Saturday, November 5, 2011

'Burgh Bits & Bites Food Tour: Dormont

Dormont, Pittsburgh, PA
Dormont, PA: Incorporated in 1909
The guy playing guitar is musician Slim Bryant

Two weeks ago I attended a special bloggers' preview of the Dormont edition of the 'Burgh Bits & Bites Food Tour, led by Culinary Cory.  Dormont - which I learned was the first incorporated suburb of Pittsburgh - was one area of town that had always seemed mysterious to me, if only because I had never been there and knew nothing about it.  I was therefore excited for the opportunity to explore a new part of town.

First surprise:  According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the mean age of Dormont residents is only 36.  For a town that is over 100 years old, it certainly attracts a young crowd!

Second surprise:  While Dormont is not very big, there is a lot of good food to be had.  Below I describe the stops along our tour, but note that some of the stops were specially arranged for this particular visit and may not be on the regular tour.

Stop #1:  Potomac Bakery

Potomac Bakery is a family-owned business now run by third-generation bakers and with a second location in Mount Lebanon.  The little shop was old school in a cute way.  We didn't get to spend much time there, but were allowed to choose a Thumbprint Cookie to taste.  I selected a chocolate one with Hallowe'en sprinkles:

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookie at Potomac Bakery
Chocolate Thumbprint Cookie at Potomac Bakery

Stop #2:  Dormont Dogs

We then hit up Dormont Dogs, which is a hole-in-the-wall kind of place with very limited seating indoors and two picnic tables out front.  Here, we got to taste the Texas Avenue Dog, which is a chili dog topped with fritos, cheese, and sour cream, with perfectly-toasted buns from Potomac Bakery.  And this dog was pretty much ridiculously good.  Dormont Dogs was also nice enough to accommodate the lone vegetarian among us with a Bruschetta Dog.  This was definitely one of my favorite stops on this tour.

Texas Avenue Dog at Dormont Dogs
Texas Avenue Dog at Dormont Dogs

Stop #3:  Hollywood Theater

Not a food stop, but we got a tour of the non-profit, community-oriented Hollywood Theater in the heart of Dormont. One unique aspect about Hollywood Theater is that it has balcony seating, and the seats are large and cushy with plenty of leg room.  Some are even like sofas.

Inside the Hollywood Theater
Concession Stand at the Hollywood Theater

Inside the Hollywood Theater
Cute. :)

As evidence of its community focus, area high school students were invited to decorate the inside of the theater with Hallowe'en props.  There were also displays of art all around the lobby area.

Inside the Hollywood Theater
Hallowe'en display inside the Hollywood Theater

Stop #4:  Don Campiti's Pizzeria

We then headed over to Don Campiti's Pizzeria and had a pizza tasting.  Don Campiti's doesn't use plates; individual slices of pizza are served on wax paper, or in a paper bag for a to-go order.

Pizza at Don Campiti's Pizzeria
Pizza at Don Campiti's Pizzeria

Stop #5:  Fredo's Market

Fredo's Market, run by husband-wife team Sadik and Mediha Cehic, was one of the longer stops we had.  The little market looks small from the outside, but there is a fairly cozy and spacious seating area in the back that I never would have guessed was there.  With free wifi, this could make a nice hangout spot.  We sat down for our tasting of the Spinach and Feta Pita Swirl, a traditional Bosnian food, homemade by Mediha, including the dough which is stretched thin like phyllo and takes many hours of work.  I quite enjoyed this fluffy and tasty pita swirl.  Their other specialty is cevapi, which we didn't get to try but sounded interesting.

Spinach and Feta Pita Swirl at Fredo's Market
Spinach and Feta Pita Swirl at Fredo's Market

Owner Sadik then spent some time with us talking about their history.  He and his wife escaped the war-torn former Yugoslavia in 1994 to the United States to start a new life.  He worked tirelessly in the hotel industry and then in the cleaning business until this past year when they saw an ad for the sale of Fredo's Market on Craigslist and decided to fulfill his wife's longtime dream of opening a restaurant.  Their goal for Fredo's is to offer a variety of food from Europe, both from their own country and others nearby, and they want customers to feel like they have choices.  They also make an effort to support local businesses by using their products such as the buns and meats.  It was very interesting to learn about the Cehics' background and hear them talk about their vision; it is clear that they are passionate about their work and grateful for this life they have here.  Me, I am grateful that they are bringing southern European culture into our backyards.

Fredo's Market's owner Sadik
Fredo's Market's owner Sadik Cehic.

Stop #6:  Sugar Cafe

Our next stop was Sugar Cafe, one place that has been on my wishlist for some time, which also ended up being one of my favorite stops on this tour.  Owner Kelly James has been part of the Pittsburgh restaurant scene for 21 years, most recently as Sonoma Grille's pastry chef, before opening up her own shop this past February.  In addition to pastries, Sugar Cafe serves up sandwiches, salads, and soups, and offers free wifi.  With bread being the only exception, everything at Sugar Cafe is housemade.  For this visit, we got to select a cupcake for our tasting.  Going along with the fall theme, I picked the Pumpkin Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing, and it was moist, flavorful, and just plain crazy good.  I will be back for sure.

Pumpkin Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing at Sugar Cafe
Pumpkin Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing at the Sugar Cafe

Stop #7:  Beyond Bedtime Books

Our final stop was a specially-arranged visit to Beyond Bedtime Books, where country music great and Dormont's own Slim Bryant used to teach guitar in the basement.  Cory had arranged a tasting for us here of the delicious Subarashii Kudamono Asian Pear Wine, made from Asian pears grown right here in Pennsylvania, and may be found at any Pennsylvania Premium Collection Wine and Spirits Stores.

Subarashii Kudamodo Asian Pear Wine
Subarashii Kudamono Asian Pear Wine

We also got a little souvenir to take home - an Asian pear - which I enjoyed the following day.

Asian Pears
Subarashii Kudamono Asian Pears 

All in all, it was another fun tour with 'Burgh Bits & Bites.  I cannot think of a better way to explore a neighborhood than meeting the people who pour their hearts and souls into their community and sampling their food.

The Dormont food tour is available to the public once a month on Saturdays for $35 per person, but private tours are available for just $31 per person if you can gather six people or more.

Check out the other bloggers who attended this tour:

Cooking For My Dad
Motor City Girl in the Steel City
I heart PGH
Pittsburgh Food Scene
SeƱorita Cibulka
Yum Yum