Diner Critique: Pamela’s Diner (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Review | Written and photographed by Nathan Mattise

Directions | Web site | Overall Rating: 5

Pittsburgh is an unbelievable food city. I’ve been there several times now with my sister at Pitt and thankfully the meals aren’t ending anytime soon (lil’ bro is leaning towards the Panthers as well). I had the best sandwich I ate in my life in Pittsburgh; the renown Quaker Steak and Lube was established just an hour away. Those very wings were the centerpiece of a Man V. Food episode where Adam Richman made his way through a very robust looking diner. I knew I needed to visit and, despite forgetting to look up which diner it was, I figured all I need to do was say “diner” and “Pittsburgh” to my sister. She’d then arrange my high-praise breakfast.

Well, Adam Richman didn’t go to Pamela’s but this was my sister’s first suggestion.  So we went to Pamela’s… and later I found out Barack Obama went to Pamela’s… and let’s just say everything worked out quite well.

Pamela’s is a Pittsburgh diner establishment with several locations throughout the city. There’s one conveniently located in Oakland so college kids from all the various campuses in town can wake up at 11 a.m. and stroll in for breakfast. It’s just one of many businesses located in a small strip right near the Pitt campus, so you could pass it if you’re accustomed to tuning out the various Caribou Coffees and Subways that line the road around it.  Just keep an eye out for the storefront window or the daily special sandwich board.

Inside Pamela’s is one of the more non-traditional diner decors that actually works for me.  Sure, there are booths and small counter tops but you won’t find metallic paneling anywhere. The walls are lined with vintage board games that have murals of classic rock musicians inbetween.  There are even Trivial Pursuit cards on the table to keep you entertained while waiting on a meal or during the post-game coffee.

It’s clearly a winning setup because there is a constant flow of patrons at Pamela’s. They’re open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and that’s in light of their cash only approach.  The waitstaff there is good at keeping the folks moving without rushing anyone along. They’re friendly and quick to interact with folks too (they had plenty of patience with my 5-year-old sister debating how much bacon she was having that day).

The “Morning After Special” was very enticing (two eggs, choice of meat and two hot cakes) but a family trip wasn’t the proper forum for it.  Instead, I went with Pamela’s special hotcakes ($6.50). They’re unique because they are crepe style. I opted for the chocolate, walnut and banana ones and it was a sweet breakfast to definitely come back to. The thin cakes are perfect compliment to fillings and with these you could literally wrap more goodies inside a pancake bun due to the crepe approach. It was sweet but not overpowering and fairly filling (though I had enough in me to try the homefries my sister bragged about – not Stella’s but very solid).

I had a hard time trying to figure out why Adam Richman and co. didn’t hit up Pamela’s while in town. The decor is unique and inviting.  The food selection is wide, it’s surprising filling and has great taste. Maybe they just simply didn’t have cash or maybe the portions weren’t ungodly large enough. Either way, they totally missed out.

The Final Tab

Pros: Cool ambiance, solid menu, reasonably priced, multiple locales so you can try it

Cons: Cash only can be inconvenient

Overall: 5-bacon1

Five out of Five (Robust breakfast platter | Go early and often to the point you can say, “I’ll have the usual.”)

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One response to “Diner Critique: Pamela’s Diner (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

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