Tuesday, December 20, 2011

...My Very Vegetarian Weekend, Part 1: Tin Front Cafe

I like meat.

Despite my fondness for meat, I also like to try vegetarian dishes as well.  When Weight Watchers changed over to "Points Plus", and all vegetables (with the exceptions of starches, like potatoes and peas) became zero points, I added a lot more vegetables to my diet - and vegetarian recipes helped me to accomplish that.

Over the summer, I received a free issue of Vegetarian Times magazine - and I loved almost every recipe in it!  I had to subscribe, and I look forward to reading it.  Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to cook, but after the holidays, I will.  YAY!

This past weekend, I unintentionally had a Very Vegetarian Weekend (henceforth to be known as my "VVW".)  James suggested going to the Tin Front Cafe, right across the street from Smoke BBQ and Taqueria in Homestead.  We had gone there for Sunday brunch on our second encounter, after having a great meal at Smoke on our first encounter a few days earlier.

 Cue the flashback music...

I had passed the Tin Front Cafe several times, just like I had passed Smoke several times before going there - and never even gave a thought to trying it.  You can imagine my surprise, too, when I found out that it was a vegetarian restaurant.

Vegetarian?  In Homestead?  Really?

They have a Sunday brunch with a great setup - order a main entree, and the rest is buffet - chili (vegetarian, of course), mini-muffins, potatoes, fruit, and coffee.  For my main entree, I ordered spiced pear pancakes.

I didn't take pictures because it's not a Hispanic/Latino place, and I wasn't reviewing anything other than that type of restaurant at the time.  I totally regret it.

The pancakes were so moist and delicious, I don't think that I could ever replicate anything like them in my own kitchen.  I also tried everything on the buffet except for the chili.

Yet another regret.  Everything else on the buffet was great, though - especially the mini corn muffins.

Cue present day music...

Tin Front Cafe Menu, December 17, 2011

I was relieved to see "Four Bean Chili" on the menu at Tin Front this past weekend, as I wanted to try their chili so badly.  I have made vegetarian versions of chili myself before, and I think they're better than any meat version.
Four Bean Chili
Oh, wow.  This was like the vegetarian version of Aztec Chili at The Franklin Inn.  Spicy, but not too spicy, and full of flavor.  Carrots, corn, and four types of beans (black, pinto, chickpeas, and maybe kidney?  I wasn't sure) make up the bulk of the chili, along with some soy crumbles.  The piece of bread was so fresh that James asked if they make their own.

Yes, they do.  It shows.

For our entrees, James and I both chose grilled cheese sandwiches, which are paired with an arugula salad: for me, Griddled Pear with smoked Swiss (I'm always a sucker for smoked cheeses!), and for James, Grilled Portabella with spinach, red peppers, and gorgonzola.  
Griddled Pear with Smoked Swiss Sandwich, arugula salad
Grilled Portabella, Red Pepper, Spinach Sandwich, arugula salad
 After sampling both, James and I both agreed that mine was by far the best.  His looked prettier, because of the different festive colors (red and green - it IS almost Christmas, you know!), but mine tasted fantastic.  I knew from my first experience that Tin Front does amazing things with pears, and this sandwich continued the trend.  James had never had gorgonzola melted, however, and he was surprised at how well it melted into the sandwich.

The arugula salad was simple, yet it was a great accompaniment to the sandwiches.  I'm not sure exactly what the dressing was, but it added great flavor to the arugula and shaved (Swiss?) cheese combo. 

When the check came, we were given some chocolate-covered espresso beans as an after-lunch treat, just like the first time we went together.  They are also sold at Annex Cookery, the kitchen store adjacent to the Tin Front Cafe, which sells typical and unusual kitchen tools and gadgets.  We took a look around before we left, and agreed to keep it in mind when looking for great kitchen gifts!

My favorite part about the Tin Front Cafe (besides the food) is the tin sculptures that adorn the outside (see first pic) and the patio area.  Across the street, right by Smoke, you can see what looks like a studio where these tin sculptures are made - but I have no idea who runs that or how you can buy them.  If anyone has any info, please advise!

Tin sculptures on the back patio
With Smoke right across the street, it is difficult to pass up tacos, but when we need a break from tacos, Tin Front is our best local choice (more so than any chain restaurant 2 blocks away in The Waterfront).

How was my dinner vegetarian, you ask?  Well, before I went to work at Kennywood that night, I ate a banana and an apple, but when I came home, James had bought some great Middle-Eastern goodies from Pitaland in Brookline, which we discovered on the Burgh Bits 'N Bites Food Tour - he arranged me a plate full of hummus, tzatziki, sleek, tabbouleh, and pickled turnips, along with some warm, freshly-made pita bread.  No animal flesh involved, and it was amazing.

That was Saturday.  Stay tuned for Sunday...

Tin Front Cafe
216 East 8th Ave.
Homestead, PA 15120

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/tinfrontcafe

The Tin Front Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. I am delighted that you enjoyed our resturant! Stop in for dinner and try our butternut squash lasagna.

  2. The sculptures in courtyard and in the ‘Five and Ten’ building across the street (not to mention the hanging signs on 8th Avenue) are created by the architect, author, & artist David Lewis. He will have an exhibition in January or February at The Mendelson Gallery in Shadyside. You can also make an appointment at The Tin Front Café to see the studio and meet the artist.

  3. Thanks for the info! I will definitely have to come for dinner - and perhaps to arrange to meet the artist!