I thought I would try something new and something a little out of my comfort zone. Friends had told me about a really great vegan restaurant on Penn Avenue and I thought I would give it a try. I’m far from a vegan, but I’m always up for a new adventure. I grabbed a friend after work and we headed to Apteka.
Keep walking down the street until you see the lights. It’s a trendy little spot that’s quite inviting. Upon entering you are greeted by a handwritten menu on a large white piece of paper that drapes to the floor. Gaze upon the menu and make your decisions, because you will need to place your order at the counter before you take a seat.
Some of the items or phrases might look a little different on the menu because much of it is in Polish. In fact, Apteka is Polish for the word pharmacy. Apteka is certainly a pharmacy of vegetables looking to aid and improve your diet.
The menu is Central and Eastern European focused and is entirely vegan.
We agreed we should start our meal out with an appetizer of pierogies. They’re offered in a small or large order. Each order is a combo of sauerkraut and mushroom and smoked potato with parsnips and turnip greens topped with a yogurt/mustard sauce.
We thought the smoked potato option sounded great and asked if we could have the entire order of just that type, but were unfortunately informed that they only do mixed orders if there is an allergy problem. We were assured that the mushroom/sauerkraut pierogies were prepared in a puree fashion that we would enjoy and trusted the cashier.
Next was the entree – I ordered a sandwich, but asked for the horseradish on the side. Again I got the look of uncertainty from the cashier and he replied that he could place the order, but the kitchen was most likely not going to prepare the sandwich that way. Sure enough, as soon as he rung in the order a man appeared from the kitchen, looking for the person that who wanted the horseradish on the side.
He explained to me that they don’t like to alter dishes because any changes would affect the integrity, taste and appearance. He said the same could be said if the horseradish was put on the side. I was flat out told I could not have the sandwich the way I wanted it. A line was forming behind me, so I changed my order to the Golabki and called it a day.
The two gentlemen were friendly and nice about the situation, but Apteka certainly does not abide by the “customer is always right” policy. Their number one goal is to uphold the appearance and recipe of their dishes.
We were given a number and selected a table. The back of the restaurant extends to a charming open area with a skylight. We took a seat back there.
Within no more than 10 minutes our food arrived at the table. The pierogies were pretty good and the puree the cashier spoke of wasn’t bad. My favorite part was the yogurt/mustard sauce that gave the pierogies flavor.
Now for the Golabki. What is the Golabki you might ask? Its cabbage wrapped buckwheat in a roasted tomato sauce, bay boletes and wheat toast on the side.
Again the sauce really made the dish and I really enjoyed the toast. I wished for more toast to scoop up the sauce and the buckwheat.
The dishes were beautiful and the atmosphere was very relaxing and quaint.
Experience Pittsburgh, One Bite at a Time.