Strip District

Pittsburgh's Best Breakfast Since 1950

At many restaurants, weekend brunch means Millennial-geared offerings like farm-to-table bacon, gluten-free waffles, and craft bloody marys.  While there is certainly something to be said for well-executed avocado eggs benedict, it's nice to turn back the clock and revisit the breakfast foods America fell in love with in the first place.  After all, the heart wants what the hearts wants.  And when the heart wants diner-style breakfast, few places serve up the blue collar charm and breakfast staples (in equally large quantities!) like DeLuca's Diner.

Pittsburgh is rich with delicious homestyle diners.  In addition to DeLuca's, there's Ritter's in Bloomfield, the Dor-Stop in Dormont, Drew's in Forest Hills, and the near-ubiquitous Pamela's P&G Diner (with locations in the Strip District, Oakland, Squirrel Hill, Shady Side, Millvale, and more), to name a few. 

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On Sunday, Lauren and I woke up to a quintessential Pittsburgh springtime morning--gray skies and rain--which put us in the mood for a quintessential Pittsburgh breakfast: eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, etc. served in a no-nonsense atmosphere.  We knew instantly DeLuca's was the place.  After cruising Penn Avenue for awhile, we found a parking spot a few blocks away from the restaurant.  With an umbrella over head, we ducked through the sidewalk stalls of street vendors, passed the bustling coffee shops, and reached the line outside of the restaurant.  Yes, the line.  First-timers be advised, there is ALWAYS a line for DeLuca's, but do not be deterred; it moves quickly. 

In 15 minutes we were seated at our table sipping coffee and debating the age old breakfast question: sweet or savory?  We settled on sharing some of both: I ordered the pancakes and eggs, and Lauren ordered the huevos rancheros.  I ate my eggs first.  I ordered them over easy and they were perfectly cooked; the bacon they were partnered with was crisp, salty, and savory.  Meanwhile, Lauren struggled to pour ketchup out of the glass Heinz bottle (and she calls herself a Pittsburgher...) and on to her heap of home fries.  The pancakes were fluffy and absorbed the syrup I poured on them nicely.  About halfway through, Lauren and I swapped dishes.  The huevos rancheros, a mess (in a good way!) of chorizo, peppers and onions, topped with fried eggs, cheese, and avocado had just the right amount of spice for a breakfast food.  Lauren, with a palette sensitive to anything with spice, ordered the "Spanish sauce" on the side; I poured it over everything. 

When we finished eating, we headed back to our apartment satisfied with breakfast and the knowledge that slices of Americana like DeLuca's are still out there, if you know where to look.

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    What you should know

    If you plan on visiting DeLuca's on a weekend, be prepared to wait for a table.  Depending on the size of your party, the wait can sometimes exceed a half hour and, in the summer months, that can mean spending 30-plus minutes in the morning sun.  Not a great experience if you're famished, have young children, or maybe had one too many I.C. Lights the night before.

    Some menu recommendations include:

    •  The Mixed Grill. This pile (there's no better way to describe it) of breakfast meat, eggs, potatoes, and vegetables, topped with toast has been featured on Food Network's Diner's, Drive-ins, and Dives, and Travel Channel's Man vs. Food.  It's DeLuca's signature menu item.
       
    • The MOAB. Similar to the huevos rancheros (would recommend!), the MOAB (Mother of All Burritos), essentially an enormous breakfast burrito, is jam-packed with chorizo, potatoes, peppers, onions, and eggs, and topped with salsa and sour cream.
       
    • The Bionic Omelette.  This dish is for those with massive appetites only.  The Bionic Omelette is a six-egg omelette stuffed with meat, veggies, and cheese.  As a few of my bodybuilding buddies say (s/o Wob & Duff), "you gotta eat big to get big!"
       
    • Crepes or Specialty Pancakes.  You can't really go wrong with the sweet breakfast options at DeLuca's.  Some times it's unclear whether you're eating breakfast or dessert.
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    Walking in to DeLuca's is like walking back in time; the tiled floor, the bartop seating, and patent leather booths harken back to the heyday of the Diner as America's eatery.  A friendly, blue-collar feel emanates from the front door to the back of the house.  The attentive waitstaff make you immediately feel at home and at ease.  Overall, DeLuca's is a busy joint that is perpetually in motion.  Though the restaurant is now 68 years old, the line of cooks working over the flat top, servers running coffee, and bussers shuffling to clear tables keep the atmosphere feeling busy, youthful, and optimistic.  The fact that all of its charm is accompanied by some of the best diner food you'll find anywhere is just icing on the cake.  Er, syrup on the pancake.

     

    Post by Arnie, Photos by Lauren

     

    Smallman Galley

    Today's post is all about one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the city: Smallman Galley.

    Guys, if you live in or are traveling to Pittsburgh any time soon, then please add Smallman Galley to your list of must-visit restaurants. This restaurant incubator program houses some of the best food in town. It's a great option when guests are visiting, too, because there's literally something for everyone. Plus, the food comes quickly, and is so delicious!

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    THE CONCEPT

    Smallman Galley houses four chefs on a rotational basis, each one bringing innovative ideas to the kitchen. The chefs will spend 1-2 years in the galley, after which time, they'll be rotated out for a new chef looking to try out their own creative dishes. Pittsburgh is currently on its second round of chefs at the Strip District location, and it has been so wildly successful that they opened a second location, Federal Galley, on Federal Street in the North Side.

    THE RESTAURANTS

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    Iron Born Pizza, Chef Pete Tolman

    Chef Pete's signature is a pan-style pizza cooked in cast iron with a crisp crust but light interior. The recipe was created using a two-day ferment time with USA organic flour. Iron Born will also bring fine dining attention to detail in an approachable way to some of Pittsburgh’s bar room favorites.

    It's honestly very difficult for me to choose a favorite of these four talented chefs, but Pittsburgh as a whole seems to select Iron Born Pizza as their #1 Smallman Galley favorite--so much so, that Pete is the only chef who will officially be signed on for a second year before leaving the space. His pizza truly is phenomenal; I've had it on multiple occasions, and it's so mouth-wateringly delicious, you will crave it for days afterwards.

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    Colonia, Chef Jesse Barlass

    No stranger to Smallman Galley, Chef Jesse Barlass was the Sous Chef for one of its inaugural restaurants, Carota Café. The new concept he will bring to the space, Colonia, is designed to showcase the many diverse cuisines of Latin America.

    The pupusa I tried from Colonia was the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. I'm generally not one for a ton of spice, and these certainly hit that sweet spot for my delicate palette. The slaw was a perfect compliment to the fresh cilantro topping and fresh baked corn tortillas--a great option for spring and summer fresh eating. (Side note: if Latin American cuisine is your jam, hurry in. Colonia will be wrapping up its tenure very soon!)

    Banhmilicious, Chef Hoa Le

    Banh mi is Vietnam's most iconic street food. Its soul lies in the heart of the sandwich: Viet fusion style fillings and accompaniments that create complex layers ranging from salty to sweet, and sour to spicy.

    Chef Le's dishes are no joke. I'd never experienced Vietnamese food before trying Banhmilicious, and man have I been missing out! I can't even put into words how amazing these tacos were, and the banh mi sandwich itself was to die for. The combination of fresh ingredients, including cilantro, cucumber, and carrots, paired with the juicy pork [or tofu!] has my stomach growling just thinking about it.

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    (Side note: the cute redhead above is my friend, Lauren, of The Gingerbread Girl. Read her review here.)

    Brunoise, Chef Ryan Peters

    Chef Ryan Peters hails from Western Pennsylvania and has brought brunoise to Smallman Galley. The menu will highlight locally sourced ingredients and showcase Ryan's approachable take on fine dining.

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    Chef Peters has set the bar quite high when it comes to American classics with a twist. His food is definitely the most familiar to me, but by no means does that mean boring. All of Ryan's dishes feature local ingredients to create a selection of comfort foods where nostalgia meets fine dining. When I look at the menu, there's literally not one single thing I don't want to try.

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    THE ATMOSPHERE

    Smallman Galley is split into three general areas: the bar/coffee shop (sit or stand at high top tables to enjoy espresso, happy hour drinks, or your meals), the restaurants (where you order food), and the dining hall. The decor is artsy and minimal--a modern take on your old school dining hall. You'll want to snap pictures for your Instagram account the entire time!

    If you're local, get in quickly before these chefs rotate out! I'm telling you, you really don't want to miss this foodie hot spot.

     

    Post & Photos by Lauren


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