for a taste of “Classical Cuisine” in the heart of Oakland!
By: Lori Czekaj
Pittsburgh is not always known for being on the “cutting edge” of anything, let’s face it! However, when it comes to “clean eating” there happens to be a hidden jewel right in our own backyard! Legume is the place to be if you want fresh, house-made specialties, craft beer on tap and a rustic, “earthy” ambiance to enjoy it in…all within minutes of the downtown area!
Legume opened its doors in 2007, when it was located in Regent Square, way ahead of the “clean eating curve”. By 2012, business was so good they were turning people away; a well-kept secret of Square dwellers had gotten out, and with the “health and fitness craze” in full effect, they needed a larger venue. Thus they relocated to 214 North Craig Street in Oakland, and haven’t looked back since!
If it’s a freshly made soup of the day, organic salad concoction with their own special twist, or a light plate fare that you desire for your lunch break, look no further, Legume will not disappoint! We sampled a light and creamy Onion Soup ($6), with a side pairing of Crostini with Goat Cheese and Pepper Jelly ($4) that was the perfect combination of sweet and “bitey”! Also sampled were the Spelt Berry Salad ($6) that featured toasted walnuts, blue cheese, pickled beets, apples and a bistro vinaigrette, and the Marinated Chickpea Salad ($6) featuring fresh shaved parmesan, herbs, pickled roasted peppers and lemon to taste. Both salads were light, refreshing and divine!
To follow the light appetizer sampling, we were presented the Gemelli with Pork Ragout ($8), which featured “pulled pork” with a light tomato, smoky taste. In addition, we tried the Fettuccine with Fried Egg ($8). Both presented on a bed of homemade pastas, in a light butter sauce. Both were perfect portions, very light yet filling for the smaller, lunch appetite.
In keeping with tradition of sampling some larger plate lunch fares, knowing how Pittsburghers love to eat, we also tried two house favorites; the Winter Vegetarian Explosion ($12) and the Beans and Greens ($13). The Vegetarian Explosion featured a mushroom and cheese quiche, grilled radicchio, chickpea salad, cup of onion soup and a grilled baguette. Although I do not fancy myself a vegetarian, this dish was very light and tasty! The quiche was delicately creamy and the homemade crust just melts in your mouth! Everything about this dish gives you the warmth of “comfort food” without the guilt!
The Beans and Greens featured Cannellini beans, sautéed greens and salsa verde with fried egg and grilled baguette. In addition to two, exquisite house made pieces of kielbasa! Being of Polish and Czech origin, I can honestly say, this was the best kielbasa I’ve ever had!
They ended our lunch with an assortment of desserts including, Chocolate Truffle Cake ($6), Pineapple Upside-Down Cake ($6) and Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream ($6). All three were simply amazing, but my personal favorite was the ice cream. This ice cream could have passed the blindfold test for fresh homemade cheesecake in a heartbeat, even the graham cracker and strawberry jam that garnished it was made in-house! Just delicious, and portions that will not blow your diet if you decide to treat yourself, and believe me, you definitely should!
We visited Legume for lunch, but they are also open for dinner. Their menus vary daily, based on availability and what’s “on-hand”. This is what makes Legume a hidden treasure of “classical cuisine”. Trevett Hooper, the Head Chef and Owner of Legume will tell you that the menu “writes itself”. They base their daily offerings on what they have in stock from previous seasons of pickled and preserved produce and fresh meats that become available. As Trevett explains, “this was the tradition of classical cuisine, before eating clean and organic; it was all about making use of what’s on-hand and not letting anything go to waste.” He creates the best tasting dishes from what is available today. Everything is house made, from scratch, fresh and prepared to order, every day. He describes their food as “process driven”, meaning, if they buy two pigs this week, their menu will center around everything from that fresh pig, stocked canned/preserved goods from past seasons, and freshly made breads and pastas to accompany.
The Butterjoint is the adjoining bar and is open from 4:30 pm to midnight daily. It features its own menu, based on burgers and Pittsburgh favorites such as the Pierogie plate. They have an extensive offering of wine by the glass, and an impressive selection of craft beer on tap. Legume is convenient to downtown, and all surrounding neighborhoods, and offers convenient garage parking right across from the restaurant itself. Their hours of operation for lunch are 11:30-2:00 Monday – Friday, and for dinner Monday – Thursday 5:00-9:00, Saturday 5:00-10:00, closed Sundays. Reservations are recommended for parties of three or more for lunch, and for all parties of two or more for dinner. If you are looking for a fresh taste of Pittsburgh offered by a Pittsburgh family owned business, try Legume for your next lunch or dinner, you will not be disappointed!
Legume is located at 214 North Craig Street, Pittsburgh (Oakland) 15213 – For reservations call (412) 621-2700 and you can visit them on the web to see their daily menu at www.legumebistro.com