"I'm ready," I say within a full two seconds of sitting down at Thai Cuisine, our favorite restaurant in Bloomfield. (Ridiculously enough, after 10 years of living nearby, we finally remember the name: "What's the name of that good Thai place in Bloomfield that we like so much? The one with the good cuisine?" Oh, yeah, Thai Cuisine. That's right.
But I digress. The "I'm ready" line means I know what I want to order. Menu? Who needs it? "Spicy Noodles," I tell the server after my husband languishes over the menu looking for something new to try. No, my "wide rice noodles with chili, garlic, onion, egg, bell peppers, snow peas and basil leaves," are fine for me. Every time. My only decision is: tofu or chicken. And, do I want a spring roll?
Yes, a culinary creature of habit I've become. In restaurants in and around town, I have my go-to dishes. And that's just what I go to whenever I'm there. Wherever there my belly may be.
Max's Allegheny Tavern on the North Side? Max's Famous Rueben with a side of potato pancakes, please. I sheepishly ask for both apple sauce AND sour cream. I love them both in equal amounts.
Pamela's in the Strip District? Why, it's my and everybody's favorite: Strawberry Hotcakes. "Stuffed with fresh strawberries, brown sugar, sour cream & topped with whipped cream. OMG, just writing the words makes my mouth water. But because I need something to counter that sweetness, I hope that my dining partner will order some egg whatnots, so I can trade a few forkfuls of strawberry bliss for some of those most delish "Famous Lyonnais Potatoes."
It's the lasagna all the time, every time at Piccolo Forno in Lawrenceville. Officially, it's called the "Lasagna Toscana" - traditional layered lasagna with fresh pasta, meat ragu and bechamel cream sauce. I don't know Italian, but I think Toscana means "AND YOU'RE GONNA LOVE IT!" (OK, I looked it up, Toscana means Tuscany. I want to go to there. Seriously. Like now.)
When it comes to downtown eating and it's pizza day, it's Villa Realee, baby - half sausage, half roasted red peppers. Totally delicious. No, we don't want any stinking anchovies on it, MARK! And ruin a perfectly good pie? No, thank you very much.
Oh, after all this gorging you think maybe I might want to eat something healthy, do ya now? Well, I've got that covered, too. It's the Borderline salad at Earth Inspired Salads. Borderline is a Mesclun mix with grilled free-range chicken, avocado, heirloom beans (whatever they are), Pico de Gallo, Vermont white cheddar and crispy tortilla chips, dressed with roasted tomato, jalapeno and cilantro vinaigrette. It's 664 calories of deliciousness, and the only salad I eat at the always-crowded Earth.
On the South Side, The Pretzel Shop seems like it offers some pretty good concoctions. But, I really wouldn't know, because the only thing I would order when I worked across the street was the veggie pizza. At $3.50 for two, it was a super cheap lunch that hit my veggie-craving buttons.
I love it when my car needs serviced, because then I find myself in Dormont at Mexi-Casa's, billed as "Pittsburgh's Least Authentic Mexican Restaurant." I'm all in for the Wanna Iguana burrito, described as "spicy shredded chicken with Con Queso (isn't that redundant redundant), hot sauce, rice and refried beans."
In Shadyside, at Harris Grill, home of hands-down the funniest menu in the 'Burg, the old-fashioned Cream o' Tomato rocks the bowl.
OK, I could go on and on. But you get the picture. Creature of culinary habit this one here. No bones about it.