After research, and recommendations from Marlene Parrish, food and travel writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we chose Grit & Grace for our 12th wedding anniversary dinner while in Pittsburgh last weekend. We were staying at The Omni William Penn Hotel, our favorite downtown Pittsburgh hotel, and were able to walk the several blocks to Grit & Grace, located at 535 Liberty Avenue. Voted Best New Restaurant 2014, which is no surprise with Executive Chef Brian Pekarcik, named one of “2014 Chefs of the Year”, and Richard Stern at the helm, who also owns award-winning Spoon, a “farm-to-table” dining experience in the heart of Pittsburgh’s vibrant Eastside neighborhood, and BRGR, offering handcrafted specialty burgers of Angus Chuck, New York Strip, Ribeye, American Kobe Beef, turkey and salmon at locations all over the city. We had BRGR burgers at PNC Park earlier in the day while at the Pirates game.
In sync with their name: Grit – 1. the texture of fineness of sand or stone used in grinding; 2. courage and resolve. Grace – 1. simple elegance or refinement of movement; 2. free and unmerited favor of God. The feel of the room is as stimulating a mix as the menu, with an interesting combination of sleek curves and angles, with sophisticated lighting fixtures and a diverse blend of textures. Equally as stimulating, the menu is current, inventive and global. I started off with the Jungle Bird, which is a handcrafted cocktail of dark rum, campari, smoked pineapple and fresh squeezed lime juice. Refreshing tartness, which I love (not a sweet cocktail kind of girl).
A lovely young lady carried around a tray of dim sum, preprepared individual portions of Cantonese-style dishes, for just $5 each. Jack chose pork belly bites, shown here on the left, served with an orange, chili, garlic and ginger sauce. I enjoyed a steamed bun stuffed with house-made mortadella (sausage), coriander mustard, bread and butter pickles. Both were delicious, and made me anxious for what was next.
For his entree, Jack enjoyed the day-boat scallops that were mild, tender, and served with olive oil poached tomatoes, whole grain mustard bread pudding (that was interesting, but not Jack’s favorite), summer squash and a black olive puree.
I had to try their ramen, and went with the chicken meatball, one hour egg, confit chicken thigh, radish kimchi, schmaltz roasted carrots and coriander noodles. Oh my, my. Ramen, when done well, is not just a tasty bowl of soup. In fact, in Japan, ramen is sort of an obsession, where the type of noodle used is serious business. Straight or wavy, thick or thin, yellow or not. Well at Grit & Grace, the coriander noodles were flawless in texture and taste. The broth was a successful marriage of salt, smoke, poultry and vegetable. The meatballs were tender and juicy, confit chicken melted in my mouth, one hour egg creamy perfection, kimchi tart and crisp, the schmaltz roasted carrot added an unexpected richness to the dish that was appreciated, and helped achieve a perfect balance of flavors. As I write, I would love another bowl.
We had reservations for a sunset cruise on the Gateway Clipper (yea, I know . . . a little cheesy, but neither of us had been on the Clipper since we were kids), so we did not have time for dessert. Our server, George, was a transplant from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who was friendly, attentive, knowledgeable, very proud to be living in Pittsburgh for eight months, and working at Grit & Grace. A wonderful experience, with thoughtfully prepared food and appropriately doting service. If you’re in Western Pennsylvania and haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to make a reservation and go this weekend. If you plan to visit Pittsburgh, stay at The William Penn, and walk to Grit & Grace for lunch or dinner Monday through Friday, or after 4 pm for dinner Saturday or Sunday.
And I must add that the photos I took Sunday evening did not turn out, so I borrowed these photos from their website and Facebook page.