Fiddler's Bar & Grill's menu is not limited by a pub feel
Fiddler's Bar & Grill in McCandless has the lively ambiance of an Irish pub, even if the cuisine is decidedly more varied. Traces of rich, golden wood -- in the form of columns, a wall and trim -- enliven the dimly lit space. Shouts of "Geno! Geno!" from patrons watching numerous flat screens and a hulking monolith of a TV projector are unapologetically zealous.
The place formerly known as Magoo's has tweaked its image under the ownership of Jay Fairbrother, from menu changes to facade, and opened under the new name in September.
"We didn't do it specifically to be Irish, but it does have an Irish feel. We also have an actual fiddler who plays on Fridays who is also one of our cooks," Fairbrother says.
"He plays along to the jukebox and can do Dave Matthews to Eminem, Charlie Daniels to Michael Jackson."
Fairbrother, who started out in the restaurant business as a general manager out of college, also worked in marketing. He bought Magoo's and, at the time, Blue, when he sold a marketing company in 2005. He has worked to perfect pub dining with executive chef Brian Yager by sticking to one-half classics and one-half sophisticated surprises for his guests.
"I have been sporadically changing things as I go ... the new menu will be 100 percent mine after the holiday. We got some different things to appease different palates." Yager says.
Yager, a 1990 graduate of Johnson & Wales in Norfolk, Va., has worked at area establishments such as Hoffstot's Cafe Monaco and Soho, in addition to a stint as a police officer in both Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. He also served as a private chef at a fishing launch in Alaska, which inspired some of his menu decisions.
"I grew up in Virginia Beach, so I come from a seafood background, but Alaska influenced me because I was working with really fresh fish," he says.
Though changes have been made, the clientele reads as "regulars" -- a bunch of folks comfortable enough with each other to chat it up at the bar or even at the sink in the bathroom. Fiddler's is probably not the best place to go on a date night, but would be ideal for new transplants to the area missing their families or those who prefer dinner a little less stiff.
Jeans and an array of sweaters and Pittsburgh sports attire are the universal outfit of choice, but don't expect concrete floors and veneer tables scrawled with messages. The main dining room is carpeted in warm taupe and the large round and square tables gleam golden-hued perfection.
Fiddler's appetizer list is longer than most, and offers a variety of favors from across the country and around the world. Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Hummus ($7.35) offers a striking contrast against Southwest Nachos ($8.45) and Garlic and Guinness Mussels ($8.65).
We decided to taste a little bit of Ireland, Maryland and Thailand, selecting the mussels, Old Bay Crab Dip ($7.95) and Sweet Thai Chili Calamari ($8.45). The heaping platter of steamed mussels was dotted with cooked tomato cubes and rimmed with substantial crusted bread for sopping up the tangy Guinness broth. Offering a bit more bite than traditional steamed mussels, this was our second favorite, losing only to the calamari.
Lovingly prepared calamari that is sweet and required little chewing isn't always easy to find. Finding some that doesn't come with marinara sauce is even more difficult.
The drizzled ringlets stacked high atop greens won us over with their punchy presentation and balance of heat and sugar.
The crab dip, though generously laced with hearty lumps and circled by toasted crostinis, was slightly overpowered by cheese, we felt. Like a choir with one too many sopranos, we felt it could use some tweaking.
Other dishes are just as varied, offering both healthy and sinfully decadent options. There aren't many places where you can get both a Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Salad ($10.95) and a Bacon Mac & Cheese Dog ($6.95), wrapped and fried in bacon.
We decided the tantalizing Surf and Turf Burger ($10.95) and a serving of Beef Pappardelle Pasta ($13.65) were in order.
The thick burger, with a crab cake on top, was slathered with Asiago Old Bay cheese sauce. It was, as promised, a playful and "economic" take on classic surf and turf.
The pasta, billed as "the owner's favorite meal," was seeped through with a garlic beurre blanc sauce and swirled with spinach and meaty portobellos. The grilled sirloin was a surprising touch and offered an almost-aged bite, more flavorful than chicken would have been.
Be prepared for rich desserts to cap off your meal. The silky Chocolate Confusion Cake and Toffee Cake, both $4.95, were big enough to enjoy at dinner and even breakfast the next day.Additional Information:
Fiddler's Bar & Grill
Cuisine: Eclectic pub fare
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Sundays
Entree price range: $9.65-$23.95
Notes: Major credit cards accepted. Specialty drinks and varied wine and beer lists. Handicapped-accessible. Happy hour specials. Live fiddling Fridays, karaoke Saturdays and jazz Sundays.
Address : 9101 Perry Highway, McCandless
Details: 412-635-2300 or website
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