Pittsburgh Restaurant Scene
It took us a longer than expected, but we finally made it to Bar Marco. Housed in the old Firehouse building in the Strip District in the former spot where Embury was. The dining room/bar is beautiful; incredibly-high ceiling, modern dim lighting, small bar, a few paintings on the walls and plenty of wine bottles that serve as art pieces. All together there is seating for around 30 people inside and a few tables on the sidewalk, weather permitting. If you are able to score a barstool take it, the bartenders here really put on an amazing show the way they craft each cocktail. Bartending is an art, same as cooking and when they are done right it can be magic (yes, they do both the right way here!). I highly recommend making reservations before heading down, I think we got very lucky grabbing a 2 top table on a Saturday night with no wait. A little luck never hurt anybody. The menu here is small and simple, a few apps, a meat and cheese board, 4-5 entrees and 2 desserts. Drink list is nice and compact as well, 8-10 cocktails, with a good selection of some natural lesser-known wines. Wines are great, D and I can always enjoy a nice glass of red or white, but you are not doing yourself any favors if you come here and stick with just wine; the cocktails are the main event.
The mission here is simple; awesome cocktails, natural wines, and serve locally sourced food. That is exactly what they do.
For our drink order D ordered the Swiggle (any time a restaurant bar features Wigle Whiskey in its cocktails we tend to order them.) this contained Wigle Wheat, lime, pineapple and falernum (google it). It was bright and refreshing. I ordered the Winter Is Coming; white port, applejack, rye falernum and orgeat. This was assertive and warming. Loved the cocktails and they really went well with all of the food we ordered.
I love the food that head chef Jamilka is sending out of the kitchen. When I call the food “simple” I mean this in the nicest possible way; the flavors are clean, you can identify everything on the plate, all ingredients work perfectly together. You could even call the food rustic, but eh, I feel rustic describes houses and furniture, not food. We always want to try as much as possible so we tend to just order a bunch of apps to share and maybe split an entrée. We started with the small Meat&Cheese Board, it has 2 types of salami, 2 cheeses, mustard, bread, pickled onions and a fruit jam.
We then enjoyed the Arancini (fried risotto balls) stuffed with mushrooms and goat cheese; we ate tons of these when we were in Rome, Bar Marco’s were as good as some and better than most. We are huge fans of Brussels sprouts, especially when they are fried. This was my favorite dish, fried tender Brussels then tossed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. So simple but so flavorful! We could have ordered 2 more bowls of those bad boys.
We also split the Charred Octopus entrée, chunks of leg meat over cauliflower puree and a saffron sauce. The octopus was a little bit chewier than it should be but the flavor was great and the puree and sauce matched very well.
For dessert we just ordered the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, served with chocolate ganache, crumbled hazelnuts and smoked salt. The cake was delicious but the ganache with hazelnuts and salt was what really stood out.
We have to apologize for the photos the lighting is very dim, but we refuse to distract other diners with a bright flash! We hope you can still make everything out easily enough.
Even though it took us a while to get down here, it was definitely worth the wait, we plan on dining here as much as possible. Our next trip here will be for brunch; we have heard nothing but great things about the brunch here. If you are up for something different visit here on Mondays; they host No Menu Monday where guest chefs come in and prepare different meals to enjoy. They also host special feature dinners here on occasion. The service is great, they answer any question you have and make sure you have everything you may need. It was attentive but not intrusive. Loved the service as much as the food and drink. We will be back here, very soon.
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2216 Penn Avenue
Pgh, PA 15222
Brunch served Sat&Sun- 10am-3pm