PF Chang’s – Robinson Township
I frequently like to rail against suburban living and the banal shopping districts that litter the gentrified landscape. I also like hypocrisy, so I’ve been thrilled with the fact that the Settlers Ridge development in Robinson has blossomed into one of these anathemas the last few years. Settlers Ridge is a stone’s throw from my house and has brought the opportunity to do all of my grocery shopping at its wonderful Giant Eagle Market District*. This store has all of the food selections you could possibly want, as well as a bistro section with excellent take-home sandwiches, pizzas, wraps, salads and even beer. Their only mistake is the use of the convoluted wine kiosks which I think require a breathalyzer test, driver’s license, security camera clearance, urine sample and a quiz that involves naming all of the state capitals.
Along with the wonderful new Giant Eagle, the development also includes many highlights such as REI, LA Fitness, Barnes & Noble and the über-popular pan-Asian restaurant PF Chang’s. This is their second Pittsburgh location and a much more preferable one compared to the Waterfront because of that area’s poorly designed traffic patterns and occasional gun violence.
My wife and I arrived at the Settlers Ridge restaurant at around 8:00 on a recent Friday night and we were met with an estimated wait of an hour. Since the bar was packed we grabbed a pager and made our way across the parking lot to kill the time at Barnes & Noble with hope that the range of the device reached that far. After searching for close to thirty minutes for a book that covered the sexy subject of optimizing a website for search engine page indexing, the buzzer started vibrating so I had to put off this purchase for a future visit. We ran back to PF Chang’s and were given a table in the center of the restaurant, which is usually much worse than a booth along the perimeter, but somehow it still felt cozy at PF Chang’s.
We started with the Crispy Crab Wontons, which were as delicious as they were unhealthy. The filling consisted mainly of cream cheese instead of crab meat, but this only served to make them even more smoothly scrumptious**. For dinner we split the Dan Dan Noodles and Mongolian Beef. We substituted green beans for the scallions that normally come with the Mongolian Beef since we’ve learned through past experience that they tend to overpower the dish. The noodles (which also had some scallions, but not nearly as many) were extremely tasty and I was able to make mine even spicier by adding some of their tabletop mustard and chili sauce. The de-scallioned beef was a little dry and didn’t rise to the level of the noodles but ultimately was still palatable.
Final Call: PF Chang’s is a shallow chain restaurant usually located in the Gehenna–like area surrounding a shopping mall. As much as I’d like to besmirch the place, the food is actually really good. However you should be mindful that these dishes are extremely high in calories and sodium and most portions are actually “intended” to be shared. Another criticism is that the beer and wine selections at PF Chang’s are lackluster at best but at least you don’t have to go through the automated interrogation of the Giant Eagle kiosks to get some merlot.
* Previously I had to go to the Virginia Manor Giant Eagle which was always an unpleasant experience. Their store layout is poor, the produce is aged and unappealing, and they routinely employ Wal-Mart’s method of only keeping two checkout lines open regardless of how busy the store gets.
** Smooth Lee Scrumptious is a good name for a kid’s cereal cartoon character mascot.