Pub Chip Shop: Not all healthy, but tons of tasty
Americans get a lot of grief for our love of delicious, yet not-exactly-healthy, fast food and snacks. We probably deserve it, too.
But let's not go overboard. Other parts of the world have been quietly catching up. Take the infamous British “chippie,” for instance. They're on every corner in urban Britain, it seems, selling chips (we call 'em “French fries”), fried fish, fried everything.
Piper's Pub on the South Side has long had a lock on three things in Pittsburgh: whiskey selection, televised football matches (we call it “soccer”), and Scottish/British cuisine done with care, creativity and attention to detail. Now, they've opened the The Pub Chip Shop next door, bringing the venerable British takeaway joint to Pittsburgh, in a typically stylish and well-executed way.
“It was Drew's (Topping, Piper's owner) idea,” says Mindy Heisler, general manager of both restaurants. “He's been to Scotland many times, and dug the chip-shop concept. When this building was for sale, he bought it, and it took about seven years to get it where he wanted it. It was a pizza shop, and was closed about six or seven years. He wasn't in any major hurry.”
It looks great. Big windows look out onto never-dull Carson Street, and a vintage cash register sits atop a glass case, filled with fresh meat pies. There's some seating, but not much — a counter at the window, a single, giant wooden table. Even the logo is perfect — a meat cleaver, stuck in something dripping blood (?). It tells you “Yes, there will be meat.”
The Pub Chip Shop has a surprisingly large menu, filled with classics, often with a local twist or two. The beer-batter-dipped sausage Banger ($7) is made with Parma Sausage, the acclaimed Strip District-based business.
The Chip Shop has its own bakery in the back, specializing in meat pies like the Scotch ($7), made with ground lamb and lamb stock, and the Steak & Ale ($7), made with steak, mushrooms, and brown ale-infused stock. There's even a Vegan Vindaloo ($6), with curry-spiced lentils in a savory vegan crust.
There are also pasties — a semicircular, folded pastry filled with meat and/or vegetables, with a crimped edge. The classic is the Cornish ($7), with steak and chopped root vegetables, but there's also the Pittsburgh-special Pierogi ($6), filled with whipped potato, caramelized onion and Welsh cheddar.
“The pies and the pasties do well, with ex-pats and locals,” Heisler says.
Jack the Ripper's old stomping grounds provide the name for the White Chapel ($7), which features flash-fried steak and Welsh cheddar mac & cheese on a “bap.”
A bap is a ”Scottish-style bakery roll, made in-house,” Heisler says. “It's the size of a Kaiser roll, real soft, real yeasty, lots of butter. All our burgers and sandwiches are on them.”
There's The Ripper ($4), a fried Smith's hot dog (made in Erie), with chili and Welsh Cheddar cheese sauce on a Breadworks poppy-seed bun.
“We flash-fry a Smith's hot dog until it rips open,” Heisler explains.
There are 11 different sauces available for dipping the thick, hand-cut English-style Chips ($3 to $5), including Sweet Curry, Bloody Hot, and Chili Yogurt Sauce, each for 75 cents to $1.50.
Despite the plentiful Jack the Ripper references, the truly scary items sneak in under unassuming names like the Scotch Egg ($4). It's a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, then fried.
The Deep Fried Mars Bar ($4) is not only real — and quite common in Scotland — it's apparently pretty popular on the South Side.
“The Mars Bars we use aren't American Mars Bars,” Heisler says. “We have an import order from Ireland. It doesn't have the nuts and has much better chocolate.”
The Pub Chip Shop, 1830 E. Carson St., South Side. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. Details: 412-381-2447 or thepubchipshop.com
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7901.