The Elbow Room – Shadyside Neighborhood
The Elbow Room was formerly located on Ellsworth Avenue at the location currently inhabited by its sister restaurant 1947 Tavern. The restaurant moved and took over the spot vacated by Max and Erma’s a little under a year ago in a prime location on bustling Walnut Street across from Chico’s*. On a recent trip there my wife and I lucked out and found a parking spot in front of the new Lululemon** store right on Walnut. We then debated whether or not we needed to feed the meter. The posted sign said that the parking meters are enforced to 10 p.m., but I had sworn I heard recently that our City Council cut it back to the previous time of 6 p.m. This was given further credence by the fact that no other car parked near us had any time left on their meters. Since most Shadyside denizens probably wouldn’t give a second thought to a $30 parking ticket we didn’t let this piece of information stop us from emptying whatever quarters we had into the meter.
Feeling lighter after disposing of our pocket change, we ventured up a couple flights of steps and entered into the Elbow Room’s waiting area. The Elbow Room does live up to its name and is pretty spacious with a sizable main dining area along with a slightly more casual seating area next to and in front of the bar with flat screens tuned to sports. We have previously had to wait at the bar for up to an hour for a table but on this particular Friday night we were immediately seated at a booth along the wall. The restaurant itself is swathed with beautiful dark woodwork and wine-themed art and embellishments. It’s classy but still has a neighborhood tavern vibe to it that keeps it from feeling stuffy.
The booth seats lack high dividers and therefore don’t provide a great deal of privacy but hopefully you’re not planning on trying to round second base into third in public anyway. The open dining space did get a little loud at times but never reached a cacophonous level which I find bothersome. My wife and I spend a lot of time together so I’m sure she didn’t mind an opportunity to tune out my fantasy football blabberings to listen around for more interesting conversations.
The Elbow Room has a lengthy bottled beer list along with a rotating variety of interesting drafts that typically include multiple seasonal options. Feeling festive I went with the Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale (5.0% ABV - Pumpkin Ale). It was a tad bitter and actually not that pumpkin-y but it tasted good enough for me to eventually order another. After suffering through recent potato disappointments at Local and the 1947 Tavern, our faith in French fries was restored by the Elbow Room’s peasant fries. Though the recipe is as simple as topping crispy hand-cut fries with a generous amount of melted provolone and gravy***, Elbow Room executes the dish to perfection. For my entrée I went with the hanger steak (medium) and it was just all right. The accompanying veggies actually overshadowed the meat and that’s not really a good thing. Even though I was pretty full after finishing off my meal the allure of pecan pie seduced me and I’m glad I gave into temptation because it was delicious.
Final Call: I can’t say I have ever had an exceptional dinner at the Elbow Room but the fries and pies are good enough to make up for the average entrees. The restaurant’s atmosphere is befitting to both young and old crowds making it an excellent destination for a date night or gathering of friends.
* The day that my wife comes home with a Chico’s shopping bag is the day I’ll know I’m old.
** My wife loves Lululemon clothes and is extremely excited that a full-size store has opened in Pittsburgh. I’m a fan of any business that advances the idea that yoga pants are acceptable public attire for women.
*** We order the gravy on the side to help prevent sogginess. Next to fascism, soggy fries are my biggest pet peeve.