Nick Gendell: best meal I ate last week

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Nick Gendell runs the butcher shop at Marty’s Market. Photo by Matt Wein.

Nick Gendell has cooked all over the Western Hemisphere—the Caribbean, the west coast, Denver, New England, a brief stint in Florida—but as is true for so many Pittsburgh natives, the road ultimately led him back home. After spending four years in the kitchen at Meat & Potatoes, Gendell now runs the butcher shop at Marty’s Market in the Strip District, where he’s carving, slicing and curing all the locally sourced meat and imported fresh fish for both the market and its adjoining café.

My girlfriend and I both had a rare Monday off so we wanted to go somewhere we’ve never tried and we came across Off the Hook in Warrendale. We looked at each other and said “It’s time to get out of town.”

They have a great happy hour there. There were three different kinds of oysters to try at the happy hour price; two were east coast, one was west coast. The Blue Point oysters—big belly, briny, awesome, and it was $7.50 for six. I ate two-and-a-half dozen.

There were some nice sauces to go with those, too. They did a nice take on the classic mignonette, there was a really good house-made hot sauce, and they had one they called “horny sauce.” It was juiced jalapenos, cilantro and rice vinegar, had this great bright green color. It had great bite from the pepper with nice acidity from the vinegar. I’d never had anything like that with [an oyster] before.

Another dish we had was mussels in a limoncello cream sauce. Creamy, tangy, great notes of citrus with the seafood flavor from the broth.

I drank Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale and my girlfriend went with the house chardonnay, which was really nice, too. The staff was very friendly and kept our drinks coming. We had a great time.

The café at Marty’s debuted its new dinner service (5 to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday) this week to go with its popular breakfast, lunch and brunch hours, so Gendell is sure to have his hands full for the foreseeable future. And be on the lookout for his cow tongue corned beef and a spicy, smoky beef heart pastrami.

“Beef heart is very underrated. It kind of has a texture like filet, and it’s really healthy for you if you’re eating it from a good cow. The tongue corned beef makes the best Reuben sandwich you’ll ever have,” he says.

Find other Pittsburgh foodie’s best meals here.