Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekend Review: Pinball and Zenith

My friend Heather and I stopped by the Lawrenceville Pinball Classic on Saturday night.  How cool is this?  It was a fun/serious pinball tournament for some, and a one-day-only, pop-up arcade for the rest.  Free admission, DJ's, and, as the chalkboard outside proclaimed, "Very Attractive People Inside."  I mean, Heather and I were there, so that sign's got to be right!
Heather works at Essential Pittsburgh, a locally-produced and broadcast Monday through Friday radio show on Pittsburgh's (relatively new) NPR-member station, WESA, so sometimes when we start talking to people, she gets her professional newsperson ears on and she'll ask all kinds of questions about the event.  This guy was tending bar (we're talking soda pops, this was a BYOB event) but he also was apparently still alive in the tournament, and he would be called up again to play at any moment.
It was all-ages too.  A young man plopped down next to me at the bar, looking bored to tears, like his hipster parents took him here and now he just wanted to go home and play video games or whatever.  I asked if I could take his picture, and he started to smile, and I said, "You have to keep being bored, though, you can't smile"  He laughed, and sunk right back down into it.  He really seemed like an awfully good-natured youngster.
Heather and I both played pinball.  That game is hard!  The machines really vary, though.  It was definitely worth it to try to seek out a more fun table for your two quarters.  Just like in a real arcade, sometimes the machines would go out of order.  The organizer(s) already had "out of order" signs printed up because these are folks who know their machines.  They love pinball.

Concentrate, Heather...
How does the ball keep slipping past my aggressive button pushing?
The Franktuary food truck was there, so even if you were vegan, you didn't have to go hungry, because they've got veggie dogs.

And, oh hey, check it out, some ladies decided to dance in the window a while.  It wasn't wild and crazy, it was just in good fun.

On Sunday morning, I went to brunch at Zenith with my friends Kate and Ali, as well as another random vegan named Dave.  Neither Kate nor I had been to Zenith in a really long time, but neither of us had much cared for it the last time we were there.  We wanted to try it again.

The thing about Zenith is that it's actually an antiques store, and it's got plenty of cool stuff everywhere, with large sections of it for sale.  It's a bit hard to resist because it's super-cute and weird.  Like, here's the view from the toilet:

But then, for some reason, there's also this vegetarian/vegan cafe in the back.  I've only ever been there for brunch, and I'd love to try out lunch or dinner some time, but brunch costs only $10 and includes coffee.  You pick something off a menu that has some things that feel more like breakfast and some that feel more like lunch, and then you get to eat as much as you like of the many, many buffet sides and desserts they have, all vegan.  Here is just one portion of one buffet side table:

Many of the sides are quite good and, really, they're the best part, even though nothing jumps out as being particularly delicious either.  I did like the green beans you can see on Kate's plate here:

The main dishes this time were good, I thought, but, again, nothing amazing.  Ali, Dave, and I all ordered the same thing, the white bean wrap with tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper and spinach.
The truth is, I didn't observe any peppers or zucchini in this, but, nevertheless, it was pretty good.  I mean, the white bean hummus made me think, "Hmmm, I should start making white bean hummus instead of always chickpeas!"  That's not a bad endorsement from me.  Kate ordered the portobello fajitas.  I didn't try them, but I'd say they look... acceptable.

The desserts look really pretty on their table.  It's all these thinly-sliced round cakes.  Sadly, I didn't take a picture of it (I feel like SUCH a vegan cliche taking pictures of the food at a veggie restaurant!), but, if it makes you feel any better, they really aren't good.  They look good but they don't taste good.  It's OK, though, because I was full before dessert.

Ten bucks is a really low price for pretty much unlimited food.  It's not very good food, no, but it's got vegetables.  I really feel terrible saying that, but here's the thing.  Everyone already knows this about Zenith.  Every person I came with said they'd eaten at Zenith and didn't much care for it.  One vegan woman stopped over to say hello to us but left without eating because she wasn't a fan.  And yet, the place was PACKED.  We waited almost an hour for a seat.  The food is fine -- it's not bad (well, except the desserts), but it's not great.  I think that a lot of it is the ultra-casual, very arty ambiance of the place that makes it this packed:

I mean, even if your stomach was unsatisfied, you always get to feast your eyes, and that's worthwhile in a different important way.

They're obviously doing something right.  By the time we left, this sign had appeared on the door:
Does that bode well or poorly for Zenith?  Probably well, I'd say.  If they started making really great food, they'd never be able to keep that kitchen stocked!  Also, I know there is expense involved in cooking well, but it doesn't have to be expensive to bake better cakes!  I can show them!  God, I'm cocky, I'm sorry.  But I can't help but to, once again, think about how much better I cook at home.  There are a lot of really inexpensive and tasty things to make in large batches!  I guess I just worry that having one of the few Pittsburgh veggie restaurants be not great makes veganism look bad.  And we can't have that, can we?  The whole key to our proselytizing is the amazing food we eat all the time!  It's really the ace up our sleeves.


  1. Pop-up pinball? That is so awesome and badass! I love that you got photos of random folk, for the most part I'm too shy to take pictures of strangers! Not a shy person, of those things I guess? Ba ha ha, I like Zenith`s bathroom. :) You know, there`s one thing I find about brunches in general, and it`s that the desserts do often suck. Like back in the day when I wasn`t vegan, I remember that. Don`t know what`s up with that!

    1. I'm more embarrassed to take pictures of the dessert table than to take pictures of the random people!

      I can't recall ever having had another brunch buffet, truth be told, but I'll take your word about the desserts.

  2. That pop-up pinball event is AWESOME! My dad co-owns a company that installs video games, so growing up, we always pinball machines and Ms. Pac-Man in the garage! Oh, and Galaga!!!!!

    1. I'll bet you're pretty damn good at pinball! It's really difficult. I think you have to, like, know your machine well. PS I love Ms. Pac-Man, and I want a bow just like hers.

  3. I'd love to go to that place when I visit Pittsburgh. But I know what you mean; so often when I go out to eat I just end up thinking how much I could have made at home.... for less money...

    1. Yeah, you should, but if you go for brunch, show up early! It opens at 11 AM and there's a line out the door, and then it runs out of food. I mean, we got there around 11:20 AM and put our names in, waited about an hour, ate, and then when we left (we DID take our time) there was that sign on the door.


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