Photo Copyright The Tara Chronicles, 2016
After the bowling tournament, we drove through fairly steady rainfall back to the city. A weekend away together, alone, was a luxury we weren’t going to ignore and so planned to explore a bit and get some food. Dick and Jane decided to join us. The drive to the bowling alley was exciting because we literally skirted around the city and there were bridges crossing the three rivers and many parts of the borough. Now I know why they call it the City of Bridges. There are 446 bridges in and around Pittsburgh, the most bridges anywhere – eclipsed only by Venice. Think about that for a moment. And they were everywhere. I’m really glad I’m not one of those people who freaks out over bridges. Obviously those people don’t live in Pittsburgh.
I had googled places to eat while in Pittsburgh and had my mind settled on a pub called the Gandy Dancer Saloon, which is located in Station Square. It is attached to the Grand Concourse, a breathtakingly beautiful fine-dining restaurant in what was once the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station. It has a vaulted cathedral stained glass ceiling (pictured above), and a grand staircase that would rival any red-carpet entrance. I considered it for dinner, but thought we’d enjoy the Gandy Dancer more for its variety of appetizers and (what I thought would be) small plates. As it was lunchtime and the four of us were starving, I suggested we go there now instead of at dinner. And it’s a really good thing I made this call, because the entire establishment was to be closed for a wedding reception that evening.
Station Square, across the river from the city proper, is a cute little niche for shopping and restaurants (and a Sheraton hotel – which I would’ve chosen, had I done more research, for its proximity to the city). It was here that I took the photo that appeared in the previous post. I imagine it would be bustling like bees in a hive, were it not for the torrential rainfall we were experiencing. We hustled ourselves through the cold rain to the restaurant and seated ourselves at a large round wooden table surrounded by bar stools and next to what appeared to be an old safe.
Our waiter, a dapper young man with impeccable manners, approached our table warmly and welcomed us. He called me Miss. I looked at Todd. Did you hear that? He called me MISS. I was sure it was genuine, though I teased him for ass-kissing. (NO I did NOT use those words.)
Todd ordered a scotch and I decided to try Pittsburgh’s East End IPA on draft (yummy). We were delivered a basket of hot rolls with butter and a smoked salmon spread. We ate way too much bread. I ordered the Portobello fries with honey jalapeño mayo – it was an enormous appetizer and our waiter apologized because the “fries” were huge. I love mushrooms and these were delicious. There were so many choices on the menu it was really tough to decide. I went with the rather tame Chicken Caprese on focaccia with mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette (don’t judge) – it was mouthwatering. Todd chose the IPA beer-battered Fish and Chips, which were also good. I would have liked to try the Yucatan Fish Tacos too, but we were already stuffed halfway through our main course. Dick and Jane ordered different foods, so we were able to taste.
The rain abated long enough for us to walk to the river and snap some more photos, and get a really good look at the Duquesne Incline. Regrettably, we didn’t go up, but we should have, even if it was raining. It’s a steep incline – 800 feet long, 400 feet high, at a 30-degree angle – that affords a view of Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle. Wikipedia said it was finished in 1877 as a means to move cargo up and down Mt. Washington (now completely refurbished and moves only people), and – for all you old-timers – it was featured in Flashdance.
So the drizzle began anew and we decided to visit the casino (there’s certainly no shortage of casinos around bowling tournaments) – which was huge and pretty and crowded… and smoky. We had forgotten that smoking is permitted in designated areas in PA’s casinos. And no matter where you are, it follows you. I lost $30 in the slot machines, visited the bar for an aperitif, and made a pit stop in the restroom where I was blown away by the sharps disposal container on the wall. This really touched me – that a large public venue had made accommodations for diabetics who use needles. I wondered how many people made use of this.
Todd loves casinos, so it’s often a stop for us when time and economics allow. I have my favorite machines, and remain superstitious about them. He, on the other hand, has uncanny luck and usually wins consistently – though he plays for fun, not money, and he’s happy to break even by the time we leave. Dick and Jane, like me, don’t get the desire to essentially throw hard-earned cash into what is really just a fancy toilet with bells and whistles and flashing lights (though I hear these things do exist, I think, in Japan. Which also has bidets, which I really don’t get. I mean, I can’t not envision a cartoon character riding a geyser. It’s just weird.) (But maybe someday…)
Anyway, the casino is across the street from Heinz stadium – so I texted a few unexciting photos of it to my son, who I’ve been told I should be ashamed of for being such a huge Steelers fan. I fantasized briefly about running into Antonio Brown in the casino and how I would ask for a pic and how effing awesome that would be to text to Opac. He would SHIT HIS PANTS. But alas, another pipe dream.
We old folks then decided it was high time for a nap, and drove back to the hotel for some R & R and agreed on drinks later at the Applebee’s around the corner. Now, I have nothing against chain restaurants – and we do frequent a few of them from time to time – but when traveling I prefer the novelty and character of home-grown restaurants. It was an innocuous decision – we just wanted some drinks after 8, close to the hotel. It was great fun – and the bartender, who was our age, was friendly and easy to joke with. All in all, everyone we had so far encountered in the Steel City was warm and welcoming. And, despite the rain, our first day was lovely. What would day 2 bring?