Vegan Eating in Pittsburgh
Well, let me tell you about how crazy busy the Blonde and I have: been this summer.
No, that will sound like whining, and I’ll pass on the whining before school starts and I have thirty children in front of me whining about not wanting to do anything before graduation. . . in ten months.
No, rather than whine about how my six-and-a-half weeks without work were full of things to do (Yes, the summer is seven weeks long, at best, for teachers now) I will wax poetic about the city of Pittsburgh. (As a San Francisco 49ers fan, I refuse to call it the “City of Champions.”)
“But wait,” you say,” Isn’t Pittsburgh the city of Primanti brothers and sausages on every corner?” Well, yes, it is, but it is also the home of some crazy good vegan food, and, to be perfectly honest, it really is quite a beautiful, clean city.
We have friends from college who fairly recently moved from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and have been harassing us about coming out to visit for some time, so we finally caved, and I for one was really quite pleasantly surprised.
Arriving on a Thursday night made for limited options, as both of our hosts had to work the next morning, so we quickly settled on pizza.
Our first vegan meal with our friends was at Spak Brothers, a pizza place in what appeared to be one of the rougher neighborhoods. The blonde ordered seitan “wings” for us to split and a seitan cheesesteak, and I ordered a small (10″) pizza with Daiya and veggies.
Wow. Just, wow.
I’ve always said that I don’t really miss pizza because there isn’t any good pizza in Maryland anyway, but this pizza made me want to move to Pennsylvania.
My only complaint about the pizza itself was that I just don’t love Daiya. I know I may lose my Vegan card for saying so, but while it’s fine, I recognize that the taste and texture are more like a cheese sauce than cheese made from cow’s milk… which made it perfect on the Blonde’s cheesesteak.
Biting into her seitan cheesesteak almost made me lose my mind. The Vegenaise, peppers, onions, and, yes, the Daiya all went together with the thinly sliced seitan perfectly. To ask for better would have been greedy.
And since we were.on vacation, we got greedy! The BBQ seitan “wings” were ah-ma-zing. They were deep fried, so they had a crispiness almost like a tempura, but they were still tender inside, and hadn’t absorbed any of the oil deep into the seitan.
In terms of junk food, this was as good vegan junk food as I’ve had. The pizza was comparable in quality to Blackbird Pizza in Philly, and the only better seitan I’ve had (other than my own, of course) was at The Cinnamon Snail in New York.
Spak Bros. does have many non-vegan options, so if you’re in Pittsburgh with some omni family members of friends, you can totally pick up some food from there and everyone will be happy.
With no guide and a bit of wandering, the Blonde and I found ourselves at an awesome park in the middle of the city, Schenley Park, with a cute little cafe near the entrance. Our food options were limited, but the cafe did have a tempeh and hummus sandwich on the menu, which w e paired with a salad-sans-goat cheese.
Who knew that everywhere we went in Pittsburgh would have vegan options?
The last really special meal we had was brunch at a weekend restaurant called Zenith. Zenith is an almost all vegan restaurant/antique store (they always offer one egg dish on the menu) with a huge buffet-style spread of sides and desserts.
The desserts were a small variety of pies, and a huge variety of bundt cakes. Chocolate, lemon lavender, orange vanilla, chocolate banana, chocolate peanut butter… It was a little crazy.
On top of that, there were 12-15 side dishes to choose from and an entree… all for $10 per person!!
Is it any wonder that people start lining up at 10:00 to get in when Zenith doesn’t open its doors until 11:00?
We ate kind of a lot for brunch that day.
The overall takeaway for me was two-fold. First, Pittsburgh is not the dingy, gray, dirty ex-factory town I always pictured it as. In my head it was a smoky, smoggy, dying little city. Not the case. Pittsburgh is a thriving, living, super clean, growing city that is embracing its new societal path.
Second, when I pictured residents of Pittsburgh, all I ever envisioned were Steeler fans: obese, greasy, sweaty, arrogant. You know, the only ones that ever show on tv. Well, there were people like that there, but there were also cool, healthy, energetic vegans. Enough to make VegNews call Pittsburgh one of the five main vegan-friendly cities (that you’d never think of).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not New York. It is, however, way more veg-friendly than Washington D.C., nicer than Baltimore, and cleaner than Philadelphia. All i all, however, Pittsburgh has moved up to second on my list of vegan cities, behind New York. It really is a vegan diamond in the rough. (Does that make it an emerald in the rough?)
What’s your favorite vegan city? What makes it so wonderful that the Blonde and I should pack up for a visit now?