It’s not often that I find myself craving red meat. Being a ballet dancer and one who is very conscious of what I eat, my main sources of protein tend to be lean meats, fish, dairy, and nuts. I don’t avoid red meat, but it’s also something that I usually live without and don’t miss. Last week was different however. I found myself craving a big juicy burger. But not just any burger. I wanted a burger from BRGR. I had been driving by and hearing about BRGR for months and was anxiously awaiting my first visit. It certainly lived up to my lofty expectations! It had a nice rustic, southern interior and served all the burgers and sides in baskets lined with paper. I ordered the ‘Shrooms’ burger, done medium so it was a little pink still in the center, along with a side of fried pickles. I know right, fried pickles?? I was weirded out at first too but my friends urged me to give it a try. Risk well taken. It was a rather odd combination at first but the tangy taste of the pickles contrasted the doughy batter quite nicely.
As for my burger, it was perfectly done so that there was still a little pink in the middle and the juices were lavishly flowing. It melted in my mouth, bun and all. The mushrooms, caramelized onions, brie, and beef all sang so harmoniously. I was in love with each bite. Lastly, I got a hard milkshake to go along with my already gluttonous meal. Out of only four options, it was much easier for me to select a milkshake than to pick a burger (out of the 7 of those plus about 7 more non-beef options.) I selected the salty caramel shake: bourbon, caramel sauce, sea salt, and vanilla bean ice cream. yummmmmmy! I am so mad at myself for not making it to BRGR sooner!
Just two days later I made my way to try out Salt of the Earth mastermind chef Kevin Sousa’s new Pittsburgh dining creation, Union Pig and Chicken, a barbecue joint set up in a small space in East Liberty. It opened just at the end of February and is already forming lines at the door of anxious diners. I can shamelessly admit I have not had any true southern barbecue experience, but to my untrained taste buds this is exactly what I thought it should taste like. With a simple star-studded menu, diners can mix and match their choice of meats and sides. My dad and I ordered way too much food with the intention of having leftovers so that we could get a sampling of many things on the menu. On the meaty side of things we ordered ribs, grilled chicken, and pork shoulder because they were already out of brisket (after being open for one hour on a Saturday night.) All were delicious but I was most impressed by the level of moisture that was maintained in the grilled chicken. I can’t even think of how to describe it to you in words it was that perfect. For sides, we tried the baked beans, greens, cornbread, mac & cheese. The baked beans were undeniably freshly homemade and had a tangy sweetness along with pieces of meat swimming about. The greens were soft and garlic-y and, if I’m not mistaken, were cooked in some juices taken from the meats. because there was a hint of a smoky flavor to them. The cornbread was guiltily heavy on the butter but that just made it al the more dense and delicious. My favorite by far though was the mac & cheese. It came in its own personal sized dish with a crispy cheesy top. Underneath were the noodles drenched in a rich cheesy sauce that had more cheesy flavor than can be attained by just plain cheddar. I already know what my perfect meal will be when I go back… grilled chicken and mac & cheese. But you can’t go wrong with anything that this restaurant has to offer. For all of those Pittsburghers who have made it here by crossing the Mason-Dixon line, Union Pig and Chicken will provide you with that down-home feeling in your new hometown.