There are two features that are essential before any establishment can become a neighborhood joint, and Square Café in Regent Square has both.
The first is a counter or bar. A raised countertop and stools will anchor a place. In this case, size is not important. The Square has just nine stools, enough to do the job.
The second is a gaggle of regulars to fill those stools. Perched slightly above the fray, they enjoy an insider’s view of the action and share continuous repartee with the staff as they jostle around the sacrosanct coffee, soft drink and dessert area.
At the Square, the regulars include Maria the nurse, Bill the techno guy, the two joking window washers, Jim the recumbent cyclist, John the attorney, Sylvia the horseback riding artist and Larry, who announces his arrival with the bon mot, “The man with endurance sells insurance.”
Seven days a week, this steady contingent is joined by other regulars and many occasionals at the tables both inside the joint and along the wide sidewalk outside. The weekend crowd includes doting grandparents, young families, artsy types, cutting-edge fashionistas and a few of those starry-eyed couples who are obviously wearing their dancing clothes from the previous night.
Like modern-day religious pilgrims, Square Café acolytes arrive by any means that will get them there—on foot, by motorcycle or bicycle, in everything from a Prius to a Hummer. Distance runners and Frick Park hikers make the Square their finish line. And some patrons, alors, even cross two rivers to get there.
Regent Square is one of the most liberal neighborhoods in the East End, and the crowd at the Square cuts across all boundaries. Raise any of the day’s pressing issues—war, peace, race, cultural trends, gender preference, age discrimination, human rights—and you will find enlightened conversation. Or simply bury yourself in the morning paper and enjoy the food, and you will leave sated.
The menu is as varied as the clientele. Carnivores and vegetarians alike are greeted with ample choices from a seasonal menu and daily specials. Bulk up with the Square Protein Breakfast of four eggs, bacon and sausage or grab the Tofu Scramble or indulge your inner-child with Nutella crepes. Tackle a Black Angus burger smothered with cheese and sauteed mushrooms or tickle your fancy with Johnny Cakes. And, at the end of the day, what could be better than a place where you can get a bowl of hot oatmeal on a whim?
The wait staff is young, intelligent and quick with a quip. Most of them are long-timers who obviously like people and love working at the Square. With a spattering of tattoos, piercings and easy smiles, they help make this place possibly the hippest breakfast joint in Pittsburgh.
According to its Web site, Square Cafe is “family friendly, gay friendly, dog friendly, vegetarian and vegan friendly, and has a strong focus on community involvement.”
As owner Sherree Goldstein says, “Our goal is to provide fresh, innovative food for breakfast, brunch and lunch. With all the world’s problems, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is the simple part of life and it should be fun. We’re just flippin’ eggs and makin’ french fries here.”
Square Cafe, 1137 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square, (412) 244-8002.