My daughter and her family lived in Georgia for five years, and while visiting there, I developed a love for many Southern specialties like Shrimp and Grits. Some people north of the Mason-Dixon line turn their nose up at grits, and few restaurants have them on their menu in our area. But grits are like a blank canvas; they take on the flavor of whatever you combine with them, and if you combine them with the right stuff, you have magic on a plate.
I like Shrimp and Grits so much, that this Yankee girl, even learned to make the dish. While I love eating Shrimp and Grits, making them is quite a process. The only other time I use more pots and pans while cooking is when I prepare Thanksgiving dinner.
So, imagine my delight when I opened the menu at Ten Penny Restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh, in the Cultural District, and saw Shrimp and Grits on the menu. One of my favorite dishes and no kitchen clean-up involved! Naturally, I ordered them, and because they are an indulgence, I also opted for the Mixed Greens Side Salad, to assuage my guilt.
The salad was a pleasant surprise. For $4, it was huge and quite tasty with toppings like pickled radish, pepitas, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, and carrots. All of which were contained in a “bowl” made by forming the thinly, lengthwise sliced cucumbers into a border. I opted for the House Vinaigrette, which was a lively dressing that almost tasted like French dressing.
Next up was the steaming bowl of Shrimp and Grits. The seared shrimp were plump and spiced just right, and the smoked bacon? It’s bacon, need I say more? The shrimp and the bacon were piled on top of the creamy, cheesy grits. The grits were thick and rich, just the way I like them. As an added Pittsburgh twist, the dish was accented with Iron City Ale jus, giving it a little zing.
One of the pleasure of being married is that my husband and I often share tastes of each other’s meals. My husband agreed that the grits were good. He ordered the Porterhouse Pork Chop with smoked Gouda polenta. Polenta is kissing cousins to grits, and his polenta tasted just as delicious as my grits.
The dessert menu looked interesting with Pecan Pie with bacon and bourbon whipped cream and S’mores Dip, but we were too full to even contemplate another bite.
We dined at Ten Penny after a Sunday matinee at the O’Reilly Theatre. The restaurant, located at the corner of 10th Street and Penn Avenue, is spacious with a rustic feel. It was a lovely warm day, and the windows were open allowing an al fresco dining experience without being seated on the sidewalk, which can sometimes be a bit distracting if the streets are crowded.
All in all, it was a delightful Southern dining experience in the heart of the Cultural District. And as Arnold Schwarzenegger said in The Terminator: I’ll be back!
By Janice Lane Palko