Restaurant Review: Pamela’s Diner (Pittsburgh)
Here in Pittsburgh Pamela’s is considered one of the best places for a down to earth, inexpensive breakfast. With a vast number of locations throughout the city and also in neighboring suburbs, it’s easy to get your fill of hearty Pamela’s food, a staple in Pittsburgh for more than 30 years. I first dined at Pamela’s during my senior year of college. My dad was visiting for the weekend and we decided to make a day of it in the Strip District by visiting the Heinz History Center and starting our day off with breakfast fare at Pamela’s Strip District location. For whatever reason I hadn’t been back until recently when my work scheduled changed again so I now have Sundays at my disposal (Saturdays are temporarily gone) which spurred my desire to head there for breakfast.
If you’re looking to dine at Pamela’s be prepared for a slight (or perhaps long in some cases) wait if you go on a weekend. (I can’t speak for all of the locations but the ones I am familiar with are all crowded.) When I say it’s an extremely popular/beloved/favorite spot for Pittsburgh denizens to frequent I’m not lying. And in fact when President Obama was campaigning in Pittsburgh prior to his first election, he dined here and liked it so much that he later invited “the” Pamela to the White House to make pancakes.
We got there about 12:15 on a Sunday afternoon and no surprise, there were people waiting for a table. Lots of them. Although it’s a bit of a madhouse up front by the entrance since one of the hostesses also acts as the cashier, they do have a sign-in board which is how they keep track. (Pamela’s is cash only, so the ubiquitous automated buzzers you receive at popular establishments such as the Cheesecake Factory and the Olive Garden wouldn’t go with the ambiance.) I remembered it was cash only at the last minute and so off D went in search of an ATM (we never have cash on us). Before I knew it my name was being called (all in all we waited about five minutes for a table, not bad at all).
The Strip District location has two rooms, small and smaller. We were seated in the smaller room at an even smaller table.While Pamela’s does offer a lunch option, it is not served on Sundays. But on other days a wide selection of salads, sandwiches and hamburgers is available. That was fine for me as I was in the mood for filling breakfast foods.
While I debated back and forth between savory versus sweet (egg dish versus a pancake style dish) I went with sweet. Thankfully I didn’t go as sweet as the Croissant French Toast as it just sounded too much (croissants soaked in cinnamon-vanilla egg batter and topped with caramel sauce and nuts-$7.29). I decided on the Strawberry Hotcakes (also $7.29) which consisted of nontraditional hotcakes (they were more like crepes) stuffed with fresh strawberries, brown sugar, sour cream and topped with whipped cream. They were extremely delicious although my one critique is that they were not at hot as I would have liked. They weren’t cold so I wasn’t going to bother sending them back, but I much prefer my food to be so hot that I have to let it cool than have it served slightly cool. Needless to say, I took the leftovers home with me.
For my side I went with the Turkey Sausage ($2.79) which almost tasted like it wasn’t for how delicious it was. (Sometimes the healthier food products just don’t taste as good.)
D went with the California French Toast ($5.29) and it featured home-style whole wheat raisin bread dunked in a a cinnamon-vanilla egg batter. For a dollar more you could have it topped with walnuts, chocolate chips or bananas and for two dollars more you had the option of either strawberries or blueberries as a topping. He kept it plain and simple.
D, ever a carnivore, went with a side of bacon, also $2.79.
And a nice thing about Pamela’s is that pots of coffee are bottomless, a great perk at only $1.99 a person.
All in all, Pamela’s is hectic, loud and mildly crazy from a dining perspective. And yet it’s an enjoyable place where you can get a home cooked meal at an inexpensive rate.