Casellula @ Alphabet City is the first dining spot in Pittsburgh to end its no-tipping policy, just 10 months after it opened.
Derived from the Latin castellum and the Old French chastel, a chateau, as defined by Merriam-Webster as a castle or manor, is particularly associated with winemaking in the Bordeaux region.
"Chateau" connotes a certain genteel sophistication and prosperity. It does not put one in mind of a warehouse and light industrial zone under a tangle of highway overpasses, just upwind of a sewage plant and adjacent to a century-old penitentiary, where the only vegetation seems to be a thicket of chain link fences and barbed wire, and might make a good setting for a Cormac McCarthy novel.
But for whatever reason some city father (or mother) saw fit to christen the above described .38 square-mile Ohio riverfront expanse as Chateau, and as of the 2010 census it is the smallest of Pittsburgh's 90 recognized neighborhoods with 11 residents who either live by the riverbank or on the other side of Route 65. Many Pittsburgh lifers have never even heard of the place.
It sounds like the dead last place in the entire city that Munch would expect to make a stop, much less find a super cute little cafe and bake shop -- the homey Chateau Cafe & Cakery -- run by a pair of self-proclaimed "Sweet Geeks" that, against the aforementioned backdrop and the gunmetal gray sky of a cold November day, made it seem like the little plant that Wall-E found alive on the futuristic garbage ball of Earth.
That might be a bit much, but it's a "neighborhood" that's essentially an industrial park. However, hundreds of people work there and ultimately if you serve good honest breakfast and lunch grub along with awesome baked goods, they will come.
That's been the plan for Keren DeCarlo and Laura Hatajik, introduced by a mutual friend who became their business partner. Laura once ran a confectionery business and Keren had studied to be a pastry chef but both worked in other fields before the opportunity arose to open Chateau Cafe & Cakery in August in the lobby of one of the renovated office buildings in the area, the former home of the Fort Pitt Bedding Co., a cool old photo of which is on display on one of the cafe's bright green walls.
They serve breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, and as the name suggests, dessert. In a Munch first (for me, anyway), I went to the place twice in one day, wearing two different getups, and feeling sufficiently ridiculous about my Zero Munch Thirty attempt at food intel-gathering tradecraft.
Four types of oatmeal with super healthy chia seeds and three egg sandwiches plus herbal teas and Nicholas Bros. coffee round out the breakfast menu. I enjoyed my cup of cinnamon and sugar oatmeal ($3.25) and an egg, ham and white Cheddar breakfast burrito on a spinach tortilla ($3.95) and a cup of coffee. Not at all a bad way to start the day.
A dozen different panini and wraps and daily soup specials are available for lunch, and on the day of the city's first snowfall, a rich, creamy cup of Steak & Ale soup ($3.95) was a nice warmer with a little bite to it and the ham, bacon and maple mayo panini on rye ($6.95) was a truly tasty sandwich that was washed down with a Blueberry Rooibos iced tea.
The roasted beets and bacon salad ($6.75) combined two of Munch's favorite things in the known universe along with fresh greens and feta cheese in a huge salad. The beets, thick-cut candied bacon and feta all giving a ton of flavor to something Munch would rather avoid, and let's be honest -- bacon in salad is the new French Fries on salad: negating the point, but oh-so worth it.
Cookies, brownies and a rotation of cupcakes, all named after Pittsburgh 'hoods (even Chateau), are sold daily. During my visit, The West End, a Snickerdoodle flavored cupcake that tasted exactly like its namesake cookie, and the Dahntahn, a rich, red velvet cupcake with a buttery icing were the exceptional cupcakes du jour.
Chateau Cafe and Cakery is at 1501 Preble Ave., Chateau. Call 412-802-2537 or visit www.chateaucafeandcakery.com for more information.
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