Pittsburgh Blue knows how to rock a steak
You know what your average steakhouse needs? A little joie de vivre. A touch of lightheartedness. Not a crazy carnival of forced Fun! Fun! Fun!, just a genuine smile to cut through the stuffiness and a little something in the atmosphere that says, "Undo that collar button, loosen that tie, kick off your heels under the table, don't worry about which fork you use. It's going to be a nice evening."
And that is exactly what Pittsburgh Blue has. It's the sort of place that brings your blood pressure down about 10 percent after a tough day and makes your shoulder blades creep back down from around your ears. And while the crowd is pretty universally well-heeled, there are options for nearly everyone: You can splash out on steak, order a not-astronomically priced burger, or eat a full meal of super-cheap (as in $2, $3, and $5) happy hour specials. And it's all pretty good.
If the Galleria Pittsburgh Blue opened without any glitches in the kitchen or any lapses in service—and it did, at least without any problems visible from the tables—that's because this team has had lots of practice. The Maple Grove location has been lowering blood pressure and relaxing shoulder blades since 2007. And, of course, the Parasole restaurant group has been serving steaks in the stuffier Manny's since the late 1980s. This is Parasole's strong suit—and Edina's Galleria is the company's natural home.
Just as at the first location, the Galleria Pittsburgh Blue sticks to the steakhouse script: showy six-inch knives with fat blades at every place setting; baskets of hot, airy dinner rolls glistening with butter; sides you never eat anywhere else except at a steakhouse, like green beans amandine and creamed spinach. You won't, however, find the dinner-at-grandma's-house meatloaf and baked chicken specials that the Maple Grove location has championed as "Tender Prices for Tough Times." (Maybe times aren't as tough in Edina? Maybe Parasole knows something we don't about the truth of those economic forecasts?)
Those of us solidly in the 99 percent, however, will find plenty of luxury on the Blue Tavern menu (you might have to ask for this if you don't sit in the bar area). Most of it is under 15 bucks. There's a French dip made indulgently with very thinly shaved prime rib—so pink that I believe it had been introduced to the heat of the stove but they had not become intimately acquainted. There's a tenderloin steak sandwich reminiscent of a Philly cheesesteak, but better, because of the sweet and flavorful roasted red peppers. There's a very good burger served with thick and meaty fries, and even a little mini steak frites for $13.95. ($13.95!) But, oh, the sweet, tender, and delectable scallop and short rib sliders—like a messy poor man's surf and turf—these may take the prize.
If even that breaks the budget—or if your budget contains serious line items for alcohol—get the happy hour menu (available 3 to 6 p.m. and late night). Steer clear of the rather bland fish taco and the gooey-salty lettuce wraps, but otherwise, have at it and enjoy: pulled pork sliders that are just sweet and saucy enough, with delicate, flavorful onion strings; fat slices of grilled cheese on brioche for dipping in a thick Tomato-Brie Fondue (like we wish Campbell's Soup might be); a big bowl of fresh and crispy veggie chips (love the lotus root); and the Wimpy Burger, which is like a fast-food burger redeemed: a three- or four-ounce patty, flat as a pancake, on a very soft sesame bun. So unassuming and comforting. The perfect bite to go with a Pepin Smash (Jim Beam, apple cider, ginger, and other spices).
On the main list of appetizers, the showstopper is the Scallops Benedict—three lovely scallops arrayed on thick toasted brioche and coated with an expert Hollandaise sauce. Sounds ridiculously huge and filling for an appetizer, right? Well, it is. Good thing it is also offered as an entrée at lunch.
More appropriate and only slightly less decadent ways to start you meal might be with Pittsburgh Blue's signature onion rings, sliced as thick as bangles, with a fair dose of pepper in the crust, or maybe the creamy crab cakes and the very good, slightly spicy tuna tartar, scooped up with crispy chips.
But, oh, right, the steak. We're here for the steak. One of our servers took great pride in telling us that Pittsburgh Blue "has the same meat guy" as Manny's. Manny's is known for serving perfectly aged and carefully selected beef. At this more down-to-earth outpost, the steak doesn't roll up to you on a cart for you to choose as it does at Manny's, but the quality is still there: tender, with a lovely grain, a good color, and just enough beefy flavor. Ours came to the table hot and cooked just the way we ordered it.
The brave are offered the chance to order their steaks "Pittsburgh blue"—charred on the outside, ice cold on the inside. Dear reader, there are a lot of things I will eat in the name of culinary open-mindedness, but that noble cow did not die in order to have its precious flesh desecrated in this way. I confess I did not try it and could not convince any of my dining companions to sacrifice their meal for me.
As for whether you should bring your pescatarian friends...weeeellll, sure. Why not. But they won't eat quite as well as you will. The fish offerings (there are, it goes without saying, no vegetarian or vegan options beyond green salads) aren't bad, but they aren't what they could be. The texture of the walleye and the salmon wasn't quite right, as if they had been frozen, and the pistachio crust on the walleye needed to amp up the flavor about five notches. But the tuna steak was exactly as it should be—seared on the outside, chilled on the inside, flavorful, and fork-tender.
Desserts at Pittsburgh Blue are an over-the-top extravaganza. When the menu warns you that the brownie, key lime pie, and crustless cheesecake serve eight, this is not a typo. Each has the proportions of a good-sized layer cake. And all of these, if you can convince your dining companions to join in, are entirely worth it.
It might not be until you finish that key lime pie that the realization sneaks up on you: That music (playing perhaps a bit too loudly), a lot of it has been '80s New Wave. That right there is Pittsburgh Blue's target market: Gen-Xers who've made it.
I haven't spent a lot of time in Lake Minnetonka mansions, but Pittsburgh Blue's decor is what the inside of a Lake Minnetonka mansion looks like in my head: comfortable and solid; up-to-date but not cutting edge; big on the sturdy, dark wood, but not ponderously so. It's a lot like the Gabbert's furniture showroom down the hall in the Galleria, except for the outsized bull's head mounted on the exposed brick.
The rest of the artwork—arresting large-scale photos—is in homage to the Pittsburgh steelworkers (who apparently liked to eat their meat "cooked" in that bizarre way). It's a little disconcerting to eat a $35 steak under the careworn visages of men and women who did dangerous, backbreaking work for their wages. Even more so, perhaps, because these photos are the only somber touches in a restaurant that otherwise manages to hit just the right lighthearted, genuine notes. Is Pittsburgh Blue revolutionary or game-changing in any way? No, but that's not the point. Is any single menu item better than absolutely everywhere else? I wouldn't say so. But the whole package is one that's going to do very well, especially in the Galleria.
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