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Review: E2 and Park Bruges

Highland Park gets a taste of Europe with the opening of E2 and Park Bruges.


Photos by Laura Petrilla

 

If you haven’t been to Bryant Street in Highland Park lately, check it out. Two recently opened restaurants—E2 and Park Bruges—offer casual cuisine with a European flair and are part of the burgeoning little commercial district, soon to add a Japanese restaurant and the retooled At the Park bar. 

These new establishments join the existing food scene that includes fine dining at Joseph Tambellini Restaurant; Thai food at Smiling Banana Leaf; tasty pastries at Food Glorious Food, a bakery and cooking school; and great coffee at Tazza D’Oro Café & Espresso Bar, the neighborhood meeting place.

E2 and Park Bruges are brought to us by chef/owners who have succeeded in other enterprises. E2 is owned by executive chef Kate Romane and Larry Lagattuta of Enrico Biscotti, the well-known bakery and cafe in the Strip District. Park Bruges comes from family owners Elaine Wolfe and Barry Silverman, daughter Amy Seager and her husband, chef Jesse Seager. This team found great success with the popular Point Brugge Café, located in Point Breeze.

E2 is a small eatery that can seat 28 diners upstairs, up to 85 people downstars and 12 on the front porch.  The space was renovated with asparagus-colored walls, chalkboard-topped tables, a giant chalkboard menu and photographs of friends, family and loyal customers from the Strip District restaurant, soon to be enhanced with photos of E2 customers. 

The cuisine at E2 is healthful with a European (predominantly Italian) flair. Romane’s partner is third-generation farmer Tara Rockacy of Churchview Farm in Baldwin. Romane takes produce to E2 daily from the farm where they live.

The brunch menu is a nice mix of traditional breakfast fare and hearty luncheon foods.  My favorite was the brioche breakfast ($10): homemade brioche and pieces of Camembert on mixed greens with sliced Granny Smith apples—all drizzled with truffle honey.  The frittata changes weekly; the feta, olive and oregano version ($11) is light and fluffy and not overcooked.  The bread puddings and French toast (both made with Enrico’s homemade bread) change weekly and are excellent as well.

E2’s brunch and dinner menus offer “OMGs” (which stands for “Oh my gosh—I am so hungry!”).  Romane says, “I want people to have something to nibble on when they come in hungry and are looking at the menu.”  During brunch, OMG offerings include homemade beignets, donuts and zeppolis (savory fried dough sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and pepper with optional anchovies rolled into the dough). Sadly, these can be inconsistent—sometimes great but over- or undercooked at times.

However, at dinner, the OMGs are wonderful, especially the marinated olives ($3), which are plump and fresh; the simply prepared white beans in olive oil ($3); and the Gorgonzola spread ($3)—all served with homemade focaccia.

For dinner, the simplest dishes are the best ones.  I recommend the huge pan-seared
scallops ($11), the beans and greens and sausage ($12), the spaghetti aglio e olio ($12) and the fettucini with meat sauce ($12). 

E2 offers a few desserts: biscotti, berries with lavender whipped cream and homemade chocolates.

Unlike E2, Park Bruges moved into its space after local community groups extensively rehabbed it and mossArchitects completed all design work. The interior is uncluttered and spacious, with low-key elements of dark-wood floors, light-wood tabletops, pewter walls and burgundy furnishings. About 65 people can be seated in the restaurant's booths and tables, with additional seating available on the patio.

To launch the new restaurant, Kevin Hunninen, executive chef of Point Brugge, moved to Park Bruges. James McCaslin, Point Brugge’s former sous chef, took over as executive chef of Point Brugge. Park Bruges' menu is rather similar to that of Point Brugge.  “Point Brugge has more of a Belgian flair, while Park Bruges has more of a French flair,” says owner Elaine Wolfe.

The homemade soups and salads are among Park Bruges' strong suits, along with the signature mussels ($12): a generous 16-ounce portion of grit-free, plump mussels cooked in a flavorful broth (choose from classic white wine, shallot and herbed buerre blanc, or spicy Creole with andouille sausage, peppers, onions, celery and Maytag bleu cheese) and served with crusty bread to soak up the broth.

Park Bruges has two unique dishes: the tarte flambée and the poutine. The tarte flambée ($10-$13) is from the Alsace region of France and is similar to a flatbread, with crisp, lightly baked crust and a variety of toppings. Poutine, “the official street food of Montreal,” is Canada’s version of the Pittsburgh classic, fries and gravy. The Classic Montreal Poutine ($8) comprises Park Bruges' crispy signature fries topped with homemade beef gravy and cheese curds from Lawrenceville’s Arsenal Cheese.

A great complement to the poutine would be any one of the Belgian beers offered, which have “a wide variety of flavors with more complexity and richness” than American beers, says Wolfe. Desserts at Park Bruges are a must and are made by the talented Susie Treon, whose desserts are reminiscent of any European bistro.

Info:

E2
» 5904 Bryant St., Highland Park (15206); 412/441-1200, e2pittsburgh.com
» Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; Dinner: Tues.-Fri., 5-10 p.m.; Sat., 6-10 p.m.
» OMG's: $3-$5; Salads & Appetizers: $8-$12; Brunch Entrées: $9-$12; Dinner Entrées: $8-$18; Desserts: $6
» BYOB ($6 corkage fee); major credit cards accepted; dinner reservations only (for parties of 6 or more); vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options; wheelchair-accessible; no smoking; street parking; outdoor dining; catering/banquet services.

Park Bruges
» 5801 Bryant St., Highland Park (15206); 412/661-3334, pointbrugge.com
» Lunch: Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner: Tues.-Sat., 3-10 p.m. (bar stays open until 11 p.m. on Sat.), Sun., 3-9 p.m.
» Salads & Appetizers: $5-$15; Brunch Entrées: $6-$15; Dinner Entrées: $16-$26; Desserts: $7.
» Alcohol; major credit cards accepted; vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options; wheelchair-accessible; no smoking; street parking; seat past 10:30 p.m. on Fri. & Sat.; outdoor dining (seasonal).

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