Six Penn None the Richer

by Beci Russell
with Gretchen Jacobs and Philip Curley

Special shout out to Amy Pischke for organizing the Rachel Carson Sustainable Feast SP.  Without that project and the coupons attained there, our dinner would not have been possible!

Six Penn is one of many downtown theater dining destinations.  Located in the heart of the cultural district on Sixth St. and Penn Ave (get it?), this trendy, two-story bar and eatery has been open since 2006.  Known for its connection to the Godfather of western PA late-night diners, Eat’n Park, their playful approach to classic American dishes and locally sourced produce paired with a hip and warm atmosphere has been able to consistently draw in dinner, lunch and Sunday brunch crowds.

So first with the formalities: We made a dinner reservation on a Tuesday for three at 5:30. It was probably a little unnecessary to make the reservation as they weren’t terribly busy, but since this place does get a theater rush, it can be better to be safe than hungry, eh?  We were taken up the stairs to our table on the second floor and felt little out of the loop as a result.  The vibe is quite different between the two floors, with the lower level appearing to provide a more interesting dining experience.  The activity of the large bar and the open kitchen are located on the main level, so we missed out on the sights that correlated with the sounds that floated up to meet us over the balcony.

Our server was prompt to greet us, yet less than enthusiastic.  We ended up ordering the seitan* “buffalo wings”, the local cheese plate and General Tso’s shrimp with Kimchi fried rice for our starters.  For the veggies of the group, the wings and the cheese plate were both meat-free.  The wings were totally shareable: meaty (can you say that about gluten?) and plentiful, although the sauce was less buffalo and more barbeque.  The cheese plate was the overall favorite with a nice selection of three cheeses, fresh fruit, bread, and a house-made jam and mustard.  The cheeses were far from exotic, (port cheddar, gouda, and Romano) but nice.  The shrimp and rice were a disappointment for the whole table.  The sauce was too sweet with no spice and the rice tasted instant and was almost soupy, rather than fried.  Other selections included a pizza with marinara and mozzarella, house-made pretzels and a fried green tomato caprese salad.  Speaking of the caprese salad, we tried to order it, but it was no longer available and hadn’t been for a few weeks.  Our feeling was to take it off of the paper menu if it’s not something we can order. Fair?

Dinner consisted of the “crackling” pork shank, lamb Bolognese with house made pasta and falafel. Again, for you vegetarians out there, the falafel would be the friendly choice.  Surprisingly enough, it was also their only vegetarian entrée option out of 10+ dinners.  The falafel was served with Spanish-style rice and artichokes.  The artichokes were a lovely feature, slightly tangy and bright, but we agreed that we wanted more in the mix.  The falafel itself was served atop a pool of creamy cilantro sauce.  Overall it was a little heavy and felt disjointed as an entrée.  It was heavy on carbs and just a generally flat choice for the vegetarians in the group. The texture of the pasta was very good.  There were plenty of fresh tomatoes, a sprinkle of feta and a hearty portion of tender lamb.  The dish was nice, but there was a lack of salt, taking the dish down to less than what it could have been.  The standout dish was the pork.  The outer layer was crispy while the meat itself was so tender that it melted off the bone.  It was served with deliciously awesome bacon and sauerkraut mashed potatoes.  Whole grain mustard and a fresh apple puree rounded out the plate.  Our server had warmed up to us by the end of the meal, due in part, we’re sure, to the visibility of our notepad.  When prompted for dessert he recommended the chocolate cake.  It was truly delicious.  Fudgy and deeply chocolaty, it was served alongside a “shot” of vanilla milk that finished it perfectly.

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Six Penn is a prominent downtown spot that gets a lot of buzz. Some of the meats and cheeses are sourced locally and many of the vegetables are too; the tomatoes are even grown on the roof of the building.  But the prices are a tad steep on most of the entrees, especially for those of us on a budget (and who isn’t nowadays?).  The shareable-sized appetizers were a much better value, particularly if you’re stopping in with friends for happy hour.  Also, for the vegetarians, we would definitely recommend picking a few of the appetizers or salads rather than the entrée option.  Six Penn is a good downtown eating option, but only if you have a coupon or are looking for a quick couple of bites to share.

Appetizers, Soups and Salads $5-$15

Sides $5-$6

Dinner Entrees $16-$30

*Seitan is a meat alternative made from wheat instead of soy, and a heartier substitute than tofu.

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