Raising the bar-o-meter

Food bars offer all sorts of tasty options that you can pick and choose

These are marzipan, nutella, strawberry and vanilla flavored macarons at Jean-Marc Chatellier's Bakery in Millvale. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

These are marzipan, nutella, strawberry and vanilla flavored macarons at Jean-Marc Chatellier's Bakery in Millvale. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

There are plenty of reasons to go bar hopping in Pittsburgh, and we don’t mean the kind where you get yourself sloshed silly. We are talking about food bars where you can choose what you want to eat and how much of it. Here are reasons why the bar-o-meter is set high.

Macaron bar
Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery, 213 North Ave., Millvale; 412-821-8533. $10 for six; $19 for 12.
The small French cookie sandwich comes in chocolate, vanilla bean, salted caramel, spiced pumpkin, rose-raspberry, strawberry, nutella, pistachio, espresso and lavender flavors. Glossy, crisp and chewy, the two-bite delights are in bright and pastel hues and filled with ganache made with white chocolate, cream and flavoring, or chocolate and cream.

Chaat bar
Taj Mahal, 7795 McKnight Road, Ross. 412-364-1760. Buffets, $8.99-$12.99.
As part of its lunch buffet daily and dinner buffet on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the chaat (pronounced cha-hht) bar features channa chaat (chickpeas, potatoes, cucumbers, onion), dahi vada chaat (fried lentil doughnuts in yogurt), samosa chaat (potato turnovers, chickpeas, yogurt, mint chutney, tamarind sauce) and spinach chaat (spinach is coated with chickpea flour and fried), along with mint, tamarind and onion chutneys, and cucumber and tomato raita (yogurt dip).

Sauce bar
Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, 1601 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412-709-6622. Price of entree.
Place your order off the board and then head to the sauce bar and fill a cup of chimichurri, ajo, cebolla and pimenton. Verdant and tangy, chimichurri is packed with parsley, fresh garlic, balsamic and red wine vinegars, and it pairs well with steaks. If you like a smooth garlic finish with your chicken, get the ajo, a yellow creamy sauce made with roasted garlic. The brown-hued cebolla is sort of sweetish from the caramelized onions and rosemary, and it’s best with grilled vegetables. Delightful with chorizo, the deep-red pimenton is a puree of roasted bell peppers and crushed red peppers and so has a pepper bite but not the heat.

Burrito bar
East End Food Coop, 7516 Meade St., Point Breeze; 412-242-3598. $7.99 per pound.
Build your own burrito on a plain or red chili-flavored wrap with guacamole, pineapple salsa, black beans, pinto bean dip, seitan, grilled vegetables, tortilla chips, chipotle slaw, vegan and cheddar cheeses. The burrito bar is open on Fridays, but the day is subject to change.
Pizza bar
Spirit, 242 51st St., Lawrenceville; 412-586-4441. $13 on Sundays only.
Pizzas made with a stretched focaccia crust and cut in rectangles are part of the Sunday brunch. A vegan-friendly option has Drunken Tomato Sauce made with white wine, and it is topped with mushrooms, pea shoot greens, olives and onions. Meat lovers can get one with pork sausage or pepperoni or bacon. A Margherita is layered with tomato sauce, provolone, Parmesan and mozzarella, and herbs. And a white pizza has red peppers and banana peppers or whatever other vegetable that is available, housemade ricotta cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan.

Frozen yogurt bar
Piccadilly Artisan Yogurt, 695 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon; 412-207-9654. 59 cents an ounce.
Free of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, the cool treats are made with pureed fruits and organic sugars. Dispense flavors such as Key lime, sea-salt caramel, cheesecake and chocolate-raspberry from the machines, and top them with organic cereals, sprinkles, Nerds and an assortment of fruits. And, oh, there are frozen-yogurt choices for vegans, too.

Feta bar
Stamoolis Brothers Co., 2020 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412-471-7676. By the pound.
Feast on fetas with global accents. Mild and a little dry, the Serbian/Croatian feta ($6.69) is good in spinach pies and for grilling. Bulgarian feta ($6.69) is creamy, crumbly and a little sour, making it a favorite in salads. French feta ($7.69) is a crowd-pleaser — mild, not too salty and creamy — and best to simply pop in the mouth. Macedonia feta ($6.99) is much like the Bulgarian variety. Greek fetas come in three varieties — one aged in a barrel ($8.49) that is hard, salty and has a strong aroma; creamy and rich Greek sheep ($7.99); and dense and creamy Greek goat ($7.99). Israeli feta ($7.99) has a distinct flavor, almost like truffles.

Bulk salt and peppercorn on display at the Market District store at Settler's Ridge in Robinson Township on September 15, 2016. (Andrew Rush/Post-Gazette)
Bulk salt and peppercorn on display at the Market District store at Settler’s Ridge in Robinson Township on September 15, 2016. (Andrew Rush/Post-Gazette)

Salt and pepper bar
Giant Eagle Market District, 100 Settlers Ridge Center Drive, Robinson; 412-788-5392. By the pound.
Colors stand out in the whole mixed colored peppercorns ($32.99); black peppercorns ($19.99); pink peppercorns ($29.99); white peppercorns ($19.99); finely ground gray sea salt ($11.99); Himalayan pink salt ($8.99); kala namak (black salt; $11.99); fleur de sel (sea salt; $18.49); and Yakima Applewood (smoked sea salt; $13.99).

Toppings bar
Betsy’s Ice Cream, 664 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon; 412-668-0379. $1.50.
Once you order your Nutella or Pittsburgh Pride in a cup or cone, you can go crazy with the toppings and get an unlimited quantity for $1.50. Choices are cheesecake pieces, cookie dough pieces, rainbow and chocolate sprinkles, Heath bar pieces, Gummi worms, pecans, walnuts, maraschino cherries, Lucky Charms, brownie pies, waffle pieces and Fruity Pebbles.
Coffee bean bar
Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange, 2005 Penn Ave., Strip District. 1-888-327-5282. By the pound.
Coffee beans along the wall speak global accents and include the mild and clean-flavored Maui Red ($24.95) that has a hint of milk chocolate; full-bodied Indian Mysore ($13.95); Honduras San Vicente ($10.95) with flavors of walnut and cocoa; Zimbabwe ($12.95), which has a tea-like body with peach, lime and rhubarb notes; and Sumatra Harimau Tiger ($14.95), which has a sweet butter, grilled red pepper and floral taste.

Fresh pasta bar
Whole Foods Market, Wexford Plaza, 10576 Perry Highway, McCandless; 724-940-6100. By the pound.
Pastas of various shapes include potato gnocchi ($5.99); rigatoni filled with ricotta cheese ($7.99); spinach-asiago ravioli ($10.99); grilled asparagus-roasted pepper ravioli; tri-color tortellini filled with ricotta ($6.99); fusilli calabrese ($7.99); orecchiette ($8.99); and ricotta gnocchi ($6.99). Creamy sauces such as Alfredo, tomato-cream and vodka-cream (each $6.99) are also sold by the pound.

Seafood bar
Fresh Market, 1551 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon; 412-831-5601. $12.99 per pound.
Colorful salads are laid out every day all day and include choices such as Thai-style lobster (which also has shrimp); Halibut & Shrimp Ceviche tossed with mango, red onion, lemon juice and cilantro; Shrimp Escabeche (red and green peppers, onion, minced garlic and Old Bay seasoning); Wild Alaskan salmon mixed with mayonnaise, parsley and green onions; and Lomi Lomi Salmon studded with tomato, scallion and cilantro.

Olive oil bar
Olive & Marlowe, 5975 Broad St., East Liberty.; 412-362-1942. 250-milliliter bottles range $14 to $18 and sampler box with four 60 milliliter-bottles is $36.
There are 20 flavors of extra-virgin olive oil from mild to robust that include Koroneiki, Ascolano, East End Blend, Blood Orange, Persian Lime, Citrus Habanero, Basil, Vanilla Bean and White Truffle. They are all bottled in-house. “Not all imported oils meet the standards for extra virgin, and so we are committed to sourcing oils exclusively from California,” owner Heather Cramer says.

Salad bar
Earth Inspired Salads, 218 Fifth Ave., Downtown; 412-281-1113. Greens and four fixins are $6.50.
Create your own salad by mixing and matching your choice of greens (romaine, spinach, kale) with fixins (beets, spicy quinoa, edamame). Top it with meaty and cheesy extras for an additional price (citrus shrimp, roasted chicken, grilled steak or tofu and goat cheese, cheddar or feta) and drizzle some gluten-free dressing (honey-basil balsamic, white sangria, roasted corn agave). Or you could order prepared salads such as Borderline (mesclun mix, chicken, pico de gallo, cheddar, tortilla chips with tomato-jalapeno-cilantro vinaigrette; $9.75) or King Cobb (salmon, bacon, avocado, cherry tomatoes with white sangria vinaigrette; $12).