I know it’s starting to seem a bit like all we are doing this year is going out to eat and using our Groupons, but I promise, there is more to come soon! We just happened to buy a bunch of Groupons at the end of 2010, and then we were so swamped with trips to Primantis that we never got to use them. This may have something to do with our decision to include the 10 Groupons/Living Socials Achievement for this year. 🙂
Tonight, it was off to Walnut Grill in Shadyside to use our dinner Groupon. Typically, Shadyside is one of those places we avoid if at all possible. Parking is a beast most of the time, and we always have that vague feeling that we don’t quite ‘fit in’. Even in college, we were decidedly Oakland people, and the year that everyone I knew was moving to swanky places in Shadyside, I tried a year in Bloomfield (before deciding I couldn’t do it any longer and moving right back to South Oakland when that lease ended).
But after tonight, our anti-Shadyside-ness may fade away, as we have learned that there are indeed places that make the trek worthwhile. Walnut Grill is definitely one of those places.
We chose this night to have dinner there simply because it was the last day to do so and use our Groupon, but when we found out that Wednesdays are also half-price wine bottle night, we knew that fate had taken a role in this decision.
Walnut Grill is upstairs just off of Walnut Street in Shadyside, above the Shady Grove bar. But unlike the college-party feel of Shady Grove (that was my only experience of this place previously, having gone here with friends once in another life in the early 2000s), Walnut Grill is classy-casual. It’s like the breath of fresh air you take when you step out of a crowded party when you climb the steps to the dining room.
We started off with a California cab sauv (I always sound like a douchebag when I say ‘cab sauv,’ but as we will be back in wine country in a few weeks, I need to get into practice!) from San Martin. We learned that San Martin is inland from Central Coast, so we figured it would be a decent bet, and it was – the flavor was smooth and turned out to be a perfect pairing with our entrees.
Like we do when we go to a new restaurant, we ordered the calamari to see how it stacked up with our favorites. The Walnut Grill puts crispy fried artichoke hearts alongside the calamari, which is a new variation. Typically, fried peppers and broccoli seem to be the accompaniments to calamari, but this was a nice change! The dipping sauce is a tomato aioli with just a hint of spice. We were quite pleased.
Each dinner came with side salads, which were fresh and loaded up with crispy veggies and croutons. I also want to commend our server on his timing – each plate of the meal came out shortly after we had finished the last bit, so we weren’t scrambling to eat each part while the next sat by the side. Good food-delivery timing is one of those often overlooked talents of waiting tables, and I like to recognize it!
I just want to take a moment here to let you know that you may not be prepared for what comes next. Just take a deep breath and maybe ensure that you are seated before you continue.
I’m not exaggerating; that was honestly the best pork chop of my entire life. And I really like pork chops, so I have had enough to fairly evaluate this statement. Here is the description from the menu: cranberry and sourdough apple stuffed pork with applejack brandy sauce. The apples were crisp, the fruity flavor was wonderful, and the pork chop was peppered ever-so-slightly and cooked to a perfect tenderness. I doubt that such magnificence could ever be replicated, but I will certainly return some Wednesday night just to check.
My only complaint about the dish was that it was advertised as coming with a ‘vegetable medley,’ which turned out to be just three pieces of broccoli. As that is my absolute least favorite vegetable, I just snuck a few bites of Michael’s mashed potatoes.
Michael got the lamb shank, after much deliberation (he swears he will try their Guinness burger at our next visit to truly settle the debate). The lamb was juicy and quite tender, and the mashed potatoes were the perfect side dish. I will admit, I even had a small bite of the lamb, and it was the least-horrifying lamb I’ve ever had (I am not a lamb person – I just think of every single childhood rhyme out there with each chew).
So all in all, we were very pleasantly surprised with our trip to Walnut Grill. Especially now that we know there is such a generous drink special each week, we will definitely be back to try some other meals. This is even more true if Groupon offers another deal – we only paid $20 for $40 of top-notch cuisine.
Keep the deals coming, Groupon, and we will keep taking advantage of them!