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.
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.
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.
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