8-28-16 / Bakn / Carnegie, PA

The following day, my Mother-in-Law offered to take my wife and me out to brunch. I’d heard good things and read positive reviews, so we decided to check out Bakn. A fun, open, and bright bistro, I hope to see more life breathed into Carnegie. It’s always exciting when discovering fun gems outside of the city and I hope this review will inspire you to make the small jaunt just west of Pittsburgh.2016-08-28-14-41-37
As this was our first trip, I thought it was only appropriate to sample their namesake offerings with an order of the Bacon Flight. Featuring their (from left to right) unsmoked, applewood smoked thick cut, cajun, maple, peppered, and Sriracha bacon, it was less of a flight and more of a plate of some pretty good bacon. While this concept sounds really fun in theory, it was a bit awkward just cutting into pieces of bacon and eating them plain. I’d love to see the bacons highlighted in different preparations, or different cuts, to move this beyond just a plate of 6 different bacons. They were all ranging in quality and flavor, with the same strong pork flavor base that comes from fresh and unfrozen bacon. I was particularly impressed with the unsmoked and the peppered and found the cajun to be an unnecessary preparation. I didn’t really have an expectation to be disappointed, but I felt like this was a muddy start to an otherwise delicious meal.

2016-08-28-14-49-10 My wife got the chicken and pancakes, their take on chicken and waffles. The chicken tenders were crispy and the chicken was still moist and tender. I always prefer a spicier, bolder coating on this preparation, especially due to the overly sweet pancakes, but the coating was fairly standard without any overt additions. The bacon stuffed pancakes were a nice addition, but far too light and cakey, with a lot of air holes in the cakes themselves, to really hold up to the crunchy and crispy chicken. Unfortunately, the chef got a little heavy-handed with the scallions for this dish and they ended up dominating a lot more of the bites than they should have. The bourbon maple syrup was excellent and had a real nice finish, obviously having been made in house with real bourbon.

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My mother-in-law went with the Blueberry pancakes, two enormous cakes stuffed with a generous portion of fresh blueberries and served with a 1/2 cup of blueberry compote syrup. The cakes themselves were nicely balanced, far denser than what came with the chicken and pancakes, and held the juicy and flavorful berries in a wonderful cakey prison. The cakes themselves were very substantial and held up to the barrage of blueberries and syrup without falling apart of getting lost. The nice undertone of sourdough wonderfully balanced out the sugary sweet and syrupy blueberries. It was a very large plate of pancakes (if the 1/2 cup measuring cup is any indication of scale) and could even be enough to share between two people, if you found yourself so inclined.

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I went with the shrimp and grits, as I’d seen seafood and grits in other forms sprinkled across the entire menu and was very much in the mood for some of this Southern specialty. The shrimp themselves were far and away the star of this dish. Magnificently fresh, plump, juicy, and crisp, they were perfectly sauteed in an amazing garlic butter for just enough time for the flavor to permeate and enrich the fresh shrimp and not too long to overcook them. Every bite I had some shrimp, they shone through, proudly declaring this dish Shrimp feat. grits and friends, not the other way around. The grits were smooth, creamy, and consistently cooked, but unfortunately underseasoned and really just served as a vessel for the shrimp, eggs, bacon, and green onion. Again, there might have been a sale on scallions/green onions at the farmer’s market that morning to explain such a heavy hand that was seen in this and the chicken and pancakes. The flavor permeated far many more bites than I’d preferred and I found myself moving them off to the side after a time. The fresh diced tomato were a nice light addition to the traditionally heavy dish and even added a nice sweetness to the grits to counterbalance the strongly seasoned shrimp. The bacon was diced, nice and smokey, with an inconsistent cook that I actually preferred, allowing me a difference in texture and finding some bites thick and chewy and others crispy crunchy. The two over-easy eggs added a nice sauce to the dish and the velvety richness of the egg was wonderful with the creamy grits and spicy shrimp.

 

I was very impressed by the wide variety of offerings in their menu and saw a lot of potential and great successes in many of the dishes we sampled. I would gladly return and try all new dishes, as I have faith in the core quality of the ingredients and technique in the kitchen. I can only hope this is the beginning of a revitalization of Carnegie like we’ve seen in many of Pittsburgh’s lesser-traveled neighborhoods.

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