Hitchhiker Brewing in Mt. Lebanon is scheduled to open this June.

Penn Avenue restaurants now accessible

After construction made a long stretch of Penn Avenue in Garfield nearly impassible for what felt like 35 years, the road has cleared and the Penn-Main corridor is again ready to thrive with art openings, art openings and art openings. But lest we forget, there are some damn fine eateries on Penn which have gotten lost in the shuffle, and it’s both our pleasure and our civic duty to remind you that these places 1) still exist, and 2) need your business now more than ever, as they struggle to rebound from being cut off from society by excavations on par with the discovery of Dinosaur National Monument.

People’s Indian Restaurant at 5147 Penn Avenue has some of the best and most reasonably priced Indian fare you’ll find in the city limits. They offer buffets during lunch and dinner, and the staff there will be real with you when it comes to Indian versus American spicing preferences. Eat/Drink heartily recommends the vegetable korma.

With local favorite Tram’s Kitchen just a few blocks down Penn, Pho Minh often gets lost in the shuffle. It shouldn’t. This family-owned Vietnamese eatery at 4917 Penn specializes in pho—the traditional Vietnamese soup containing broth, herbs, rice noodles and meat—but their fresh rolls never disappoint. Deep frying is a terrible thing to do to perfectly good rice paper when it’s filled with tofu and fresh veggies.

Spak Brothers, at 5107 Penn, has some of the best pizza, vegetarian and vegan cuisine in Pittsburgh’s east end. They do unreasonably great things with seitan—especially their seitan cheesesteak.

Staghorn Home & Garden Café open in Greenfield
Greenfield’s small business scene continues to grow with Staghorn Home & Garden Café now open at 517 Greenfield Avenue.

The café is brewing up Zeke’s Coffee, as well as offering a selection of baked goods from Enrico Biscotti as well as Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches. The shop also hosts a retail component which offers up everything from local honey, terrariums and oils to pictures of anthropomorphic foxes in love and riding on the back of a swan—you know, something for everyone.

Hitchhiker Brewing rolls out Real Ale Wednesday
If you haven’t had a chance to make it to Hitchhiker Brewing in Mt. Lebanon yet, here’s yet another reason: over the next few weeks owner Gary Olden and brewer Andy Kwiatkowski are rolling out their Real Ale Wednesday series.

“We’ll be tapping a beer we’ve brewed and adding in some ancillary ingredients,” Kwaitkowski says. “The beers will always be different, but it’s going to get a little bit weird and experimental.”

This week, Hitchhiker will serve up its Centerline Black IPA flavored with blueberries and Amarillo hops. Next week, their flagship Rucksack Porter will get special treatment with vanilla and coffee beans. During each session, Kwiatkowski will discuss real ale, which goes through secondary fermentation, acquiring natural, more subtle carbonation along the way.

“We’ll eventually get into doing it through a hand engine, but right now, we’re just using a standard bar tap,” he says.

Anyone looking to learn more about the history and origins of modern beer, as well as those looking to try some one-offs which promise to be interesting, should check out these sessions. The January 28 edition will see Hitchhiker add sweet cherries and mint to its already stellar oatmeal stout. Mark your calendars.

Speaking of local beers …
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that New Zealand Summer Winter Warmer is back on tap at Roundabout Brewery in Lawrenceville, and if you haven’t tried it yet, get down there. Brewer Steve Sloan has effortlessly combined the sweet and malty elements of the traditional winter ale with a cocktail of four different New Zealand hops, making this ale enjoyable for both malt fans and hopheads alike. It pairs just as well with an evening out at your favorite BYOB Thai/Indian joint as it does with a night spent on your couch, revisiting the first four seasons of “The X-Files” on Netflix. For best results, get takeout from said spicy food joint and start at the beginning of Season 1.

Marty’s Market overhauling coffee bar
Marty’s Market, which last fall hired Caffe d’Amore Catering to take over the operation of its coffee bar, will overhaul the bar to accommodate beer, wine and cocktail service as soon as this spring.

Caffe d’Amore, one of the area’s finest coffee caterers and consultants—and the purveyor of the city’s finest homemade shrubs—is still operating out of its original location in the Pittsburgh Public Market, but is no longer operating the bar at Marty’s.

Seriously, check out their shrub. It’s great stuff.

So the future really is now!
Last week when referring to the innovative concept of a drive-thru Panera, I made a crack about how the technological promises of “Back to the Future Part II” remain largely unfulfilled, at least within the time frame of the film. No sooner did we publish that than Nike announced that it will be releasing self-tying shoes inspired by those featured in the movie.

Nice move, science. But please continue to steer clear of the dehydrated pizza movement. Thank you in advance.

Matthew Wein

Matthew Wein is a local writer, editor, blogger, storyteller and proud native Pittsburgher. Once described as "a man of things," he covers city design, spirits and craft beer for NEXT, where he keeps all of the editorial meetings light-hearted and interesting. His interests include sorting books, looking at old things and candles which smell like old-growth pine forests.