ecoRDN took to the streets on Easter Sunday and walked 13 miles during another epic bout of urban hiking. The destination? Zenith Tea Room in Pittsburgh’s Southside for their famous Sunday brunch!

Zenith Tea Room is an eclectic mash-up of antiques, pop-art and meat-free food, located on Sarah Street between 25th and 26th, two blocks from East Carson. On Sundays Zenith offers their famous vegan friendly brunch from 11 am until 2:30 pm. They do serve eggs and dairy but also have multiple plant-based options, and the buffet is 100% vegan, including an ENTIRE TABLE of CAKE & PIE! (Let it sink in…)

Pittsburghers love their brunch and so Zenith is a hot destination for meat-free eaters looking to calm a hangover or begin a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Often packed, Zenith’s eclectic set up of various tables of varying sizes allow for communal seating. ecoRDN has made the Sunday brunch twice. The first visit we were seated with a few couples, the cafe was spilling over into the streets. But Easter 2016 was surprisingly calm. The dining area was full but we were seated as soon as we arrived and the turnover allowed us our own space for the buffet get-down.

The food at Zenith is fun but inconsistent. Some of the sweeter dishes were way too sweet. The black bean salad was fresh but the salt was heavy-handed. However, the experience isn’t about the cuisine so much as the atmosphere and having a shared moment with friends and family in a visually engaging environment. And the price is unbeatable, $11.50 gets you brunch with bottomless coffee!

The only real flaw with Zenith’s system is that you must order an entree to get the brunch, and unfortunately all the POP and food-fun happens in the buffet. The entrees aren’t fully realized, they’re typically stodgy without as much pizzaz.. We get it, the idea is to stuff the patron with the entree and they won’t eat as much of the all-you-can-eat buffet. But this could conversely lead to food waste, as most people like us are there for the buffet salads, fresh fruit and cake. The entree is secondary and we end up eating too much so we don’t waste the food.

ecoRDN decided on the bar-b-q seitan and the beans & greens entrees. The seitan bar-b-q is served on a soft white-flour kaiser roll and is really, really sweet. Like pancake syrup sweet. By the time we got to dessert the cakes actually tasted much less sweet. The beans and greens are loaded with overcooked rice, but the flavor is good, savory and herby. Rice though was weird, not how we’re used to traditional beans & greens. Basically just beans & greens, the white beans provide the bulk, no starch needed.

But as we mentioned before, the Zenith buffet is where the magic happens! A nice balance of salads, grains and pulses. Vegan picnic foods like traditional macaroni and potato salad. The spinach strawberry and sesame seed salad was lovely, as well as they the tossed chop-salad with fresh green grapes. The cold peanut noodles are a favorite of ecoRDN, perfectly executed toothy noodles in a rich peanut sauce. Lovely sweet and salty!

And there is the ENTIRE table of vegan cake and pie. Mostly chocolate, all bundts, and topped with assorted icings! Holy Shit! a CAKE TABLE!!!

The cherry pie is alway a go-to, we love it. Sweet tart cherry filling, summer aromas, fresh and luscious. The best part of a good pie or tart is in the bottom crust after it becomes oversaturated with fruit. Toothy, luscious and chewy. Indeed!

The chocolate lavender cake was really interesting. ecoRDN was unsure how that would turn out, but it worked really well. The lavender was understated and married nicely with the spongy dark cake. It gave ecoRDN a few ideas for recipes to follow! Stay tuned!

Afterwards, while digesting the various and many cakes, ecoRDN ogled the oddities in the antique shop and dug the pop-art originals hanging on the walls. Zenith Tea Room has provided memorable experiences to Pittsburgh’s for years, and that’s why the store is still running strong. Another cool plant-based eating experience in the books, we move forward to next week. Perhaps Thai is on the menu? Check back and see…

Thanks For Reading, Eat Well!

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©2015 – 2016 ecoRDN

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