Sunday, June 3, 2012

Burgh Bits Food Tour - Brookline

For Christmas, my brother-in-law got me a gift certificate for a company called Burgh Bits Food Tour.  What they do is give guided tours to five different neighborhoods in the City of Pittsburgh -- Strip District, Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, Dormont, and Brookline.  DB~ and I frequent the Strip often and are familiar with the other neighborhoods, so we picked Brookline as our trip.

Yesterday was our tour date and we met our guide, Corey, at Pitaland on Brookline Boulevard.  Corey is a current grad student at Chatham University completing his degree in Food Studies.  His goal is to become a food writer and travel, sharing his love of food and writing.

Our first stop (of 7 places on Brookline Boulevard) was inside Pitaland, where we met the owner who introduced himself as "Joe".  We went to the backroom and observed the pitas being made, at a rate of 2000/hour on a simple yet elaborate conveyor belt system.  The dough is squeezed out and pressed automatically and then "flash-baked" inside a 1200 degree oven for probably a total of 1 minute.  The yeast instantly puffs up, then the pita is conveyed around a belt system and cooled down to its typical flat-looking pattern.

Pitaland has been in its current location since 1990, but they have been making pitas since 1974.  They are now supplying most of the restaurants in the City with pitas.

Our next stop after sampling some pitas, feta, and olives, was Kreibel's Bakery.  We were greeted (and given samples, a staple at all stops on the Burgh Bits tour) by a nice young girl that told us the bakery had been in some existence of ownership as a bakery since the 1930's.  We tried two of their special cookies and the girl, a theatre studies major at Duquesne, told us how they ship their cookies all the way to Alaska.

The third stop was to Las Palmas, a Mexican groceria.  They now have started selling street tacos out on Brookline Boulevard.  I knew that we had a bunch of other things to eat, so I resisted but hoped I could get one at the end of the tour.  Most of the products in the groceria were in Spanish.  The butcher/meat section is the highlight of Las Palmas, with great cuts of meat and blends.

After that we went to another bakery called Party Cake Bakery, another long-standing bakery in the area.  We were greeted by another perky girl who said she had been working there for 8 years and "would never leave because her bosses were so great to work for."  We had to-go bags waiting for us to add to our piles.

As an interlude, after Party Cake we went to Sal's Barbershop to talk with the son of the original owner.  The barbershop had pressed tin ceilings and great pictures of the barbershop throughout its history on the walls, along with antiques collected over the years.

The next two stops were two new businesses on the Boulevard, Vinnie's Pretzel Shop and Antonio's Pizzeria.  Vinnie was a retired teacher from Philly, so I didn't hold that against him.  He had branched out from just pretzels and was doing speciality little sandwiches and pretzel-themed treats.  Antonio's Pizzeria brought out a whole pizza for us to sample.  The others on our tour ended up taking the remainder home to eat.

Our final stop on the tour was Cannon Coffee.  The owner, Nathan, came from Albuquerque six years and set up the business in Brookline because of the potential diversity of the neighborhood.  We learned about all the different ways to roast and press a coffee bean, including sampling two different coffees.  Then Nathan brought out at least 6 different varieties of teas -- black teas, green teas, herb blends.

Trying all the different pretzels, baked goods, coffees, teas were great, but it was speaking to the owners and hearing their stories that was the best part of the day.  Brookline was a neighborhood that we didn't know much about before Saturday, but it is now one that we will be back to visit soon.

If you have the opportunity to check out Burgh Bits, whether you are new to the city or a lifelong Pittsburgher, we highly recommend going on one of their tours with a knowledgeable guide like Corey.

And yes, I did get a chicken taco from Las Palmas on the way back to the car.  It was fantastic.  Dare I say, it was even better than Reyna's in the Strip.

1 comment:

  1. The tour was a great experience and makes me want to tour the other neighborhoods. Bloomfield next? ~