This year, a few F.O.R.T.s decided to join us and we couldn't have been more excited. E1 suggested we dine at her all-time favorite spot in the downtown area and - since PID and I shockingly still hadn't been - we were more than happy to oblige. So, as Jingle Bell Rock bounced acoustically through the air from building to building and roller-blading Santas graciously asked us to clear their path, we made our way to Sonoma Grille.
When we first walked in, I immediately noticed the northern Californian vibe. In my mind, it borderlined overly thematic, but I felt cozy nonetheless. We sat at the bar because - what luck! - there happened to be four open seats and we wanted to take part in their outstanding happy hour. $3 beers, $4 glasses of wine, $5 specialty cocktails and tapas was music was holiday music to my ears. We started with wine (PID with a winter bock) and started the night with a bang.
But, of course, affordable tapas ne'er goes unnoticed in this crowd. We started with a few to get our tummies rumbling.
|Mushroom Flatbread: $5 during happy hour|
|Filet Pinchos: $5 during happy hour|
|Green Mango Curry Crabcake: $5 during happy hour|
|Shrimp Tempura: $5 during happy hour|
|Confit Pork Belly: $12|
The filet was a bit overcooked for my taste, but the Harissa mayonnaise certainly added what the char had taken away. I actually thought the citrusy coleslaw was the best thing on the plate!
We also had the Green Mango Curry Crabcake. I enjoyed it, but then again, I always enjoy me a crabcake made with real crab.
The tempura shrimp was just perfectly crunchy. No trace of oil, just juicy shrimp in a sweet soy sauce, paired with a REALLY well balanced sesame cucumber and sriracha mayo.
But honestly, the star the top of the tapas Christmas tree was - without any shadow of a doubt - was the confit pork belly. Can I say it? Can I say "holy shit" on the internet? Because that's what I said when I took a bite. I'll tell you right now, I have no idea what a Celeriac Puree is, but I loved every morsel of it (ok, ok - I Googled it. It's a celery puree. Makes sense now, seeing that I love celery.) It cooled down the crispy pork and prosciutto and the quail egg broke beautifully to tie it all together in one flavor punch in the mouth. Seriously. I'm in love with the dish. In love with it.
But, in case you were curious, Santa hadn't thrown the fireball yet, so obviously we weren't ready to stop eating.
Mr. A ordered a cup of onion soup which he described as "sweet," but I'm pretty sure he meant it in more of a Jeff Spicoli kind of way and less of a candied onion kind of way. It looked hearty and rich and he certainly seemed to enjoy it.
|Onion Soup: $5|
|Mixed Grille Duo (Shrimp and Filet/Mushroom Kabob): $26|
|Mixed Grille Duo (crab and salmon): $26|
|Diver Scallops: $28|
Address: 947 Penn Avenue, downtown
Phone: (412) 697-1336
Reservations: Taken and suggested, most nights of the week. Call or use OpenTable.Hours: Lunch: Daily: 11:00am - 3:00pm
Dinner: Nightly: 5:00pm - 11:00pm
Though our food was out of this world and the company not so shabby, either, I also have to comment on the outstanding service. Sure, we were seated at the bar, but our bartenders were attentive, friendly and, overall, a ton of fun. We left quite hesitantly after having a tipsy conversation about rehearsal dinners and reception cocktails and made our way to the rest of the Light Up Night celebrations. We started the night with a bang and - both with the food and the festivities - managed to round it out the same way.
|PID loves "the works"|