Hours: Mon.-Thu. 4:30-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 4:30-11 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, soups and salads $4-12; entrées $15-29
Fare: American and continental classics
Atmosphere: Patina-ed neighborhood dining room and deck
Liquor: Full bar
Smoking: Designated sections
When we say that we ate on Mount Washington, we know what you're thinking: spectacular views, prices to match, and even the salads are dressed to impress. (And yes, we did have out-of-town guests in tow.) That's the archetypal experience of the Mount. But if you stick to the promenade of fancy restaurants between the overlooks on Grandview Avenue, you miss a lot of what's to like about Pittsburgh's highest-altitude neighborhood. Near the Mon Incline, you can turn your back on the postcard view, walk a few steps, and rub elbows with the locals in the places they call their own.
Shiloh Street, which together with Virginia Avenue forms the heart of the Mount Washington business district, is a small-scale, close-knit mix, with a few bright new businesses encouraging the comfortable mainstays to slowly upgrade their offerings and their atmospheres. Even the corner pizza place now has some sidewalk tables, and the whole street is lively on a Friday evening, tourists or no.
The Shiloh -- for 25 years known as the Shiloh Inn -- embodies this subtle gentrification that benefits newcomer and old-timer alike. Under new management since 2005, The Shiloh has updated its interior and its menu; it's also brought back longtime Shiloh Inn chef Milton Sloan to help new executive chef Eugene Mankowski join the best of the old with some new tricks.
The resulting amalgam includes a friendly bar, a contemporary yet comfortable lounge, a somewhat staid upstairs dining room, and a large front deck raised above the sidewalk just enough to create some privacy without isolating diners from street life. On a pleasant summer evening, we gravitated naturally to the deck.
The menu includes some guidance for diners who may remember the old Shiloh Inn, designating both Shiloh Originals -- such as crab cakes (of course) and salmon Rockefeller -- and Chef Specialties, such as osso bucco and chicken and lobster tart. There's also an abbreviated, simplified deck menu for those more focused on fresh air than fancy food. In all, The Shiloh offers a thoughtful, refined blend of American and Continental classics.
We passed over two forms of crab appetizer -- cakes and Hoelzel -- for something we hadn't seen before: stuffed rigatoni. Roasted red peppers and chevre were pushed by some very patient sous chef into tubes of pasta and then lightly fried to create a crispy shell around each noodle. In this delicious variation on fried ravioli, the ratio of pasta to cheese and red pepper was ideal, the sweetness of the peppers playing off the creamy tang of the chevre. Our only quibble was with the marinara provided for dipping; too much sugar had rendered it into a sort of tomato jam. A calamari platter, featuring squid also beautifully fried in delicate, lightly seasoned batter, suffered from the same weakness.
Jason's entrée of chicken lobster tart was rich, as you might expect, with a flavorful sherried lobster cream sauce that was actually surprisingly light in a superb pastry crust. The flaw in the dish was the big, bland chunks of chicken. While they weren't dry or otherwise miscooked, they were nonetheless jarring against the rich, sweet flavors of the other ingredients. Perhaps poached or dark meat would have blended in better.
Angelique's salmon Rockefeller featured similarly bland salmon, whose mild taste and flaky -- not steaky -- texture was more reminiscent of white fish. This dish took most of its flavor from its lovely filling of spinach, crab and cheese, which commingled into a briny, creamy, vegetal slaw that was more than the sum of its parts. Just-cooked, still-crunchy green beans and tender potatoes, simply seasoned with oil, herbs, salt and pepper, made excellent sides.
So, when you head for Pittsburgh's highest point, don't miss The Shiloh, which offers refined cooking in a comfortable neighborhood atmosphere on a street that a lot of us overlook.