Point Brugge Café

By | March 1, 2006

Point Brugge Café
401 Hastings Street
Point Breeze
T-Sat 11am-10pm; Sun Noon-9pm

There was a time not too long ago when I really discovered the wonderful neighborhood of Point Breeze. I never knew there was that strip of shops on Reynolds or the few dotted along the pathway to Frick Mansion. I’d already been in love with Mellon Park, but I didn’t know that just across the hill was the little business district that I now find so indispensable. I love its funky conglomeration of shops: a needlepoint store, a Haitian art gallery, more salons than I can imagine that area supports, a vet, Pino’s (which I am not all that favorable of) has been there for I-don’t-know-how-long, a new coffee shop just opened (thank heavens), and Point Brugge Café popped up last year. Boy am I glad they set up shop: a quiet spot in a pleasant neighborhood within walking distance of my house. Point Brugge is absolutely my top pick for Best Recently-New Local Restaurant, serving Belgain-ish fare with European style, and a mighty beer menu with picks that rival the Sharp Edge.

The #1 reason why Point Brugge Café is so good is their offering of the European dish Moules Frites. Moules = mussels which are steamed and served in your choice of broth: traditional, red curry, and zesty tomato. All three are good, but the curry with coconut milk is especially delicious!! The mussels are always of such high quality too – I have had whole meals where I didn’t even get one less-than-perfect mussel in my pound and a half bowl (practically unheard of in the world of mussels). And they give you a big crusty piece of baguette to sop up all the luscious broth with during your meal. It’s all so good! Frites = fries which are really wonderful here. Crispy, hot, and served with basil mayonnaise for dipping, they are truly reminiscent of euro style! Incidentally, you CAN get ketchup to go with your fries, but you have to ask. I encourage all to eat with the mayo though because it is in perfect symbiosis with this fry and this dish. You should at least try it – I was a long time mayo hater, especially for fry dipping, and Point Brugge changed all that. Finally, if you don’t trust seafood but have been thinking about giving mussels a shot – please get them here first! (unless you are imminently traveling to the Outer Banks for mussel hunting, of course)

The #2 reason why Point Brugge Café is so good is their beer selection. They have an extensive Belgian beer selection both on tap and in bottles. They are bound to have beers you think they might not (Spaten Optimator, Golden Monkey, Delirium) and a few you weren’t expecting (I got a pink grapefruit beer this summer that was extremely refreshing). If beer isn’t your thing, they have a cocktail and wine list too. Though relatively small, the wine list contains some real winners – try the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc if you like fruity, crisp whites. Truth be told, I’ve never gotten around to their cocktails, but the Pumpkin Martini looks awfully enticing!

The #3 reason why Point Brugge Café is so good is that it’s a real neighborhood place. Most people eating there live nearby, and perhaps walked to dinner. It is not uncommon to see someone stop by after work or while out with the stroller to have a beer or some frites on the patio out front, chatting with a neighbor who happened to walk by. Sometimes, you see someone you know, and there are people of all ages. Local artists’ works decorate throughout, including Regent Square’s mosaic master, Daviea Davis. Adding to the warm familial feel of the place, the owner, Jesse Seager, is there all the time and he always comes by your table to make sure you enjoyed your meal. For a time, Point Brugge was a neighborhood secret, but as with all good secrets, eventually ‘The Others” found out about the place! It became so popular so rapidly that, for a while there, you couldn’t get a table between 6 and 9 without at least an hour wait. It was insanity for like 8 months! The space was too small for the hordes of people trying to get in their Moules, and they don’t take reservations. The craze has finally died down a little bit, but it remains a very popular restaurant, both in the neighborhood and out. If you go on a weekend night, expect it to be packed!

The final reason why Point Brugge Café is so good is the rest of the menu! I can’t say that everything on the menu is as good as the moules, but there are definitely some items that are. If you are shy of seafood, the Steak Frites is wonderful, especially when the steak is topped with bleu cheese. The Carbonnade Flamande is a Belgian beer, beef, and carrot stew that is wonderful on a wintry night. There are usually a couple of tasty fish dishes, maybe accompanied by smashed red potatoes or a risotto cake. All the entrees are tempting in their description, but I would like to warn that the Fettucini Bolognese is not especially exciting. It sounds good, what with all the cooking in the Chimay Ale and all, but Bolognese requires an extremely tangy, dry wine in its cooking process or else the flavor of it won’t come through. Additionally, Bolognese relies on being made from a trio of lamb, pork, and beef to give it all of its subtle flavors and textures. I could go on and on about how Bolognese should be – suffice it to say that Point Brugge’s doesn’t live up to my aspirations. If you are really in the mood for a Bolognese, skip it here and go to Il Pizzaiolo. But that is really the only thing I would actually not recommend on the menu.

In addition, the specials are always out of this world! I most recently had a seafood stew with some crazy name that had salmon, scallops, mussels, shrimp, potatoes, carrots, and an amazing broth. I once also had a beef and goat cheese roulade. MMM. They also serve several delicious salads, in particular the Chaud Chevre Salad in which each little leaf is coated with warmed goat cheese. The appetizers are also quite good. The best thing ever is the Roasted Tomato and Spinach Dip, which in its title does not convey to you that it is really a delicious bowl of bubbling hot cheese you eat on little buttery toasts. MMM. I have heard the Macaroni Gratin is great, but I have never managed to order it for myself. I have had the Seared Mango and Tofu which is pretty good and would be a satisfying small meal for someone looking for a light lunch. And of course, you can get your moules and your frites separately, as well as a cheese and meat platter.

And finally, dessert – if you have room for it after all the cheese dip, moules, and frites – is worth taking a look at. They are all made by Susie Treon, the former executive chef of the Frick Café (which is the best place on Earth, if you didn’t already know, but that is another review). If that dessert you had from the Frick two years ago haunts you to this day, you will want to save room for the biseasonally-changing scrumptious list at Point Brugge. Don’t forget to end your meal with an aperitif (perhaps a Lindemann’s Lambic) or ‘un café’, the European way. This restaurant, after all, is striving to achieve a European dining experience in Pittsburgh, which it does, in my opinion, spectacularly and with aplomb.

Moules Frites
Roasted Tomato and Spinach Dip
A beer

Fettucini Bolognese

If you have to wait for a table, get your beer or glass of wine from the bar and wait outside. I love to do this on a summer evening, and even when the patio is full of diners, you can stand and sip near the door. Brugge is Belgian for breeze (or so they say), so go ahead and enjoy a warm summer one while you wait.

Take a peek at the menu!! http://mysite.verizon.net/socalled/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/dinnermenu.pdf

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