The Captain’s Back.


Barnes Returns to Dormont Dogs

Barnes Returns to Dormont Dogs (Dormont-Brookline Patch)

So, you may remember my earlier blog post about Dormont Dogs, the Captain’s newsworthy actions, and the family.  If not, you may want to read that one first.  If so, you may want to check out this article from the Dormont-Brookline Patch:

It’s a great article, soiled by crude comments (as are many things found on the internet).  I’ve already shown my support by simply being a patron, been “vocal” about my support in blog form, and via comments.  I’d like to add some more thoughts here.

Captain committed some illegal acts.  He was arrested, sentenced, and served his time.  In the eyes of the law, he’s paid his due.  It should be settled there, but some of you apparently don’t agree.  You look for further condemnation for whatever reasons… a perceived higher moral standard, some internal guilt, jealousy if you felt you’ve ever been punished too harshly for something, or just plain anger.

Dormont Dogs on UrbanspoonCaptain has put it all out there.  He’s admitted guilt, apologized to his family & the community, and he’s ready to move on.  You can take the high road, and let him move past this & give him room to prove that he’s worthy of forgiveness.

Mainly, my whole message here is about forgiveness.  It’s a simple thing to think about, and to talk about…but it can be extremely difficult to ask for or to give. It doesn’t matter what the situation may be.  It doesn’t matter if it’s serious or simple.  It does no one any good to hold on to anger or any sort of grudge or agenda.

Most major religions teach forgiveness.  I believe there’s a dual purpose outside of the divine.  When you find it within yourself to drop the urge to pass judgement and forgive someone, a great weight is lifted off of you.  You can physically feel it if your anger or resentment is strong enough.  Try it.  Let go of the negative.  It doesn’t do anyone any good.  Leave judgement to the authorities and ultimately whatever higher power you subscribe to.

As for this current situation, a comment by Mike Jones sums it up nicely:

We can’t condone what he did, but it does take a lot of guts to stand up and apologize to the community for embarrassing it. Hopefully he is able to give back to Dormont in a way that would atone for his crimes more than probation or jailtime ever could.

An enlightened sentiment, eloquently stated.

To end on a light note…  Johnny Cash was all about forgiving and rehabilitation… all those prison concerts.  Who are we to argue with Johnny Cash?

Yinzburg makes some tasty BBQ for y’all…


YinzBurgh BBQ on UrbanspoonLast night before the band played a show in Bloomfield, my wife & I stopped with some friends at Yinzburg BBQ on Baum Blvd. in Bloomfield.  Last time I was in that building it was a Roly Poly, and it’s certainly a different place now.

Yelp | Pittsburgh BBQ

Yelp | Pittsburgh BBQ

I’m a huge fan of BBQ and I have been reading great reviews about the place online, so I was very anxious to check it out.  (Also, I’ve been in a BBQ mood lately.)  Of course with the whole shellfish allergy thing, I took a look at the menu online before we went down.  My mouth was watering at all of the delicious prospects.  Thankfully, there is no deathfish present on the menu.  I’ve sadly gone to places before that have had daily specials or menu revamps that aren’t online… so I decided to send them an email.  I was met with a quick, friendly & inviting reply from owner & chef Richard.  His philosophy seems to be summed up in his email signature:

1. Barbecue is a cuisine; Barbecue sauce is a condiment!
2. The sauce is served on the side.
3. The love is in the rub!

When we walked in we were greeted by a woman with a sweet southern accent who asked us if we had ever been there before.  We indicated that we hadn’t & got a lesson in the 4 main & 2 hot barbecue sauces.  I liked the vinegar one & the signature red…  And, I liked that you could get 2 different ones with your meal.  Next time I might get the mustard sauce.

I had the brisket & pulled pork combo with the signature red & vinegar sauces (served on the side, so you can apply or dip however you like), the coleslaw, and a root beer from Natrona.  I tried both meats sans sauce, and they were incredible.  I found myself having a hard time deciding which sauce I liked better with which meat.  The coleslaw was creamy and flavorful.  I also had a sample of my wife’s mac n’ cheese (she got a delicious looking half chicken), and our friends’ collard greens.  The mac n’ cheese was nice & creamy and the collard greens were delicious.  I’ve sadly never had any until now.  We even had a very satisfied vegetarian in our midst who seemed to really like the smoked tofu wrap.  It’s not every day you find a BBQ place that serves vegan and vegetarian items.

There were two 2-seater tables outside, and 2 tables with standing room only inside.  We stood as we dined,negotiating around the mountain of food in front of us.  Halfway through the meal, I was already planning what to order for my next visit.  Next time it’s chicken & ribs… maybe the black eyed peas on the side.  Next time will also be soon!  They asked us to tell our friends… and if you’re reading this… you’re my friend, and you need to go check this place out!

I was so enamored with the food… I forgot to take a photo to upload to UrbanSpoon… oh well, maybe next time!

New BBQ Joints?


Pittsbugh BBQ Co. - Brisket Sandwich

Good BBQ helps to grow healthy sideburns.

Well, you probably know I like barbecue.  I’m a big fan, and I’m always willing to try out new places.  Well, new places that don’t have shrimp or other deathfish on the menu.  I’ve scoped out the web sites three places I haven’t tried… perhaps they’re rather new?  Can anyone tell me if they’ve been to any of these places & what they think?  (Or if they have any stuff on site that’s not listed on the online menu?)

Perhaps, like movie nights, I can organize a Pittsburgh (& surrounding area) BBQ tour?  Would anyone be interested?

I’d like to check out the following BBQ restaurants…

Of course we’d have to hit my favorites… Brentwood Express Rowdy BBQ, Pittsburgh Barbecue Co., & Clem’s Cafe!

Were else are the deathfish-free BBQ joints in in & around the ‘Burgh?

A wing tour has been suggested, but 95% of the places that fry wings also fry deathfish, so I’ll stick with Gooski’s.

O Captain! My Captain!


Holy cow.  Has anyone seen the recent news stories about the owner of Dormont Dogs?  I was walking into the house last night as the story came on the news.  My wife was all like “listen to this!” pointing to the TV before we even said hello to each other.  I watched the story in a sort of disbelief.  Neither of us could believe what we were seeing/hearing.

Dormont Dogs!

These are ridiculously delicious. Click for a Google Tour of the shop!

Dormont Dogs has been a favorite place of ours ever since the first time we walked in the door years ago!  Not too long ago, I finally wrote a review for this blog, although I have had older reviews on Urban Spoon for quite some time… and I’d tell anyone who would listen how they need to get over there ASAP to have some fun delicious hot dogs.

Dormont Dogs on UrbanspoonWithout fail we have been treated well by all of their employees, including the Captain.  Drinks are always refilled, food always brought right to us, we’re always asked how the food is, and always asked how we’re doing in general.  These are kind people who have put their all into a business, and it shows that they genuinely want to not only serve a great product but they wanted you to enjoy it.  They easily made you feel at home if dining in or out on the sidewalk.

Not too long ago, my mother-in-law & father-in-law were there for lunch one day, and when they asked for change to put in the meter, Captain ran out to the meter to pay for them.

By all accounts, Captain is a great guy… and this is just some momentary snap or lapse in judgement.  Any articles that I’ve read including comments from customers and other Dormont/Brookline business owners have had nothing but good things to say about the man.

I’m not condoning his actions, or judging what happened.  My heart goes out to the tellers at the banks, were I in their place I’d hope that I had an extra pair of boxer shorts nearby.  I do have to praise the people in the South Side for their bravery… I certainly wouldn’t have jumped in to wrestle a bank-robber, fearing any kind of weapons or just a plain old whoopin’.  I would think the safe thing to do is to let the police do their job.  Then again, perhaps they would have used excessive force or a chase could have ensued where bystanders could have been put in danger.  Perhaps it’s best that it played out the way it did.

Texas Avenue Dog at Dormont Dogs

Texas Avenue Dog at Dormont Dogs (Photo credit: claramichelle)

I would urge you to continue to support Dormont Dogs when they reopen (hopefully tomorrow – Fri. Feb. 17th).  Word on the street is that Rachel is taking over & reopening ASAP.  I can’t imagine what she, their sons, & their employees are going through right now.  They do not deserve any backlash, retaliation, or bad press.  They are still wonderful people, and a great asset to Dormont.

In fact, right now… they could really use your support, all of our support.  Show them that you’re glad they’re still up & running by going in this weekend and grabbing a meal.  Buy a hot dog or two.  Take a bunch of friends.  Stop in if you’re a regular, or even if you’ve never been there.  Please join us in supporting this business, and more importantly this family.

Check out the Dormont Dogs for Everyone group on Facebook, the official Dormont Dogs Facebook page, and Dormont Dogs on UrbanSpoon.  Please, feel free to share your experiences at Dormont Dogs in the comments below, or even just post your favorite dog(s)!

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 3)


CHAINS.  I wanted to tackle the prominent area pizza chains for part 3.  (You read parts 1 & 2, right?) I’m really not supposed to eat pizza right now thanks to recently diagnosed GERD/Acid Reflux/Barret’s Esophagus, but I have eaten many pizzas from these many chains over the years.  I’m going to be extra picky about my pizza from now on.  I’ll probably stick with Slice on Broadway and Aiello’s.  But the event may come up where I need to pick a chain place again, and here’s where they fall…

Fox's Pizza Den on UrbanspoonFox’s (or Fox’s Pizza Den) is pretty good.  The different locations aren’t always consistent, but when you find a good one… stick with it!  I really dig the one in Bridgeville as of late, but the one closest to home is the one in Brookline.  I grew up on Fox’s in Murrysville, as it was the only place who would deliver to my house out in the boonies.  I don’t know if Fox’s recently revamped their UrbanSpoon profiles or what, but I know I’ve reviewed the one in Brookline, but it’s not there.  Their pages all seem to have little to no reviews or votes.  I remember going on & on about the wedgies.  In fact, I found it at another source

WedgieGimme a Wedgie!
It’s not the sick twisted fantasies of a nerd that likes being dominated by bullies…  It’s a call to order the best #%@$ing sandwich you’ve ever had.  It’s served up on a pizza crust instead of a bun.  How awesome is that?  The steak one is my favorite, but I’ve never seen one that doesn’t look appetizing.  Just make sure you’ve got plenty of napkins on hand.

Their pizza is pretty damn good too.  There was a Fox’s near where I grew up in the suburbs, but they never had a menu this vast.  I sometimes end up getting the fried zucchini or the potato wedges… but really can’t ever eat anything after finishing a whole wedgie.  In fact, my wife & I even sometimes just split one to avoid over-stuffing.  Ordering for delivery is usually the standard half hour to 45 min., and they’re usually there before they said they were going to be… so that’s a plus.  You can’t go wrong with Fox’s.

Vocelli Pizza (Dormont) on Urbanspoon

Vocelli Pizza is another one that must have purged old UrbanSpoon reviews.  There’s virtually nothing there.  I used to love Vocelli’s, even if they’re just named after a made up Italian sounding word.  The service at the local one went down hill, and this is what it used to say on UrbanSpoon:

I used to love this place, & would order quite frequently.  But, the last time we got a Buffalo chicken pizza, there was hair on it.  My wife called & told them, they said they’d send a coupon for a free one next time.  We never got any coupons, and were hungry for their food again… so I got a stromboli and the wife got a buffalo chicken pizza… and the pizza had hair on it again.  She found it (luckily) on the first bite.  So, she called the call center. She of course, didn’t eat any more, so we could show them.  The delivery boy showed up… was incredibly rude, didn’t look at the old pizza, and practically threw the new one at my wife.

I don’t know why he took it personally… I was gonna tip him for coming out the 2nd time because he didn’t put hair on the pizza… but with actions/service like that, they can shove it.  I always tried to tip well too, as we (used to) get pizza form there all the time.  This was enough to end it.  There’s plenty of other pizza shops around, apparently they don’t need our business, anyway.  Hair in a pizza once?  I can see it happening.  Twice within the span of a month or two?  That’s just absolutely ridiculous.

So… in closing, I’d say what used to be a great place has now sunken to a.) being filthy, and b.) having terrible customer service.

…but in all fairness, after a while we did go back & they seemed to have weeded out the bad employees.  I’ve also tried their artery-clogging Alfredo sauce on a pizza, and loved it.  My triglycerides did not.  I do like Vocelli’s normal sauce, and they generally make a consistent pie & decent subs.  If you’re ordering for a crowd, I’d say Vocelli Pizza is an across-the-board crowd-pleaser.

Vocelli Pizza

''Vocelli?'' Sure, that sounds Italian enough!

Papa John's Pizza on UrbanspoonPapa John’s rules with their online ordering.  The sauce isn’t quite as good as Vocelli’s, but they do always give you the tasty garlic dipping sauce and a Peperoncini.  They do rock as far as consistency.  You know what you’re getting every time.  I wish they had subs, I always like to get subs… especially turkey, or sometimes you’re in the mood for a pizza-shop Italian sub.  But then again, maybe they just want to focus on pizza & doing it well.  Check out these amusing blog posts about Papa John’s:

Little Caesars Pizza on UrbanspoonLittle Caesar’s, what the hell happened?  When I was a young lad, we would pickup a pizza after we left Network Video (a place where you rented VHS tapes for the kids out there), we’d pop into Little Caesar’s for what I think was called a Bigfoot… two big-ass square pizzas side by side?  I’d always want breadsticks, because I have an unnatural love for carbs.  I was sad when Little Caesar’s all but disappeared and was relegated to Kmart stores for some strange reason.  When there was a recent resurgence, and a subsequent person paid to stand on West Liberty Ave. and sling a Little Caesar’s sign… I was excited.  We tried the new incredibly cheap pies one night… and they were terrible.  The sauce is definitely much more bitter than I remember, and perhaps in my old age I forgot about all the grease that adorns (soaks) their crust.  I still like the breadsticks, and $5 is pretty good for the amount that they give you, but $5 of crap is still crap.  If I’m in the mood for punishment, need an immediate meal, and it’s a week where I need to pay for dinner with couch change, I may go back.

Cici's Pizza - Bridgeville on UrbanspoonCiCi’s ought to change the name to CaCa’s.  I’ve only ever been there once, but that’s all I need.  Wow.  It was like eating wax & tomato soup spread out over crackers.  Who cares if it’s cheap and all-you-can-eat when it’s absolutely terrible nutrition?  My high school cafeteria served better pizza, and even better pizza imitation food.  I think there was a salad bar, and an unholy “mac n’ cheese” pizza.  I don’t remember much other than the dried crusty partial pies getting tanned under the hot lights and maybe even someone shouting a welcome when we walked in.  I just wanted to leave but had paid and tried to just stay & eat my few dollars worth.  CiCi’s won that day.  There’s no way I had eaten more of that crap than hat I paid for.

Pizza Hut on UrbanspoonPizza Hut causes me great gastrointestinal distress.  Every few years, I forget and enter a Pizza Hut thinking “ah, it wasn’t that bad”.  Yes, yes it is.  Perhaps I hit an age long ago where Pizza Hut was no longer compatible with my intestines.  Perhaps I was really slow to learn the pattern.  We didn’t do Pizza Hut too much when I was growing up.  Maybe I never built up a tolerance/immunity.  The pizza itself isn’t bad, I’ve had the personal pan, the normal pies, a few lunch buffets… they generally have a good crust & good flavor… albeit greasy.  It’s just that their pie unleashes itself like an assault team on my digestive system.  The one in Greentree is the last one that I visited.  The service was slow, and I didn’t feel welcomed at all.  Hopefully it steels my resolve to skip Pizza Hut in the future.

Pizza Hut Maze

A letter within a maze, for my pals at Pizza Hut. (They never did write back!)

I’ve dealt with Pizza Hut many times in the past…

Ridiculous.

Avoid the Noid

Avoid the Noid!

I know I missed Domino’s, but I was never impressed with their pies… and there’s never one around where I’m ordering.  I did like the Noid commercials back in the day though.  I haven’t tried their revamped pies.  I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

Did I miss your favorite chain pizza?  Did I miss your most reviled?

Take the poll, it’s only open for a week!

Dormont Dogs Does Delicious Decidedly Deftly


Dormont Dogs on UrbanspoonI recently realized that I haven’t blogged yet about one of my favorite local places to eat, so I will now.  I have a few reviews & photos on their Urban Spoon page.  I really don’t have enough good things to say about the place.  Reading my old review, it looks like I went there for the first time in 2008.

They’re tucked away on Glenmore Ave., right off of Potomac, with plenty of parking (for Dormont) in a nearby public metered lot & some metered parking on the nearby streets.  It’s a tiny yet incredibly inviting shop.  Everyone who has ever waited on us has smiled & said hello, has been polite, welcoming, and a great host or hostess.  The place is small, but it’s cozy.  Last time we were there, there was three two-person tables inside, and in the warmer months they have two picnic tables outside.

Hot Dog w/ Baked Beans, Cheese, Ketchup, & Mustard.

Hot Dog w/ Baked Beans, Cheese, Ketchup, & Mustard. • I get this one even though it's not on the menu. They'll make anything for you!

Dormont Dogs offers hot dogs served up gourmet style on delicious fresh bakery made buns.  They’re mostly all named after the neighborhood streets, and they’re all unusual yet delicious combinations.  My favorite menu dogs are probably the Reuben Dog (self-explanatory if you’re a Reuben fan) and the Wisconsin Ave. (Swiss, Pepper Jack, Cheddar, & Provolone Cheeses!).  A lot of times I order the one above… starting with a “Plane Jane” (a regular dog) & I ask them to add baked beans, cheese, ketchup, & brown mustard.  Maybe they should name it after my street?  Ha ha.  I generally have a side of nachos and cheese.  I’ve seen signs for Sloppy Joes, and have seen a delicious-looking taco salad served up, but I’ve never gone in & gotten anything other than a hot dog.  I need to just go more often, I guess.  I generally wash it all down with some of their excellent sweet tea.

My wife is a fan of the Texas Ave. (Chili sauce, cheddar cheese, sour cream, Fritos), Mississippi Ave. (Chili, Mustard, Coleslaw) minus the mustard, and Bruschetta (tomatoes marinated in olive oil and basil and creamy pesto Parmesan) dogs.  I need to muscle up the courage to make my way through the rest of the menu.  If you eat ’em all, you get your photo on the wall!

They’re not foot-longs, there’s no natural casings, there not sausages… they’re just hot dogs, done really well.  They’re prepared with tasty ingredients, and they always look like little works of art in a basket.  You can even get a vegetarian dog if you’d like, in any style on the menu.  If you’re near Dormont, and a hot dog fan, you need to check this place out.

Dormont Dogs on UrbanSpoon | Dormont Dogs on Facebook

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Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 2)


So, last time I blogged about pizza, I covered some of my favorites: Aiello’s, SLICE, & A’Pizza Badamo.  This time I’ll blog about other area big-hitters.

Beto's Pizza on UrbanspoonBeto’s is another place nearby that is just excellent.  They’re the place that you’ve probably heard of that doesn’t cook the cheese & other toppings.  You’ll probably either love it or hate it.  I dig it, the wife does not.  The only thing I’d change is the consistency of the sauce… I’m not a fan of chunks of tomatoes in pizza sauce, but the flavor is excellent.  They don’t get all fancy with toppings here either, just simple, straightforward pizza with cheese that’s melting as you eat it.  I think my favorite way to eat it is just as plain cheese pizza.  Why mess up such a beautiful combination?

Molly's Pizza on UrbanspoonMolly’s Pizza is close by too.  They have some great pizza, and some really crazy specialty pies like the Ranchero Steak Pizza and the Pierogi Pizza.  I personally like to get a pizza with zucchini on top.  Excellent stuff!  It’s hard to pick a favorite around here.

Fiori's Pizzaria on UrbanspoonFoiri’s is a south hills institution.  Sorry, I don’t get it.  Is it good pizza?  Most definitely.  Is it overrated?  In my humble opinion, yes.  Maybe I’m biased because you can get deathfish as a topping there.  At any rate, if you’re in the area and a pizza aficionado, it’s worth checking out before you decide that Slice is the best place around.

Il Pizzaiolo on UrbanspoonIl Pizzaiolo isn’t your regular Pittsburgh pizza shop.  They’re fancy.  They have great pies in a steep Neapolitan tradition.  As they say themselves…

…the restaurant has become a vibrant gathering place for lovers of Neapolitan pizza, pasta and Italian wine. Nearly everything on the menu is hand-made. And if it’s not made in-house, it’s imported from the best artisans, cheese-makers and salumeria in the world. Mozzarella di Bufala comes direct from Naples every Thursday and the pizzas are baked at 1000˚ in a handcrafted, wood-fired brick oven for less than 90 seconds. This, along with perfectly leavened dough, San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, produces the most authentic Neapolitan pizza possible.

So obviously, this is no Pizza Hut.  They make incredible gourmet pies.  Unfortunately it’s entirely not what I’m craving when I “just want a pizza”.  This is where you want to go when you’d like a nice evening out to enjoy some of the lightest most delicious pizza you’ve ever eaten.

Italian Village Pizza (Canonsburg/McMurray) on UrbanspoonItalian Village Pizza is all over the place.  Both by location and quality.  They used to have a killer A1 Steak Sub at the one on Rte. 51, but I don’t think they have that any more.  The last one I frequented was the one in McMurray, but I only ever got the pizza once or twice.  The steak & Italian subs are incredible, but the sauce was just too bitter for me.  It tasted like straight tomato paste with some basil thrown in.  Some people love it, but it just wasn’t my thing.

Here I’d also like to try to address this thing…

VinceNt’s vs. Vincent’s

I’m still not sure what the exact dispute is… if there’s still a dispute, and if there are only two Vincent’s involved in this saga.  Can anyone fill me in on this?  I’ve heard several amalgamated stories over the years.  Some credible news even.  First, you’ve got to get your head around the locations…

There’s Vincent’s Pizza ParkOne on 30 in Irwin/North Huntingdon, one on Ardmore Blvd., and one in Holiday Park (the one I used to frequent).  And there’s Vincent’s “of Greentree” …oddly enough in Greentree, Southpointe, and the West End.  (There also seems to be a Vincent’s Pizza Pub on Mt. Washington – I’m unsure if they’re related to any of the others.)

I haven’t been to Vincent’s Pizza Park in Holiday Park in a long long time, but I remember it as the greasiest pizza I have ever had.  It was good, but greasy.  Some people like that.  I’m not the biggest fan of grease, but I remember they had a nice thick crust & a flavorful sauce.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Vincent’s in Greentree, but the one in Southpointe has great steak subs, garlic buns, and pretty good pizza.  Their “like it” percentage on Urbanspoon is pretty low though.  No idea what’s up there.

Vincent's Pizza Park on Urbanspoon Vincent's of Southpointe on Urbanspoon

Which Vincent’s is your favorite?  Which Vincent’s location is the best & the original?  (I think it’s Vincent’s in Forest Hills)

Please, chime in on any of these locations, any from my previous pizza post, or any that I may have missed.  I may dive into pizza chains next.  Pizza is always a subject of hot debate (and it goes well with beer).

Radical!

Radical!