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Tartine: A Darling Brunch Spot in the West End

Tartine: A Darling Brunch Spot in the West End

Today is Easter Sunday, and Easter is always a good day to talk brunch! I’m at my in-laws today, and we’re having home cooked food, but given how Easter, springtime and brunch go so nicely together, I thought it a good time to talk about a new darling brunch spot in the West End neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

When my friend Amy invited me to brunch, how could I resist? Brunch is the best. The. Best. And with more and more restaurants opening up on Sunday mornings, my “to brunch” list is ever-growing. I’m always up for French baked goods, so I was eager to propose Tartine as our brunching spot.
Tartine

There are some important things to remember about Tartine:

1. It is very small. Going earlier is better, as near the end of our brunch the place was totally packed, and there were plenty of people waiting to be seated. Being small, it’s a better option for parties of 6 or fewer. The space limitations make it hard to accommodate huge groups.

2. It is cash only. I, however, never carry cash on me. So I had to make a quick (and embarrass) run up the street to an ATM. Plan better than me, folks.

3. They do not serve liquor, meaning if you are having a hankering for a brunch time mimosa, they cannot deliver (I am not sure whether you can BYOB. If you can, this may not be an ideal option).

4. The food is excellent. Keep 1-3 in mind, and you will be in for a fantastic meal.

Tartine Quiche

Quiche, a quintessentially French dish, is permanently on the menu at Tartine. Baby Beez loves quiche, so this gives Tartine extra points in picking a place for family brunch. Tartine’s potatoes are very similar to the kinds my dad would make for us on Sunday mornings, so this meal was served for us with a side of nostalgia.

Tartine Eggs Florentine

I picked the Tartine Eggs Florentine, which is an eggs benedict with spinach, and tomatoes subbed in for the English Muffin. The tomatoes took away the usual heaviness of the dish, so I enjoyed the tasty dish without a post-meal food coma.

Tartine Raspberry Torte

We absolutely could not resist completing our meal with Tartine’s gorgeous desserts. The Raspberry Torte was simply gorgeous, sweet and light, and perfect.

Tartine is one of Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets. Selfishly, I hope it stays a secret, because I don’t want to fight a crowd when I’m in the mood for a lovely brunch. But really, it’s a wonderful place and worth a visit.

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A Square Meal with @TheSquareCafe

A Square Meal with @TheSquareCafe

Square Cafe has long been a favorite of mine in the East End, but on weekends has an inescapably long line. This is not such a problem when you’re with a group of grown ups (plus- you can order your coffee drinks a la carte at the coffee bar while you wait), but it’s a dealbreaker when you have small ones in tow. The only thing worse than waiting in line is waiting in line with a small kid. I, as per usual, saw Square Cafe’s deal on Groupon and decided OMG I MUST HAVE THIS. But when it came down to using the Groupon, I realized that weekends were just not workable.

Luckily, I have a lot of flexibility in my job, and was able to work out a weekday where I could venture out for breakfast and show up in the office a little late (which is a nice trade-off considering how many nights my work keeps me tied to my laptop late at night). Since Sandy of OrangeChairBlog and I share a love for all things brunch, and our daughters are good buddies, we were naturally a perfect match for this breakfast date.

Square Cafe in Regent Square

Square Cafe is a go-to spot for the GLBTQ community, and during our visit, their walls were adorned with simply gorgeous GLBTQ family portraits. The artwork itself was worth the visit, the portraits were just lovely. Square Cafe is truly a neighborhood restaurant. The owners foster a sense of community, and more than anything, they want their visitors to have a lovely visit.

The breakfast menu is ample, but every time I’ve been there my attention immediately gravitates to the 2 hash dishes offered: a brussels sprouts hash and a butternut squash hash. I picked the brussels sprouts hash for this visit, and it was so salty and filling and all things amazing. Underneath that egg is a bed of cheesy grits. Basically it is everything I love in a breakfast, on one plate. So good. Square also has an ample coffee bar menu, with all kinds of flavored lattes and other caffeinated treats. The gingerbread latte is my usual go-to. It is exactly as it sounds and simply delightful.

The Brilliant Brussels Sprouts Hash at The Square CafeSandy went for the special of the day, which was a ricotta-filled blood orange crepe. I generally do not order crepes of any sort, because I am a HUNGRY LASS, and crepes are a surefire recipe for me to be hungry about 20 minutes after breakfast is over. Sandy reported that the crepe was delicious and filling, and she was extremely happy with it.

Blood Orange Crepes at The Square Cafe

Breakfast is reliably a good meal to take Baby Beez to a restaurant, because she sure as heck likes eggs, pancakes, cottage cheese, pretty much every breakfast food. Square Cafe is very skilled in serving kids– their meals are served on plastic plates with favorite cartoon characters and their meals always come out quickly. Rachel had plenty of scrambled eggs, bacon and cottage cheese and she was quite a happy girl.
Square Cafe on Urbanspoon

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DC fun with @TortillaCoast @CUCB @PERRYSdc and @TammysSalonDC

DC fun with @TortillaCoast @CUCB @PERRYSdc and @TammysSalonDC

Sandy and I are having a girl’s weekend in DC. What do two crazy women do when they leave their children home and hit the town? Crazy things like watch TV and go to bed at 9:20 at night. And LOVE it.

We arrived in DC on Saturday to do race packet pickup as I was running the 10 mile Credit Union Cherry Blossom Run and Sandy was doing the 5k version. Driving in DC, even with the light traffic of a Saturday afternoon, always inspires a flurry of curse words and anger, and this visit was no different. WE eventually did make it to packet pickup. This race is extremely well organized, and the whole process took like 10 minutes. Kudos to the race team for a very easy packet experience.

We settled into our hotel and went on to some essential DC activities, namely eating frozen yogurt and shopping at Zara.

zara

Next up was carbo-loading. Well, not really carbo-loading. Just filling our faces with food. A visit to Tortilla Coast for enchiladas and a Shiner Bock would do just nicely.

Tortilla Coast

Afterward, we lived the wild life, and were in bed by 9pm. CRAZY. But it was a good idea, because this morning I was up bright and early to pound the pavement for 10 miles.

morning run

The race start was close to the metro, and like the race expo, the race itself was very well organized. This is an especially impressive feat, because there were some 15,000 runners for the 10 mile race. Little things like grouping porta-potties into sets such that lines organized easily and efficiently, and strictly adhering to the start times, and lots of extremely helpful volunteers made this an extremely pleasant running experience.

The course itself is very pretty. In theory, nature would cooperate, and the whole run would be through blooming cherry trees, but only a few trees were in bloom today. Still, running along and across the river was very pleasant. This is a very crowded race, but it led to a very enthusiastic atmosphere. The course is very flat and fast, but because it’s so heavily trafficked, it might be hard to get a PR just because you’re dodging so many other runners. For all the dodging about I did, it added an extra half mile on to my run! The official race time said I came in at 2:01, but my running app put me at 1:59 for 10.5 miles, so I’m going with my own time and claiming a sub-2-hour time!

medal picture

I claimed my medal and cheerfully made my way back to the hotel. I’m glad to say that I’m stiff and a little blistered, but generally in good shape. I absolutely would run this course again, and remain convinced that 10 miles is a great distance for me. I don’t regularly run far enough for it to be an easy run, but I can work hard and confidently complete the route.

After our race we departed for drag brunch at Perrys in Adams Morgan.

Perrys Drag Brunch

Perry’s brunch buffet is great, but the entertainment is beyond compare.

Because this was a girls weekend, and because my feet were a mess from all the running, a mani-pedi was in order. I strolled on over to Tammy’s Salon and treated myself to gettin’ my nails done. The nail salon wasn’t anything fancy, and the mani-pedi was fairly no-frills, but it feels so nice to have my nails all cleaned up.

This evening we had a nice dinner at the nearby Sonoma Restaurant Wine Bar. The charcuterie plate, in particular, was generous and tasty. I did take a couple pictures, but now I’m writing this from the bed and my camera (with its photos ) are all the way across the room, so nevermind. It’s the fine late hour of 8:42 pm, and that means bedtime is quickly approaching! Back to Pgh in the morn!



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Fancy people birthday brunch with @ElevenPittsburg

Fancy people birthday brunch with @ElevenPittsburg

My birthday was way back in November, can you believe how far away that was! Back in a month where the ground was not covered in snow! I can hardly remember what it’s like to walk out of the door wearing heels (not snowboots). Back in that wonderful time, I celebrated my 29th birthday (again) with some lovely friends at Eleven’s lovely brunch. I admit I’ve been to Eleven before for dinner, and wasn’t the biggest fan. The quality of the food was quite good, but it was expensive and didn’t feel as “special” as I expected (Caveat: That was a couple years ago, so maybe a revisit to dinner would be appropriate). The brunch, however, is great. It’s simultaneously fancy and laid-back. You could arrive to brunch in a ballgown or a pair of sweatpants, and it would all be OK.

Eleven Pittsburgh

The price fixe brunch includes a cocktail, starter and entree. I wish I could tell you exactly what my cocktail was, but it was over 3 months ago. All I remember is that it was grapefruit and I loved it.

Eleven Pittsburgh 2

Starter charcuterie plate. LOVE it.

Eleven Pittsburgh 3

I opted for the oysters starter. I think having oysters as a starter option really sets Eleven apart. Where else are you going to get oysters as part of a price fixe brunch? And you know that these oysters are fresh and high quality. They were. So tasty.

IMG_3650

This picture is kind of hard to see, but it was my steak entree. I was like IT IS MY BIRTHDAY, I AM EATING STEAK. I don’t often eat steak, but birthdays call for something decadent. And decadent it was.

Eleven is a perfect brunch spot to impress your guests. The menu selections are familiar, but have a creative twist. In particular, if you’re an out of town visitor staying in dahntahn, Eleven is walkable and worth a stroll. Although this is definitely a “grown ups only” atmosphere as the day gets later, I felt perfectly comfortable bringing my little one with me for brunch. Since brunch prices are reasonable ($25 for grown ups, $15 for kids), this special brunch does not have to be reserved solely for special occasions.

Eleven on Urbanspoon

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@TamariPgh brunch. Wow. Seriously wow.

@TamariPgh brunch. Wow. Seriously wow.

Tamari’s menu sounds kind of weird. It’s a Latin/Asian fusion restaurant. It opened back when fusion and any variation of any kind of asian food was the trend.  Now the fusion trend has largely died out, except at Tamari.  Their cocktails are an easy sell, but I’ve had trouble generating interest in checking out their brunch.  Finally I decided, forget it. I don’t need company. I’m going on my own.  Am I ever glad I went.

Tamari’s brunch is hands-down one of the best in the city. The menu descriptions are incredibly hard to visualize and, for me at least, did not sound like things I would want to eat.  But I asked the bartender for recommendations and he totally steered me right.  The key to a perfect Tamari brunch is to not think too hard. If one element in a dish stands out to you, order it. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Aperol Spritz

The price fixe brunch includes a cocktail, starter, cardamom bread and entree.  When I read “cardamom bread,” I immediately filed that under “things that do not interest me.”  When it was actually served to me, I was in love.  This bread is all the best things about cinnamon rolls, except even better.  It’s light, fluffy, sweet and a little spicy.  It was served with mango jalapeno butter which, again, sounded gross but was amazing. (Sensing a theme here?)

Cardamom Bread

I started with the ancho glazed bacon, which comes with grits and an egg. It was savory and so flavorful. It was snowing that day, and the grits were a perfect belly warmer.  For a starter, this was immense. It’s the size of a full meal. I can’t let a good dish go to waste, so of course I ate it all.

Ancho Glazed Bacon

For my entree, I had the Korean marinated tenderloin. Brilliant.  The meat was salty and rich, the kimchi brussels sprouts sour, all together, so so so so good.

Korean marinated tenderloin

I was so stuffed afterward that I literally went home and took a nap. Mr. Beez still expresses skepticism about trying Tamari, but it was amazing, and heck I’ll keep visiting solo.  It certainly helped that the staff hit that right balance of chatting with me when I expressed interest and sought recommendations, but left me in peace to read when I cracked open my book.

I have visited Tamari before for dinner and happy hour.  For nighttime dining, Tamari was good but not exceptional, and also pricy. For brunch, however, Tamari seriously delivers. Tamari is full of wonderful surprises.

Tamari on Urbanspoon