Ritter’s Diner

By | August 16, 2009

Ritter’s Diner
5221 Baum Blvd
(412) 682-4852
24 hours

Oh Ritter’s. You are so….  Ritter’s!  This place has so much individuality, it is practically its own person.  And more than any other place I know in Pittsburgh, everyone I’ve talked to is completely polarized about it.  They either got burned by or are totally in love with the gritty, bitter bitch that is Ritter’s. There’s a lot to like honestly: cheap, open all the time, you can go there totally plastered (totally), foods not TOO crappy, it is located kind of close to the universities, and it provides the most fabulous people watching.  The main complaint people have is the service, which I’ll just call ‘saucy’ for now, but this just makes it quintessentially Ritter’s.  Apparently other people than me actually love the whole feel of it, because there exists a chain theme restaurant called Ed Debevic’s that tries to replicate the environment by training their wait staff to be subtly abusive.  But we don’t need any chains here because we’ve got our very own, real life version of such a place in Ritter’s, and let me tell you — Ed’s got nothin on her.

There’s a lot of little things I love about Ritter’s.  I love that the name outside has been slowly destroyed such that is no longer says “RITTER’S”, but now just reads as “PITT”.  Specifically, I love that they have decided to just leave it like that.  It is so awesome.  Also, I love the font used for the lettering.  I love all the crazy people you see in Ritter’s.  Any time of the day is good for people watching, but 2-6 am is definitely the finest hour for their clientele.  People are SO DRUNK and hilarious, leading to some good friendly interactions with a random assortment of people (though I have seen hostility as well).  You’ll see crazy outfits too!  For example, last night we witnessed a pleather stirrup pants jumpsuit with a jean jacket that had a cutout back — INTENSELY AWESOME!  Sightings like this are totally regular at Ritter’s, and it is the best.  I also like the broke-ass table-side jukeboxes that are all connected, which seems cool until someone puts on an entire Barry Manilow album.  But then that is fun too because you look around wondering which table thought that was a good idea.

No review of Ritter’s would be complete without more detail about the service staff.  They are what I like to think of as charmingly sassy and mean, foul-mouthed in their hospital nurse uniforms.  It is sort of funny when they just leave you sitting at your table forever, or when they throw down your cheese fries and its literally just a slice of american placed on top of a regular plate of fries. It never really bothers me because I think it is a job that just sucks, and I totally empathize with them, waitress or cook.  I would not want to work there, and I am just glad they do.  Plus, because the utter shittiness of their job surrounds you, when they are even remotely sweet to you then all of a sudden you feel like a million bucks.  A Ritter’s waitress can wield great power.

In spite of my own love of this aspect of Ritter’s, I do feel obligated to mention that there are times when they tow the line and the restaurant ceases to function under the normal, unspoken rules of service.  These are the most simple of rules, such as the rule that what a person orders should be what is brought to them.  One time a big group of us went to Ritter’s wanting chocolate milkshakes, except for Joe. Joe wanted a slice of apple pie and a vanilla milkshake. You see, vanilla and apple pie is a good combo (no need to tell you why), whereas chocolate and apple pie … eh, it just isn’t the same thing. So the lady takes our order: 5 chocolate shakes and “a slice of apple pie with a vanilla shake”.  She says to Joe “naw darlin’, you want chocolate”, to which he replies “no, see, I want vanilla – to go with the apple pie” to which SHE replies “nah, you want chocolate” and leaves.

She brought back a slice of apple pie, and 6 chocolate shakes.

Everyone I know has a story like this for Ritter’s (perhaps even yourself). For some people, events like this keep them from ever going back, and to each his own on this.  I have to admit I’ve been burned enough to take breaks from Ritter’s, but I always come crawling back.  I just can’t stay away from her!  Plus it serves a vital function.  If you have a need for diner food at 4am (after even Primanti’s and the O are closed), the only places to go are Ritter’s and Eat ‘n’ Park. And Eat ‘n’ Park is fine and all, probably better for the food (which hilariously I haven’t even mentioned yet, in spite of this being a restaurant review), but Ritter’s is where all the character and adventure is at for sure.  Go at your own risk, and enjoy the ride.

Chocolate Milkshakes
Fried Green Tomatoes

Cash only.  There’s an ATM, but its a $2 fee.  Yuk.  Come prepared.

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