Munch goes to B52 Cafe

Let’s take an educated stab at how things are gonna go down over the next few days, because if you’re anything like Brother Munch, this weekend is going to be one of glorious excess.

Thanksgiving celebrations kick off with Blackout Wednesday and the requisite toasts and shots with friends at the hometown local, to be followed Thursday with a beautiful bounty of meleagris gallopavo, stuffing and gallons of gravy and wine to smooth out the sharp edges of any potentially thorny political dinner table discussions.

There will be shopping and the consumption of food court or chain restaurant garbage. There will be sports — the Penguins, led by noted Putin cheerleader Evgeni Malkin play thrice at home; Pitt’s season will come to a merciful end Friday at Heinz Field; and the Steelers continue their march to the postseason Sunday night — and nachos, wings and pizza will be partaken of with a grown-up pop or two. Come Monday morning the body will be shrieking for something healthy and light.

That’s where B52 comes in. It’s not a bomber, a bingo call or the band behind the Love Shack but rather a vegan café in upper Lawrenceville opened in January 2016 by Omar Abuhejleh, founder of Squirrel Hill’s Allegro Hearth Bakery. They offer an all-day, all-vegan menu with heavy Middle Eastern accents.

The food is warming and the space is fun. It’s not some hipster tomb with a cold menu and mopey snooze-inducing synthpop or indie-folk. Rather this spot bustled on a Monday morning with soul and funk on the sound system — Sly & The Family Stone, The Brothers Johnson and Curtis Mayfield.

Avocado toast has become a symbol of millennial frivolity. Yeah, whatever. It’s healthy, filling and a toasted Allegro Hearth sourdough, and with a citrusy tahini sauce and black sesame seeds, it is an optimal way to start a week. Plus, at $5, hardly a bank breaker. 

The Mezze courses pair warm pita with a choice of one, three or five spreads, sauces or toppings — hummus, baba ghanouj, fried cauliflower, labneh and fried tomato. We got a trio ($16) comprised of an absolutely perfect hummus, tangy labneh and fried tomatoes that were awesomely rich, garlicky and spicy with zhoug, or a cilantro-based hot sauce mixed in.

Shredded potato latkes with carrot, onion ($4.50) were pure comfort and a side of harissa gave it some heat. The house brew is an excellent roast from local Commonplace Coffee.

Close your eyes and you’d have no idea that you weren’t eating actual eggs with a deliciously spiced ground meat in the kofta scramble ($12). Rather, it’s tofu and a curried seitan standing in for the lamb. Served with a sauteed kale, it had me searching for descriptors, as I just pointed at it in approval.

“Who’d have thought vegan food would leave you speechless,” my better half mused.

Not me, as few things ever do. And while it’s taken a while for this dyed-in-the-mutton carnivore to come around on vegan fare, a place like B52 can make it easy for anyone. 

B52 Cafe: 5202 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412-781-5204;

Dan Gigler:; Twitter @gigs412


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