The Grand Concourse

Preparing an omelette for last night’s dinner summoned a memory of brunch with my Pittsburgh pal last year. She understands that I often select restaurants based on atmosphere rather than the promise of a good meal. Luckily, Pittsburgh’s Grand Concourse lives at the happy intersection of amazing atmosphere and delicious food.

This Pittsburgh landmark is located in a 1901 railroad station built by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. Friends, this is now one of my favorite restaurants anywhere.

The 80,000 square foot building was brilliantly transformed into a restaurant in 1978. The stained glass vaulted ceilings are magnificent. Marble columns look substantial. A grand staircase is, well, grand.

Even the hallways and restrooms are lovely with mosaic tile floors and exquisite woodwork. It’s no wonder this building, with its Victorian and Edwardian styles, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

We sat in a space that I believe is an enclosed porch, giving a terrific view of the outside world. There was some kind of fitness expo happening in town that weekend so we saw plenty of fit people walk by and even engage in some kind of bizarre bridal shoot for an extremely sculpted couple.

Meanwhile, I thoroughly enjoyed my brunch buffet and had a selection of small desserts. Fitness modeling is not in my future.

They have lunch and dinner menus, offer takeout, and host Sunday buffets as well as special buffets for holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day. Reservations are recommended even for a regular day. The prices are higher than a lot of restaurants near me but the food is better quality than your typical sit down restaurant and I was pleased with the value.

We saw people in all manner of attire but it feels like such a special place I was glad we dressed up a bit. I hated to look like too much of a hillbilly tourist in such a nice place so I made just a few photos. Besides, pictures really don’t do this building justice.

There’s something about this place, about the light and air and that makes it feel different. It feels timeless yet old, fancy but comfortable.

It’s a study in contradictions.

At one point, I found a settee near the buffet and simply sat down to absorb my surroundings. The late morning sun illuminated the stained glass and the air was filled with the murmur of conversation and clink of silverware. Servers scurried by with purpose while guests wandered about, making impossible choices from the buffet.

I swore if I turned quickly enough I might glimpse a Victorian couple or a traveling salesman with a trunk full of samples in tow.

This was a delightful experience and one that I would repeat if given the opportunity. Want to learn more and perhaps admire the menu? Click here to visit their website.

Black Bear Diner

I complained about a breakfast joint in Colorado last week and promised to tell you about one that I actually enjoyed.

Then I got distracted by a katydid and forgot all about it. So, here we are, circling back to a smallish chain that impressed me with tasty food and service that wasn’t so chain-like.

We visited the Black Bear Diner in Colorado Springs for a hearty breakfast before setting out on that day’s adventure through the Garden of the Gods.

Founded in Mt. Shasta, California in 1995, the restaurant serves comfort food at a moderate price. The place was immaculate and the employees were all clean cut folks who made guests feel welcome even while they were hustling to get their work done.

It didn’t feel like a chain even though they’re up to 143 locations in 14 states.

Best of all, the food arrived quickly and was delicious. My veggie omelette came with a side of potatoes and bread – I chose a pancake because I rarely eat them and it was a treat. The maple syrup was especially good.

Comfy booths, a quiet atmosphere and spotless restrooms were a bonus too. Our waitress was friendly without being pushy and took great care of us.

I enjoyed the full experience and would absolutely go back if given the opportunity. Here’s their website if you wish to look for a location near you.

The Spaghetti Warehouse

When choosing a restaurant for myself I tend to go for great atmosphere. If the food is decent, that’s just a bonus.

I retrieved a friend from the airport Friday and she was famished from her journey so I wanted to go somewhere fun with a good, filling meal. We went to the Spaghetti Warehouse in Columbus. This is a chain but the Columbus location is so unique and so established that people up there seem to think it’s local.

It’s in an old icehouse that was built in 1891 and has been there since 1975. When you approach from Broad Street you’re looking at the back of an imposing brick building complete with a loading dock. It appears to be abandoned. When I turned in, my friend’s reaction was priceless. “This is…. a restaurant…?”

From this angle, it does look like a great place to be killed by the mafia. However, if you drive around to the front of the building, you’ll find a full parking lot and charming entrance.

The centerpiece in the dining room is a trolley car where patrons can dine.

They have a couple of old confessionals from churches in New England that house tables as well. I overheard a server inform an elderly man he had to behave himself while sitting in the confessional.

Glorious woodwork, Tiffany lights and stunning stained glass are just a few of the elements found throughout the dining room.

I always look for mirror selfies.

Oh, and the food was divine too. We both had manicotti which came with salad and bread. Their desserts come from the Cheesecake Factory so we had little trouble talking each other into splitting something. She suggested the Godiva Double Chocolate Cheesecake was a little too much chocolate. I suggested she was nuts because there’s no such thing has too much chocolate.

If you get a chance, you should check it out. My food was divine, the service great and the atmosphere wonderful. It is rare that I get to say that!


This place is on the list for my next trip to Denver. It’s a breakfast joint and they’re committed to locally sourced and delicious food as well as to recycling about ninety percent of their waste.

Plus one percent of their sales go back to the community.

If the food is half as good as their philosophies, there’s much to look forward to. They even have vegan and vegetarian options as well as some French toast that looks divine. The creativity and consideration toward non-carnivores found in small chains like this place makes dining out fun for people like me.

Want to learn more? Visit their website!

Are you in the area? I would love a review! Meanwhile, I’m just gonna enjoy this fabulous sign!

Healthy (and delicious) Lunch

Eating healthy in restaurants is hard but it finally occurred to me that Chinese restaurants will serve plain steamed veggies with rice for just a few bucks. This bowl was much larger than it looks here and was packed with fresh, healthy veggies. With a side of rice, it cost about five bucks, officially making it the cheapest and healthiest lunch I could desire. You can’t even get greasy fast food for that price anymore. Plus you get a fortune cookie with some wisdom and your lucky numbers!

Eating At Home

As things start to open up in my state, everyone I know seems to be dying for a restaurant meal. I can honestly say that eating in a restaurant is almost at the bottom of my list of things to do.

It may be because I’m a decent cook and know how to prepare meals exactly the way I like them. It’s partly because restaurants in my area aren’t interested in people who wish to eat healthy or who eat plant based.

Sad salads and greasy grilled cheese sandwiches are the standard faire for vegetarians in my area. A few nicer restaurants in neighboring towns offer the Beyond Burger or a black bean burger but most vegetarians or vegans are better off just staying at home in my part of the state.

Personally, I eat mostly vegan at home and hope for vegan but am happy with vegetarian in restaurants. I tend to use eating out as an excuse to have pizza or some other really bad cheat dish because the options are so slim.

The above picture is from my lunch yesterday – just a simple sauce packed with veggies over soy noodle spaghetti and a nice little salad. All the ingredients came from Aldi and nothing was expensive.

Dessert was this big bowl of berries. Easy, simple and delicious!

People act like those of us who don’t eat meat or dairy are asking for something ridiculously hard to achieve. It’s really not when you stick to simple ingredients.

So I’ll just continue doing my thing at home and be happy. At least cooking at home is cheaper than take-out!