Pittsburgh Restaurant Scene
When someone mentions Monroeville, what comes to mind- traffic, car dealers, new UPMC building, more traffic, chain restaurants? All of those are correct answers. Nothing personal to anyone who works or lives in Monroeville, but if D and I have a choice, we avoid going there at all costs. So, when my friend Joe Bello mentioned he was opening a new restaurant we were less than thrilled when he told us it would be located in Monroeville.
However, after dining at the Wooden Nickel the hassle associated with Monroeville became a non-issue. The Wooden Nickel is more than enough to make these ‘northerners’ take the 30-minute trek on 376 without a second thought.
I have known Joe since 2003, we both graduated from Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. We fell out of touch for a few years, but thankfully Facebook and our shared love of Fantasy Football was able to help us reconnect. Joe has worked at The Capital Grille as the Sous Chef and he was the Executive Chef at Ditka’s when it opened in Robinson Twp. Joe, like a lot of people (myself included) left the kitchen for a few years just from the beating we take while on the line. But Joe is a glutton for punishment and when he had the opportunity to become the Executive Chef and General Manager of The Wooden Nickel he jumped at the chance. Joe takes cooking very seriously, he is a member of the ACF (American Culinary Federation- look it up) and just this past year became a member of the Chaines de Rotissuers whose members include many of the greatest chefs in the world.
Now, let me first state that when D and I go out for a family dinner (D and her Mom, Myself, my Mom, Dad and Sister) we have to put careful thought in to where we go because my mom and sister are picky eaters. So usually we go to a chain restaurant (ugh). Since this was dinner for my birthday I had the final say. I shot Joe a text and asked if he could reserve us a table and he said, ‘of course’. The Wooden Nickel is located off William Penn Highway in Monroeville, right behind Denny’s. It’s a good-sized restaurant holding around 180 people. The restaurant has been around for over 40 years and needed some tender loving care. Joe has done an amazing job fixing the joint up. The menu here is good size, plenty of apps, specialty salads, pastas, steaks and seafood (he has all the basics covered). I would say his “signature dish” would be the scallops and stuffed shrimp in vanilla bean rum and butter sauce. It sounds like an odd combination, but trust us it works well, everyone loved it! The restaurant has a full service bar, private dining room, outdoor patio and plenty of parking.
We sat down and the server brought us over our favorite bottle of wine!! (Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Eroica Reisling) Joe had bought it as a present to me, very thoughtful of him! We ordered some apps, and went with the Spinach Artichoke Dip and the Bruschetta. Both classic and old school, but done with care. You won’t find foams, sous vide, or any sort of “molecular gastronomy” here. They take classic dishes and execute them perfectly, as they should be. Steaks are cooked impeccably, seafood is flawless and every thing is seasoned properly.
We then had salads, flavorful, and fresh, accompanied with tasty dressings complementing each very well. For our entrees D and her mom went with the Filet Oscar and both were delighted. My sister went with the Chicken Parm, which she loved! My dad ordered Joe’s Signature dish and said that’s the only thing he is going to order any time we eat there. My mom ordered her filet well done (which I know is a crime against beef, but that’s how she wants it) and it was cooked to her liking, plus it was still juicy (not easy to do). I went with the English style Cod and Scallops, great chunk of fish and 3 jumbo scallops cooked perfectly!
Now for Desserts (which Joe knew we were going to order!) they brought us a giant platter of all the desserts they were featuring that night. Key Lime Cheesecake, Chocolate Lava Cake, Carrot Cake, Pear Cheesecake, and Pecan Pie, it was so enticing we didn’t even think to take a picture of it, (oops!) we did take a picture of an empty plate to show what was left though.
The Wooden Nickel hosts wine dinners, live music, great happy hour specials (Monday-Friday 5pm-7pm), they bring in magicians to perform during specialty dinners (Joe is also an avid magic fan). Joe is such a crazy bastard that he was even open on THANKSGIVING DAY! Which landed him on the local news. He hosted an awesome home cooked meal for those who didn’t feel like cooking for themselves. You are also able to join the Loyalty Royalty Program, which when you spend $500.00 you earn a $50.00 gift card (not many places offer any thing like this). They have just recently started putting videos on YouTube, showing recipes and what not.
So, now there is finally something worth driving to Monroeville for, and our buddy Joe will be there waiting for you! This restaurant is worth the trip, especially if you are dining with people who are not easy to please.
The Wooden Nickel
also on Facebook
4006 Berger Lane
Monroeville, PA 15146
Kitchen closes 1 hour prior to above times.