One of the most surprising restaurants in the south side is the Double Wide Grill. From the image they present, I don’t expect much. I expect fairly standard fair without a great beer selection and a limited selection of grossly unhealthy barbecue. Turns out, the exact opposite is true: the Double Wide has (DW) an unexpectedly large (and tasteful draft selection) and even has a very tasteful menu. What’s more surprising, they list several vegetarian options that make clever use of tofu and seitan in some classically meat-based barbecue dishes.
The Double Wide Grill
2339 E Carson St
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Two Thursday’s ago, I bumped into the DW’s bar manager while out with some friends. Inspired, I made a point to stop out there a week later. I had been there before but wanted to give the place another try with a write-up for this site in mind. What follows is my take on the situation. With any luck, I’ll be able to get in touch with the bar manager for an interview to follow up.
The atmosphere. I like laid back image the DW presents. That’s significant, bcause, underestimating the impact of atmosphere is impossible. You can have fun despite so-so food and limited beer options, but a bad server or an uncomfortable setting can quickly destroy any experience. The DW is decorated with a ye-old gas station feel and presents it’s menu in fun, anything-but-pretentious language. They love an understatement and devote a section of their menu to “make your own TV dinners.” I love any restaurant (or person) that paints themself at a slightly lower bar than reality and lets you form your own conclusions. I find it very effective and try to lead my own life in much the same way. Bottom line: the DW scores high points for atmosphere.
The waitstaff. In some sense, atmosphere and waitstaff are almost completely intertwined. That having been said, I felt the slightest amount of discomfort with our waiter. He was nice, attentive, and fun—so fun that I really got the sense he was trying to hard. My compatriot in dining (i.e., “friend of FoodBurgh”) wasn’t nearly so rough on his performance, but I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy about it. Overall, the issue isn’t worth complaining about. Service still gets high marks.
My meal. Because I’m a dork, I ordered a Californ-i-a Salad. Yes, the waiter pronounced it with a long “i” and “a.” The main toppings for this one were avacado and portabello mushroom with an unwelcome appearance from some red grapes (more on that later). The salad was substantial–enough lettuce that it fit idea of a high quality salad, but plenty of flavor packed into what I would call “lightly marianated” portobellos: they had some flavor but still packed a nice mushroom flavor in big enough slices to offer up some texture.
A gripe on grapes. The salad really only had one problem: grapes. What do I mean? My feelings here are entirely personal preference, but I just don’t like grapes in my salads. Neither their form factor or their flavor is amenable to a salad. Granted, the salad was prepared as advertised: the menu clearly lists grapes as an option. Even so, I ordered the Californ-i-a because it had some other stuff I wanted to see. My expectation was something more along the lines of a similar salad from Mad Mex. This salad was fairly similar–plus some (unwanted) grapes. A accompanying friend mentioned that some tangy cheese would have done nicely to offset them, and I think she’s right. In any case, I’ll stop griping now; you all get my point.
Did I mention the ‘bellos? As much as I really didn’t agree with the grapes, I was impressed with the marinated portobellos. I’ve had many similar salads with drippy and/or greasy portobellos that are probably hugely unhealthy and just don’t taste very much like mushrooms. My salad’s ‘bellos had a surprisingly light marinade with plenty of remaining texture and impressive mushroom flavor. Big points for that one.
And the beer? Beer is obviously a big selling point for the DW. I tried a single beer while I was there: the Siberian Nights Stout from Thirsty Dog. Having sampled most of the available brews from Southampton at the aforementioned tasting, I tried this one for no other reason than aiming for something new. I can’t say it was anything to write home about (and, quite frankly, I let far too much time pass between consumption and writing). For that reason, I’ll hold off on the review (and leave that to Jeff Bearer).
The final take. I’m a big fan of the Double Wide Grill. I like their menu. I like their atmosphere. I like their awareness of the vegetarians and health-conscious in the crowd. Most especially, I like their commendable efforts to keep large draft selection and a willingness to keep it in flux. If you’re encouraged by any of that, then give them a try. The only reason I don’t go more often than I do is a desire to keep on trying something different. So go; give it a try.