The classic American diner has a special place in my heart; I could walk into my local diner at 2:00 AM, order a plate of cheese fries with ranch, and leave without paying more than $7 for my meal. How amazing is that! In all seriousness, diners are great. I love the food, I love the price, and I just overall love the unique atmosphere of every diner. For Pittsburghers, no diner has been more beloved over the ages than Pamela’s Diner, a local chain with so much heart and soul to it that it’s hard to describe without going to see for yourself. Each location is whimsical in nature, with board games, memorabilia, and plenty of bright colors to brighten any sour mood. And who better to review Pamela’s with than someone who always brightens my mood, my very good friend Nadine French:
Atmosphere: At the Oakland Pamela’s (although there are 6 in the Pittsburgh area), the atmosphere is silly but also comforting. Even among all the hustle and bustle of servers pouring coffee or running around with plates of hotcakes, one finds peace and relaxation being surrounded by so much color and memories from your childhood like the Monopoly board and Twister mat up on the walls. The spacing is a little tight, which doesn’t make for a very intimate experience, but once again, the decor makes up for that in all the topics of conversation that can arise from what catches your eye.
Service: Fast, friendly, and genuine, it feels like Pamela herself is serving you! My coffee was seemingly always full and our food was out fast and hot. More than anything else, the service is the aspect that creates a personalized experience for the guest.
Quality: The quality of the food, while nothing particularly exceptional, is a cut-above diner food in general. I will also have to say that everything was very filling; I ended up taking most of my meal with me when I left! Of note:
Pamela’s Famous Crepe Hotcakes: Although I did not order them during this particular visit, the hotcakes remain one of my favorite dishes to order. If that’s not enough of an endorsement, even President Obama gave his stamp of approval on these hotcakes while campaigning for the presidency back in 2008.
Lyonnaise Potatoes: They go with literally any breakfast food and are so good that my entree took a back seat to the pure deliciousness that was this plate of butter and cream infused potatoes. You will not regret ordering them, but you may regret eating them all in one sitting, if you end up not restraining yourself.
California French Toast: I was actually disappointed with this french toast. It wasn’t bad by any means but it lacked the flavor and the fluff of other french toast dishes I’ve either ordered or made in the past (and I’ll have you know I make a mean french toast). Again, the french toast wasn’t terrible but I didn’t get enough cinnamon or vanilla flavor from the batter and the syrup somehow also detracted from the overall quality of the dish.
Price: Pamela’s is slightly more expensive than your average diner, and while not everyone is willing to pay the premium (and in my case I wasn’t so thrilled with the french toast price), if you order the right meal then you’ll find it’s worth the price. On a slightly unrelated note, you do need to pay in cash, as Pamela’s has a no-card policy. It’s slightly annoying but it does keep an air of authenticity to the place.
Translation: The best family-owned diner in Pittsburgh that I’ve been to so far! Is it the best family-owned diner in Pittsburgh of all time? I can’t be sure at this point but I’ll keep searching for the answer!
Nadine’s Take: Definitely the atmosphere is the best aspect of Pamela’s. The decorations and themes ranging from board games to 60’s era memorabilia makes this restaurant fun and atypical for diners. What’s the aspect that needs the most improvement? This place needs to start taking cash! As endearing as the cash only policy is, it can be inconvenient. In addition, the wait times on weekends can get fairly long, and they don’t take any reservations. While this isn’t an everyday place, it is a great meet-up or catch-up spot for friends and family who come to town. And for the Oakland locations, it’s a Pitt staple!
Nadine French is a Junior Environmental Science and Chemistry major with an English Writing minor from Lititz, Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Pitt Dance Team and would like to encourage everyone to come and cheer them and their fellow players on at the football games!
P&G’s Pamela’s Diner has been serving the best breakfast in Pittsburgh since 1980. They have 6 locations across the greater Pittsburgh area and you can find all their locations and a full menu on their website http://www.pamelasdiner.com/