Atria’s – Mount Lebanon Borough
Some evenings when my wife and I want to go out for dinner we are hampered by a collective inability to come up with an idea desirable enough to get us moving out the door. Occasionally the prospect of driving north into the city through the Fort Pitt tunnels just seems like too much of a hassle. This hurdle is exponentially increased whenever there is an event going on in the city* which causes jag-off gridlock as numerous drivers hypnotically decelerate as they approach the tunnel. Our local options are decent-enough but lately we’ve relied on them much too heavily which has made the thought of eating another Mad Mex burrito enough to make me run for the Canadian border. After spending thirty minutes trading lackluster dinner ideas, none of which involved cooking of course, my wife finally suggested Atria’s. This suggestion sounded enticing enough so we made our way to their neighborhood location in Mount Lebanon.
Atria’s is nestled on Beverly Road and this locale helps contribute to the restaurants charm but unfortunately makes it tough to find a close parking space. My wife convinced me to utilize the valet service despite my desire to search for a spot on the nearby suburban streets. I quickly pleaded my case** but ultimately relented and headed into Atria’s lot. It was pretty cold outside so avoiding a block-long walk to the restaurant turned out to be the correct choice. After tossing my keys to the valet, we headed inside and were immediately warmed up as the area around the bar was cozily heated. Atria’s décor has a neighborhood-y vibe that unfortunately now seems a bit cliché due to this motifs over-use by numerous national restaurant chains. Atria’s has six additional locations in and around Pittsburgh so it’ could be called a “chain” also but this location is the original and has been serving up food for over seventy years so it’s character is much more authentic than anything you’d get at Applebee’s.
Atria’s business was less than brisk this evening so we were promptly led upstairs for dinner seating. Though toasty downstairs, we unfortunately ended up in an extremely chilled dining room. It was so cold that I had to keep my Marmot on until the crab bisque arrived. Luckily the soup warmed me up with its perfect balance of spicy, creamy and crabby. The draft list at Atria’s was less than exciting so I paired my bisque with that old standby Guinness Draught (4.1% ABV - Dry Stout). The beer was solid as per usual with a frothy head and a taste much lighter than its dark color belies.
Since my wife almost always ends up selecting the tastier meal option off the menu, I decided to have her choose two entrees for us to split. The dishes that caught her eyes were the Pork Filet Gorgonzola and the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes. She was slightly startled by the waitress when asked how she would like the pork cooked because neither of us had ever ordered pork at a restaurant before. Despite the threat of trichinosis, she decided to go with medium which is her usual preparation choice for beef. When the food arrived we found out that this was the way to go because the pork was extremely tender and downright delicious. We actually gave up cooking pork at home a few years ago since we’d repeatedly over-cook it but this meal restored our faith in the other white meat. To further guarantee that no Muslim or Jew would dare try this dish, the filets came wrapped in bacon. Regrettably it appeared a little fatty and not crisp at all so I removed it before digging in. More than making up for this misstep were the crispy potato pancakes that resided under the pork. They were the epitome of crunchy goodness and along with the pork deserving of multiple superlatives as the best preparations I’ve ever had of each. The crab cakes were first-rate as well but unfortunately were overshadowed by the other dish. We somehow filled the little room we had left in our stomachs with nibbles off of a too-big slice of the carrot cake. It was wonderful as well as a tasty closer to a brilliant meal.
Final Call: The pork at Atria’s was the best I’ve ever had though admittedly it’s not a protein I order regularly so the sample size is small. The bisque and crab cakes weren’t as transcendent, but they were both very excellent and should be satisfactory to even the most demanding of palettes. The ambiance of the restaurant could use a little updating to help add vibrancy to the surroundings since it does seem a little outdated. Furthermore, on this particular evening the overhead music was tortuously tuned into the worst of the seventies and eighties with songs such as YMCA, Man-eater and Brick House being played much too loud for my liking. The selections seemed to be culled from the lists that engaged couples turn into their wedding DJ of songs to definitely NOT play. Atria’s does attract an older crowd so they’re probably just pandering to their core clientele but I’d rather hear nothing over Invisible Touch by Phil Collins any day.
* This past summer we made plans to meet some friends for dinner in Lawrenceville and upon getting onto the highway we were unpleasantly surprised to find out that there were thousands of other people on the same road into town to the Taylor Swift concert. What should have been a twenty-five minute car ride took almost two hours. We were so frustrated that my wife hasn’t applied a spritz of Wonderstruck since.
** I’m frequently at odds with my wife since she always wants to make the correct decision and do things the right way. I just think that sometimes doing the wrong thing is the way to go. Most times it’s easier, faster and funner. Alas I have yet to win many arguments with this defense.