La Feria

By | May 19, 2006

La Feria
5527 Walnut St
Shadyside, 15232
M-Sat: 11-10

YUM!  La Feria is my favorite treat ever.  La Feria specializes in bringing Peruvian culture to Pittsburgh.  Hot Damn, we are a lucky city!  Look at all the ethnic places we have available to us: Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian (Northern and Southern), Korean, Ethiopian, Argentinean, Mediterranean, German, French, Caribbean, Belgian, British, Filipino, and I’m happy to include on the list, Peruvian.  One thing missing is a strong Cuban restaurant in the area, but fortunately for us La Feria can fill a little bit of that niche with its shredded beef dishes and plantain influences.  It is so much more though.  La Feria has a titillating ingredient list featuring pumpkin, sweet potato, corn, sour cream, beans, raisins, olives, cilantro, Peruvian peppers, fried banana, quinoa, and hominy.  These things go into stews, soufflés, and casseroles, which are described as zesty, spicy, and sweet.  Seriously, you’ll need to wipe your chin after reading this menu.  But it isn’t just a trick of the adjective – this stuff is darn tootin’ delicious!

La Feria is on Walnut Street in the heart of Shadyside.  You might not know its there because it is kind of in a weird location: above the Pamela’s.  When you go up the stairs, you enter into a combination café/craft shop.  To get to the tables, you pass through shelves of hand-made Peruvian goods, such as jewelry, weavings, mirrors, ornaments, artwork, carvings, etc.  If you want something with a llama depicted on it, then this is your place!  All the pieces are so earnest and down-to-earth; I usually end up spending a good chunk of time looking at everything in the store.  Of course, that is only after I’m done eating!

The menu is presented in two fashions.  There is a regular menu on your table that lists all the items they have on a daily basis, and then there is a chalkboard behind the counter that lists the specials of the day.  The chalkboard is the menu I almost exclusively order from, because the dishes are always so interesting sounding.  They usually post two meat options and two vegetarian options.  Here are some examples:

Papas Rellenas con Carne
Potato dumpling stuffed with spicy beef, black olives & raisins, topped with our homemade onion salsa
Entremes de Banana con Chorizo Spicy Ecuadorian banana & chorizo sausage salsa served with sweet potato chips for dipping
Pollo con Manzana Shredded chicken tossed with fried apples, ginger & fresh cilantro

Cheesy whipped potato & cilantro soufflé topped with a spicy peanut sauce
Locro Zesty potato & pumpkin stew, mixed with cheese, corn, and peas
Causa de Pallares Butterbeans tossed with fresh tomatoes, cheese and Peruvian hot peppers

MMM!  All these Daily Special dishes come with a chunk of French bread, garlic rice, and a La Feria salad.  The salad comes with tomatoes, onions, olives, and walnuts, and has a little sprinkling of swiss and parmesean cheese.  The vinaigrette dressing is delightfully perky.

Getting the Daily Special is probably the most expensive option, although still not to bad at 9.95!  But, I know a lot of college students who’d rather pay a little less for a lunch.  Well, we are all in luck because the regular daily menu has some really delicious items.  For instance, you must get the Camotes Fritos (sweet potato chips).  They are fresh fresh fresh, and still have a little moisture in them.  In other words, they aren’t crispy or brittle, but they have the slightest chew to them.  Sublime.  They are served with a most excellent dip they call ‘spicy Huancaina’.  Even if you get a special, you should order some of these!

La Feria also serves empanadas, which are popular South American savory turnovers.  They are usually filled with beef or chicken, but La Feria sometimes has special flavors like spinach and cheese and so forth.  A few of these puppies a good meal makes.  If you are more in the mood for a sandwich, the Ropa Vieja is my recommendation.  Ropa Vieja translates to ‘old clothes’, which is supposedly the visualization you are supposed to get from shredded beef!  Well, I guess I see it, but mostly when I look at shredded beef I visualize it in my mouth, which is then chewing and swallowing.  Lo and behold, that is where the beef ends up!  It is the power of the mind, my friends.  But anyway, Ropa Vieja is a shredded beef sandwich, and is pretty much just that: beef and bread.  Simple and delicious, and the closest thing to Cuban we’ve got.

If you are vegetarian, La Feria has a sandwich for you too, with lettuce, tomato, sweet potato chips, cheese, onion salsa, and aji mayo on French bread.  MMM, and they have an egg salad, avocado, tomato sandwich on wheat that sounds pretty interesting.  A vegetarian should have an easy time finding fare at La Feria, where the owners are veggie conscious.  If not the regular menu, the chalkboard should always have something that suits your tastes.

The fun doesn’t end there.  La Feria also thought about making interesting desserts and drinks.  If you have room for dessert after all of this, you should check out their offerings.  I’ve never been able to save room, but I find the bread pudding and caramel apple pie intriguing.  As for drinks, they import Inka Kola, a cream soda from Peru, and they fresh-squeeze lemonade and limeade, to order.  Man, that is some good stuff.  A fresh limeade with a spicy sweet potato casserole on a summer day?  That’s the stuff MY dreams are made of!  Maybe yours too?

Daily Special
Sweet Potato Chips
Limeade or Inka Kola

La Feria’s gallery is open on Sunday, but the café is not, so don’t make the disappointing mistake of thinking it is open for lunch!  If you have a party of 15 or more, they will open the café just for you on Sunday.  In general, La Feria takes reservations for any M-Sat evening if your party is 6 or more.

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