As any holiday weekend should be, my 4th of July weekend was filled with amazing food.  It started on Thursday night and just kept going, all the way through Monday…

Smallman St. Deli My absolute all-time favorite deli sandwich is the Rachel with turkey, and one of the best I’ve ever had has been at Smallman’s.  The rye bread is slathered in butter and grilled until it is downright crispy, the thousand island dressing is perfectly tangy, and the sweet coleslaw provides an excellent crunch.  At $8.40, this sandwich isn’t cheap, but it is packed with meat that will keep you going all day long.

Tamari Friday night we went for happy hour, which is absolutely the way to go if you’re on a budget: select small plates and drinks are up to half off.  We took advantage of the discounted robota grill, sangria, Tamari-tini, ceviche, and Peking duck quesadilla, along with some non-happy hour specials like yucca fries and tuna tartare.  The winners: robota grill (especially the quail eggs wrapped in bacon!), Tamari-tini, and Peking duck quesadilla (amazing smoky/sweet poblano-hoisin sauce).  The sangria was nothing special, the yucca fries were really really chewy (is this normal?), and the ceviche was a different style than I’m used to (no fruit or sweetness to balance the spice).  All in all, I’d recommend Tamari as a good place for a few happy hour drinks and a small plate or two, but go elsewhere for dinner if you’re saving pennies.

Arsenal Cider House After eating at Tamari we took a stroll down Butler St. and happened upon a sign for the Arsenal Cider House.  I had read an article in the Post-Gazette about this place and was eager to investigate: they make two rotating flavors of cider, meade, and cider sorbets.  We were greeted by the owner with samples of the sour cherry and apple ciders.  I don’t know much about ciders, but I thought they were light and crisp and tasty.  We were disappointed (well, my boyfriend was disappointed) to hear that although they advertise meade, it will be about another year before they have any.  In a week or so they will have concord cider, which elicited much joy in my boyfriend, and the owner went to the back to grab us some concord sorbet samples (really sweet and refreshing).  I will return once they have concord cider to purchase a growler and let you know how it is! 

Reyna’s in the Strip Saturday I finally had my first Reyna’s street cart taco: carnitas.  Part of the fun is the experience, standing there watching as they first grill the meat and onions, add squirts of lime juice, warm the in-store-made tacos, top with sour cream and finish off with handfuls of queso.  Also part of the experience is waiting for an hour in the blazing sun while one person makes the tacos one by one.  But I digress.  I continue to be amazed at how the simplest food can be the best, just like these tacos.  Make sure to try some of their spicy homemade salsas on the top!

Custard Crossing I have an ice cream problem, so naturally when I heard about this new custard place I had to give it a try.  While not the richest of custards I’ve tried, and certainly not as rich as my favorite hometown custard (JD’s in Englewood, OH) it is pretty creamy.  We had plain vanilla and raspberry-pomegranate, and they also had pistachio while we were there, so it seems they aren’t lacking in unique flavors.  The raspberry-pomegranate had a really nice fruity flavor without being sickeningly sweet.  I don’t know if I’d make a special trip for it (given that I have Razzy Fresh a block from my apartment), but if I had other business at the Waterfront I’d be tempted to stop by.

The Greek Gourmet We stopped here for some July 4th takeout when our initial plan (Lulu’s: closed) failed.  I got a slice of the spanokopita while my boyfriend got the falafel.  The spanokopita was really rich and incredibly filling, and the falafel was pretty tasty too.  We also got a side of roasted garlic hummus, and it tasted as all hummus should: so garlicky that it burns going down and you still have garlic breath 24 hours later.  Nom.  All of this was only $15, what a steal!

Cooking at home Yes, amidst all this glorious restaurant food, we managed to cook an Indian meal Saturday at home.  We made some chutneys and yogurt sauce for some chaat, along with paneer and masala for a matar paneer dish.  We cheated and bought naan instead of making it.  More details to come on the paneer recipe in my next post!