After Sam Gamgee cooked a rabbit stew in the Lord of the Rings, eating bunnies developed a glamorous mystique in my mind.  I started ordering rabbit dishes at restaurants and was happily surprised to find that it’s actually quite tasty. I was also eager to prepare a rabbit recipe in my own kitchen, but had an exceedingly difficult time finding ones that sounded appetizing.  Until now! I recently stumbled upon a promising Emeril Lagasse recipe for a Rabbit Ragu with Pappardelle and was inspired to make it that very day.  I headed to the Strip District that morning, armed with my grocery list and my two children–on a mad hunt for rabbit meat.

Pittsburgh’s Strip District is a little piece of foodie heaven. It is brimming with ethnic grocery stores, produce stands, restaurants, coffee shops, street food vendors, wholesale meat and fish markets, and on and on and on… I decided that the Strip would probably be the most likely spot to find rabbit (along with all the other ingredients that I needed) in the city.  Since I had to schlep my kids along too, I tried to make the experience both educational and fun for them.  Here was our grocery list:

  • 2 whole rabbits
  • Parmesan
  • Onions, carrots, celery
  • Fresh thyme and rosemary
  • Dried oregano

And here were the stops we made that day:

Stop 1: Pennsylvania Macaroni Company

Browsing the aisles at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company
Browsing the aisles at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company

The Strip District is full of grocery stores selling foodstuffs from a variety of cultures, including Middle Eastern, Italian, Greek, Polish, Asian, Hispanic, etc.  Our first stop that morning was at my favorite Italian market, the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, to search for pappardelle pasta and parmesan cheese.  I was easily able to find both from amongst their impressive inventory.  My kids enjoyed looking at the different pasta shapes, scooping the dried beans, taste-testing cheeses, and smelling the Italian spices at Penn Mac.

stripcasareyna

Stop 2: Reyna’s Foods

While walking along Penn Avenue, I noticed a sign outside of Reyna’s Foods for Casa Reyna–a new restaurant affiliated with the Mexican grocer. I was thrilled, since their sidewalk-cart tacos are my favorite in the city! The restaurant opened earlier this week and we will certainly be checking it out very soon! My kids wanted to wander inside the market, so I let them guide me around for a bit.

Surprise!
Surprise!

They were amazed by the pinata’s hanging from the ceiling and enjoyed peeking into the metal cans filled with dried peppers!

Pinata's at Reyna's!
Pinata’s at Reyna’s!
Free flower!
Free flower!

Stop 3: Street Vendor Plants

Very close to Pennsylvania Macaroni Company and Reyna’s there is a street vendor who peddles vegetable plants, herbs, and fresh-cut flowers. Years ago, I actually bought my wedding flowers at this spot because they were so fresh and extremely cheap.  Since I needed fresh thyme and rosemary for my recipe, I decided to stop in and buy some actual plants instead of just buying the cut herbs.  I spent some time introducing my kids to the different vegetable plants.  AND my daughter charmed everybody so much she even got a free flower!

Stop 4: Stan’s Market

Next, we ventured into Stan’s Market–a produce shop on Penn and 18th Street–with exceptionally cheap prices.  I picked up some carrots, onions, and celery while the kids explored.  It was really cool to introduce my kids to the different vegetables immediately after we had learned about the same plants across the street.

Smelling spices at Penzey's
Smelling spices at Penzey’s

Stop 5: Penzeys Spices

Our next stop was Penzeys Spices for some dried oregano and some sniff-testing. We spent a good 30 minutes exploring the store, opening up glass jars filled with spices, and inhaling the heavenly fragrances of cuisines from all over the world.

Free cookie for snacktime from Prestogeorge's!
Free cookie for snacktime from Prestogeorge’s!

Stop 6:  Snacktime at Prestogeorge

We stopped off at Prestogeorge, a favorite coffee shop, for snacktime.  I got myself a caffe latte, my kids managed to con their way into free biscotti’s, and we chatted with the locals at an outdoor table.  I’m pretty sure my daughter thought she was a movie star at this spot!

Watching the fish at Wholey's
Watching the fish at Wholey’s

Last Stop: Wholey’s Market

Wholey’s Market is a perennial favorite of mine since it has so many unusual cuts of meat and varieties of fish.  I figured they would probably have rabbit and I was right!  I picked up two good-sized bunnies and then spent some time investigating with the kiddoes. We watched live fish in tanks, touched a lobster, watched the model train, and even got to taste-test some lobster bisque!

All in all, it was an excellent outing!  I found it much easier to navigate the Strip District with children during the week since there were no crowds and the shop owners were more laidback about letting them explore.  And it was really FUN to turn an ordinary shopping trip into a multisensory experience for us all.  I can proudly say that my kids are definitely well-on-their-way to becoming foodies.

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And then I went home and prepared the rabbit recipe with some minor modifications (substituted wine for the chicken broth) and it turned out great!  If you are rabbit-curious, I would definitely recommend trying it out!

© Copyright Nadine Champsi, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

9 Comments on A Kid-Friendly Rabbit Hunt in Pittsburgh’s Strip District

  1. Hey everything sounds good, good idea to have fun with the kids and get fresh food to try recipes ,thanks Nadine

    • I know! Especially those amazing huge pepperoni rolls they’re always peddling…could really go for one of those right now!