Almost every Friday my coworkers and I go out to lunch. One of my friends only dines at kosher or vegan restaurants and unfortunately cannot typically tag along, but this week he joined the lunch bunch at the vegan cafe, B52.
Named after its location next to the corner of Butler and 52nd Street in Upper Lawrenceville, B52 offers a fusion of American and Middle Eastern cuisine, baked goods and a full-service espresso bar.
Open the door to the black and white checkered floor and view a display of their pastries, cookies and chocolates behind the counter displayed on tiered silver platters. Snag an intimate table for two separated by wooden barriers, or if you have a larger group like we did, use the large wooden community table in the back.
It’s not a large venue, with seating for only 35, but the restaurant/cafe includes a bar and a to-go section for those taking lunch on the go. If you really don’t have time to drive there and enjoy a sit-down dinner, B52 is also found on Grubhub.com.
Our waiter arrived at the table with a carafe of water in hand and a friendly demeanor. My vegan-eating friend who had been to B52 before decided to treat us to the “Pick 6” Mezze appetizer spread. The appetizer feast included:
Hummus = garbanzo, tahini, garlic lemon
Fried cauliflower = tahini, garlic, lemon
Baba ghanouj = smoked eggplant, tahini, garlic, lemon
Falafel = garbanzo, fava, green onions
Labneh = fermented cashews, mint, za’ata
Fried tomatoes = garlic, zhoug, tahini sauce
If I could describe this spread it would be dips on dips on dips with a side of pita. The garlic and tahini on just about everything added a strong splash of flavor. This could specifically be said for the cauliflower. The raw earthy taste had been masked with flavor and cooked to a great texture.
I grabbed the pita, split it apart and filled it with falafel, tahini, labneh and additional sauces. We were off to a great start.
For my main course, I ordered the kofta tofu scramble. The dish was in three sections – spicy seitan kofta, kale, tofu and pita on the side. The tofu could have fooled me – it tasted almost exactly like scrambled eggs. I enjoyed taking a scoop of each for each bite for maximum flavor. Unlike some vegan dishes I’ve had in the past, this meal was not only gorgeous but bursting with a variety of seasoning and taste. To pair with my meal I ordered an English tea that came in an adorable little teapot. It was personal and soothed my stomach.
I chose the breakfast route, but other dishes around the table were lentil soup, the shiitake mushroom flatbread and the seitan shwarma.
The soup had a nice consistency and contained a zest of lemon – it was perfect for the bitter cold afternoon. Arriving in two large loafs, the seitan shwarma contained shaved seitan, onion, tickled turnip, romaine and covered in tahini sauce. The seitan was juicy and posed as a great meat substitute and paired well with the rest of the lot. Lastly, the flatbread was crispy and the greens and garlic joined the mushrooms perfectly.
To end my meal I hoped to try the thick cut avocado toast, but alas they were fresh out of avocados – kind of a key ingredient to the dish. That one will have to wait until next time, for now, I’ll just admire the dish among the many others from afar on Instagram.
Experience Pittsburgh, One Bite at a Time.