Square Cafe (Facebook / @TheSquareCafe)
1137 S. Braddock Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15218
Open Mon-Sat, 7 am – 3 pm; Sun, 8 am – 3 pm
Accepts cash and credit cards
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/Y
Date of Visit: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: I learned about Square Cafe from the inimitable Rick Sebak of WQED Pittsburgh. Rick shot footage there for his latest documentary Breakfast Special, although Square Cafe didn’t end up in Part 1. (But Part 2 is hopefully coming soon!) While on a recent trip to Pittsburgh, we asked Rick to meet us for breakfast, and he of course recommended Square Cafe.
ATMOSPHERE: The Cafe was fairly quiet on the morning we visited; a few tables were full outside, a handful of businessmen and women in huddled various corners inside.
Always, always a plus for me to see local artists on the walls. This particular artist’s work fits the bright, bold coloring of the Cafe nicely.
FOOD: The menu was separated into four main sections: Tasty Selections (including burritos, grits, hash, and muesli), Eggs & Omelets (scrambles, Green Eggs & Ham), Crepes & Biscuits (crepes!), and From the Griddle. Square Cafe also serves a huge variety of coffee drinks, smoothies, and milkshakes. My wife ordered a Caramel Latte: delicious and made just right. I always take comfort in a breakfast place that takes its coffee seriously. Square Cafe has got the equipment for it, and clearly they know how to use it.
Got to – GOT TO – love the coffee mugs. Clearly their signature style. Like handcrafted pottery. Completely round except for the flat front. And I love it when I can fit all four fingers around my coffee mug handle. You can buy sets of these mugs at the cafe an elsewhere, although they are a little too expensive for me. I’ll settle for having to visit Square Cafe again. We also appreciated being served a mug with cold cream without having to ask. I prefer my coffee served this way; those small ultra-pasteurized half-and-halfs frighten me: they can probably withstand a nuclear blast.
Despite my long-standing obsession with Northstar Cafe’s Big Burrito, I decided to give Square Cafe’s breakfast burrito a try. Sometimes you’re just in a burrito mood. You can have the burrito here with just cheese and veggies, or you can add bacon, sausage, ham, or a special chicken apple sausage.
Q: I added _____.
It may not have knocked Northstar’s burrito off its pedestal, but Square Cafe’s is flat-out great. It’s filled with nice grilled vegetables, fluffy scrambled eggs, melty cheese, and perfectly cooked bacon. The whole deal comes with sides of sour cream and a locally-made salsa.
One of the most impressive things about the burrito is that it ALL STAYED TOGETHER! I’ve had many good burritos that fell apart under pressure. But even after I cut it in half (to make it more manageable), the ingredients didn’t come tumbling out.
You can order the same ingredients in the burrito, only in quesadilla form, too. My sister-in-law chose this option, and declared it very good. Instead of the nicely wrapped burrito, you can get the flour tortilla in these crispy wedges. Again with the dipping accoutrement.
Rick ordered the shrimp grits: sauteed shrimp and spinach on a bed of fluffy grits. He gave us all a taste of the shrimp, which were seasoned and sauteed just right. Nice bite to the seasoning; the shrimp were plump and juicy, not over-cooked at all.
My wife ordered the sun-dried tomato and goat cheese scramble, a delightful mixture of tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese on scrambled eggs. Heaping side of their home fries, all uniformly crispy and well seasoned.
She also added a single lemon ricotta pancake. I love the use of ricotta cheese in pancakes – makes for a moist but stable flapjack. This one’s topped with butter, powdered sugar, and whipped cream on top. The tart lemon in the pancake really balances the sweetness of the batter, sugar, and cream.
SERVICE: This picture didn’t turn out too well, but here’s proof that Square Cafe’s employees are dedicated. Owner Sherree Goldstein has a very busy and accomplished crew. They offered very attentive service, filling in all the details you could want (i.e. cold cream for your coffee). Our server proudly showed us his tattoo, and kept a vigilant watch over us. And we experienced the most religious refilling of our coffee ever. It keeps the coffee hot!
OVERALL: I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Pittsburgh breakfast scene, but if Square Cafe is anything to go by, it’s going to be a tasty ride. I think Sherree and her crew have mastered the total package of the breakfast experience: fun branding and decor of the restaurant, a nice variety in seating (tables, counter, outdoor), a solid coffee shop setup, and a creative and diverse lineup of breakfast items. I would highly recommend it as a must-stop on any Pittsburgh breakfast tour!
Oh… and I just got it: it’s called Square Cafe, but all the branding is circular.
-> a taste of Square Cafe from WQED Pittsburgh