For our first installment of a restaurant review, we wanted to go somewhere special. We had some friends from out of town staying with us and we wanted to take them to a restaurant that was both delicious and unique. Jen and I adored this little place hidden in the Southside, so we took off around 12pm for brunch at the Gypsy Café.
Location: 1330 Bingham St. (Southside) Pittsburgh, PA
Hours: Sunday 12:20pm-2:15pm
The Atmosphere: 8/10
It’s hard to say anything bad about a place that takes the time to reprint new themed menus every week. And they’re pretty good at it too. This week was David Bowie Brunch, so every menu item was related (although sometimes loosely) to Bowie’s music, films, or general drug use. Last time I went for brunch the menus were Monty Python themed. Classic.
The walls are well decorated in a vintage, indie kind of way. Seating is comfortable, and the light glow of Pittsburgh’s removed Southside plummets in through the windows in soft tones while you dine. It’s actually a little romantic, and its regular clientele match the scenery. The room is somewhat awkwardly set up, as it has tables seemingly placed at random. Each spot gives you a nice view of the restaurant, but when the waitresses have to sneak behind tables, pardoning themselves while bumping into the back of your chair, you start to wonder why they don’t try to figure out a better layout (-1 point). Another point was taken off for reasons I’ll delve into in the service section below.
The Food: 9/10
The good: Well proportioned, well prepared, tasty, and pretty. Seriously, this is why you come to the restaurant. The food is cheap and awesome. Plates run around $8 with $5 mixed drinks for you early bird drinkers out there. We got the gambit for brunch this time, and I stole a little off everyone’s plates while they weren’t looking. I’ve got to say that everything was delicious and worth the wait.
The bad: They were out of what I consider to be their best meal: shredded pork over potatoes, two MTO eggs on top, complete with a blissful seasoning and good presentation. Jen got the last order of it, and we all drooled over her meal while she selfishly savored every last piece (jk, she shared and it was great.) I panicked when the waitress said they were out of the pork, so I ordered the shrimp salad. It was basically a side salad with 8 pieces of shrimp (still delicious, but not filling.). This one was my fault.
Other than that, one of our meals had poached eggs that were solid all the way through (kind of a letdown). These were small inconveniences to an otherwise completely boss meal.
Before I launch into this, I have to note that we have been to this restaurant several times before and have had much better experiences than you are about to read. This particular Sunday was busy, but here is what happened nevertheless.
We arrive at 12:20 and ask for a table of seven. One of the waitresses (there were only two) asked the other where to place us, and she replied:
Waitress 1: Seven? Not going to happen
Waitress 2: What?
Waitress 1: No. That’s not going to happen! (She literally yelled this over the heads of other customers. -5 points)
Waitress 2: Um, well we could put you three here, and four over here. Would that work? You would be separated.”
Waitress 2 seated us and said that we should have called, which we considered, but since the joint is always empty (and I mean always empty for brunch), we didn’t think it was necessary. Menus were distributed, water was filled, and our order for coffees all around was taken. Or was it? It took 15 minutes to get our coffee, and another hour before we could get a refill. We asked probably 6 times for refills, but it just was not going to happen. (-2 points).
As the meal went on, waitress 1 loudly complained about how busy it was, and how she hard it was getting around us (-1 point). We even moved to a different table before the food came just to condense more. We entered the restaurant at about 12:20, and did not receive our food, or any attention between, until about 1:45 (-1 point). Three of us did not get our beverages until the food was served, and the rest of us sat around for an hour before being given refills. Once we realized we were pretty much on our own, we began walking up to the kitchen to ask for things: water, coffee, hot sauce, silverware (-1 point). Yes, a few of us did not have silverware when the food came, and simply stared at the food for about five minutes.
Technically we were served food and drinks within a reasonable time frame for a meal, so I have to give them at least 1 point for this. 1 more point for, as far as I can tell, not spitting in the food.
Total: 19/30 Great Food + Shitty Service = Meh
I gave a $3 tip on a $20+ meal only because I might come back at some point. They did not earn that tip: it was more like how the U.S. pays North Korea not to go all nuke-crazy on our asses.
As it turns out, all of us eating this Sunday had at some point been in the restaurant biz. Most of us have been waiters, and we know when customers are being whiny and complainy. This was not the case. Waitress 1 was literally complaining to us about how hard it was walking around us because our party was so big (even though we relocated to a different for space), how difficult it would be to split up the check, and giving us shitty looks throughout the meal. That crap really takes the atmosphere and mood away.
The restaurant was busy, and the two waitresses panicked. Instead of saying sure, please take a seat over here while we figure out seating, they literally shouted out to the entire restaurant that taking pleasure in our dining experience was just simply not going to happen.
I suppose that’s sort of like how I would like to give the Gypsy Café an all-out excellent review, but I guess that’s not going to happen.