenced restaurant specializing in tapas and smaller, shareable entrees. I’d highly recommend the Avocado and Corn Seviche with jumbo lump crab meat – a refreshing and zesty seviche perfect for whetting the appetite. Also, for a heartier starter, try the Bistec with filet mignon. Served with natural cut fries, these little quesadillas are rich and savory, buoyed by sweet carmelized onions. Follow up with a Cuban-influenced sushi roll or the Asian Tartare with Ahi Tuna and wash it all down with a pitcher of homemade sangria.

NOLA on the Square

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know I’m a nut for Cajun cookin’. NOLA on the Square does a great job of capturing some Cajun flavor while maintaining its own unique style. Of course, I had to try the gumbo (chicken and sausage) and it was above average. Low on spiciness but quite rich and hearty, NOLA’s gumbo was enhanced by adding a few drops from one of the many hot sauces native to Louisiana they keep on hand. One surprise was the unique drink selections available at NOLA. I give 5 stars to the 1937 Sazerac.

Sharp Edge

By far my favorite stop in downtown Pittsburgh, Sharp Edge, despite its yuppie undertones, has one of the most amazing beer selections (on tap) of anyplace I’ve ever been. Whether you like complex Belgian beers, hoppy IPAs, rich stouts or smooth dunkels, Sharp Edge has the beer to slake your thirst. Plus they have a choice selection of local craft beers and for out-of-towners, you can take them with you. Simply buy a Sharp Edge growler and have it filled with the draft of your choice. Take a little bit of Pittsburgh home with you.

Heinz Field and the Steelers

Heinz Field in PittsburghHeinz Field Steelers Hall of Fame Lockers
Left: At Heinz Field; Right: Steelers HOF at Heinz Field

So the point of my trip to Pittsburgh was to take in a Steelers game at Heinz Field. I was definitely impressed with the openness of Heinz Field and the sea of black and gold it immerses you in. I was not impressed with the concession stands because they are still in the 70s heydays with their cash only policy. Steeler nation is huge and profitable; it’s about time to invest in credit card machines.

I was also not impressed with the lackluster play of the Steelers. With all the dropped passes, I am of the mind to rename the team Hands-of-Steelers. Seriously, an absolutely pathetic display of football.Couple that with your molasses-fast QB as your leading rusher and it’s no wonder the Chargers stole the show. Still, Steeler nation was a site to behold, even on such a gloomy day. Bengals nation should visit and take notes. Just sayin’.

—Ryan Varney

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