Pittsburgh’s various food trucks, stands and pop-ups are an integral part of the city’s dining scene. Even in the winter months, you will see some hard-working entrepreneurs selling tasty goods at local events and in front of businesses. Here are a few culinary vagabonds that swing good eateries around town.
Tahina Go-Go, pop-up at Bitter Ends Food, 4613 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield
Max Goldstein worked on his dream job for two months before the pandemic hit.
Through a mix of serendipity and magic on social media, Mt. The Lebanon resident befriended the well-known chef and native of Pittsburgh, Michael Solomonov, who offered him a cooking position with Zahav in Philadelphia.
“It was stressful and I learned so much,” said Goldstein, who, like Solomonov, served in Israel’s defense forces. Then the pandemic put an end to the dream. “I thought I would never cook again.”
After a bit of quarantine-induced soul-searching, Goldstein decided to continue his culinary career with Tahina Go-Go, an Israeli street food pop-up.
Every Wednesday in January from 5pm to 8pm he serves from the takeaway window at Bitter Ends Food in Bloomfield (the eatery dropped the word “Luncheonette” from its name as it no longer offers dining).
Tahina or tahini, a sauce made from sesame seeds, is prominent on the menu, which includes hummus, falafel, french fries, beet tahini salad and tahina blondes for dessert. The items change weekly to include sandwiches on naturally raised pita bread.
Goldstein, who was given a crash course in Middle Eastern cuisine by head chef Brandon Blumenfeld at Lawrenceville’s Over Eden, is trying to recreate the dishes he enjoyed in Israel.
“For me,” he says, “it’s about consuming those memories. I really just want to bring new dining experiences to people. Hummus is not just a snack. I serve it as a meal.”
Thyme Machine, pop-up at Bitter Ends Food, 4613 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield
Max Goldstein developed the idea for the Tahina Go-Go by beating the bell on the Thyme Machine, a sandwich cart for breakfast that is also headquartered in Bitter Ends.
Chef Ryan Chavara takes a break in cold weather, but says you should keep an eye on Thyme Machine pop-up events throughout the winter (check out their Instagram for details).
He has been in the restaurant business for nearly two decades, most recently as a chef at Bitter Ends. Several years ago, Chavara bought a sausage cart but did not find culinary inspiration for it until the pandemic started. After ordering an undersized breakfast sandwich from a chain eatery, he promised to give Pittsburgh a proper breakfast bite.
Thyme Machine took off last summer and got local food lovers to say “Great Scott!” with items like the fried mortadella and egg sandwich, a classic bacon, eggs and cheese (aka Becky), donuts and cookies. Chavara hired Goldstein to help him meet customer demand.
In addition to establishing a store outside of Bitter Ends, the cart appeared at Bloomfield Saturday Market, tina’s and Trace Brewing, and was sold out every time.
Chavara looks to the future – and the daily weather forecast – and will continue to impress hungry guests with breakfast sandwiches and other gourmet inventions.
And he does not need a DeLorean to do that.
Pittsburgh Street Pizza
Gavin McCall serves traditional pies from a small sales cart equipped with three portable pizza ovens in restaurant quality.
“Everything we make is handmade,” he says, “from our dough, which is fermented for three days, to our fresh mozzarella, hand-drawn from Wisconsin curd.”
The menu features about six pizzas topped with bright, bold flavors and a dark, crispy crust. So far, the fan favorite Hot Honey pizza is topped with Ezzo pepperoni, house-pickled banana pepper and McCall’s own spicy honey simmered with Calabrian chili.
You can catch Pittsburgh Street Pizza at breweries throughout the city. In early 2022, McCall will create a permanent site on a plot in Harrison City with picnic tables and campfire sites every Thursday through Sunday. Keep an eye on his trailer via Facebook and Instagram.
Mr. Nicks Fried Chicken Sandwich
If you see Mr. The Nick’s Fried Chicken Sandwich trailer rolls up in front of a brewery or other local business, so grab your purse and loosen your belt.
This is not a flat chicken steak, but a deep-frying-jaw-to-take-a-bite, deep-fried bird poured into special sauce and pickles and served on a toasted bun. Enjoy the massive mouthful with a side of homemade coleslaw or skip the bun and order the Chicken Toddlers (like chicken fingers, but with a sweeter name) and dip them in honey mustard sauce.
Whatever you do, try Mr. Nick’s (feather)