Now that Fat Tuesday's over, we're here to give you the skinny on meat-free dining options in the Square for the next few weeks. Of course, if fish is your favorite dish to begin with you've got no beef — or chicken or pork, for that matter — with surfing the Square to net the catch of the day at any one of the scene's dining spots. But for you carnivores, we're here to help you navigate the Square's culinary waters.
Okay, when you start talking about fish sandwiches and other deep-sea treats, you've got to start with the Original Oyster House. Almost as old as King Neptune himself, the Oyster House dropped anchor in the Square just about 140 years ago. If you can fathom that, then you'll want to visit this genuine historic landmark for a heaping helping of breaded fish sandwiches or oysters, some creamy slaw, a cold draft and a real taste of Pittsburgh's past.
Sailing along, Mancini's beckons with a couple of meatless specialities such as the spinach feta roll and a spinach, feta and egg sandwich. Of course, Prantl's shares the same sweet space, so you might have to resist some of the treats you promised to give up until after Easter. Then again, as Oscar Wilde once spouted, the best way to beat temptation is to give in to it.
Our next port of call on this voyage around the Square is A & J Ribs. If you're expecting to find a meaty menu at a rib joint, you'd be right on target. But A & J's serves up a fish sandwich that will satisfy the appetite of the heartiest beef eater. Plus, with a ton of sides like homemade mac and cheese and collard greens, there's plenty to choose that doesn't roam the earth on two or four feet.
If the bounty of the harvest is your palate pleaser, Bella Sera, that cozy urban trattoria, serves up a feast of pasta dishes. Pasta Bella dishes out penne with farm-fresh pesto, onion and roasted red peppers sauteed in olive oil. Of course, there's a fish sandwich on the menu that can be ordered fried or grilled. And the focaccia sandwich satisfies with fresh mozzarella, grilled eggplant, roma tomato and farm-fresh pesto. Don't forget to check out the drink menu with a pleasing selection of specialty cocktail, wines and microbrews. They help any meal go down just a little easier.
In case you didn't make it to Mardi Gras, NOLA on the Square opens later this month with a menu heavy on culinary treasures from Louisiana's Crescent City. For authentic bayou flavor, Pasta Pontchartrain is swimming with spicy crayfish, artichokes and other fiery ingredients. Of course, there's the traditional Po' Boy — a wonderfully over-stuffed sandwich filled with Abita beer-battered oysters, spicy Cajun slaw and sun-dried pepper remoulade. Check back here in a couple weeks for more info on the grand opening.
As we continue to ride this food wave, it's on to Bruegger's, where the speciality sandwiches include the Leonardo da Veggie, an artsy masterpiece of light-herb garlic cream cheese, roasted red peppers, muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Next door, Dunkin Donuts punches holes in the idea that you can only find round pieces of fried dough in a donut shop. Turns out the lunch menu here includes flat bread sandwiches such as the egg-white veggie and grilled cheese.
Around the corner, Fat Tommy's will open again very soon, ready to ply pizza pies topped with spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, spices and cheeses. Did you notice we didn't mention any meats? If you're searching for something more than a slice or two of FT's specialty, you might want to try a veggie calzone, sub or wrap. Or you might just order the tuna salad. One thing's for sure, Tommy's gives you almost as many choices as they give you pepperoni...uh, we meant peppers... on a large pie.
Another landmark looms in the shape of Primanti's. Yeah, the cheesesteaks here are way beyond "almost famous." Seems like any time you turn on a cable channel devoted to food, the host is chomping away at a mighty mountain of meat, fries, slaw, cheese, egg and tomato between two thick slabs of Mancini's Italian bread. But the "Colossal Fish Sandwich" is a whale of a deal, too.
At Subway, the Veggie Delite is a crunchy combo of garden fresh lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, onions and condiments on fresh baked bread. A short oar stroke away is La Gondola, where the pies and baked sandwiches feature plenty of veggie and no-meat choices.
No one will be surprised that fish of any type is a no show on the menu at Winghart's Burger & Whiskey Bar. Not to worry, though. Along with a house-made totally veggie burger, the wood oven pizzas include freshly tossed pies topped with veggies and cheeses of all sorts. And there's always the super salads too.
At the corner of Market and Forbes, Moe's Southwest Grill twists the traditional fish dish into the shape of a taco. The southwest dining accent here puts grilled lemon pepper tilapia in a shell filled with fresh pico de gallo, slaw and chipotle ranch dressing. And just about any of the burritos, fajitas and south of the border eats here can be ordered as beans-only or tofu.
Let's skip across Forbes, to another hot spot with a southwestern flavor. Still pretty much a newcomer to the Square, Chipotle Mexican Grill needs no introduction to fans of its "food with integrity." With a menu that's long on options, one choice is to hold the meat.
Finally, we're almost back to square one at DiBella's. As the newest kid on the Square, it's just a sideways walk across McMasters Way to the oldest joint in town — the Oyster House. But DiBella's tin ceilings and tile floors will have you believing it's been in the Square forever. What makes these old-fashioned subs float, for the most part, is the choice of ham, roast beef, salami and other meats. But the signature tuna salad sub and its veggie counterpart are high watermark alternatives.
This fishing expedition is over for now. Hope you enjoyed the journey 'round the Square.