Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zen and the Art of Happy Hour

Last night was the one night this week in which I had no meetings/volunteering/or events scheduled after work. What was I going to do with this free night? I was going to yoga!

I was, that is, until I was invited to a happy hour after work to celebrate the Artist, and her starting the Public Allies Pittsburgh Program next week. You win happy hour, you always do…

Anyways, we were celebrating with drinks at AVA in East Liberty. AVA is connected to the Shadow Lounge, and has been one of my favorite bars in Pittsburgh, since…gosh, since I could start going to bars.

The Shadow Lounge is fantastic. Besides having a ridiculously friendly staff, there’s something going on almost every night of the week. Live jazz, Titletown, I even sang karaoke there once, and those who know me know I NEVER sing karaoke (It was “Be my Baby” by the Ronettes for the record).

And now, NOW, they have a fantastic food menu on top of all that.

Confession: I like to eat. (It’s why I run.) So I feel I know what I’m talking about when I tell you that the food here is amazing. Awesome. Delectable! Enough positive adjectives don’t exist to explain how good the food is.

Tuesday’s are seviche night. We were lucky enough to be served an order, and I was lucky enough to have the foresight half-way through to say “Wait! You guys! Let me take a picture before it’s all gone!

I am not a food critic, so I won’t tell how the flavors danced across my palate or anything like that. What I will tell you is this; the food is simply good, unpretentious, and obviously prepared from fresh ingredients. What I will tell you, is that my one coworker hates fish. Refuses to eat it ever. The Artist has been a vegetarian since she was 9. Yet, they both L-O-V-E-D the seviche. In a word? It was delightful.

Chef Fernando Espejel – the man behind the delightful seviche, was nice enough to hang out with us for a while. Espejel got his start in the business at his family’s restaurant in Mexico City, called La Vici, which translates to The Bicycle, and was called such because his grandfather originally started the business by selling tacos on a bike. So not only is the food great, it’s authentic.

Beyond cooking at AVA/The Shadow Lounge, Chef Espejel plans to start a food cart, which will be coming to a neighborhood near you in the next couple weeks. The cart will feature a couple different options including fresh juices and fast lunches.

“To have fast food, you don’t need to go to McDonalds,” says Espejel. Awesome.

“If I could have this for lunch, I would feel like a goddess!” exclaimed my coworker Regina. Truth. I can’t wait for him to bring the cart to the Southside.

So if you haven’t been to AVA yet to eat, do yourself a favor and check out the menu. Or better yet, give me a call and we’ll go.

I may have missed out on finding inner peace at yoga, but it’s safe to say I found Zen in good company, enchanting food, and a couple glasses of cabernet.

Group shot with AVA owner Justin Strong, and Chef Fernando Espejel.

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