15 Hot Brunch Spots
These local eateries lead the way in the Pittsburgh brunch movement, serving fare that’s worth waking up late for.
Photos by Heather Mull
Forget Brangelina. The best portmanteau ever coined is undoubtedly brunch. There’s something inherently decadent and indulgent about brunch that neither breakfast nor lunch can claim. And we have 19th-century visionary Guy Beringer to thank for making a plea for the most reasonable ambiguation of mealtime: “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting.”
And the meal’s on the rise locally, with options ranging from the traditional French toast to a polenta pepperonata. Whether you like breakfast classics, crave stylish new takes or just need an excuse to sip champagne in the morning, here are 15 of the spots leading Pittsburgh in this most civilized of meals.
Broiled grapefruit with ricotta and honey, served alongside a freshly made cocktail here. Photo by John Altdorfer.
Housed in the iconic firehouse in the Strip District, Bar Marco is one of the intrepid restaurants ushering in the New Pittsburgh. Its casual, unaffected hipness belies the seriously stellar food and libations offered. The brunch menu features sweet, savory and side items, including classics with thoughtful touches — such as rosemary French toast with orange ice cream and maple. Dishes like the buckwheat pancakes, pork-belly benedict or broiled grapefruit with ricotta, mint and honey (served with a shot of Boyd & Blair vodka!) will convert even the staunchest brunch skeptic.
(2216 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/471-1900, barmarcopgh.com)
Unless you arrive the moment Coca Café opens for brunch, be prepared to get a coffee to go from nearby Espresso a Mano and wait in line. One of the establishments that paved the way for the Lower Lawrenceville boom, Coca is a breakfast and lunch institution. Its brunch features seasonal specials, as well as egg-based dishes, breakfast breads and sweets. Some of the popular dishes from the breakfast menu — like the smoked-salmon omelet and the goat cheese-stuffed French toast — are available, too. Even cooler: Most items can be made vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten-free.
(3811 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/621-3171, cocacafe.net)
The “Potato Benny” — eggs Benedict with corned beef on a potato pancake, topped with chive hollandise. Photo by Heather Mull.
Cornerstone Restaurant & Bar
Ever try a Potato Benny? Well, the folks who love Cornerstone Restaurant & Bar swear by it. It’s eggs Benedict without the customary English muffin; in its place is a crispy potato pancake, topped with corned beef, a poached egg and chive hollandaise. Another must-try offering is the Freeport & Eastern frittata (a nod to the eatery’s corner position), with pancetta, melted leeks, Brussels sprouts and goat cheese; as with a number of other menu items, the frittata can easily be made vegetarian. The Cornerstone brunch menu is entirely seasonal, so chefs only use the freshest ingredients. Bringing a whole cadre of brunch enthusiasts? No worries — there’s a private room you can reserve to keep the party rollin’.
(301 Freeport Road, Aspinwall; 412/408-3258, cornerstonepgh.com)
Gluten-free waffle with berries, coconut, soy butter and maple syrup, and a green smoothie. Photo by Heather Mull.
One of the city’s best-kept secrets, Eden is the perfect place to go when seeking a brunch experience that breaks all pejorative perceptions of what “healthful” tastes like. Boasting a remarkably unique menu, Eden offers a cross-section of options to please the gamut of dietary philosophies, from the omnivore to the raw foodist. Order the simple yet satisfying curry eggs, perfectly scrambled with local goat cheese, or another ultramarathon-fueling entrée. Not to miss is the most-popular dish: vegan waffles that are also gluten-free. They’ll change your life.
(735 Copeland St. (lower level), Shadyside; 412/802-7070, edenpitt.com)
Chocolate beignets with berry sauce. Photo by Heather Mull.
No one elevates coffee and doughnuts quite like E². In fact, the restaurant has a separate made-to-order doughnut menu with options like chocolate-covered doughnuts, sugar-covered beignets and anchovy-stuffed zeppoles. That alone should make you hightail it over to Highland Park. But fried dough is just the beginning. The brunch menu changes weekly but includes mainstays like the popular polenta pepperonata — two fried eggs with polenta, topped with pepperonata and shaved Parmesan, served with grilled focaccia — and specials like Brussels sprout hash. Among brunch offerings, you’ll always find a seasonal frittata and a farmer’s breakfast featuring eggs from chef/owner Kate Romane’s home, Churchview Farm.
(5904 Bryant St., Highland Park; 412/441-1200, e2pgh.com)
Watch: E² chef Kate Romane on urban farming
Sometimes you just want an all-you-can-eat buffet. If that’s the case, go to the Grand Concourse. This 30-year Pittsburgh tradition offers items that please folks split between breakfast and lunch — and dinner, too. Omelet bar? Check. Pancake bar? Check. Salads? Check. Prime rib? Check. An assortment of cakes? Check. You get the idea. Have dietary restrictions? Don’t fret: If you call ahead, the kitchen crew can accommodate special requests. Grand Concourse is especially packed on Sundays — so make reservations.
(100 W. Station Square Drive, Station Square; 412/261-1717, muer.com/grand-concourse)
Harris Grill is the phoenix of Ellsworth Avenue. After the original owners sold it to the current ones in 2004, the hot spot had to rise back after a 2007 fire that razed it; since then, it’s got even better (and wittier, it seems). Harris Grill’s pithy menu (similar to the one at Mt. Washington sister eatery Shiloh Grill) sets the tone for your experience, including choices like Omelletin’ Myself Go (with plenty of breakfast meats) and Lox, Stock & Bagel (all the fillings mixed together). The large outdoor seating area is great year-round.
(5747 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside; 412/362-5273, harrisgrill.com)