The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: The Vandal.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the menu tasting event for The Vandal, a restaurant coming soon to our little neighborhood of Lawrenceville! Chef and owner Joey Hilty — brother of Covalent cofounder, Jeff — and Emily Slagel of Mid-Atlantic Mercantile revealed a small portion of The Vandal’s menu at Bar Marco on one of their weekly No Menu Mondays.

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As a group, we ordered two of everything on the menu. There were three appetizers: Shishito Peppers, Potatoes and Carrots. Simply named, but each more delicious than the one before. The peppers were lightly charred and crisp; the roasted potatoes were coated in olive oil, salt and garlic, warm and wonderful when dipped into whatever that magical sauce was that danced across the plate; the carrots — by far my favorite — were cooked perfectly, soft and sweet.

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There were two sandwiches on the menu: a cheeseburger and a roast pork sandwich. I’ve had some really amazing burgers in the past; burgers topped with peanut butter and jelly, or made with honey and layered with gouda and bacon in the form of Becky’s famous dream burgers. And The Vandal’s burger is right up there with the best of them. The ingredients are simple: cheddar cheese, thinly sliced red onion and lettuce. But the meat of the burger itself was out of this world. The roast pork sandwich was weirdly reminiscent of the sandwich I ate in Philadelphia, topped with broccoli rabe and a little bit of spice.

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Last, but certainly not least, we ordered the fried chicken, which arrived atop a slice of toast, served with sides of homemade ranch and honey. There’s something about the combination of chicken and honey that just works, so I’m pretty sure there was exactly half chicken/half honey in each bite I took… and then I even dipped my burger in the honey… and my potatoes… and even a carrot or two. But that’s besides the point.

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After dinner and a few drinks, we sat in the dimly lit space of Bar Marco, enjoying each other’s company and anxiously awaiting the opening of The Vandal, coming this spring. The menu is basic and reminiscent of the traditional foods I ate growing up. Easy, simple foods that you could make for your own family, foods that are done well. Really well.

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