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Eat + Drink: Beard award nominees, the local mac & cheese scene and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly look at epic local nommz.

Pittsburgh has two Beard nominees
For the fourth year in a row, Pittsburgh will have some skin in the game when the James Beard Awards are announced on March 19th.

Downtown’s Butcher and the Rye is one of 25 semifinalists for “Outstanding Bar Program,” and Justin Severino, the chef and owner of Cure in Lawrenceville, is one of 20 semifinalists for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.”

More than 600 culinary professionals vote annually on the awards, which recognize excellence in cuisine, culinary education and culinary writing in the United States.

Previous Pittsburgh semifinalists in the “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” category include Legume’s Trevett Hooper in 2013 and Kevin Sousa, then of Salt of the Earth, in 2012. Salt was a semifinalist in 2011 for “Best New Restaurant.”

Pittsburgh’s Best Mac & Cheese
It used to be so easy. When asked where to get the best in the ultimate comfort food, Pittsburghers could quickly respond “Kelly’s.”

While the East Liberty lounge is still very much on the list, now there’s a conversation to be had.

Meat & Potatoes
offers a mac & cheese made with chorizo and pulled pork. Its sister restaurant, Butcher and the Rye, one-ups it with a sophisticated combination of taleggio, fontina, chevre, cheddar and parmesan.

SMOKE, the popular Homestead (soon-to-be Lawrenceville) taco joint, takes a consistently delicious yet experimental position and has served up everything from a Caprese-style mac with buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes and basil to a version with chorizo, swiss and gorgonzola.

Newest to the scene is Independent Brewing Company, which touts East End Brewing’s Smoked Porter to go along with cheddar, gouda and fontina cheeses.

Do any of these knock Kelly’s out of the top spot? Are there any we missed? Let us know what you think.

March Dishcrawl
The next edition of Pittsburgh’s Dishcrawl will take place on Tuesday, March 25 and will feature four locations in Pittsburgh’s most famous-for-its-food neighborhood, the Strip District. February’s sold-out Dishcrawl took diners around Downtown last week, stopping at Sharp Edge Bistro, Six Penn Kitchen, La Cucina Flegrea and Perle.

Writer: Matthew Wein

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