In case you haven’t already heard, Kevin Sousa’s Salt of the Earth won three of Pittsburgh Magazine’s special awards in its annual Best Restaurants issue. The restaurant was awarded Best New Restaurant and Delicious Design, and Sousa won Chef of the Year.
And I’m going to give you the chance to enjoy his food for free at Pittsburgh Magazine’s annual Best Restaurants Party, along with bites from dozens of other 25 Best and Reader’s Poll winners.
But first I’m going to pontificate, because I have one word to say about Sousa’s success: YAY.
I’ll start with two confessions. The first is that I’m just about the last person to try a new restaurant. Scheidt and I tend to go out to dinner when we’re tired; when we’re firing on all cylinders, we want to cook! We cook for friends at our place and gather at friends’ homes for communal meals. On the occasions when we do plan a dinner out, we’re apt to return to a well-known place for a favorite dish.
And this is because of my second confession, the one that is sad but true: We tend to stay on the beaten path because restaurant food is so often disappointing. When you have limited time and limited funds, there’s nothing worse than a lackluster restaurant meal wasted.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think a fantastic restaurant meal is well worth the cost. After all, you’re getting the food itself, usually prepared in ways that you wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do at home. You’re getting attentive service by someone who knows what they are talking about. You get to share a table in a unique environment that shakes up your daily routine in the most welcome way. And you don’t have to do dishes.
The 25 Best Restaurants fit this bill. These are mostly the kinds of places where the meal is the star of the evening. You want to order a bottle of wine, stuff yourself with three or four courses to soak up said wine, and spend the whole evening laughing around your table without worrying about post-dinner plans.
That’s all great.
And also just a giant preamble to why I’m so happy for Kevin and the whole staff at Salt. They’ve created a great restaurant that is so much more than just that.
(Fangirl alert. Fair warning.)
- Eating at Salt of the Earth is not just a great meal out. It’s an adventure that includes all that other nice restaurant stuff as a bonus. This is not Sunday dinner for Grandma. Finally.
- Food doesn’t have to always be the same. Making delicious chicken parmesan is a noble pursuit – I love chicken parmesan! – but it’s hard to make it more than just delicious.
- That said, there’s a difference between a perfectly delicious restaurant meal and a work of art. At Salt of the Earth, you’re getting art. The level of decision-making and personal attention that has gone into each dish is obvious.
- When you make art, you have to accept that some people just won’t like it, and Sousa does that with panache… perhaps even relish. In a world of media training and talking points, Sousa is authentic and unafraid to take a stand. His sometimes-incendiary blog of years past is gone, but the chalkboard still says it all: “No substitutions.”
- Stand taken, Sousa’s a** can cash the checks his mouth is writing. There’s a reason he put those ingredients together, promise.
- I’ve never had so many emotions inspired by food in one single meal. It starts with, “Your cocktails have what?!? in them?” and then “I don’t even know what that is,” followed by “Do I have the guts to try this?” Then there’s, “I need to man up and not order the chicken.” Fortunately, when the appetizers arrive, you switch to, “Whoa, this is gorgeous,” and then “Wow, the ___ actually goes with the ___! How is that possible?” A few courses later, you end with “I am stuffed. And impressed. And need a nap.”
- It might be New York urban food, but the prices are all Pittsburgh. Seriously. $24 for one of these entrees is a crazy steal. And for the record, I am a cheapskate. Just ask Scheidt about our camera debacle.
- There are so many other chefs eating at this restaurant. That’s like eating at the Chinese restaurant with actual Chinese people – you know it’s the real thing.
- It is good to challenge yourself. It is good to try something you think you don’t like. It is good to order something that you’ve never had before. And at Salt, they know that’s what you’re doing. They will take care of you. They actually want you to enjoy yourself.
- It’s ok not to like it. And if these kinds of food experiences don’t excite you, it’s totally fine not to go. That’s the point. This is a particular experience for people who crave it – an experience that was wholly lacking in Pittsburgh until Salt of the Earth opened. But if it’s not your thing, no problem.
And isn’t that the thing with food? There’s so much, you needn’t worry about the things you don’t like. It’s what I love about Pittsburgh in general. If you don’t love it, git aht, no hard feelings.
And now, since you’ve stuck around for 868 words of pontification, your giveaway:
I’m handing out a pair of tickets to the 22nd Annual Pittsburgh Magazine Best Restaurants Party. It’s Monday, June 6, from 6 – 8:30 pm at Heinz Field, with an after party across the way at the Rivers Casino. At least 55 restaurants will be there, and trust me, 55 tastes = you are so stuffed you never want to eat again. (Don’t worry, that feeling passes.) A portion of proceeds benefit WQED.
- Leave a comment below about your favorite Pittsburgh restaurant, the one you return to again and again.
- Make sure to use your real email address, because otherwise I won’t be able to reach you if you win. (Email addresses are never, ever published on the site, so you are always safe from spammers.)
- You must leave your comment by 11:59 p.m. EST, Wednesday, June 1, 2011. I will email the winner Thursday morning. If you don’t respond by Friday at noon, tough noogies: the tickets are going to someone else.
- Only one entry per commenter.
- If you aren’t able to go to the party, you’re still free to comment because I want the party ideas. But please say in your comment that you don’t want to be in the contest so I can pick a different winner. It would be a shame for these tickets to go to waste!
The giveaway is sponsored by Pittsburgh Magazine, but no one paid me off for all the Kevin Sousa fawning fangirl blathering. That’s 100% me.