Small-town America is one of the key aspects of our society that makes our nation so great. Although there may be more opportunities in the big city, the opportunities to find love and friendship are unmatched in small towns. There is something special about growing up in a small town. Small towns teach you a sense of community, to help each other, and to pick and build each other up. Growing up in a small town builds and shapes your moral compass and sets the framework for the rest of your life.
The Shenango Valley is an area that encompasses these principles. There are roughly a dozen municipalities consisting of small cities, townships, and boroughs. It is an area filled with small family-run businesses, plenty of recreational opportunities, and majestic natural resources such a Buhl Park, the Shenango River and Reservoir. It is an area that takes pride in supporting its local businesses, one of these being Combine Brothers restaurant. Since 1989, Combine Brothers has been pumping out classic Italian American dishes. Let us explore in more detail.
The vision – When it comes to the foundation, everything that can be is made from scratch. They have an in-house bakery that produces a ton of dough which they use for appetizers, pizza, and creates a great base for their sandwiches. The goal was to create a nostalgic atmosphere that emphasizes machine technology that honors the iron and steel industry.
Appetizers – Combines Brothers features unique appetizers. The Fried Greens starts with Escarole sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and cayenne, and crushed red pepper to give it some heat. The Beer Mussels are steamed in seafood broth and beer, which are then finished with red and green onions and fresh parsley. If you are feeling a more traditional appetizer, try the homemade wedding soup or Bruschetta.
Pizza – Any good pizza starts with a solid base. The homemade bread is hand-rolled and chargrilled which creates a thin, crispy, and light crust. It is available with red or white sauce. You also get a pick on your cheese selection, choose from cheddar, gorgonzola, or the three-cheese blend. You can get standard toppings or spice it up a little with hot Chile peppers, roasted reds, or fried greens.
The pasta – Combine Brothers is known for their creative pasta dishes. You get to choose your cut of pasta, choices include bowties, linguine, fettuccine, vermicelli, or ziti. Some of their specialty pastas include Diavolo which is spicy tomato sauce with zucchini, onion, and cayenne, and red pepper. The Black Olive Pesto features a puree of black olives, ample garlic, herbs, and Romano Cheese. One feature I like is that you can also create your own pasta dish and choose your toppings. There are traditional toppings such as meatballs, and unique selections as well such as shaved ribeye, sauteed scallops, and homemade crumbled sausage.
Other menu items – Combine Brothers also has pressed sandwich platters which include your choice of shaved ribeye, meatballs in sauce, or roasted chicken. Their garden salad features their made in-house dressing which the locals rave about.
Combine Brothers Final Take:
My final take – Having been a staple in the community for quite some time, Combine Brothers prides itself on making sure their customers get a delicious, homemade meal that most people cannot finish in one sitting. Their portion sizes are well above average. It is a restaurant that has a great ambience, and the newest project in the works is outdoor, patio dining. If you are in the Hermitage area and have not tried Combine Brothers, add it to your list!
- Taste and Flavor –
(1) Bland, no taste at all, under/overcooked/dry
(2) Edible, but below average, little to no spices, herbs, or seasonings, somewhat under/overcooked/dry
(3) Decent quality, spices/herbs/seasoning used. Not going to rave about the food but also not going to complain.
(4) Restaurant/dish lives up to reputation. Flavorful, it is clear spices/herbs, seasonings are used effectively. Dishes clearly thought out and well executed. What you would expect for your hard-earned dollar.
(5) Exceeds expectations. Not only are spices/herbs, and seasonings used to perfection, at this level, highest quality ingredients/meats used. Processes such as aging, brining, and marinating are used at this level. Food is cooked to perfection at this level and meat is unbelievably tender and juicy. You tell all your friends and family immediately about your food experience.
- Portion Size – How much food do you get, is there left-overs? 5s need to wow me.
- Affordability – Average cost of entrees and appetizers
- Ambience – The mood or feeling of the restaurant. Decorations, history, memorabilia, etc. Is it an atmosphere you could spend hours at?
To check out more amazing restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, read my first book, The Hidden Restaurant Gems of Pittsburgh: An Insider’s Guide.