Grateful Heart Monday

Good day and welcome to another entry of Grateful Heart Monday where gratitude begins each week, which for today is for my recent visit to the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania vicinity for my dear friend Keith’s memorial service.

As I mentioned in an article a few days ago, probably the most important piece of gratitude I took away from this trip was how the memorial service truly was truly a beautiful celebration of Keith’s life. But given I was in the Pittsburgh area for two full days surrounding the funeral, I found a lot more to be grateful for, like even in my actual drive there.

I’m not a normal fan of driving these days, mostly because I get uncomfortable pretty quickly sitting in a car seat with all my physical pain issues, but man, the hills and valleys and all the foliage is simply amazing in Pennsylvania! With Ohio driving being mostly just farmland and flat, it was a welcomed treat to see a lot more of God’s natural creations all around me. I was especially impressed with the rivers I crossed high over and the huge hills that loomed above me as I drove through them. I fondly thought much about all the houses perched way up on top of those hills that looked so serene. I couldn’t imagine how amazing it most likely was to wake up to a cup of coffee and sit out on a porch overlooking such pristine views!

Once arrived at the Springhill Suites I stayed at, which was in a section of the locale called Pittsburgh Mills, the general manager Matt and his assistant manager Jesse were very helpful to offer a number of restaurant suggestions where two proved to be true gems. The first was going to the original “Primanti Bros” in the Strip District of downtown Pittsburgh. There, I got a pretty amazing cup of super spicy chili and followed that with their world-famous grilled pastrami sandwich that was piled high with coleslaw and fries and cheese all within it. The second suggestion was a place called the “Mighty Oak Barrell” in Oakmont, PA, which was unique in that the owners converted their home into a restaurant and began making homemade scratch meals every day for guests. The concept continues many years later there and it almost felt like I was eating with their family during my meal which was rather comforting. There I ate a delicious flatbread pizza filled with homemade sausage, bacon, caramelized onions, eggs, and cheese, as well as some tasty homemade pastries that accompanied it.

Of course, I ate more than twice while I was away on this trip. One of them came through a suggestion from the grill cook at “Primanti Bros.” and was located further into the downtown area. Called “Sierra Mercato”, which was essentially a three-floor building with three separate concepts of restaurants, I dined on the bottom floor that opened up onto the street, mostly because it well-known for being a homemade meatball factory. In all honesty, I’m not normally a big connoisseur of meatballs, but the homemade traditional meatball sub I had with provolone and marinara sauce, along with a side of fried parmesan brushed brussel sprouts, had to have been amongst the best I’ve ever tasted. All of it was so amazing that I actually packaged half of it up and stored it in the cooler I brought to bring home to my partner to try!

Beyond the meals I dined out at, I mustn’t forget mentioning two of the dessert places I visited during my trip as well. Being a huge dessert person, I always look for unique sweet treat places to go to when I’m out of town. The first I found was in Pittsburgh and was a joint called “The Milkshake Factory” which I’ve decided is now at the top of my list as the most incredible milkshake ever. There I had a death by chocolate peanut butter milkshake that was so thick I needed a spoon to finish it! The other dessert place is even more noteworthy to mention and was found in Oakmont, nearby the “Mighty Oak Barrell” I had one of my meals at. “The Oakmont Bakery” is its name and is about a football field long length of just about any delectable treat you could ever imagine, from cakes to cookies to donuts to pastries to chocolates to well, you get the picture. Everything is made fresh and I must admit, I got pretty overwhelmed trying to figure out what to buy and take home with me and what to try there. I ended up gorging on a dark chocolate raspberry mouse cup that was so rich I got a sugar rush and then took home several chocolate donuts, a s’mores cupcake, a slice of chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, and a huge cinnamon roll.

Even though it’s not specifically known for dessert, I should perhaps make another honorable mention of a place I went to for a cup of coffee and a sweet treat the night before I left. It was approximately 4 miles outside downtown Pittsburgh in a section called Lawrenceville. There I grabbed a decaf mocha latte and homemade cookie at The Abbey. What made this place memorable is that it’s formerly a funeral home that was converted into a bar, grill, and coffee shop. Much of the décor was kept from that and the pictures on the wall came from a number of horror movies that carried the funeral home theme, like the picture of Jack Nicholson in The Shining that was on the bathroom wall where he was in the bathroom in that movie talking to the ghost butler.

Last, but not least on this list of gratitude from this trip is how I’m exceptionally grateful for my friend Lee Lampos, who was also a friend of Keith’s and in our old board games group in the Washington D.C. area. He was the only one available to come meet me for the funeral. I was thankful for his company and support during the weekend trip. We shared a lot of great stories and memories after not having seen each other for ten years since I moved away long ago and I know his presence made for much of the blessings and gratitude I experienced.

So, even though this trip away to the Pittsburgh area had a solemn occasion underlying it all, I was able to take away from it far more gratitude than I originally thought I might and am truly grateful to have experienced as many blessings as I did throughout it all…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson