Part 1 — A Visit to Pittsburgh’s Famous Penn Brewery
Part 2 — Dining With the Weinstocks (Grand Concourse Restaurant)
This week, I’m visiting Pittsburgh.
This city was pretty much a hellhole a century ago. Once cloistered with gritty steel mills and coal depots, giant smokestacks barreled out a toxic blanket of blackness, gradually turning day into night, transforming any human lung within breathing distance into something that resembled a charred Brillo pad.
Today, Pittsburgh is a very different city. A much cleaner city. A city completely transformed. Virtually unrecognizable in many ways from its early heyday as a buckle on the rust belt, what once was an industrial junction of steel, coal, and railroads is now a major center for banking, medicine, and higher education.
Yet even now Pittsburgh retains a core toughness about it, rooted in the rocky cliffs towering over the city’s three rivers and picturesque downtown, capped with fresh snow in early December. It’s a city of contrasts — of tradition and innovation, of rivers and bridges, of long drives and short walks.
Pittsburgh’s also home to countless local breweries. One of the oldest is the famous Penn Brewery, perched atop a hill in the historic working-class district of Deutschtown, once the home to thousands of struggling steel mill workers which ultimately helped spark the formation and eventual power of trade unions in America.
Well, it might as well be rocket science if you’re dining at the newest cafe-restaurant which just opened up at Tivolli Village, in Summerlin. Wanna’ guess what the name of this new place is? Try this: The Crepe.
The most outrageous thing about our lunchtime visit today was — WE NEVER GOT ANY CREPES!
Can you fucking believe it?
Maybe they should rename this place The Air. Or, The Wait. That was the full extent of our lunch. I’ll say this, it’s one helluva good place to go on a diet and lose weight. Everything on the menu is low fat. Er, make that no fat.
Sorry, Holland. Beautiful country. Nice people. But the local food scene is basically one Long John Silvers after another, only with unpronouncable names.
Your food choices in Holland are pretty much limited to the following choices: Fish, fish, and more fish — and it’s all fucking fried. Just about everything you order comes with fried potatoes topped with a giant dollap of mayonaise. Yuck. After staying here a week and losing a full belt loop in an unplanned fast, I’m ready to flee the country just to get a good meal. And today that’s exactly what I did, racing towards the German border in a reverse blitzkrieg with the first authentic German restaurant as my primary target. Hey, you know the food is lousy when you’re burning rubber towards Germany to get a decent meal.
First, there’s that odd-sounding name, chosen (I was told) because the owners thought it had a nice ring. In a sense, the nonsensical name embodies the free-spirited and self-confident approach here to the entire dining experience — including food, drink, and service.
It’s best classified as a nouveau steakhouse, yet it also defies conventional description and expectation. On one hand it’s a butcher shop, yet also offers an extensive salad and vegetarian menu. It’s bar selection is top notch (Abita Amber on tap!). Deserts are home made. The staff knows and loves food. Bargain prices compared to what you’d pay elsewhere. What more could you ask?
Echo and Rig stands near the entrance to Tivoli Village, an upscale (but surprisingly affordable) enclave of excellent restaurants, specialty shops, and other businesses. The district located across the street from the Sun Coast Casino. Since its grand opening about 18 months ago, Tivoli Village has been introducing a Tuscany-style flair to Summerlin residents, with considerable success. If excellence lies in getting the details right, then Tivoli Village has spared no expense in pursuit of creating not just a popular food court, but an entire neighborhood and atmosphere. Pay a visit and look around at the architecture, the lighting, the ambiance. This entertainment community is as nice as anything on the Las Vegas Strip, without the crowds of tourists and inflated prices.
By my count, Tivoli Village includes five solid restaurant choices, four of which we’ve tried (multiple times). Topping the list, Cantina Laredo serves Mexican fare and is fantastic. Kabuki is Japanese-themed and serves excellent lunch specials. Poppy Den is a one of those celebrity chef joints that I’m not usually fond of — but turned out to be wonderful. Brio is Northern Italian, and although a national chain, quite serviceable. The View Wine Bar and Kitchen has a terrific happy hour with live music. Then, there’s Cafe Leone, the perfect place to enjoy a coffee and pastry. And now, let’s add a sixth worthy destination to the list — Echo and Rig.