Saturday, January 26, 2008

Breakfast in Pittsburgh: Coca Cafe

Coca Cafe
3811 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 7am - 3pm
Saturday 9am - 3pm
Sunday Brunch 10am - 3pm
Phone: 412-621-3171

After an early-morning service project with the Pitt Legal Income Sharing Foundation (PLISF), seven of us decided to change our breakfast plan from Pamela's, the staple student breakfast venue in the Oakland and Shadyside areas, to trying the Coca Cafe in Lawrenceville. I had been there last year for Sunday brunch with my friends Matt, Katie, Ben, and Dave and enjoyed it very much, but hadn't gotten around to going again.

The decor, as you can see in the photos, is very artsy, but bright and uncluttered. With a party of seven in a fairly small space, we procured a table immediately at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. When I came last time on a Sunday, the place was swarming with people and my party of five had to wait 40 minutes for a table.

The food was spectacular, even more so than I remembered. I had been planning to eat as cheaply as possible. The obvious choice in that case would be to get the Hot Irish Oatmeal with brown sugar, dried fruit, walnuts, and milk for $5.00 (fresh berries an additional $1). However, when I saw on the menu Herbed Goat Cheese French Toast with Berries ($7.75), all thoughts of frugality and budgeting fled my intrigued mind.

After waiting only about 15 minutes, our food arrived, piping hot and all at the same time: quite a feat for a small kitchen! My French Toast (made with Challah bread stuffed with a basil goat-cheese and served with fresh strawberries and blueberries) was perfect. I had worried that the flavor combinations would be a bit strange, but the mild, creamy tang of the goat cheese melded wonderfully with the berries' sweetness. The three thick slices of golden, crisp Challah were the perfect canvas for the simple yet sophisticated flavor combinations.

I passed out nibbles of my adventurous French Toast to other inquisitive diners, and they all agreed that it was, at least, interesting! In exchange, I got to try Ariel's Egg White Omelet with fresh spinach, basil, goat cheese, and tomatoes ($6.50) and Ruchi's Southwest Breakfast Wrap (scrambled tofu [substituted for eggs], roasted peppers, spinach, caramelized onions, and Meunster cheese in a wheat wrap ($6.50)); both tasted scrumptious.

One minor annoyance: for a party of our size (7), the restaurant has a policy of refusing to split the table's check to accommodate several methods of paying. For larger parties of modern card-carrying consumers who don't often carry cash, this could be a major setback, especially for new or infrequent diners.
The restaurant does accept credit cards.

Note: The menu on the Coca Cafe website is a little out-of-date, but most of what is currently on the menu can be viewed there. Just be aware that the prices may have changed (usually increased).