Since he’s a standup comedian, I didn’t believe John Dick Winters when he first told me by email that he’d never been to brunch before.
“I’ve been to breakfast before and I’ve been to lunch, but I swear I’ve never been to brunch,” Winters tells me as we meet up at Pie for Breakfast on North Craig Street in Oakland Aug. 5 for his first time. “Or if I have, it must’ve been so bad that i don’t even remember it. To be honest,I’m rarely awake at this time of day [it was noon.]”
It didn’t take long for Winters to get into the spirit of brunch when he ordered a mule with bourbon. I opted for a mimosa and although it’s not the manliest drink, it’s perfect for the guy who hates Bloody Marys and thinks it’s a little early for whiskey.
Pie for Breakfast is the latest establishment from Pittsburgh restaurateurs Trevett and Sarah Hooper. They already own Legume, their fine-dining spot and Butterjoint, a more casual eatery with a top-notch bar program. All three places sit beside each other on North Craig. The feel at “Pie” is Early-American diner, but the farm-to-table food is elevated to impressive heights.
Pie For Breakfast. 200 N. Craig St., Oakland
It was an interesting spot for Winters to pick because a few years ago, he too was a chef and even did a stint at Legume. Of the three restaurants, Winters says “Pie” may be the one that most lives up to its name.
“Legume, most people think it’s a fucking vegetarian restaurant but the menu is very meat-focused,” Winters explains. “Butterjoint, it’s great, but nobody knows what the hell that name means. But, Pie for Breakfast? This one makes sense.”
Winters was a stay-at-home dad who started cooking for his twin daughters. He always worked in restaurants, but never as a cook until he went back to work a decade or so ago. From there, he decided to get into comedy and has been doing mainly that for the past three years, even though, he says, when he got into it, “I didn’t think I was funny. I still don’t think I’m funny,” he says laughing. While two different disciplines, Winters says there are some similarities between cooks and comics.
“Learning to cook and learning to do comedy is a lot of trial and error,” Winters says. “It’s a lot of trial by fire; it’s a lot of failing, terribly. It takes a lot of resilience to do either.”
We talk about stand-up comedians as our selections from the menu quickly turn into a one-table brunch buffet. We dine on chopped lamb steak with eggs on the sunny side, a meatloaf quiche (a quiche with chunks of meat, but not meatloaf) with a cucumber salad that draws Winters’ eye. “Now, the cucumbers,” he asks a nearby server pointing to the non-uniform sizes, “were these chopped by a blind person?” It seemed like sacrilege to not have actual pie for breakfast so we got a slice of peanut butter pie and a slice of vinegar pie, a pecan-pie-like dessert that is sweet and a little tangy, the perfect amounts of both.
While the pies and quiche were delicious, the stars of the table were locally sourced lamb, ham and sausage. “This is the best lamb in the city,” Winters says as he forks off a generous serving and thinks about the overall dining experience. “You can get eggs and sausage anywhere in the city, but with the locally sourced, ethically raised product they use here, this place is probably does this style of food better than anyone.”
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Charlie Deitch is the Editor of the Pittsburgh Current. Email him at email@example.com