The Summit atop Mt. Washington offers craft cocktails, upscale bar food, board games
Mt. Washington not only has the view, it has a lot of destination dining spots.
If The Summit isn't on your list, it should be added immediately. This quaint, upscale cocktail bar is serving some interesting craft cocktails accompanied by elevated bar food with global inspiration.
The cocktails here are the stars of the show, averaging about $10 per drink, which isn't that outrageous, considering the creativity and artistic craft that goes into shaking and stirring each one. Choose from classics — like an Old Fashioned or Moscow Mule. Or try some seasonal cocktails, such as the Raspberry Ninny Muggins, made with raspberries, raspberry liqueur, rhubarb liqueur, macadamia nut liqueur, egg white and cream. Or the fruity Pajamas Interrupted with tequila, orange juice, blanc vermouth, cranberry and allspice.
Once you have a round of cocktails in hand, it's time for food, which hit the menu a year ago. Chef Brandon Davis, formerly of North Side's Lola Bistro, is whipping up elevated bar food that complements the boozy cocktails well.
The menu, which changes quarterly, is divided into three parts: small bites, medium bites and large bites The plates are true in size to their descriptions, and all can easily be shared by a group of friends as you sip cocktails and enjoy a game of Cards Against Humanity or Sorry, which are readily available, along with a plethora of other board games. If the weather cooperates, the garage doors that act as the bar's windows will be open, letting in a warm Pittsburgh breeze.
You can never go wrong starting off with popcorn at any bar. Here, it's served with brown butter and smoked salt or roasted garlic and herb.
The house-cut fries are a standout on the small bites menu. Thin and crisp shoestring fries are fried to perfection and served with a chipotle aioli or a sweet-and-sour apple dipping sauce, which is my personal favorite. Warning: These may become your new favorite french fries in the city.
Under the medium bites menu are cheese and charcuterie plates that come elegantly presented, as well as Thai Green Curry Wings served with daikon and a mango tzatziki. The wings had some spicy heat and were so tender they fell off the bone. The mild and cooling tzatziki was a very nice complement. The only complaint I had is that I wish the wings were breaded and deep fried. Though tasty, I was looking for more of a crunchy exterior.
Other Asian-inspired dishes on the menu are the Steamed Pork Dumplings with mushrooms, leeks, black garlic and ginger, served six per order in a bamboo steamer with a red chile sesame sauce, and the P.S.V. rolls: fried pork and beef spring rolls accompanied with a sweet and spicy, chunky chile sauce.
Creamy hot spinach and artichoke dip is elevated by including chunks of smoked chicken and fontinella cheese, and served with an ample amount of chargrilled pita wedges for dipping. If smoky flavor does not please your palate, this would not be the dish for you.
Smoke also comes into play in the Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese, served bubbling hot in a cast-iron pan and topped with just the right amount of breadcrumbs for texture and crunch. The cheesy sauce is thick and creamy, and ditilini pasta — with its tubular shape — serves as the perfect vehicle for transferring the gooey sauce into your mouth.
Larger bites are the entree-sized portions and include Pork Belly Ramen with a shiitake broth, kimchi and quail egg, and Shepherd's Pie made with lamb, root vegetables and topped with a mashed potato crust.
There are two varieties of tacos: braised ancho beef or smoked tofu, both served three per order in chargrilled flour tortilla shells with a mild tomatillo salsa, queso blanco, lettuce, pickled red onion and creme fraiche. The smoked tofu is a great vegetarian option, and the beef tacos will please any carnivore. They are typically $11 for three tacos, but get here on Tuesdays for the two for $5 taco special.
One of my favorite items on the menu is the Summit Burger topped with manchego cheese, peppery arugula, double-smoked bacon and charred red onion, served alongside those delicious fries. The burger bun is super soft and airy with just the right amount of toasting, and the burger is super juicy and moist. It reminded me of a burger cooked outside on the grill.
If you haven't picked up on it yet, smoky flavor is one of Chef Davis's strong suits, so much so he hosts a monthly “Up in Smoke” dinner the third Thursday of the month with off-menu smoked dishes for $13. Smoky cocktails also are whipped up for this special occasion.
The next time you're thinking about dining on Mt. Washington, try the more casual approach at The Summit. With great music, fabulous cocktails, upscale bar food and board games galore, it's sure to be a wonderful night!
Sarah Sudar is one of the food-savvy ladies of eatPGH.com, who contribute a weekly Dining Out column to the Tribune-Review.