Those of you who read my reviews know that I love Pittsburgh. It is the greatest city in the country. It is one of the few cities that actually flourished during the Great Recession. It has also been the center of an exploding American food movement. The trend is to trendy in both space and cuisine, and Pittsburgh is leading the charge. Terms like sustainable and fusion and gastropub are popping up everywhere. Creative cooking is "de rigueur."
Meat & Potatoes is probably the hottest restaurant in Pittsburgh. Located right smack dab in the middle of the theater district, it is literally only steps away from Heinz Hall and the Benedum Center as well as most of the smaller theater venues and art galleries. It has developed a celebrity following. Pittsburgh has an active film industry and its celebrities land here.
With a name like Meat & Potatoes, one would expect…well…meat and potatoes. When you go to the web site, it features a huge cow with its parts outlined and page connections located on the parts. It gives the impression that this is a steak joint. But then you go to the menu and it gives one pause. The menu is anything but what the name implies. For that reason, I have put off going there because I am not sure I wanted to try “innovative.” To be honest, there wasn’t much on the menu I would eat. I want dinner. But several weeks ago it was featured in a steak travelogue on the Food as iNetwork with focus on its rib eye steak for two, so my wife and I decided to give it a go.
First and foremost…have a reservation, especially on the weekend, which you can do by phone or Open Table. Pre-theater seating is difficult…becoming somewhat easier as the evening goes on.
Second: this is a great space. The motif is supposedly a ginned up speak easy. I don’t know about that, but they did a good job. It is geared for fun. The tables are actually ice cream tables jammed together. You are intimate with those dining next to you. I thought it would be a turn-off, but it was actually a lot of fun. We had several interesting conversations with those on either side of us. Folks were really friendly. Big band era music is in the background with a high noise level generally. Not a place for quiet conversation.
Third: The drink menu is outstanding. In addition to a wide range of inventive cocktails, it offers an Absinthe menu which is a real throw back. Read up on the history of the Green Fairy and throw caution to the wind on this recently re-legalized beverage. It offers two varieties on the menu, but there are actually six from which to choose. Here’s a hint: it’s an acquired taste, but fun to sip some history.
Fourth: the service is terrific. Several arm chair reviewers on Trip Advisor mentioned service was oftentimes an issue. Not when we were there. Our server was friendly, efficient, and very knowledgeable about both the food and beverage menus. This gal was great as appeared to be the entire staff.
Now for the not so good stuff!! Maybe I am too pedestrian and unsophisticated to appreciate an innovative menu, but Geez Louise, where was the meat and potatoes? Outside of the huge rib eye steak for two and a pork chop that could feed an army….where was the meat and potatoes? Not much!!! And if your wife doesn't want to delve into the steak for two…you are out of luck.
The other two steak offerings on the menu were a hanger steak and flat iron steak. Both of these are not at the top of the steak chain, but are actually my favorite cuts of meat because they have lots of flavor. I ordered the hanger steak. It came with “pulled potatoes” and some other stuff. The plate contained 4 slices of meat and 4, I counted them, tater tot sized pieces of a potato concoction covered in a mound of watercress with some exotic sauce stylized underneath it all. My wife ordered a ravioli dish. It looked interesting…certainly more food than the hanger steak. She said it was good. I tasted it. The ravioli was stuffed with some green substance. I don’t know. Dude...where's the beef?
In addition to the 4 tiny potato concoctions, one has to order bread separately for a couple of bucks if you want some carbs. It comes with goat butter. Meat & Potatoes is apparently carb challenged.
Here’s the deal. These folks must be doing something right because it is always packed and gets rave reviews. It bills itself as a “gastro-pub.” I don’t know what that means, but food as art doesn't do it for me. This approach to food and restaurants has permeated the Pittsburgh area and is spreading to Cleveland. At the end of the day I go to a restaurant to eat. I am hungry and really need some meat and potatoes and some bread. If I wanted art, I would go to an art museum.
That being said, this is a nice place. It is a fun place. It is also relatively inexpensive as Pittsburgh restaurants go. But check the menu online before you venture forth. Outside of the big steak for two and the pork chop, I would stick with the sandwich and appetizer offerings either before or after the very expensive show you are going to see in the theater district. This is a see and be seen type of venue…and actually worth the trip to experience it.
For as popular as it is, it could use some valet parking for those going there specifically for dinner. But there is plenty parking around and it is relatively inexpensive in Pittsburgh at night.
649 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222