The newest Pittsburgh hot spot that everyone is talking about has to be Meat & Potatoes. Before I actually visited the restaurant, I watched the place climb through the ranks on Urbanspoon’s top 10 list quite quickly and decided it was time to try the place for myself. Luckily, I have an in-the-know cousin who phoned up my grandparents and cousins to round us all up for a weeknight dinner last week.
Meat & Potatoes is located right on Penn Avenue in the Cultural District, making it a perfect place to visit for a drink and a bite before a show at the Benedum or Heinz Hall. A self-proclaimed gastropub, the restaurant is a smart but casual place with a high-quality menu and comfortable and cool atmosphere. M&P has that downtown, date-night feel to it with its high open ceilings, whimsical chalkboard walls full of information about the menu, and floor to ceiling windows.
The white marbled bar is in the center of the place, which maybe sits about 75 people. The two bartenders probably could have used an extra hand as it took a few minutes to get a drink, but I was pleased with my Pinot Noir served in a glass instead of traditional stemware. The cup of red wine reminded me of when I visited my friend in Rome where we drank wine from those…and wine glasses…and pitchers…and anything else they would give us wine in. I mean, isn’t that what you do in Italy? Go outside, eat pizza, drink wine…what a life.
When our table wasn’t ready for our 8 o’clock reservation, we were offered a private room in the back, which actually worked out quite well for our party of six that tends to get just a little loud sometimes. Our waiter was pleasant and even brought us a round of champagne on the house, which I’m not sure was because they knew I was writing about the place or because they felt bad for making us wait. Either way, free champagne is free champagne and it was good.
We started out with three appetizers, the bone marrow, lobster risotto, and the devils on horseback. Unfortunately, no one was able to stop themselves from digging into the creamy risotto with buttery lobster before taking a photo, but as you can imagine, it was delicious. The devils on horseback are chorizo stuffed dates with cheese (Manchego if I remember correctly) and green onions. A perfect small bite while you enjoy your cocktails, but if you’re in a larger group, order two–only 3 stuffed dates come with one order.
And now to the bone marrow, a foodie delicacy I’ve read about and heard about, but never tried. It came to the table on a large wooden platter and looked as intimidating as ever with the three large bones as the main attraction. You eat the marrow by scooping it out of the bone and spreading the fatty, already melting goodness on the grilled bread. (I realize I sound like Hannibal Lecter here.)You then top it with the sides offered—capers, sea salt and pepper, parsley gremolata, and ramp relish. Not everyone at the table was a fan, too bizarre and fatty, but I personally thought it was delicious. Rich, crunchy, and salty all in one bite.
After we finished our apps, it was time for the wedge salad, one of my favorite things to order in any restaurant. If crunchy lettuce, with crispy bacon, sweet tomatoes, and a creamy dressing is wrong, then I definitely don’t want to be right. M&P’s version was all of those thing plus the dressing tasted homemade with a hint of dill and lemon. Yum.
For dinner I ordered the Sweet Bread Picatta, another foray into unknown food territory for myself. I had heard of sweetbreads from “Top Chef” when one of the chef’s described their taste as something comparable to the most delicious chicken nugget you’ve ever tasted. Sine then, I’ve been curious to try sweetbreads, which are actually the thymus gland of a calf or lamb….Hannibal again? The dish was tasty despite the fact that the texture of the sweetbreads was a bit foreign to me. The accompanying vegetables were beautifully seasoned and cooked. The mushroom, artichoke, lemon, and spinach combination worked perfectly and was a light compliment to the breaded sweetbreads. Next time though, I think I’d prefer sweetbreads in a smaller bite, rather than as a main course.
I tried everyone’s meals too and my favorite was the soft shell tacos. Crispy, crunchy, and the sauce on them was to die for. Really, I’d like to go back right now and eat them. A high-class fish taco. The only thing I tasted that I thought could have been improved was the Kobe flat iron with chimichurri. The meat was chewy, even though it was ordered medium rare and the plantains that accompanied the dish didn’t add anything to it, just overly sweet and decorative. I think that for a place called Meat & Potatoes, it would be wise to have a better red meat option on the menu. Perhaps a big ol’ filet with fontina and herb mashed potatoes? Or a lamb dish that’s basically a dressed-up gyro?
After dinner and with very little room left in our bellies, we ordered one of the chocolate mousse desserts to share between the six of us. Lucky for us, Meat & Potatoes graciously gave us the two other desserts on the menu as well, one blueberry and one key lime pie. Both filled to the brim with tart custard, whipped cream, and fresh fruit in a mason jar. But neither could top the Pot de Crème chocolate, each spoonful was packed with rich chocolate flavor without being too heavy and begged you to go for a second bite. Ah-mazing, I tell you.
The consensus from my family is that they would happily go back to M&P. The creative and changing menu combined with the trendy atmosphere made for a relaxed but upscale dinner that was enjoyed by all. I for one am definitely curious to try their other food, especially the hot dog with foie gras and truffle aioli. When I return I’ll be testing that out along with more appetizers and small bites, my favorite part part of the menu. The only complaint I have is that they were out of too many things on the menu–on a Tuesday night they were out of the pot pie, veal, and the gnocchi. But keep in mind, Meat & Potatoes has only been open a few weeks so they still have some kinks to work out.