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The Coraopolis Record

Across The River


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The so called North Shore doesn't have a lot of restaurants but the ones it has are good. The Sewickley Hotel on the main street, Speakeasy out on the Ohio River Boulevard, and Police Station Pizza in nearby Ambridge all have their loyal cult followings and attract diners from all over Allegheny and Beaver Counties. Sewickley, Sewickley Heights, Ben Avon, Emsworth and Avalon are very upscale communities, so the clientele here has high expectations. For a restaurant to survive here it has to meet those expectations. These restaurants have all been here for half a century (and the Sewickley Hotel for 110 years) so they've proven themselves over generations.

Remember when the Sewickley Theatre was the classiest movie house this side of Pittsburgh? When we were in high school a big time date was dinner at The Sewickley Hotel and a walk two blocks down to the movie. A nice Saturday night could also be a movie and a stop by the Hotel afterward for shake, fries and burger before the drive back across the bridge home. The theatre is long gone, but the Hotel is still the gathering place for the real and wannabe gentry of the Sewickley area. Not one piece of furniture has changed. It still has that long polished bar and all the tables and booths, with the lighting still low for that sort of romantic mood. The menu, once you move past the basic milkshake, fries and cheeseburger, is still nicely upscale. You have to put up with the usual pretentiousness ("Our velvety mousse truffle pate includes black olives, cornichons and crostini garnish") but that has always been part of the fun, kind of like stepping onto the set of The Great Gatsby. The House Salad is a cranberry-gorgonzola-orange creation much appreciated by the local Volvo set. They STILL serve that Turtle Soup and it's STILL the best in this area (photo above left). It used to be second only to the version served at Riders On The Bay on the Erie waterfront, so with Riders now closed it is quite possible this is the best Turtle Soup in the whole state. The Seared Sea Trout is currently the big hit. It comes crusted with pecans in an orange basil cream. Then there's the Grilled Cobia, seasoned South Carolina style ("on the mellow side of lively") in a Squash and Sun Dried Tomato Chutney. It's not unanimous, but about half the restaurant goers in the area think the Hotel offers the best Crab Cakes and Steaks in Western Allegheny County. Save room for dessert, because in another blast from the past, they STILL serve that great Coconut Creme Pie (top right) that girls always ordered after a movie. In one more bow to the 1950s, they still include all the cute spelling mistakes on the menu. So you have Caesar Saddle, Scared Sea Trout, Grilled Cobra, and other malapropisms to try and decipher before you can place your order. But at only a few minutes from downtown Cory, it's definitely worth a visit. They're open from 11 to 3, so you could go for lunch Friday or Saturday. Or you could have dinner from 5 - 10 on Thursday or Sunday. On Beaver Street. Coming off the bridge, go straight downtown and turn right. It's on your left.
If your idea of a big night out is Pizza, you don't need to drive very far. Just cross the bridge and go to Ambridge. The best Pizza in Pennsylvania is available at The Pizza House, which everybody in three states calls Police Station Pizza because it's in the old police station. It's a carry out only operation but people drive in from all over Western Pennsylvania to get it. This is Original Sicilian, Square Cut, Thin Crust, Medium Sauce Pizza. They bake it right in front of you to your specificiations. You can also get it to take home and bake yourself, or you can buy their famous homemade sauce. Friday and Saturday nights you'll see crowds and lines, but they're pretty efficient and you'll get served fairly fast. Celebrities from the Cory area, like John Calipari, head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, and Michael Keaton, actor in Hollywood, have this pizza dry iced and shipped by air to them twice a month. Whether you consider this the best pizza ever made depends on your taste : if you don't prefer the Sicilian style with its thin crust, you might not rank this your favorite. But you owe it to yourself to try it.
The Speakeasy is patterned after the speakeasies of the Al Capone era. This theme is maintained by the off in the woods location and barely noticeable driveway. Look for it just outside of Sewickley heading toward Pittsburgh at 17 Ohio River Boulevard. The driveway cuts sharply uphill. Except you can't turn left. So your better approach would be to cross the Island on I-79, go West along the river, and watch carefully for the driveway, announced by the Jazz Age billboard. Once there you'll love the brick walls, Jazz Age decor, sheet music display, and picture windows looking down on the river through a break in the trees. In addition to the ambience, this is a very good restaurant. Of the appetizers we like the Frog Legs, Crabmeat Hoelzel and Fried Zucchini in Marinara Sauce. You MUST try the Three Cheese Five Onion Soup. No where else has it and it's great. Of the entrees, they offer 10 seafood items, 14 steak, veal and chop items, and eight classics. Of these, we like the Orange Glaze Duck, Pecan Breaded Lamb in Bourbon, Scallops and Spot, both broiled in a sauce beurra blanc. Spot is too rarely offered in restaurants. It's delicious and The Speakeasy prepares it very, very well. The wine list is not extensive but contains some outstanding mostly American choices.