We distinctly remember when Meat and Potatoes opened up in 2011. It was one of the first chef-driven restaurants to open in downtown Pittsburgh (that we are aware of at least), helping to spur the revival of Pittsburgh's dining scene.
We remember people were freaking out (in a good way) over the bone marrow, poutine, pate, and other appetizers and entrees that were less common at the time, as well as the craft cocktails.
Although we dined at Meat and Potatoes years ago when it opened, we figured we were long due for a return visit to see how it was holding up.
The short answer? Deliciously.
Meat and Potatoes is Better With Age
As with most of our outings, we started our meal at Meat and Potatoes with a round of drinks.
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The drink menu here is the kind where you can order anything and know that you will be getting a carefully crafted, well-balanced cocktail. The cocktail menu has a few different sections – “prohibition,”, “repeal”, and barrel-aged cocktails.
There's even an absinthe menu, if you're into that sort of thing.
We couldn't pass up the barrel aged Manhattan that was a solid representation of the drink with a good cherry flavor. We enjoyed the sazerac even more than the Manhattan, though – cognac and demerara made it sweeter than a typical sazerac but we really liked it.
Try One of the Unusual Snacks
The “snack” portion of the Meat and Potatoes menu ranges from fried pickles to fried brussels to fried chicken livers (yes, don't come here expecting to eat healthy).
We went out on a limb and tried the crispy pig ears which were thin, fried slices that had a mild porky flavor and reminded us a little of chicharron. The slices were covered in a Thai chili sauce that had a pungent fish sauce aroma (and that is putting it lightly).
Once we got past the fish sauce smell, we really enjoyed the dish – it was spicy, piggy, and crispy.
For an even more amazing snack option, check out the devils on horseback. These bites are starchy dates stuffed with sausage, wrapped in bacon, and drizzled with a piquillo pepper sauce. The sweet, salty, fatty, and peppery flavors were all really balanced and meshed well together.
For shareable plates a bit bigger than the snacks, the appetizer menu offers hardy options like bone marrow, buffalo mac and cheese, beef tartare, and pate (which is also offered at another DeShantz restaurant, Butcher and the Rye, and is mind-blowingly delicious served with a sauternes jelly).
The Menu is… Well… Meat and Potatoes
As you would probably expect based on the restaurant name, the entrees are very meat focused.
If you want to go all in, check out the 45 oz. ribeye for two that's served with a bone marrow gratin. We weren't quite ready for that kind of commitment so we perused the sandwich options (burgers, fried chicken, etc.) and the entrees that spanned the gamut of meat options (duck, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and fish).
We'd heard the pork chop was one of the highlights here, so we decided to try that. The presentation of this sucker was quite impressive – it was a massive, 5-inch tall, bone-in hunk of meat that I'm sure could double as a dumbbell for strength training purposes.
The fact that it was a smoked chop enabled it to be cooked really well despite its thickness, which was also impressive. There was a brown, crispy layer of meat and skin on the outside. To further gild the lily, some pastrami cooked pork belly was layered on top of the chop which tasted like a super thick piece of sumptuous bacon.
At a place where meat is king, you might think the attention to side dishes might fall by the wayside. However, we found the tangy and smokey baked beans and the honey sweetness and spiciness of the collard greens to be more than just an afterthought to the meat – they were solid partners.
I was feeling in less of a meat mood and ordered the salmon which was cooked to my preference of temperature. I ordered medium rare which enabled a silky, juicy, tender presentation of the fish. A layer of crispy skin on top had a hint of sweetness, while the black rice on the side was chewy yet creamy.
The highlights of this dish were a side of spicy, funky kimchi and sweet and sour pickled cucumber slices. And let's not forget the bright red Korean hot sauce that had lots of nuanced flavors with a nutty sesame undertone. This dish was such an explosion of flavors that you wouldn't normally think a piece of fish could handle, but the meaty salmon held up to the flavors and even complemented them very well.
Our only regret of the evening is that we were too stuffed for dessert. Many of the desserts are layered cakes and puddings that are served in cute mason jars, like the restaurant week special of a thyme cake layered with raspberry jam, an olive oil cookie, and candied orange.
The service was overall helpful and unobtrusive, and the noise level was surprisingly low for being such an open, cavernous space. One minor point of annoyance is that the tables are squeezed together rather tightly, making it a little hard to get in and out of your seat.
Meat and Potatoes has shown that it can stand the test of time, as it keeps serving up traditional-leaning meat dishes that are cooked perfectly while still managing to sneak in some delicious nuances you wouldn't think possible for such bold meat dishes.
Overall, Meat and Potatoes is one we can definitely see returning to as a reliable downtown dining option, and plan to very soon for their acclaimed brunch! Until then, we'll be dreaming of this one.
Meat and Potatoes is located at 649 Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh's Cultural District.