Tag Archives: restaurants

Suzy, my friend! Curry chicken?

My favorite take-out place closed on December 31. I am devastated. I never thought I would live in a world without Zaw’s Asian Food (2110 Murray Avenue, Squirrel Hill.) I was a college freshman, working at the Green Grocer on Hobart Street when Sonny Lee, the manager, convinced me to try something other than white rice (I’m that kid that didn’t let their food touch.). The first thing he introduced me to was their curry chicken. I’ve eaten it at least once a month since 1995. And I’m not the only person, according to this recent Yelp review:

I am so upset about this [closing] I can’t even express it. The curry chicken here was my favorite thing to eat to the point where I would consider it as a last meal. It was a red spicy curry sauce with garlic and ginger and chicken broth. I will miss it so much.

Last meal indeed. It is named Zaw’s Asian Food for a reason. Owners Marvin and Esther Lee are originally from Burma (Myanmar), so the food was never typical take-out; it was a little bit of everything. Through 20 years, 11 apartments, 6 boyfriends, 8 jobs, and 2 degrees, Zaw’s has been there. I live on the South Side. I willingly crossed a bridge for take-out. That’s some serious business. Not only did Sonny know what I wanted to order, he recognized my voice on the phone, he asked about my husband, he noticed weight loss and new haircuts! When I picked up my very last order, Sonny shook my hand and told me it had been a pleasure knowing me all of these years. His voice broke; I left in tears.

I sincerely hope the Lees have a wonderful retirement. And that they pass their recipes on to someone. I have a lead: Ron Lee, the owner of the Spice Island Tea House, is Mr. Lee’s nephew. Anyone have other ideas? I really don’t want to use these cookbooks. Let’s have lunch!

CompleteCurryBookComplete Curry Cookbook, Byron Ayanoglu and Jennifer MacKenzie

Authentic curries made easy. Curry is enjoyed throughout the world. This wonderful selection of curry recipes draws its inspiration from India, Thailand, China, England, Indonesia and the Caribbean. These quick, easy and tantalizing recipes feature ingredients found in supermarkets, yet the dishes maintain authentic tastes and flavors.

BurmaFlavors of Burma (Myanmar): Cuisine and Culture From the Land of Golden Pagodas, Susan Chan

Susan Chan depicts the culture and traditions of Burma, providing ample information on the Burmese market, commonly used ingredients, and eating and serving customs, explaining, for example, that Burmese eat with their fingertips. She also familiarizes her readers with the language, festivals, and principal cities of this country. Complete with b/w illustrations and photographs.

BurmaRIversBurma: Rivers of Flavor, Naomi Duguid

The best way to learn about an unfamiliar culture is through its food, and in Burma: Rivers of Flavor, readers will be transfixed by the splendors of an ancient and wonderful country, untouched by the outside world for generations, whose simple recipes delight and satisfy and whose people are among the most gracious on earth.

TheCurryBookThe Curry Book : A Celebration of Memorable Flavors and Irresistible Recipes, Nancie McDermott

Whatever its incarnation — in a lightly seasoned deviled egg, a cold chicken salad, or a spicy Indian- or Thai-style dish — curry is one of the most popular seasonings in the world. Nancie McDermott explores endless variations on the curry theme, from Jakarta to Senegal, Tokyo to Jamaica, and Sri Lanka to South Carolina. The result is an untraditional — and accessible — celebration

BigBookofCurriesThe Big Book of Curries: 365 Mouthwatering Recipes From Around the World, Sunil Vijayakar

The Big Book of Curries details the intricacies of these delicious dishes, from the numerous herbs and spices that flavor them to essential equipment and accompaniments. The recipes are organized by main ingredient–meat, poultry and eggs, fish, and shellfish–with a special section on vegetarian meals. Techniques for cooking the perfect rice are included, and there is even a selection of starters to prepare the palate. With these 365 recipes to try, an amazing culinary experience is only a few minutes away.

sad & hungry for curry,


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Pittsburgh Restaurants… In Your Kitchen!

Pittsburghers, you have to admit that our options for dining out have really exploded.  New restaurants are popping up left and right, and we are lucky to have so many great places to eat in our fair city!

But, as much as you might want to, it’s tough to dine out every night.  That’s where the library comes in handy.  Our extensive cookbook collection allows you to try out recipes that replicate the flavors of your favorite restaurants.

I have a group of suggestions below (in no particular order), but feel free to tell me what I might have missed in the comments.

If you like Downtown’s Meat & Potatoes and want to put a low-cal spin on comfort food, then try: Now Eat This! : 150 of America’s Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories by Rocco DiSpirito (also available in ebook).

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If you like Quiet Storm and want to introduce more meat-free meals into your life, then try How to Eat Like a Vegetarian Even if You Never Want to Be One: More Than 250 Shortcuts, Strategies, and Simple Solutions by Carol J. Adams.

How to Eat Like a Vegetarian Even if You Never Want to Be One: More Than 250 Shortcuts, Strategies, and Simple Solutions

If you like NOLA on the Square, then try: My New Orleans : The Cookbook : 200 of My Favorite Recipes & Stories from My Hometown by John Besh.

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If you like Osteria 2350 in the Strip District, then try some simple Italian cooking at home with Osteria: Hearty Italian Fare from Rick Tramonto’s Kitchen by Rick Tramonto.

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If you like Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, then try Easy Thai Cooking: 75 Family-style Dishes You Can Prepare in Minutes by Robert Danhi.

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If you like the South Side’s Yo Rita’s, then try Just Tacos : 100 Delicious Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner by Shelley Wiseman.

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If you like Max’s Allegheny Tavern or the Penn Brewery, then try Black Forest Cuisine: The Classic Blending of European Flavors by Walter Staib.

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Happy eating!



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The Waiting Ones

Oh, summer.  Long days, green trees, bright flowers, and a dog emphatically sniffing the dried refried beans on your shoes when you come home, hot and exhausted, after working a double in a Tex-Mex restaurant. For me, summer brings back memories of waiting tables. I spent  many of my high school, college and years beyond working in restaurants.  Some were summer jobs, some lasted longer.  I’ve  served food in small towns, big cities, breakfast places, diners, and corporate franchises.  The daily egg and bacon special, filet mignon, vegetarian souffles,  giant margaritas — I’ve delivered all of these things and more to tables of  hopeful, hungry diners.

I caffeine-buzzed my way through too many midnight shifts, waiting on the bar crowd, a crowd with a warped sense of time.“Where’s my food! I’ve been waiting forevveeerr!”  As a midnight shifter, I was also lucky enough to witness two drunk streakers racing through the all-night diner parking lot, which caused the restaurant to erupt in roll-on-the-floor laughter.

I’ve been a clumsy server.  I’ve spilled soda in laps and salsa down backs.  I’ve been left pennies, and worse,  no tip at all.   By the way, if you are thinking of stiffing a waitress, check out Jan Beatty’s poem – A Waitresses‘ Instructions on Tipping or Get the Cash Up and Don’t Waste My Time – in her poetry collection Mad River.  “Twenty percent minimum as long as the waitress doesn’t inflict bodily harm” is totally fair, my friends.

There are plenty of things I’d like to forget about waiting tables. But the best memories are courtesy of the colorful and entertaining co-workers.  So, below I’ve made a list of some quintessential server tropes, if you will. And yes, I’m generalizing for the sake of this post. I’ve met at least a couple versions of each of these folks, and remember them all fondly. Of course, the library has plenty of materials on waiting, some of which I have paired up below. So read on, and reminisce, commiserate or learn more about the art of waiting.

  • The one who works really hard and wants you to know it.  Arlene from True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse novels, anyone?
  • The one who absolutely cannot stand their colleague’s cigarette breaks and the counterpart, the one who is always on smoke break. Would one such smoker have been Anthony Bourdain, the chef?  Perhaps not, but check out his amazing memoir with a most candid look at the restaurant biz, Kitchen Confidential.
  • The one that never does their side work, but all the customers love them (probably because they spend all their time in the front-of-the-house).  As Tori Amos ponders in the song Waitress,  “Boys all think she’s living kindness… is her power all in her club sandwich?”
  • The two who conducted a hot and heavy romance but now hate each other and you dread seeing them on the schedule at the same time.   Deborah Ginsberg, author of the server  memoir Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, was much more mature about her workplace relationships.
  • The one who just wants to do their job and go home and is totally over all of the drama.  This is the one to befriend; they’ll keep your head straight.  And this one most reminds me of Jennifer Aniston’s character in Office Space.  Aniston’s famous “37 pieces of flair” scene resonates strongly with  many of the servers and ex-servers I know.
  • The one in possession of a strong propensity for spilling things. That was me. Dear Catastrophe Waitress is a song AND a book, my friends.

Have you met any of these server-types? Or do you have a Waiter Rant of your own to share?   Please share in the comments.



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Fine Dining

As you may have noticed from our many posts that mention cooking or baking, many of us on the Eleventh Stack team love to cook.  But eating out has its own charm.  There are fewer dishes to clean up, less ingredients to buy, and the novelty of trying something new is always fun.  CLP has lots of resources for home cooks, but we also carry resources for those of us who enjoy eating out. 

Of course, dining out can pose its own challenges, particularly when you’re trying to eat a healthy meal.  Books like Eating Out: Your Guide to Healthy Dining, with information from the Mayo Clinic, can help you make sure you’re eating something nutritious.  The popular Eat This Not That! Restaurant Survival Guide is another book you can turn to in order to make healthy decisions at a restaurant.  And books like The Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating, a publication of the American Diabetes Association, or Living Full and Gluten Free: A Restaurant Guide With a Full Menu help those on special diets discover which restaurant foods they can eat.

If you’re searching for a new place to eat locally, our Pennsylvania Department has some dining guides to the Pittsburgh area.  Where the Locals Eat: Pittsburgh is a guide to 100 of the best restaurants in town.  The book Where We Like to Eat N’At: Celebrating Pittsburgh’s Neighborhoods focuses on 57 places that are uniquely Pittsburgh, with recommendations from Pittsburgh residents on where to find the best pierogies, kielbasa, pizza, and more.  If you’re still stuck for a suggestion after looking at those guides, our web site offers reviews and links to many local restaurants. 


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