There once was a parking lot. And then a lawn. And now there is the Porch at Schenley, one of the newest additions to Pittsburgh’s Oakland dining scene. The Porch at Schenley is located right in the thick of the University of Pittsburgh campus, between the university’s Hillman Library and the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. When construction was going on, there were talks of it being an Eatn’ Park, a diner style chain restaurant that originated in Homestead, Pennsylvania (neighboring city to Pittsburgh), but thankfully those rumors were false. Although Oakland has some fantastic ethnic dining spots, I welcome the addition of Porch, as it is a neighborhood bistro. Although its website describes it as being a place where you can “come as you are,” it definitely is a lot nicer than some of the dive restaurants that are scattered throughout Oakland, usually tucked away on streets off of the main drags of Fifth and Forbes Avenues. The fact that Porch is located in a brand new building with eye catching architectural details definitely helps too.
Porch does not accept reservations although they do have what is called a “wait list” where you can check its website and see the approximate wait time for a table (this feature is only available at dinner). If there is a wait, you can put down your name and phone number and you will receive a text when your table is just about ready. It saves on time since your name is already marked down and a table is being prepped for you as opposed to having to wait for one once you’re at the restaurant. We took advantage of the wait list and it certainly was a neat feature, receiving a text to let us know our table was ready.
We happened to dine at Porch the same weekend as the University of Pittsburgh’s commencement so we believe that the restaurant was doubly crowded for a Thursday night due to the many extra people in Pittsburgh for the event. Unless the restaurant is much less crowded, it seems that a noisy meal will always be the norm at Porch. My only critique of the restaurant is the size of the tables for two people. The restaurant isn’t overly large and it seemed that as many tables were packed in as possible. However, if you’re seated at one of the two person tables and you each order one of the pizzas, be prepared for a tricky situation. The pizzas are brought out on cookie sheets so with two cookie sheets plus our appetizer dish plus drink glasses, I literally had to hold the baking sheet with one hand as I balanced it on top of the appetizer plate with my other. The appetizer we ordered had only arrived a little before our entrees came, which is why I hadn’t had the appetizer plate removed at that time. My only critique is that the dishes should be more evenly spaced apart.
To start we ordered the antipasti ($14) which featured roasted vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggplant), Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, almonds, olives and crostini. While I enjoyed the antipasti, I didn’t love it. I found that whatever the vegetables had been marinated in was a bit too tart for my taste. However, the menu featured some other extremely delicious sounding starters and we’ll just order differently the next time.
D and I each ordered a pizza since that seemed to be a specialty. I had the margherita ($11) which was topped with tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella and basil. All of the pizzas also came with toppings of oregano, red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese, which you could apply as you liked (all were neatly presented on one side of the cookie sheet). The pizza was exceptionally good and, as I only ate half of it, I found that my leftovers the next day were even better. I loved the crust as it was light and flaky and not at all heavy like some from neighborhood pizza shops that come in cardboard boxes.
D ordered the piggie pizza pie ($14) which was topped with house cured meats, mozzarella cheese and basil; he ate all of his. He did express interest in trying their bbq pizza on our next visit.
Hopefully the next time we dine there, things will be calmer and less crowded but we both enjoyed our first dining experience at Porch and will look forward to trying out new selections from the menu in the future.
Note: Porch is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as for brunch on Sundays.
221 Schenley Drive
Pittsburgh, PA. 15213