This item is about 8 months old, but the restaurants featured here are still going strong in Pittsburgh [thanks, Peter Jordens]. Am I just hungry right now? Dan Gigler (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) writes about Caribbean cuisine option in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He underlines the irony of not finding Caribbean food in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and returning home to find two great spots specializing in the food he craved. Here are excerpts.
[. . .] The all-inclusive resort at which we stayed had lovely lodging, a little casino, a sports bar where we watched the Penguins, and four full-service restaurants. There was a French restaurant. Mexican. Italian. And, a Japanese Teppanyaki-style steak and seafood spot. And they were all just fine.
Wait for it … wait for it …
One offering was conspicuously absent at a resort that’s smack between the 18th and 19th parallels, which catered to Americans, Canadians and Europeans, and was staffed almost entirely by native Dominicans and Haitians: a single morsel of Caribbean food.
Of course, the Caribbean is a collection of thousands of individual islands, a dozen sovereign nations and another 13 territories, all with their own cultures, nuances, cuisine, flavors, influences and history.
But jeez-o-man, pad thai isn’t exactly native to the DR, and we could easily get that. Something — anything — pan-Caribbean would’ve sufficed. Alas, there was no mofongo, no chicharron, no lechon, not one single blessed fried plantain, and no jerk anything (except for the relentless staffer in the lobby trying to hard sell us a time share). So, it was with some amusement that we returned to Pittsburgh to learn that two new independent Caribbean-flavored restaurants had opened, thereby making it easier to find said fare in the Paris of Appalachia than it was at a resort on the actual island of Hispaniola. Go figure.
Musa Caribbean / Cajun Fare
West Indian by way of eastern Texas is the culinary lineage behind Musa (which is the genus from which banana and plantain trees come), a Caribbean and Cajun fusion restaurant that opened in May in Beechview. Proprietor Kenrick Cheong is a native of Galveston, and his parents come from Trinidad and Barbados. He came to here to attend the bygone Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, and he never left after meeting his wife, Amy, a Pittsburgher of Polish stock (he notes that they had curried pierogies at their wedding), and starting a family.
This cheery spot on Broadway Avenue was converted from a drab old neighborhood bar. A chalkboard reads “Welcome to the Don’t Hurry,” Caribbean travel posters adorn the colorful walls, and patrons have flocked to an outdoor deck to sip on dozens of rum drinks whipped up by a quick-witted bar staff.
There are curries and jerk pork to go with shrimp po’ boys and a particularly good and rich seafood gumbo with andouille sausage and crawfish ($13). The Peppa Pot Steak ($20) was excellent: perfectly cooked sirloin with grilled vegetables in a lightly sweet sauce and served with a side of bone marrow and grilled bread.
The menu is modest for now, but Mr. Cheong said he intends to grow it slowly, adding more traditional dishes as well as cross-cultural mashups.
2318 Broadway Ave.; 412-207-2733; https://musa-restaurant.business.site.
Pauline’s Caribbean Soul Cuisine
This spartan family-run spot, opened in late April on Federal Street on the central North Side with an all-Jamaican staff, is bare bones, and that’s OK because the spices bring all the color and flavor one could hope for. They do the classics here like oxtail, curried goat and jerk chicken that are usually ready to go, as well as made-to-order seafood specialties. But like a good barbecue spot, when the food is gone for the day, it’s gone till tomorrow.
Jerk is among my favorite seasonings because unlike many hot sauces that punch you right in the face, it often has a pleasing, fragrant and inviting nose. It’s only after a few minutes that you realize you’re sweating from a creeping internal heat, like the boiling frog.
This was roughly the experience with the very good jerk chicken combo at Pauline’s ($12). The crispy skin had a slight char, but the meat popped with juicy flavor. A side order of baked mac and cheese was excellent, with the addition of piquant bell pepper in the cheese sauce.
Pauline’s is a fine addition to a little half-block stretch that, with excellent hot dog, pizza and burrito shops, might have the best street food in the city — at least on a pound-for-pound basis.
1204 Federal St., North Side; 412-231-2000; facebook.com/PCSCPittsburgh [. . .]