Meat & Potatoes – Downtown Pittsburgh
Originally we were planning to eat at Tessaro’s in Bloomfield, then the Grand Concourse in Station Square, but ultimately my capricious mother-in-law decided that she wanted a dining experience within walking distance of her hotel. My in-laws were in town* with friends from Orléans, France for a Pittsburgh exploratory weekend so I was under pressure to deliver something good. I dine infrequently downtown due to my perception that it’s bereft of nightlife when compared to Southside or Shadyside. Also, the smell of hot garbage seems to permeate the area in the summer. Regardless, my buddy Morg braves the stench much more often and he raves about Meat & Potatoes (M&P). Given Morg’s high opinion of the place and that it was just a scant distance from where our guests were staying we took the opportunity to try it out.
We arrived Friday evening and were instantly seated in a semi-private room around a large wooden table. The décor appeared to be a throwback to an old farmhouse style but with a refined update. Keeping with the subtle mise-en-scène, 80’s slow jams could be heard in the background during breaks in the conversation. Just because my iPod is full of songs such as Illest Motherf**ker Alive, I’ll Still Kill and Rich Off Cocaine doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the genius of Rush, Rush by Paul Abdul. Unlike the music, the general decibel level at M&P was pretty high and that made the already labored conversation with the accent heavy Frenchies even harder. It would have been fine for just my wife and I but if you find yourself entertaining Gérard Depardieu or Carla Bruni someday soon you may want to consider going someplace else.
To help celebrate National IPA Day I started with a Dale’s Pale Ale. (American Pale Ale – 6.5% ABV). The dark golden hued beer came in a sturdy 12oz glass atypical compared to the pint-sized servings commonplace at other establishments. I’ve inherited very powerful heavy hangover genes so the prospect of being inherently limited by the volume of a smaller container was actually welcome. The beer was mellow and could underwhelm a more aggressive pale ale pallet but it was perfect for my bantamweight class.
We split the Poutine and Mac-n Cheese appetizers which both received high marks from everyone. The Mac-n Cheese could have been cheesier but it was still quite tasty (If you’re looking for more obscenely indulgent fare you should just go to T.G.I. Fridays and save the hassle of parking downtown). The Poutine contained french fries of the shoestring variety and had a light touch of cheesy gravy. The topping was enough to add flavor but not so much that everything was reduced to a soggy mess.
Since our original plan was Tessaro’s I had my heart set on a burger. So I ordered the Plain Jane with lettuce and white cheddar. It was delivered on a beautiful homemade bun next to a heaping bowl of more shoestring fries. The burger was perfectly cooked to medium rare and was very flavorful albeit not nearly as juicy as Tessaro’s burgers. I’m assuming that the M&P meat mix** is more lean and steak-y than offerings found elsewhere but it was delicious nonetheless.
The servers were extremely attentive but not intrusive. M&P is fairly new and the staff seems determined to make sure everything is to your liking. This should be the norm everywhere but unfortunately it is not. The scene around the bar took on a club-like atmosphere with some Pauley D. lookalikes and some ladies in their late twenties/early thirties wearing mini-dresses. Incidentally, the appearance of said ladies in their outfits would have been helped immensely by some dim lighting and the smokey haze that seems to be ever-present in most clubs however was absent at M&P.
Final Call: If you want a big juicy burger that’s guaranteed to get your arms messy up to your elbows then this isn’t the place for you. If you want to go to a refined yet high-energy gastropub that puts gourmet touches on your oh-so-beloved comfort food and you would like excellent service then Meat & Potatoes will more than meet your expectations.
* My in-laws reside in Buffalo, NY, which is also where my wife and wings are from.
** Meat Mix = worst mix-tape ever