Munch goes to Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center

When Munch called (OK ... texted) Neighborhood Friend of Munch about getting lunch at the Schenley Park Cafe, NFOM called (on the phone!) to double check.

"You mean, the hut sort of thing across from Phipps?" NFOM asked. "I didn't know they served food."

Indeed, Munch had just recently discovered the hut sort of thing Munchself. And what a pleasant discovery it was.

The Schenley Park Cafe offers several hard to find items in the Pittsburgh not-quite-fine dining scene.

Let's count them, shall we?

1) outdoor seating

2) drinks which are not too sweet

3) wifi

4) children's toys

And let's not forget fresh, reasonably priced food in a lovely setting.

A little history: The Schenley Park Cafe and Visitors Center was restored in 2001 after sitting vacant since the 1980s.

It was built in 1903 and 1904 by the same architect who designed what is now Pitt's student union -- originally as a picnic shelter (they sure built nice picnic shelters back in the day). Over the years, it's also been used as a tool shed, nature museum and office for park workers.

On the day of Munch's lunch, Munch awoke to sort of messy rain that generally only occurs during Arts Festivals and marathons. By lunchtime, however, the weather had turned sunny and toasty warm.

Enjoying the sunshine, Munch and NFOM planned to eat on the cafe's serpentine back patio overlooking Schenley Park.

Just looking at the hikers and bikers entering the park made Munch hungry, and though the salads looked appealing, Munch chose a Thai chicken wrap ($6.75) and a raspberry mocha latte made with La Prima coffee.

NFOM ordered a goat cheese, almond and chicken salad ($6.75) and a Schenley Park Lime Rickey, the cafe's "signature drink" made with sparkling water, raspberry syrup and lime juice.

For dessert, Munch ordered a piece of carrot cake, which Munch and NFOM then devoured while waiting for their meals to be brought to their table.

When the food came out, it was just perfect. NFOM's salad was large and filling (though the carrot cake starter certainly helped) with a dressing that was tangy without being overpowering.

Though Munch was a bit surprised to see large chunks of cantaloupe in the Thai chicken wrap, the fruit actually worked quite well with a light sauce that was just a little bit hot and just a little bit sweet.

Both were really pleased with their drink options as well -- both drinks were fruity but not overly sugary.

What Munch really likes about the Schenley Park Café is its utility to whole bunches of different people: good for a cold drink after a hike, good for a classy outdoor lunch, good for families out for a stroll, even good for special events and rehearsal dinners, which the café hosts and caters at night. And NFOM, who has some schoolwork to do, thought it would be a great place to hunker down and study.

As Munch and NFOM were browsing park brochures on their way out, a couple other people were wandering into the cafe.

"Wow, this is nice," said one. "I had no idea they served lunch."


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