My Aunt recently was telling me about a show she watched on PBS called “25 Things I like about Pittsburgh.” I love Pittsburgh. Eric and I try to go there about once a month usually for just a day trip. We go to the Phipps, or an art museum, and like to try a different restaurant or go to an old favorite each time. Sometimes, however, we don’t make it all the way into the city due to lack of effort on our part. We make excuses for not doing it, blaming it on the traffic, the fact that we didn’t get an early enough start, the long drive, or the fact that IKEA is on the way. But when I heard her talking about this show and the fabulous burger place that made the list I was intrigued. I am also a burger lover. After a quick google search I found the show on Youtube.
Not only the idea of great burgers intrigued me but also the title of this show. Usually people speak about what’s best about a place, the best restaurant, the best sites to see, the best coffee, the best of just about everything. For me when people say something is the best, I am kind of turned off. It could be due to the person touting their opinion or the fact that I credulously followed someone’s best recommendation and realized their best in my humble opinion was lacking. But when someone tells me they like something I trust and respect that, realizing I could like it too, or better yet it could be the best for me. This way it is more of a challenge, I curiously ask, “Will I like it?”
After watching the show, I loved the title and the narrator even more than before. The narrator of the show is Rick Sebak a native Pittsburgher and documentary film maker, who to celebrate his 25th year at WQED made this documentary about his personal likes of the Burgh. What made me so happy to watch was that this is a man who truly loves his city. He loves the people in the city, the quirky streets, the architecture, the neighborhood pride, and the food. This is a beautiful documentary of a man who is truly content. Seeing a person happy where they are and in what they are doing speaks volumes and to me is the greatest recommendation one could give about a place, and I wanted a piece of that. More precisely I wanted to try one of the places on his list of 25 likes, Tessaro’s.
What impressed me most about this place while watching the show wasn’t that they are famous for their burgers, but the story of how they became so (Read about it on Tessaro’s website under Remembering Kelly) and what made these burgers extra special. What sets Tessaro’s apart on the burger front is their in house butcher. Six days a week he is grinding out perfect hamburger with juicy marbling from prime cuts of beef. Due to this they know where their meat is coming from and therefore can control the quality of their burgers 100%. Just seeing this I had to try it. So we made our plan. One Wednesday no excuses, Eric and I were on a mission for dare I say it: The best burgers.
Heading out to Pittsburgh it was a great day for traveling, the traffic was a breeze and we made it past the shops without stopping. It was a gorgeous December day, chilly but sunny, a perfect day for a drive into the Burgh. Each time I am thrilled when we start our way through the Fort Pitt Tunnels and love how the view just opens up as we make our way through them. It is beautiful and always excites me, seeing the first glimpse of the Pittsburgh sky and then the city opening up before me with the tall glass buildings glimmering in the sunlight, the river, all the bridges, and the thoughts of possibilities that lie beyond. We made our way towards Liberty Ave, through the Strip District, past Penn Brewery and Church Brew Works until we found Tessaro’s. We parked a few blocks up the street. Upon getting out of the car, what I noticed along with the cold December air was a warm, fragrant, and smokey aroma wafting towards me. It reminded me of winters when I still lived at home and my Dad would fill the wood burner with aged hardwoods. These aromas intensified as we approached the restaurant. It was intoxicating.
Arriving a little after 2 pm, we were sat immediately in a cozy little area in the back. I loved all the murals depicting the busy goings on of Tessaro’s restaurant life. They also told the story of the people that worked there. I didn’t need a menu but took a gander at it anyway. Besides for famous hamburgers, offerings include a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, salads, steaks, kabobs, chops, chicken, and daily fish dishes. Beef or pork ribs are available on Thursdays only. Eric and I both ordered what we came there for, the burgers. Without a question I chose the bacon-bleu cheeseburger. This is my all-time favorite combo. Eric ordered the gourmet burger which was served up with bacon, grilled mushrooms, onion, and his choice of cheese, bleu.
The burgers were amazing. First of all they were GIANT, 1/2 pounders with all the extras pilled high. Even the toppings were of superb quality, fresh crunchy red onion with just the right amount of heat, crisp green leaf lettuce, a slice of ripe tomato, crisp flavorful bacon, and aged dry crumbled blue cheese. To a burger enthusiast it was heaven on a plate. The burger itself had a lovely charr on the outside, a gift of extra flavor from grilling over hardwood. Inside it was still spectacularly juicy. With my first bite juices literally exploded from within running down my hand, landing on my plate, and the placemat beneath. It was divine. I don’t practice gluttony normally but I ate the whole burger. Even licked up the juice that landed on my plate and I am not going to apologize for admitting this, it could not have gone down any other way. All of this plus a side of home fries served with nothing other than the red stuff from Heinz 57.
It goes without saying that Eric enjoyed his dinner just as much. Thank you Tessaro’s for a wonderful dining experience served up in a friendly atmosphere by great people! I wish I had only discovered you sooner and can’t wait to come back again to further peruse the menu with my eyes and taste-buds.