Stopped en route Philly to meet with my editor.
Exited the Fort Pitt Tunnel, which led directly to the Fort Pitt Bridge and the strains of Bob Seger's Night Moves. A very picturesque and euphonious way to enter Steel City. You shoot out of the tunnel and then you get the full measure of Pittsburgh right on the kisser, possibly the best way to enter any city in the world.
I was getting a little hungry and was hoping to get some pierogies at the intriguingly named Gooski's in the correspondingly named Polish Hill neighborhood. It's known as the best dive bar in Pittsburgh and therefore it needed to be visited. Unfortunately, there were conflicting reports on when it opened, when the kitchen opened, and even if it was still open. So I decided to eat something, nearby my downtown lodgings, at the Grant Street Tavern. Fortunately, they were open and had a drink special. Unfortunately, it was a $4 Heineken and the kitchen closed at 2:00 pm. The bartender recommended we go to Forbes Tavern and after a Heine was dronken, we gesplitten.
A gyro was shared at Forbes Tavern. I was a little concerned at first as the menu stated that it was made with "gyro meat." It actually was quite tasty, though I decided to go with it, so I could discuss how to pronounce it. I'm pretty sure if I were in Athens (or New York) it would be "gear row," though after the person that ordered it said "hero," I knew further investigation was going to be required.
I flew solo at the Roberto Clemente Museum ($21/pp). I floated this idea to Mrs. AAR and she (too) quickly agreed. While Roberto Clemente was a little before my time, I am a fan of the golden age of baseball and also figured a better understanding of the greatest athlete to ever play in Pittsburgh might be useful during the balance of my stay.
What also intrigued me about the place, was that you can only tour it by appointment, which makes it seem special, like being allowed behind the velvet rope. Turns out it has nothing to do with keeping the riff-raff out and everything to do with the building not being ADA-compliant.
Located in an old firehouse built in 1897, the museum is spectacular and first-class all the way. Some incredible memorabilia including great photos, film, and more bats than you can shake a stick at. Does Clemente deserve his own museum, while the likes of Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx go without? To quote the Pope "Who am I to judge?" Then again no one did it with more style, heart, and hustle. It may have something to do with his tragic death at 38, delivering supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. An event that effectively canonized him.
Had a Yuengling draft at you guessed it . . . Gooski's, I was so close, I couldn't help myself. How divey is this place? Cash only, smoking encouraged, and you can buy a six-pack of PBR for $8. Two Yinzers at the bar welcomed me to Pittsburgh with some conversation and great ideas of what to do during my stay written on a napkin.
Walked around downtown reviewing tomorrow's itinerary. The streets were filled with homeless, street people, business people, locals, and tourists in equal proportion - although these days it takes a keen eye to classify them all.
Visited Sultan Döner & Gyro due to its views of the Roberto Clemente Bridge and baklava availability. Mrs. AAR wanted some Turkish coffee, and I wanted to ask Mr. Sultan how to pronounce "gryo." It turns out locals pronounce it "jai row." So if you are like me and can't bring yourself to say "jai row" then just point to it on the menu or order something else².
Dropped by the National Aviary located north of the Allegheny River in the fittingly named Allegheny Center neighborhood. It is the country's largest aviary, and the only one accorded honorary "National" status by the United States Congress. It is also home to pair of Critically Endangered blue-billed curassows.
A religious ex-Yinzer mentioned that St. Anthony's Chapel should be attended. I had previously visited St. Nicholas Croatian Roman Catholic Church in nearby Millvale to examine impressive murals that combine the Catholic faith with images of World War I - so I was down. This chapel contains the greatest number of relics outside the Vatican. So many (4,000-5,000) that they apparently can't all be counted.
A relic consists of the physical remains of a saint, which if you are Catholic is reason for deep prayer and contemplation, and if you're not may give you pause to say "That's a little odd." Each relic is stored in a reliquary, which is a word I had never heard of before. Most are quite small and contain even smaller pieces of bone, labeled "Ex Oss St. [inset saint's name here]", which makes it all seem that much more scientific and only a little less morbid.
There is also a splinter of the cross Christ was crucified on. It is stored in a display case in such a way that it cannot be seen, which to me seems very Catholic, as it requires double faith: you have to believe that it really is a splinter from the true cross and that it is really there.
My Gooski's connection recommended Federal Galley. It's a food court that serves as a restaurant incubator allowing potential restaurantuers to lease a small kitchen/retail space, and if successful then eventually open a place of their own. The Bibimbap that was delivered to my belly leads me to believe Shaka will soon leave the nest and fly free.
My Gooski's connection also mentioned a place called täkō. I was attracted to its cool Asian-Mexican fusion cuisine and that it used letters from the phonetic alphabet - it makes the place sound that much more exotic. Doesn't ĂftěrĂctionRēpŏrţ.ínfö just sound more interestinģ?
We had the tako taco: grilled octopus, harissa aioli, fried chickpeas, and charred jalapeno pico. The fried chickpeas provided a light airy crunch that was sublime. The best taco I ever put in my mouth.
I asked the bartender where he would go if he wanted to go to another restaurant for an ever so slightly less impressive morsel of food and he recommended . . .
Meat and Potatoes served up a fine piece of tuna tartare and a Flackhattan. It's a nice setup with a large bar in the center of a rectangular space, surrounded by tables in various guises. A conversation with the bartender made me realize that I didn't dine here by accident as they are owned by Richard DeShantz, a man who just so happens to be the very same owner as täkō.
An after-dinner Cointreau on the rocks was taken with some live jazz at Con Alma. The Anton DeFade Quintet did a fine job with some Progressive jazz, with possibly one too many original compositions. Ya know sometimes you just want to listen to a little "Satin Doll."
On the way out of town stopped by the Forbes Field Historical Marker to celebrate the rich history of the ballpark that the Pirates called home from 1909-1970. It didn't hurt that I could reenact the most famous walk-off home run in World Series history - one that enabled the Pirates to beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.
As a Met fan, it is important to celebrate any Yankee defeat and this one was probably the biggest (they say that Mickey Mantle actually cried).
A cup of coffee at Commonplace Coffee in Squirrel Hill to toast Pittsburgh goodbye and the Yankees to Hell.
My stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh Downtown started off well, as prior to arrival I was upgraded to a corner king room which offered fine city views.
Parking is via an adjacent privatly owned parking garage, which is quite common with hotels in large cities. What is also quite common is the complete lack of parking guidance provided by the hotel. I don't know why hotels can't provide at least a crumb on their website or in their confirmation email.
In this case though I guess it worked out ok. I pulled into the garage next door, took a ticket, parked and then proceeded to the hotel front desk, where the clerk charged two days of $30/day parking to my room. Over my shoulder the Missus asked "Hey, can you gives this former Navyman a discount on parking?" And . . . she did, stating they would only charge me for one day. "Great" I thought, "eight years in the Navy finally paid off!"
Well upon check out, they charged me for both days. Well someone very patriotic found that this was unacceptable, pushed it with management, and when I checked my credit card a few days later, found I was undercharged by $91. I really should look into this, but now that I'm busy in Santiago de Chile I just can't seem to find the time.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details that while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ This photo of Clemente is prominently displayed at his museum with the guide providing the the miraculous backstory. What isn't said is that the photo has been altered, which if you ask me isn't cool.
² It turns out there is no correct way to say the word "gyro." The word, its pronunciation and etymology are all very confusing. I'd summarize what Wikipedia has to say about it, but I don't quite understand it myself.