Mr. Egg’s Kitchen: Who is the mysterious Mr. Egg? Is this the Egg Man of song and story? This tiny Murray Avenue spot has always looked a little shabby, but now … Mr. Egg is in charge. Mr. Egg gives you three steps: choose a noodle, choose a vegetable, choose a meat. The website isn’t much help beyond that, but a paper menu reveals unusual meats such as Chicken Feet with Pickled Peppers, Pig Ear and Duck Neck. Vegetables range from Enoki Mushrooms to Lotus Root Slices and Kelp. Noodles include Ramen, Udon, Rice Vermicelli and Sweet Potato Vermicelli. So, adventurous eaters: Mr. Egg would like a word with you.
African Cuisine: Well this is unexpected. Nigerian food is new to Pittsburgh as far as I know, and this spot replaces the long-lived sushi spot Chaya. I’ll profess complete ignorance when it comes to Nigerian food, but Spicy Fried Snail and Meat Pies sound great, and more unfamiliar dishes such as Egusi Stew and Iyan With Efo Riro look delicious. This restaurant was started by a Nigerian native who came to Pittsburgh to become a nurse — and is currently a doctoral student in nursing — as a different way to take care of people.
Frankie Bunz: An anthropomorphic hot dog dude wearing shades and smoking a pickle like a cigar emblazoned on the door? Oh, yeah. I’m in. Like the great Anthony Bourdain and Rick Sebak, I too profess a lifelong love for the humble tubular meat product. And with the Dirty O going the way of the dinosaurs, it’s nice to see somebody trying to bring the dogs back.
You can get local, grass-fed all-beef hot dogs, spicy beef dogs, natural skin casing dogs and veggie dogs. The specialties are mostly named after movie gangsters, such as The Henry Hill, covered with fresh sauerkraut and stone-ground Irish mustard, or The Sonny Special, with Swiss cheese and ketchup (Sonny Corleone ended up with a lot of holes in him in “The Godfather.”) Plus they have Poutine, perhaps my favorite international (French-Canadian) junk food, which consists of cheese curds, gravy and scallions.
Yukiyama: Until recently, this spot held the amusingly named Thai place, Curry on Murray, next to the Korean bakery Sumi’s Cakery. Now, it’s a Japanese spot called Yukiyama. In warm weather, it has a giant wall of windows that open up, connecting this spot to the street in a way that other restaurants should try to emulate (providing better ventilation, which is all-important in the Covid era). The loss of the Squirrel Hill’s strongest sushi spot, the long-lived Chaya across the street, stings a bit. Maybe this place will help. The sushi menu seems pretty standard, with all the basic sushi, sashimi and maki rolls, and a few of their own creations, such as the Angry Bird Roll with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and papaya. There’s also full hibachi-grilled dinners, donburi (rice bowls with fish) and an array of cheaper lunch specials.
Lucha Street Tacos: In the old (much-missed) Greek Gourmet spot, there have been “coming soon” signs up for at least a year for a new taco place. Squirrel Hill already has Bull River Taco Co. further up Murray, but it’s hard to turn down more tacos. Lucha Street already has a Bridgeville location and has started hiring for the Squirrel Hill spot, according to their Facebook page. On the Bridgeville menu, there are the usual standards, as well as some interesting concepts, such as the Nashville Hot Chicken Taco with sweet slaw and onion straws, the Sweet Orange Chicken Taco, and the Cometa Especial with vegan chorizo, roasted corn and black bean salsa.
Teppan-BBQ: In the old Ka Mei Hong Kong Cuisine spot, there’s now a Japanese BBQ place. It’s definitely catering to the takeout crowd, with lots of interesting, unusual meats on skewers. There’s everything from Beef Balls to Quail Eggs, Pork Belly with Enoki Mushrooms, Duck Gizzards and Chicken Hearts, which range from $1.50-$2.50. These are pretty easy to eat on the go, and they have deals for up to 50 (!) skewers at a time listed on their menu. As one might expect, there’s also a teppanyaki menu (cooked on an iron griddle), with a choice of rice or noodles, meats (shrimp, beef, pork) and vegetables (snow beans, mushrooms, bok choy).
Squirrel Hill Market: The Squirrel Hill Market is an outgrowth of the adjacent Pittsburgh Honey shop — which makes everything from honey mustard to lip balm out of local honey from the Fine family apiary in Monongahela. In the former Chair Restorations by Aleph space is a “curated convenience” mini-grocery, that packs a lot of local foods into a 300-square-foot space. The selection is wonderful, with products from the little-known Sanchioli Brothers Bakery in Bloomfield, Pittsburgh Pickle Co., Pierogies Plus, Goat Rodeo and much more. In the warmer months, they plan to go all-in competing with Squirrel Hill’s ample ice cream options, with specialty flavors from the nationally renowned Penn State Berkey Creamery.
*Note: Up at 5886 Forbes Ave., near Shady Avenue, there’s a liquor license in the window for Kurzweg Tavern Company. If anyone knows what that is, we’d love to hear about it.