Coyoty (coyoty) wrote,

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The Coyoty that Ate Pittsburgh

Over the JUly 4 weekend, almost 4,000 fans of anthropomorphic animal artwork, animation, comics, costuming, and other media attended the Anthrocon convention in Pittsburgh, Penn., including me.  We were a furry stimulus package, putting about 4 million dollars into the Pittsburgh economy, and providing up to two months of business for area restaurants in only a few days, particularly those close to the Convention Center, such as Fernando's Cafe, Steel City Diner, and Big Mama's House of Soul.  (These had the best reputations, and best food, especially Big Mama's.)

On the way to Pittsburgh, my carpool stopped at Tom's Kitchen in Conyngham, Penn. for breakfast.  It had a country kitchen decor, with rustic signs, nursery rhyme memorabilia, etc.  I had the stuffed blueberry French toast:

After arriving in Pittsburgh Wed. night, we went to the Golden Palace Buffet for dinner.  (We had wanted to eat at Big Mama's, but she was closed to prepare for the convention crowd.)  It was a typical Chinese buffet with menu dinners as well.  I had Mongolian beef with fried rice and green tea:

More photos of Golden Palace (click to enlarge):

The best place to go for breakfast in Pittsburgh is the Steel City Diner on Liberty Ave.  This is a "greasy spoon" diner with grills, counters, and booths:

They serve massive amounts of food at low prices.  I avoided the omelets because they all use 5 eggs plus home fries and toast, and I can't eat that much, but I'm sure they're good.  I stuck to the "smaller" selections:

Three eggs scrambled with bacon and Italian bread toast:

Breakfast sandwich with sausage, egg, and cheese on a huge six-inch roll, with home fries:

French toast with bacon and coffee.  The French toast is made with large slices of Italian bread and crusted with sugar and cinnamon.  When I first saw them lined up along the back of the grill, I thought they were steaks.

For lunch, the usual place is Fernando's Cafe on Liberty Ave.  (For the convention, they changed their name to Furnando's.)  This is a gourmet sandwich shop serving mainly subs, pizzas, and wraps.

Their signature sandwich is the lasagna wrap, made with pepperoni, sausage, ricotta, mozzarella, and marinara sauce on the side.  I had mine with black and green iced tea, and they threw in corn chips and a cookie for free.

One morning I had their Southwest breakfast wrap with coffee:

Barbecue steak and cheese sandwich:

More photos from Fernando's (click to enlarge):

Cory's Subs is a new place that opened up just three weeks ago, not realizing what they were in for.  (Business tip:  If you're going to open a restaurant, time the opening just before a big convention.  You'll be in the black so quickly your head will spin.)  Their specialty is cheesesteaks, but I opted for the Big C Burger sandwich.  Those who have tried the cheesesteaks say they're excellent.  Here is my Big C Burger:

The highlight of my noshing was Big Mama's House of Soul at 1603 Penn Ave.  This is a small walk-in kitchen with tables outside and a barbecue smoker in a lot outside.  It's like walking into Big Mama's own kitchen at home.

She doesn't have a menu; you ask her what she's got cooking and whatever it is, you will want it.  Her main selections are ribs and Soul Burgers, but she also usually has pulled pork, chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, baked beans with onions, corn bread, yams, and hot dogs.  I said "usually", because she's a victim of her own reputation, and she only had a half-rack of ribs, Soul Burgers, beans, and one serving of collard greens left on Saturday night, and my group cleaned her out of those.  (We discovered she had pulled pork and chicken wings cooking outside that she thought she was out of, but we were stuffed with what we had.)  She doesn't list prices, either; you don't know what you're going to pay, but you won't care.  You order your food, eat it, and pay whatever her assistant says you pay, which is reasonable.  One friend had the last half-rack of ribs with beans and a can of soda for $13, and my Soul Burger and collard greens and soda was $7.  How good is it?  There was one expression on everyone's face when they took their first bites:    We all tasted the ribs and the beans and the burgers and it was all good.  No one tried my collard greens, though, which was their loss.  The ribs were rubbed and the best I tasted, and a half-rack was more than enough for one person.  The Soul Burgers are thick burgers simmered in a pot of Mama's BBQ sauce.  They don't need anything else.

Here are my Soul Burger and collard greens:

Sunday night after the convention, a large group of us went to Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant at Station Square.  This is a family restaurant with few items for just one person.  The lighting was very low, and the walls were covered with humorous photos that you've probably seen in your email or funny picture websites.  The bartender is a classically trained opera singer, who occasionally sang for the customers.
The initial reservations were for about 20 people, but then more and more people showed up, and different parties got mixed together, so eventually it was over 100 people split up throughout the restaurant.  Each table ordered bowls of different types of pasta that each fed about five people, and some sangria.  I had some baked rigatoni, linguini, spaghetti, and alfredo (photo corrected for the lighting):

After dinner, Dex (aceswild), who is a professional stage magician, entertained the restaurant staff with card tricks and fork bending tricks.  I tried to show off my balancing talents, but Dex is a tough act to follow.

More photos of Buca di Beppo (click to enlarge):

On the way home Monday, the carpool stopped at 322 BBQ in Brookville, Penn.  This is an wood-fired pit BBQ place that also sells BBQ items for tourists.

The barbecue isn't as awesome as Big Mama's, but it tries.  I ordered a pulled pork sandwich for $5, and I thought something was wrong when the container was heavier than I expected.  I literally had a bottomless sandwich, because there was more pork than the grinder roll could hold.  I had to eat the pork with a fork, and didn't have enough room for the roll.

I got home around 10:30 p.m. but I was still full from that sandwich and didn't need to get anything for supper.
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