Category Archives: Uncategorized

Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Pittsburgh

I grew up in Pittsburgh and moved back after undergrad to attend the University of Pittsburgh to get my MSIS. I lived in Shadyside (the wikipedia entry for Shadyside features the house where my apartment was located) and Highland Park.

I was there for three years before I moved to San Francisco. In that time, I was able to discover a lot of really good vegetarian food in a town that might at first not seem to offer much. I created a google map with my favorite vegetarian restaurants and for convenience I also reprinted the individual comments here:

China Palace II
They have a phenomenal vegetarian menu that was carried over from the old Hunan Kitchen / Zen Garden in Squirrel Hill. Get the vegetarian shu mai dumplings and some tofu with XO sauce.

Pho Minh
My absolute favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh. Oh how I miss it dearly. Get the fresh rolls with tofu (was #3 when I last went). They have a different sauce than the usual peanut sauce. I lived off of these for two years. My favorite main dishes are lemongrass tofu with bun instead of rice and the rice noodle and tofu.

Taste of India
Some of the best Indian in Pittsburgh and a good vegetarian section as all Indian does.

Zenith Antiques
One of the few all-vegetarian places in Pittsburgh. Try out the Sunday brunch sometime. It gets crowded so you may have to share a table and the food is mostly just okay but they have tons of desserts and it’s definitely worth going on a gloomy Sunday to lift your spirits. If you go during non-brunch, try the vegan Tofishy sandwich, a fan favorite.

Udipi Cafe
All vegetarian South Indian restaurant. Great food, killer weekday lunch deal. I used to work out in the burbs near this place and would look forward all week to getting their lunch deal, which was around $7 total for entree, rice, and bread. Fantastic. Worth the trip out from the city on a Saturday afternoon.

The Quiet Storm
Another all vegetarian place, reminds me of Zenith in that both serve mediocre food at not-that-cheap prices and, like Zenith, it’s all made in advance by the one chef and then reheated in the microwave by the indie kids who work the rest of the time. Worth trying out. I went there for brunch and thought the food wasn’t so great, especially since it was pricey for a bike punk kinda place.

Thai Cuisine Restaurant
One of my favorite restaurants in the burgh. They have an extensive separate vegetarian menu. My faves were the Vegetarian Tom Kha soup, the Tofu Sate (yummy sauces for it), and the spicy basil fried rice. They have a full meat menu too which I’ve heard good things about so you can bring meat eaters too.

Spice Island Tea House
Far and away the best lunch spot in town. I dearly miss working in Oakland because of this gem. It’s a Southeast Asian fusion restaurant. Get the mini-samosas (they brush egg on them, as the kind servers will warn you) and the Singapore Rice Noodle made vegan with tofu. The other awesome dish is the tofu lunch special with Indonesian festival fried rice that is phenomenal (your choice of two different topping flavors but they are very similar). Most of the other dishes are very tasty as well, and they are all a pretty good deal.

Lu Lu Noodles
Pretty good lunch spot in Oakland. Most of the dishes they can prepare vegetarian or vegan. Get a bubble tea while you’re there.

Reel Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto (Live Review)

House of Blues Cleveland
Saturday, 8 July 2006

With the closure of Club Laga and the last gasping breath of a decent music scene in Pittsburgh, I was forced to make the drive over the border to see Reel Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto play in Cleveland.

Despite a poorly designed venue with a tiny mosh area sunk below the rest of the floor and in front of the completely misplaced and oversized sound booth, the show was certainly worth the hefty ticket price ($25) and 2.5 hour drive.

Streetlight Manifesto
Streetlight commited a musical faux pas by opening with a new song and leaving the audience a little confused. They then redeemed themselves by playing a tight set including the now-combined Point-Counterpoint + Keasbey Nights supersong and Everything Went Numb. Their set felt way too short, pretty much the same length as the other two openers, the mediocre Transition and enthusiastic Whole Wheat Bread. The lineup was also completely different, with only Tom recognizable. Apparently Catch 22 vet Josh Ansley left the band. I don’t know why he would but he will be missed. Whoever took his place did a good job, though. The lineup is different even than last time I saw them, which is never a good sign for stability or longevity. I have my fingers crossed.

It was great to see Streetlight live, especially since this will be their last tour for quite awhile since they are soon going to be writing and recording a sophomore album, but the set was simply too brief. It was probably not the band’s fault but the fans were a little disappointed. If they were going to play such a short set, they should not have played two new songs or the full combined A Moment of Silence + Violence. In any case, we were all left wanting a lot more but we’ll have to wait until probably 2007 to get it.

RBF
Reel Big Fish are always excellent live. They have a huge catalog of great songs and they always play one you forgot about. This night was no exception, with Aaron pulling out ‘Nothin’ towards the end of the set, which really made the crowd go nuts. Highlights of their great set included six versions of S.R. (including the usual death metal, hillbilly, Southern blues rock, emo) including one I’ve never heard before, in the style of the Strokes, perfectly executed with Scott even singing through a harmonica for that patented vocal sound. As usual, Scott and Aaron’s comedic back-and-forth provides a nice filler between songs.

They played one new song from their live album (which apparently is not just old material) that sounded good but it’s hard to tell from one live listen. I’m definitely going to pickup the album though, which is a triple disc mega-release on presale now on their website.

Unlike Streetlight, RBF has been around the block and had a great set sequencing. They opened and closed with two covers, starting with Aha’s Take on Me, and finishing with Op Ivy’s Unity. I couldn’t imagine a better end.

If either band comes your way, see them.

Middle Distance Runner – Plane in Flames (Review)

This is the debut album from a new band to the Washington, D.C. / Northern Virginia indie scene who formed last year. I saw them recently at Gooski’s in Pittsburgh, where they put on an energetic performance.

The man on the mic, Steve Kilroy, has a singing voice that is comfortable accompanying subtle melodies or the swaggering Rawk of ‘Man of the People.’ The rest of the five-piece band serves up an excellent sound.

Stand out tracks are ‘Naturally,’ the catchy opener; ‘Top of the Stairs;’ and the well-chosen closeout ‘That’s a Lie.’ Their guitars really shine on the sweeping ‘Hooks’ and ‘Out of Here,’ both of which certainly bring to mind OK Computer-era Radiohead influence.

I’m not a huge indie fan so I can’t do any more name dropping but for a debut album from a new band, Plane in Flames shows not just promise but a fair amount of realization.

Retail Price: $10

My Rating: $15

If you live in NoVA you can pick this up at CD Cellar. I know of one on Rt 7 in the City of Falls Church and there’s one in Arlington as well. You can also buy it online at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mdrunner. I suggest you do and definitely keep an eye on this band.

http://www.middledistancerunner.com/

Keasbey Nights as Performed by Streetlight Manifesto

Release Date: March 7, 2006 – Victory Records

This re-recording of Keasbey Nights (aka Keasbey Nights Volume 2, as Amazon called it) had been a persistent rumor since Streetlight Manifesto first formed in 2002. However, after several mysterious annoucements on their website and finally a press release by their label, it became clear that it would be a dream come true for ska punk fans everywhere.

As their simple liner notes make clear, this is a re-recording of the original Keasbey. There are no new songs or bonus features. There are differences, of course. Lyrically there are a few minor line changes here and there that will make fans of the original album smile and nod in appreciation. To the casual listener, the songs have the same lyrics. Musically, most of the solos were stripped out and replaced with new and I would argue more mature and enjoyable arrangements. In terms of production, the recording is 100% cleaner. The bass is much more prominent and the lyrics are more intelligible, thanks both to Tomas learning how to sing fast but understandably since the first recording and no doubt some smart post polishing. Several of the other changes I have noticed (there are surely more):

  • Riding the Fourth wave has a slower tempo at the beginning and since it is an instrumental, has the most musical changes
  • Day In, Day Out (my top choice from the original album and one of my all-time top 10 songs) has an extra verse that includes the lines “And everybody’s talking about humility,(see)/indecency, (see)/smoke, and mirrors to me.”
  • “Dear Sergio” has the lyrics and extra verse like the version recorded by BOTAR

Instead of the band’s thank-you’s, the end concluding track, “1234 1234” now has an obscured synthesized voice (think “Fitter Happier” amid loud music) explaining why the album was made. I have yet to locate a transcript of this online, probably because no one can hear all of the parts. The gist I can gather from several listenings is that the current Catch 22 band was going to re-release Keasbey sonically unchanged to make some easy dough. Tomas, as the computer voice says, offered to re-record it with them but they declined and so he went ahead and made this album, so fans would not be suckered into buying the same old album with a new cover. The computer voice also expresses regrets that due to budget reasons, they never got the first Keasbey to sound as nice as they wanted. As mentioned, that rawness turned into a strength, but it is obvious nonetheless.

Honestly, even if, as some pro-new-Catch22-losers have said, Streetlight made this for financial reasons, who can blame them? After they were robbed on their last European tour, they basically lost everything they had and went into deep debt.

When I first listened to this, I liked it but thought it just wasn’t the same, wasn’t the original. I had listened to the original so many times I knew every beat, every pause, and I didn’t like the changes. However, thirty or so listens later, I find myself choosing it over the original. My guess is because it’s new. I think in a few years when I have memorized this version to the same level as the original, I will probably prefer the original, albeit by a narrow margin.

Purists may always prefer the original, but at least they can admit this is a successful re-recording that doesn’t ruin it. It’s different, not worse. I definitely recommend this album to any Catch 22 or Streetlight fans as well as any young ska punks who have yet to hear of any of this great material.

Retail Price: $11 (Interpunk)

My Rating: $20

Priceless for Catch 22 fans and if you just returned from a 10 year expedition to Antarctica and don’t own the original then dare I blasphemously say it, maybe buy this first.

Concert Review – Streetlight Manifesto

16 June 2005 @ Mr. Smalls (Pittsburgh, PA)

There seems to be a lack of press about Streetlight Manifesto which is a shame. On the net all I read is the same two paragraphs that their record label wrote to describe their sound and the story behind them, an oh-so-clever bit you can read here. Because of this lack of info, I decided to post my impressions of them as well as a review of their recent show at Mr. Small’s Funhouse in my wonderful hometown of Pittsburgh.

Kids in the know recognize the name Tomas Kalnoky as the nasal-voiced genius behind Catch 22’s Keasbey Nights, a ska-punk masterpiece that I still consider the pinnacle of the form and an album that has the distinction of being on my all-time Top 10. After Keasbey‘s success made Catch 22 way too big to fit into the Garden State’s infamous ska scene, the stresses of touring became too much for Kalnoky, who wanted a real life, to do human stuff, and to go to art and design school like a regular kid. So he passed the mic to a replacement, and Catch 22 toured off the success of his songs for the next few years, releasing a dismal follow-up to Keasbey that I won’t even endorse by naming and maybe a third album but it doesn’t matter. They only are still around because of the Keasbey songs. I saw the post-Kalnoky band twice, both with different lineups. Basically they are a cover band. Their new songs are only average, but competent mediocrity goes a long way in the punk scene so they are probably recording another album as I type. Whatever.

This show was part of Streetlight’s “last tour for awhile,” where they wanted to make sure everyone who was so inclined got a chance to see them before they went into reclusion to record a follow-up disc.

As I have read about and witnessed, Kalnoky usually dismisses requests for (his) Catch 22 songs with a bit of humor (“Catch 22? Is that a book?”) that likely conceals some serious bitterness (one line on the album: “If you hate me so much then stop singing my songs”). However, this time, he not only indulged in some recognition from his Catch 22 glory, he even incorporated it into the set. During Point/Counterpoint the band jumped into the middle of Keasbey Nights, which was not only fitting because the songs are near sequels of each other but also pretty damn cool to see. And he did this not once, but twice, inserting 9mm and a Three Piece Suit into the middle Everything Goes Numb. Those two moments were worth the price of admission.

The band played most of their only album, including “We Are the Few,” my personal favorite. The crowd was basically all fans as the opening bands were unknowns in Pittsburgh so overall it was a very enjoyable experience. The album, which, as expected, features a mature Kalnoky crafting some excellent arrangements, borrowing from influences as diverse as Eastern European folk music. As I noted, it is chock full of references to Keasbey Nights and any Catch 22 fan will likely love it, as will anyone looking for a break from the derivative slop that makes up most new music in general, and punk especially.

Streetlight Manifesto Live Review

16 June 2005 @ Mr. Smalls (Pittsburgh, PA)

There seems to be a lack of press about Streetlight Manifesto which is a shame. On the net all I read is the same two paragraphs that the record label wrote to describe their sound and the story behind them, an oh-so-clever bit you can read here. Because of this lack of info, I decided to post my impressions of them as well as a review of their recent show at Mr. Small’s Funhouse in my wonderful hometown of Pittsburgh.

Kids in the know recognize the name Tomas Kalnoky as the nasal-voiced genius behind Catch 22’s Keasbey Nights, a ska-punk masterpiece that I still consider the pinnacle of the form and has the distinction of being on my all-time Top 10 Albums list. After Keasbey‘s success made Catch 22 way too big to fit into the Garden State’s infamous ska scene, the stresses of touring became too much for Kalnoky, who wanted a real life, to do human stuff, and to go to art and design school like a regular kid. So he passed the mic to a replacement, and Catch 22 toured off the success of his songs for the next few years, releasing a dismal follow-up to Keasbey that I won’t even endorse by naming and maybe a third album but it doesn’t matter. They only are still around because of the Keasbey songs. I saw the post-Kalnoky band twice, both with different lineups. Basically they are a cover band. Their new songs are only average, but competent mediocrity goes a long way in the punk scene so they are probably recording another album as I type. Whatever.

This show was part of Streetlight’s “last tour for awhile,” where they wanted to make sure everyone who was so inclined got a chance to see them before they went into reclusion to record a follow-up disc.

As I have read about and witnessed, Kalnoky usually dismisses requests for (his) Catch 22 songs with a bit of humor (“Catch 22? Is that a book?”) that likely conceals some serious bitterness (one line on the album: “If you hate me so much then stop singing my songs”). However, this time, he not only indulged in some recognition from his Catch 22 glory, he even incorporated it into the set. During Point/Counterpoint the band jumped into the middle of Keasbey Nights, which was not only fitting because the songs are near sequels of each other but also pretty damn cool to see. And he did this not once, but twice, inserting 9mm and a Three Piece Suit into the middle Everything Goes Numb. Those two moments were worth the price of admission.

The band played most of their only album, including “We Are the Few,” my personal favorite. The crowd was basically all fans as the opening bands were unknowns in Pittsburgh so overall it was a very enjoyable experience. The album, which, as expected, features a mature Kalnoky crafting some excellent arrangements, borrowing from influences as diverse as Eastern European folk music. As I noted, it is chock full of references to Keasbey Nights and any Catch 22 fan will likely love it, as will anyone looking for a break from the derivative slop that makes up most new music in general, and punk especially.

Band site: http://www.streetlightmanifesto.com/

Mad Cows, Mad Republicans

Republican shame. The lesson: those who will do whatever it takes to win will, over time, come to dominate — unless they are weeded out by a critical, angry population. So much for the U.S.

And, in an unrelated story: as I’ve told Baby Bobby many times, there is no such thing as Mad Tofu. As for the rest of you, beware.