Dining Out:

On East Carson Street, by the intersection of Hot Metal Street in South Side, there is a restaurant just under a year old. Hot Metal Grille is located on the ?other side? of East Carson Street tucked in among the new construction. Not much is there yet, maybe just one of two new businesses and a design firm, a gas station, and the Goodwill store, but the area has a lot of potential. After checking out the scene, the new addition looks to be promising for Pittsburgh.

Hot Metal Grille is a new restaurant with new age, postindustrial d?cor. On first impression the restaurant appeared innovative and trendy. However, after reflecting on the dining experience, it seemed this place was trying just a bit too hard to be very trendy. Instead of creating relaxation, the tables, chairs, bar, and plates gave the venue the feel of a punk rock concert rather than a restaurant.

The atmosphere of the restaurant seemed to be a little too reminiscent of some scenes from The Matrix. In some sense, it would not have been surprising to see a group of people in strapped black patent leather biker gear roll up on Hayabusas or if the bartender?s tattoo was a little white rabbit. The night manager could have been an Agent.

On second impression, the Hot Metal Grille is a tad different. Even though the restaurant was in the played-out style of New York Clubs and restaurants from a few years ago, it does reflect parts of the ?Pittsburgh Scene.? It was capitalizing on the fact that Pittsburgh is still a recovering steel town, and the d?cor reflected that. The Hot Metal backdrop behind the bar, made up of three sheets of steel and illuminated with red neon lights, was the centerpiece that pulled the restaurant together.
Save for a random string of Christmas lights strung across the ceiling, the lighting seemed to be warm and metallic as if welding arcs illuminated the room. The restaurant was also decorated with poster-size photographs of steel workers as well as of factories which tied the restaurant well to the city.

The food, on the other hand, was not exactly the best. First, there were only two non-seafood options for appetizers and those were spicy Italian stuffed bell peppers or a quesadilla. Though the quesadilla was offered in eight varieties ranging from beef (which was well-seasoned and tasty) to barbeque duck and grilled portabella, if someone were looking for a quesadilla they would be unlikely to choose to come here and pay upwards of $12 for one. If you are a big fan of seafood and are willing to fork over at least $9 for an appetizer it could be the place for you.

Moving on to the entr?e, the honey and nut crusted chicken, which the menu described as ?saut?ed chicken breast with a honeyed crust of almonds walnuts and cashews served with chicken jus li?,? might be a good idea to split between two people because of the $17.95 price tag that accompanied it.

Even though the portion was quite large, and easily enough for two, the chicken was not quite as tender as would have been preferred. The honey crust of almonds, walnuts, and cashews was a bit too sweet but the combination was on the verge of being memorable. It was served with red-skinned mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a small salad. Even though the presentation was marvelous and intricately displayed on the onyx black dishware, it was not enough to make up for the mediocre, overpriced food. The restaurant may be able to fool some with its atmospheric charm but others will not be able to overlook the pricing and the quality of the food.

The ?Mont Blanc,? the dessert course, happened to be the highlight of the meal. The ?Mont Blanc? is a white chocolate cake in the shape of a four-sided pyramid with a delicious raspberry center completed with a white chocolate shell. This was the only part of the meal that was truly worth savoring. Again, the presentation was wonderful with raspberry and white chocolate syrup delightfully drizzled on the plate with a garnish of firm, fresh raspberries on the side.

On a different note, the new restaurant with its great presentation, service, fully stocked bar and modern d?cor seemed to attract mainly an older crowd ranging from 30 to 50 year olds. Even though the place seems geared to a younger clientele, this hot metal after-work scene seems to have trouble attracting a fashion-setting clique. It has potential, but the restaurant may be too expensive to attract a younger, more hip crowd. It is too pricey for most college students, and the lack of twenty-somethings in Pittsburgh prevents the Hot Metal Grille from being ?the place to be.? Even so, it may be a good place to book for graduation parties, or to take the folks to. Just be prepared: they may fit in better than you do.

Grade: B