Alyssa Cwanger, Post-Gazette
Shortly after Sonoma Grille opened in 2005, managing partner Uriel Marcovitz and owner/executive chef Yves Carreau displayed Garam Masala Scented Lamb Loin, Shrimp Tempura and Sonoma Mixed Grille, and Shrimp and Avocado Margarita in glass, among other dishes, while Cassandra Paradise and Robert Mull Jr. of North Huntingdon talked at the bar.
Sunday matinees at the theaters Downtown bring hungry crowds into the Cultural District on a day when many restaurants are closed. Patrons who don't reserve a table at one of the restaurants that are open risk finding themselves relegated to a fast-food burger or a take-out sandwich from the deli case at 7-Eleven. Lunch or dinner reservations are essential if you plan to eat before or after a Sunday matinee in Pittsburgh.Tony Tye, Post-Gazette
Also open on Sunday afternoons is Opus Restaurant in the Renaissance Hotel, Downtown. Last year chef de cuisine Brian Molish showed off Sweet Soya Caramelized Ahi Tuna, front, and Grilled Colorado Lamb Lollipops.
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THE MOZART ROOM
For anyone attending a performance at Heinz Hall, my first choice would be The Mozart Room, inside the concert hall. It serves brunch from an a la carte menu before every Sunday matinee. This opulent dining room, reached by a separate door on Sixth Street near Liberty Avenue, serves both breakfast and luncheon entrees along with complimentary salad, pastry and a juice buffet. Breakfast entrees go from Belgian waffle with strawberries, whipped cream and maple syrup ($10) to omelet du jour ($11). Lunch will be beef ($15), seafood ($14) or chicken ($13). Although the menu is limited, the food is fresh, fairly priced, well presented and served by an experienced staff. Add to that the joy of dining in one of the most patrician rooms in all of Pittsburgh, plus not having to get either cold or wet going from the table to a symphony seat, and you have a powerful incentive for choosing the Mozart Room.
Heinz Hall, Hoelzel Entrance, Sixth Street, Downtown, 412-392-4879. Open Sundays noon-2:30 p.m. Wheelchair accessible, parking in lots on Sixth Street.
THE OPUS RESTAURANT
The Opus in the Renaissance Hotel is just steps from the entrance to the Byham Theater and a short walk from other cultural venues. The Renaissance is housed in what was known as the Fulton Building when it was constructed in 1906. Today the building is a Historic Landmark and one of the architectural treasures of our Cultural District. The hotel lobby is defined by white marble walls and a double marble staircase and capped by a leaded glass dome, 30 feet in diameter. The dining room, paneled in an exotic African wood, occupies a serene spot that is separate from the lobby. It is open on Sundays for breakfast, lunch or brunch buffet before the matinee or dinner after the performance. Breakfast and lunch entrees are available a la carte. Brunch Buffet is $21.95 ($10.95 for children 6-12). The brunch buffet features made-to-order omelets, waffles, three entrees, a carving station serving prime rib and an assortment of salads and desserts. The normal a la carte luncheon menu features the likes of Crab and Shrimp Cakes ($12), Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken ($10) and Salmon crusted with black sesame seeds and served with saffron risotto ($14).
The Renaissance Hotel, 107 Sixth St., Downtown, 412-992-2005. Open Sundays 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Wheelchair accessible, free valet parking.
THE TERRACE ROOM
Another elegant hotel dining room is The Terrace Room in the Omni William Penn Hotel. It's a four-block promenade from the theaters and symphony, but dining under the 25-foot coffered ceiling in this spectacular room is worth the walk. At one end of the room is a huge mural of Gen. George Washington being welcomed into the recently captured Fort Duquesne, a reference to early Pittsburgh history. Waiters in handsome brocade vests provide classic European service for the guests. As of April 1, The Terrace Room is re-introducing a Sunday brunch with a prix-fixe four-course menu. Harry Cardillo will be at the piano playing all the oldies from his jazz repertoire, and the chef will offer a new menu each week. The price of the brunch will be determined next week. Call the restaurant for complete information.
530 William Penn Place, Downtown, 412-553-5235. Open Sundays 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Wheelchair accessible, free valet parking.
Sonoma Grille is a popular Pittsburgh bistro with California cuisine and an amazing selection of 100 wines by the glass. Sonoma serves their normal lunch menu on Sunday. Fisherman's Wharf Chowder ($7) is a fabulous and filling soup of clams, shrimp and scallops served in a round loaf of sour dough bread that has been scooped out to produce a bowl. Omelets ($9 or $10) come in various versions. The California omelet is with sauteed mushrooms, avocado, Jarlsberg cheese and applewood smoked bacon. The Serrano ham and fresh mozzarella omelet has roasted tomatoes and sauteed arugula. Sandwiches and burgers are $9-$11, salads are $8-$11, pasta $10-$12 and mixed grille $12. The price of a 6-ounce glass of wine starts at $6.
947 Penn Ave., Downtown, 412-697-1336. Open Sundays 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wheelchair accessible, parking in lot next door, $4.
CHRISTOS MEDITERRANEAN GRILL
Just across the street from Heinz Hall and the Byham on Sixth Street is Christos Mediterranean Grill, serving Greek cuisine. Owner Christos Melacrinos is always present in this small, family-run establishment, where a loyal band of diners come on a regular basis for such specialities as stuffed peppers, baked eggplant, spanakopita or lamb kebabs. Most dinners are less than $10.95. Many are vegetarian and some are vegan. My own weakness is for the appetizers, which are authentic, delicious and healthy. Taramosalata ($3.50), a tart paste with a silky texture made of carp roe, olive oil and lemon juice is a special treat. Other mezze, all $3.50, are stuffed grape leaves, hummus, tabouleh and baba ghanouj. They are served with warm wedges of fresh pita bread. Penerli (Greek pizza) would make a suitable vegetarian meal. The pita bread base is baked with slices of fresh tomatoes, feta and herbs. Soups here ($2.75 for a sizable bowl) are homemade and very tasty. Avegolelmono stands out. This hearty chicken rice soup seasoned with lemon juice is the Greek equivalent of your grandmother's cold remedy. Desserts at Christos are also homemade. Onassis Dessert ($3), a simple cake soaked in honey syrup and topped with egg custard and whipped cream, is an example of the unusual treats I found on the menu. Christos is BYOB. There is no charge for corkage.
130 Sixth St., Downtown, 412-261-6442. Open Sundays 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Dining room only is wheelchair accessible. Parking is in adjacent lot.
To be assured of getting a reservation at the restaurant of your choice for Sunday lunch or brunch Downtown, please call early with your request. The number of seats available is severely limited.
Elizabeth Downer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1454.