The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: The Vandal, Pt. 2.

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: The Vandal, Pt. 2.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of joining a room full of Pittsburghers to sample the menu of The Vandal, a restaurant owned by Joey Hilty that was planned to open in Lawrenceville this summer. Well folks, it finally happened: Butler Street has been Vandalized. I received a text one day last week that said (something along the lines of), “The Vandal has soft open hours from 11-3 until next Wednesday when they open for real. You should go and be one of the first to write about.” So, I took the advice, and adjusted my Saturday plans accordingly.

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I’ve always been a sucker for light and airy spaces, and as soon as I stepped inside, I smiled. A raw and exposed brick wall stood to my right, and a European style counter rose from the floor several feet in front of me. A sparse menu hung from the ceiling, and sleek, modern furniture peppered the floor. This place is cool. (Turns out, Emily Slagel, owner of the amazing Lawrenceville boutique Mid-Atlantic Mercantile, was the mind behind the design. You go, girl.)

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I ordered the fried eggplant wrap, which was served on a bed of hummus with pickled radish, greens and skhug, a variety of Middle Eastern hot sauce. It was light and refreshing and wonderfully flavorful. D ordered the burger, which was made with marrow, greens, cheese, pickles and a tomato mayo. Joey was also kind enough to bring a side of the mac x cheese to our table. It was decadent and creamy, made with pecorino (my favorite) and parmesan, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs and maldon. It was like your favorite childhood comfort food on fancy steroids.

Check out The Vandal on Twitter and Instagram at @thevandalpgh, and for those of you in Pittsburgh, be sure to stop by 4306 Butler Street for lunch or dinner (it’s BYOB, btw) following their grand opening this Wednesday! Huge congrats to Joey and Emily — Lawrenceville thanks you.

Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Industry Public House.

Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Industry Public House.

This past Tuesday, I found myself in the midst of a few good friends in a dimly lit bar, a cool glass of wine in my hand, and a plate of sizzling fried pickles being placed gently in front of me when it dawned on me. Of all the places I have eaten in Pittsburgh, Industry Public House is one that I’ve never considered blog worthy… until now. Only a few blocks from my house, I go there all the time. I go there with my work friends, I’ve taken my family there; it’s reliable. It may not have graced the pages of Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best Restaurants, but in our opinion, it should have. (And shoutout to the Smoke Stack, an Industry specialty drink that took home the Hottest Drink in Town award from Pittsburgh Magazine in 2013.)

While beer and cocktails are the main headliners of this industrial bar (seriously, check out those Edison bulbs) — and rightfully so, with their seemingly endless options — the food isn’t something to ignore, either. While I’ve grown into some tried and true favorites (like the Model ‘T’urkey or Electric Cheese sandwiches, the Farmed Out Burgher or the Beastloaf), I went down a slightly different path this time.


I started with an order of fried pickles, and my friends Hailey and Dan ordered the infamous truffle fries. The pickles were breaded in a mixture of two parts heaven and one part magic to create the fluffiest, sweetest, crunchiest fried pickle house that I’ve ever encountered. And I’m not even being dramatic. The truffle fries are another best entirely. A plate full of hand cut filament fries are doused in truffle oil and gorgonzola and are probably loaded with calories, but they are so delicious, no one even cares. Seriously, my friends and I order them every. single. time.


For dinner, I ordered the ‘Shroomed flatbread and another glass of wine. The flatbread was light and airy and topped with small, diced mushrooms, arugula, chevre and carmelized shallot. Every bite was cheesy and earthy, and I just couldn’t get enough.


Unfortunately, another glass of wine later, our night had to come to an end. We were saying goodbye to a friend from England, who after six months here in the US, was going back home. We went home with happy bellies and happy hearts, already making plans for our next trip back for some truffle fries.

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Round Corner Cantina.

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Round Corner Cantina.

The thing I love most about dining at Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville is the atmosphere. It reminds me of having a Mexican-themed BBQ in an old friend’s backyard. The decor is colorful and hip; the list of libations is extensive, but the selection of food is minimal. They pride themselves on being a bar that serves food, not a restaurant, yet  I find myself here every time I’m craving some below-the-border flavor.


Last week, I was craving tacos, so a night at Round Corner was the obvious choice.  The order inevitably started with tortilla chips, which are fried in house, and an order of roja salsa, which we promptly devoured. The chips are fresh and greasy, and the perfect pair to the just-spicy-enough salsa. To drink, I ordered the refreshing, seasonal sangria, joined later by a cool mojito.

For dinner, we typically don’t vary from our usual selections: the puerco tacos for him, the gobernador tacos for me. The perfectly crisp and lightly seasoned tortillas of the puerco taco gracefully house an unbeatable combination of pork belly, apple pico de gallo, radishes and cilantro.

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The gobernador tacos are stuffed with grilled shrimp, queso chihuahau, roasted seasonal tomatoes and cilantro. When sprinkled with a light dressing of lime, the tacos have a signature tang that pairs perfectly with the creaminess of the queso. Seriously – yum.

We ordered another round of drinks, and soaked in the atmosphere of the outdoor patio. The sun lightly struck our table, as we talked about life, laughter and our love of tacos. These kinds of nights are my favorite.