Hey, Pittsburghers and visitors of this glorious city! Ever get a craving for down home Southern food? I'm talking a deep yearning, must-have-it kind of hankering for soul food.
For me, the tiny little spark of curiosity turned into an all out fire after my trip to Savannah last spring. I adhered to my cardinal rule of dining out: order something you won't or can't make at home. It was the first time I'd ever tried collard greens, fried green tomatoes (with goat cheese... o.m.g.!), and black eyed peas. They were all so good. So good that I remember Laura and I eating lunch on our last day there and saying, "I'm not even hungry, and I definitely don't have any room in my stomach, but I'm going to eat this because it's so ----ing good and it'd be a crime to waste this food."
Looking for that same potty mouth-inducing flavor, I've been on a hunt for traditional Southern cuisine in the area and haven't found much. I really want to try my hand at some recipes in my own kitchen, but that adventure will have to wait because Laura discovered a little gem on the North Side of Pittsburgh that, lo and behold, specializes in Southern food! Hooray for Carmi's Family Restaurant!
Carmi's has been open for just over six months, housed where the former Shamrock Inn was. It's so new that a permanent sign hasn't been affixed to the exterior, but don't let that dissuade you. This still-green (both literally and figuratively) diner's real charm is in the food and the service, where it matters most.
We went on a quiet weeknight at 6, first being the only folks there, but roughly half of the tables were occupied when we left an hour later. The wait staff was friendly and charming right from the start, making you question whether you had been there before. Laura and I went all in and ordered the fried chicken (pick your own piece) and Belgian waffle (for a mere $6.99) with a shared side of macaroni and cheese ($3.99). Mac & cheese was off the hook delicious. As for our main meal? Holy flavor combination! Long had I wondered about crunchy savory chicken with sweet waffles, but this convinced me they are soulmates. Don't forget the syrup!
Matt requested the meatloaf entree, which came with a soup or salad, two sides, and a hearty portion of house made cornbread. He made his carb queen of a wife happy by asserting his status at the reigning carb king: chicken and dumpling soup, mashed potatoes with gravy, and mac & cheese... all for $10.99. Dirt cheap, people.
I mentally turned up my nose to the thought of ordering meatloaf not made by my dear mom, but wow. Mom, you've gotta try this! Moist, chock full of what I think were veggies and mushrooms, topped with that sinful gravy. Not to mention, all of the sides, including the chicken and dumpling soup, were equal stars of the plate. Every last crumb was polished off, and we even made room for free samples of the chef's special pound cake.
We left with a smile on our faces, due to the funny and incredibly attentive staff, and vowed to make a monthly Carmi's date. For chicken, for meatloaf, and for a taste of the South that's just around the corner, go to Carmi's Family Restaurant.