CP photo: Maggie Weaver
Cap: Chicken tikka masala and palak paneer from People’s Indian
When I walked into People’s Indian to pick-up my online order, the dining room was quiet and the kitchen was buzzing. The tables — the few not covered by flipped chairs — were packed full with bags waiting to be delivered, picked up, and eaten. As social distancing guidelines extend and stay-at-home orders increase, I, like many Pittsburghers, have turned to local restaurants in search of comfort food. Here are my thoughts on a few take-out options I’ve tried during the pandemic.
5147 Penn Ave., Garfield.
On a Friday night, I ordered two of my favorite dishes from the Garfield restaurant: palak paneer and chicken tikka masala with a side of naan. They’re polar opposites; palak paneer is mild and rich, while tikka masala packs a light zing. It’s not often that I call spinach lush, but People’s palak paneer deserves the title. The base – spinach and spices made into a paste-like sauce – is thick and creamy, almost as if it was whipped like cream. The restaurant’s fresh cheese (paneer) is springy and lightweight, a perfect counter for the dense puree. The tikka masala took a different approach; the creamy, tomato-based sauce almost refreshing compared to the paneer dish. It was best bolstered with a base of rice (or naan, though I find it’s harder to soak up the sauce with the flatbread), to ensure that every last bit of the flavor-packed curry is consumed.
Bae Bae’s Kitchen
951 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
Ordering from Bae Bae’s Kitchen build-it-yourself menu is broken down into three steps. First, pick a base: rice, glass noodles, or salad. Then, choose a protein: Korean fried chicken, beef bulgogi, tofu, or fire chicken. And finally, a side: kimchi or vegetable tempura.
Thanks to the Korean restaurant’s recent addition of delivery through Uber Eats, I was able to order a rice, bulgogi, and kimchi bowl straight to my door.
There’s a reason that the Downtown Korean restaurant is consistently packed during lunch hours. Their flavors are incredible. The bulgogi — a traditional Korean marinade — is earthy and savory, and matched well with the lightness of added greens and zing of kimchi. The slices of meat are thin, but not tough. And the rice is no exception to the restaurant’s affinity for rich flavors. The jasmine rice is packed with seaweed and sesame for a salty, briny taste. The bowl left me feeling as all comfort food should: full and sleepy.
CP photo: Maggie Weaver
Pre-bottled negroni from tina’s
4144 Main St., Bloomfield
There’s at least one good thing that has come from the outbreak: bars are bottling and selling cocktails. I ordered a pre-bottled negroni from tina's newly-added online menu. It was a simple concept: stir and serve. The mix, like all tina’s cocktails, was expertly balanced and let the three pillars of the classic cocktail – gin, vermouth, and Campari – shine. Ten minutes after I left the bar, I was happily drinking a well-crafted negroni on my deck.
Iron Born Pizza
413 Grant Ave., Millvale; 1806 Smallman St., Strip District.
I go to Iron Born for the crust. Owner Pete Tolman’s two-day fermented dough is packed with flavor, rising and bubbling beautifully to the top of deep dish pans. Because cheese comes before sauce on Detroit-style pies, there’s an added richness; the deep pan allows the cheese to seep down the dough, making for a crusty, almost caramelized, edge.
I went with my normal order from the pizzeria, the spicy pie. This is made in the Michigan city’s classic style with red sauce dolloped on top of cheese, finished off with spicy soppressata, pepperoni, banana peppers, and hot honey. The spiciness of the soppressata and hot honey counterbalances the richness of the cheesy crust, making for a seamless flavor that finishes with a spicy kick.