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Boulevard Bistro

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Location
: 314 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont. 412-828-7777
Hours: Sun. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, salads, sandwiches and flatbreads: $6-10; entrées $11-24
Fare: Sandwiches, flatbreads and generally Italian entrees
Atmosphere: Make your own: friendly or intimate, bright or mellow
Liquor: BYOB
Smoking: None Permitted

Oakmont has many things to recommend it: Tree-lined residential streets, a vibrant shopping district bisected by an active railroad, and a fancy country club, if that's your scene. But Jason will always think of it as the former home of the best pulled pork in western Pennsylvania, sold at an incongruous little frame shack. (It also served pretty good fried chicken for untold years before abruptly shutting down, leaving at least one of your intrepid reviewers forlorn.)

Boulevard Bistro, on the other hand, is entirely congruous. Right beside the glorious Oaks Theater, it serves its small-town but sophisticated clientele with a tasty-looking bakery counter on one side and a handsome, but still casual, dining room on the other. The dinner fare fearlessly straddles styles, including flatbread and sandwiches as well as pastas and rather refined entrées. And among all this is, yes, a pulled-pork sandwich.

Of course, a bistro is no Chicken Shack, and accordingly the pulled pork here is a little different. The Bistro's comes on a nice whole-wheat bun with a bit of crust, with a lovely slaw including red peppers on top; the meat is shred finer than you'd find at most roadside joints. We're pleased to report that the pork itself is quite good, tender and meaty with a well-balanced, traditional sauce.

Moving on to more refined options, we were intrigued by the Bistro Eggplant, described as being layered with risotto and cheese. It turned out to be constructed more simply than that, as a classic eggplant Parmesan on a bed of risotto. But we were not disappointed, not at all. The eggplant was tender with crisp edges, the simple red sauce was freshly flavored, and the dense risotto lent a toothsome depth to this hearty, savory dish.

Jason's entrée came with a mini Bistro Salad, and it was the loveliest salad we've ever been served. Spring greens, halved grape tomatoes, julienned carrots and shaved Parmesan were nestled within a bowl sided by coiled planks of cucumber. The simple lemon-and-oil vinaigrette was light and bright. The only flaw was that the promised sunflower seeds were missing; they would have been delicious.

Entrées are where the kitchen stretches its capabilities, as evidenced by Jason's chicken in a (slightly underseasoned) white-wine cream sauce. Artichoke hearts, wild mushrooms and sautéed sweet onions added complexity to the overall flavor, with a sauce that was sufficient to meld the tastes without creating a dominating presence. Roasted potatoes were a somewhat unexpected side whose deeply browned heartiness was an excellent contrast to the main dish's sophisticated notes.

Angelique ordered Marina Flatbread, a pizza with diced tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella topped with, essentially, salad: mixed greens in aged balsamic vinaigrette sprinkled with shaved Parmesan cheese. The crust was crisp, the cheese rich, and the vegetables fresh and subtly seasoned -- in all, an excellent combination.

We took a pass on the rich-looking cakes in the dessert case, but did bring home a couple of miniature-sized snickerdoodle scones. They were much more delicate than most scones, with a light, spice-dusted crust and tender, buttery crumb within.

In its fortuitous location next door to The Oaks, Boulevard Bistro is a perfect choice for that classic date -- dinner and movie. But this neighborhood meeting-place is also a worthy destination, whether you're craving pulled pork or something a bit more elegant.

JR:

AB:

Photo: Heather Mull
  • Photo: Heather Mull

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