My visit to Pamela’s Diner was one of the culinary tourism features in my Destination Guide The Problem with Pittsburgh.
Locals chirp, “you haven’t been to Pittsburgh unless you’ve feasted on an epic brunch at Pamela’s Diner.” Since 1980 the city’s favourite greasy spoon has been serving up fatty fuel to eager early birds and the numb, hungover lot who waddle into the restaurant in the early afternoon in search of sustenance.
While the restaurant has been a local favourite for years, it was a newsy visit by then Senator Barack Obama in 2008 that offered the restaurant its best PR. During his visit to Pamela’s in the Strip District, Obama discovered something Pittsburgher’s have long known: the pancakes here are really, really good. So good, in fact, that he had to share the knowledge with news media “These really were maybe the best pancakes I’ve tasted in a very long time. Get some take-out,” he directed reporters.
Since moving to the Capital, Obama has invited the pancake queen at Pamela’s to cook her famous hotcakes for him at the White House. Today tourists that head to Pamela’s original outpost in Pittsburgh’s quirky Strip District are greeted by a photo of the President as soon as they walk in the door. The space includes two breezy dining rooms which showcase an Americana retro aesthetic which has been achieved via vintage Cheez Whiz ads, display of rotary phones and gallery of classic Cadillacs.
I sampled through three of Pamela’s most popular dishes: Obama’s favourite strawberry hotcakes filled with sour cream, decadent croissant french toast and crispy meets savoury lyonnaise potatoes. Wash it all down with a glass of OJ and bottomless mug of coffee and you’ll be right and ready to tackle the day.
Croissant French Toast
soaked in cinnamon-vanilla egg batter, topped with caramel sauce and nuts
Morning After Special
two eggs, bacon and strawberry hotcakes (brown sugar, sour cream, whipped cream)