Porch debuts in Schenley
Schenley Plaza is one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh. The urban green space, which occupies the southeast corner of Forbes Avenue and Schenley Drive, often features acoustic musical performances at lunchtime when the weather is nice. Since I eat lunch there several times a week, I’ve been curiously watching the development and construction of a new restaurant nestled between the carousel and food kiosks over the past few months. This past Monday, The Porch at Schenley finally opened its doors to the public.
Eat’n Park Hospitality Group owns the restaurant; with the company owning other restaurants ranging in styles from that of the Eat’n Park chain to Downtown’s Six Penn Kitchen, I was very curious about what this new restaurant, placed in a location that is dear to my heart, had to offer. With the company of a few friends, I decided to give it a try.
The sharp, modern-looking exterior of The Porch at Schenley is attractive and welcoming, especially with the large outdoor porch facing the green space of Schenley Plaza. It’s unfortunate that the restaurant opened so late in the fall season, as the cold weather will force diners to wait until the spring to test out the restaurant’s outdoor seating area.
When I walked in, I was greeted cheerfully and handed a menu by a staff member. I was politely instructed to order at the cashier counter when I had made my choice from the menu, which consisted of a variety of American- and Mediterranean-style salads, sandwiches, and pizzas ranging from $7 to $14. I ordered the chicken roti sandwich and got some water at the self-serve water station, which offered waters infused with sliced cucumbers and lemons as well as a strawberry-blueberry-mint combination. This was a nice touch; both flavors were refreshing and tasty.
The food was brought to our table in less than 15 minutes. The chicken roti sandwich was good — the meat was juicy, and the sliced pear and whole-grain mustard worked well together. As a side, the diced potatoes were delicious — buttered and seasoned just right. The curried ketchup was an interesting touch, adding a little more spice and flavor than your typical everyday ketchup.
My friends had the wood-fired Bolognese pizza and the “farm stand vegetable burger.” I was able to try a bite or two of their dishes, and found the pizza to be pretty good with its crispy, rustic-style crust as its strong-point. The veggie burger, however, left much to be desired. The arugula and fennel toppings tasted fresh, but the vegetable patty itself fell flat — it tasted bland and had a mushy consistency.
Despite the one miss, the food, which is locally sourced, was well-prepared overall. For the most part, the staff was attentive and the service was efficient.
The restaurant’s dinner setup is also slightly different from that of lunch. The dinner menu offers a few more items that are a tad more expensive, and a wait staff member seats you and takes your order for a more formal, less fast-paced dining experience than that of the lunch setup.