There are a handful of Asian cuisine options in Squirrel Hill, but don’t forget about Taiwanese Bistro: Cafe 33 on Shady Avenue. The former laundromat is located behind the Starbucks and across the street from Independent Brewing Company.
It’s a cute little place but beware of the parking. At first, you’re filled with joy that the cafe has their own parking lot, but as soon as you park, you’ll find signs warning that the lot is not owned by the cafe and parking there will risk towing. I suggest parking at the lot across the street.
Upon entry, a hostess will be waiting to seat you. The small lobby is separated from the remainder of the restaurant by a beautifully threaded curtain. The lights are dimmed and faint red light exurbs from the walls that are decorated with layered artwork. It’s a small place, but they make great use of the space.
Their menu has a wide variety of options that expand past the typical Chinese-American cuisine. It’s not only dumplings and General Tso’s chicken, their menu features items like jellyfish, tripe soup and marinated turnips.
We decided we wanted to share and try a few unique items. The first appetizer to arrive was the marinated duck. Cut into several meaty slices and a drumstick on the side, the duck looked great, but surprisingly when I took the first bite I discovered the dish was served cold. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t preferable to be at that temperature and I was hoping for a crisper taste. It kind of reminded me of turkey out of the refrigerator the day after Thanksgiving.
Next was the gua bao, also known as a giant pork belly bun. We sliced it in half to share and dug in. I love the soft and slightly chewy texture of the bun. Combined with the tender pork belly it was a delight. The pickled substance mixed with the pork was a bit overwhelming, but reducing the amount was the perfect combination.
For the main course was the chicken with basil in a casserole. Served in a silver bowl that was still very hot to touch, was chicken tossed in a type of teriyaki sauce and combined with cloves of garlic. White rice was served on the side to pair with the “casserole”. It was really good and a perfect dish for sharing – it was a sizable amount for two or three people.
We dined inside, but now that the weather is warming up, there are a few tables you can snag outside to enjoy some fresh air and a decent view of the little down of Squirrel Hill.
There are plenty of options on the menu to try, but no matter what you decide, you’re sure to be served authentic Taiwanese cuisine.
Experience Pittsburgh, Once Bite at a Time.