5430 Penn Ave
www.qspgh.com (has menus!)
M, W-Sat: 9-9; Sun 10-4; Closed Tuesday
As long as I am writing up places that requested my opinion, I think I will finally get around to Quiet Storm. Jill from Quiet Storm actually wrote to me many moons ago, in 2006, requesting my criticism. At the time, I felt underqualified to issue a response, since I had only been there a couple times and not terribly recently at that. Moreover, my impression was, at the time, that they were inconsistent and on some dishes failing to meet the mark of success. I didn’t want to be a jerk and review at request only to say bad things, so I resolved to saddle up and give it a square and fair shake. Buuuuuuutttttttttttt, I sorrrrrta never got around to that, and many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley… THEN, about a year and a half ago I moved just down the street from it. And all of a sudden I was studying there frequently and regularly attending brunches. And all of a sudden my world came alive! I have come to greatly appreciate Quiet Storm’s role in my life, delivering unto me delightfully affordable curry-of-the-day, tofu-scramble and delectable milkshakes! I still think they suffer from inconsistency (and an occasional fly or two buzzing around), but nevertheless with the things they do well they’ve managed to secure a firm hold in my culinary heart.
First thing to say is that Quiet Storm is entirely vegetarian, and partially vegan. If you are not into that sort of thing, just move along little doggie. Move right along. Although… wait… don’t go just yet! I think if you are even a little curious about vegetarian dining, you might give a couple things at the Quiet Storm a shot. What exactly do I recommend though… Well, let me just give you some guidelines. They have a lot of meat substitutes that they use rather creatively, but if you are a firm meat enthusiast and this is your first foray into what probably seems like an unfamiliar and frightening foreign foodscape, probably getting fake meat will just make you wish you had real meat. For you, I recommend getting stuff that is made mostly with vegetables, and if you get a protein of some kind, make it be something that isn’t trying to be like a fake meat at all – like the tofu-scramble is just firm crumbled up bits of tofu that are DELICIOUS! I swear, try it and see what you think, you little meat-eater you! You just might like it! It is not at all like any meat anything but it fills that need for the savory dense part of the meal. And, well, if this does not work for you, you can always get a milkshake or two, because every single one of them is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
OK OK I am getting a little ahead of myself here. I can’t just name drop these dishes and not really talk about them. But I am not really sure how exactly to organize this, so instead I am just going to launch into a list of dishes and things I really like, with no particular care about the framework of the order.
Firstly, they have these homefries that are freakin amaaaaaazing! It is a big ole pile of potatoes with eggs or the aforementioned delicious scrambled tofu, plus homemade soy sausage, some cheddar and mozz cheeses, PICKLED onions, and this totally amazing mayo aioli thing all over the top of it. This is a TON of food, and finishing it is no easy task, but it is sooooo good I just have to get it most of the time. They have modifications of this basic dish too, with roasted veggies, chili, fake bacon, etc etc. I’m sure the other ones are fine but I really can’t say because I am so obsessed with the original (called the QHF), I really can’t get any other version of the homefries for fear that if I do so then somehow that will mean that I never get the QHF again, either because they take it off the menu for some unknown reason in the meantime or because I found out that there might be something better out there. And I am not ready to move on yet! It is like I have a boyfriend made of potatoes, and I eat the shit out him! No – I will not stray on you QHF – you might just have me forever!
OK – that’s getting weird… Now I will move on to the curries. They have a different one every day! Isn’t that sooooo cool?! It’s like soup du jour, but CURRY! I know of no other place in Pittsburgh that does this, but it just makes so much sense. I love the concept very very much. Also, it’s cheap as heck to get a bowl of it and it really fills you. It is not ALWAYS perfect in execution though. I think I like the concept a lot more than the product. But… it’s so the right price that I think this works out. It is usually good, only occasionally bland, and never ever bad. And it is only $5! Also, they are usually quite inventive with the curries, using whatever they have fresh at hand, cashews, pineapple, beets or sweet potatoes or lentils or whatever. It’s almost always a little bit unusual, and it makes for a really fun experience because you never know what it will be when you go in. I definitely like this if I am on the cheap or in for a quick lunch.
For an appetizer –the tofu tenders definitely will do. I’ve had a few meat-converts because of this app. Well… maybe ‘convert’ is a strong term – it is more like a switchover from meat-only to I’ll-eat-meat-and-also-this-tofu-tender. But hey, that’s progress! I’ve also had their breadstyx, which were good but also not astoundingly better than anywhere else I’ve eaten such things. Some things that I think came off poor in the execution were the Pierogidilla (sounds like a smashing idea but just doesn’t quite come together), the Ginger Sunflower Hot Plate (brown rice + sweet potatoes + veggies, scrambled tofu, and peanut-ginger sauce sounds like a great combo but comes out just kinda blah), and the Muesli. I really appreciate that they offer things like Muesli, but it just wasn’t that good. Sorry guys. It could definitely be better in some way I can’t quite put my finger on (not the most constructive criticism, for which I apologize, but all I can say is that I never want to finish the whole bowl – which definitely means something is wrong! Or maybe Muesli is just not as much to my taste as I think it is…). But I LOVE that they offer this stuff, and by stuff I mean healthful and hearty menu items. The FYG, Fruit Yogurt Granola, is another example of a healthful menu item that I love that they offer. And they have so many more things that fall under this category that I dream about getting.
But, that leads me to addressing the whole inconsistency thing. Because sometimes I get those menu items and they are just kind of a waste of money. This makes me sometimes hesitant to try new things that fall into that same rough category. For example, I have my eye on this dish they’ve got now called Nyam, which they describe as ‘Jamaican-inspired cornmeal & coconut pudding, with roasted sweet potatoes, bananas, & cinnamon-maple syrup.’ WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!! That sounds sOOoooOOooOOooOOooOOOoooooOO good! I want it! But I am afraid! What if it is a huge disappointment??? I couldn’t take it! And maybe also QHF would break up with me!
Don’t worry guys – I am not insane.
Some things that I hear are really good but I haven’t had are the Peanut Noodles, the Mac n Cheese (great for a fast meal too b/c it’s always ready to go), and the Spicy Peanut Wrap. I’ve heard the burritos are hit or miss and I haven’t explored them enough to say for myself (so far my adventures in QS burritos are more on the miss side, but some people swear by them so I am continuing to sample when possible). Also, when they have specials they are usually pretty good. They had this potato pancake special the other day that had a trio of latkes, one root veggie one with a creamy dill sauce, a traditional one with thick homemade applesauce, and a SWEET potato one with the most DELICIOUS clove yogurt sauce. WOW I could eat that clove yogurt sauce ALL DAY LONG. And the sweet potato pancake was rad! MMM! But, again, perfect example of inconsistency because while the sweet potato one was superb, the other two were nothing to write home about. (totally worth it to get the sweet potato one though).
Finally, I just gotta talk about the milkshakes. THEY ARE SO AMAZING! SO good. SO GOOD! Every single one I have tried is great. And I have been on a mission for the past year to try a new one every time. Before that I used to only get the chocolate peanut butter one, which is phenomenally good. The peanut butter is completely whirred up in the shake so there are no chunks of any kind – just the godly nectar that is chocolate and peanut butter in a sweet, sweet union of flavor. I’ve had at least a dozen new shakes since then and I’ve been really in love with the fruity flavored shakes, like the Pinky Swear (vanilla with hibiscus tea, cranberry, pomegranate, raspberry), the Pear Vanilla (has nutmeg too – nice fall flavor without feeling too heavy), the PIPELINE is great (vanilla, melon, lime, coconut – SOO good), and all the ones under the “Juicy” category of the shake menu – the Mimosa (vanilla, orange, cherry) and Key Lime Pie notably. Had the Pomango the other day too – awesome! Other delightful ones are the Ginger Lemon (only get if you like that flavor combo generally, otherwise you might find it a bit unusual), and the Pumpkin Pie (great for the pumpkin-obsessed — I know you are out there!). The only ones I have ever been mildy disappointed by are the Chai Shake and the Green Tea Shake, both of which sounded very promising but were too mildly flavored to be distinct.
OK well that’s about everything. I think you should definitely try it, meat-eater or not. Quiet Storm is great if for no other reason than that they are really trying to bring it on. However, there are a couple minor things I feel like I have to mention. For example, some people might get the impression that it is not super clean. I mean it doesn’t seem super clean, although I am positive that it is. It just has that grunge feel to it. Also, the clientele is a lot of the hipster elite and heroin chic. It is almost like a wildlife viewing spot, it is such a draw for that crowd. Watch them in their native environment! However, do NOT throw marshmallows at them. It is not polite, and also marshmallows are not technically vegetarian. Listen, all I am trying to say is that these things should not be drawbacks to dining at the Quiet Storm, and they certainly aren’t for me – but… I am well aware that some people would find them to be. SO, if you are hoity toity and/or want white table cloths, unsassy service, and to be surrounded by homogenous normal folk, you might not even bother. Likewise, if a fly buzzing in and zooming around the room because the door has been left open because they don’t have a/c in the summer is troublesome to you, again – you might not even bother. Quiet Storm is just a real casual, dressed-down place with reasonably good and sometimes excellent vegetarian/vegan comfort fare with a flair for interesting menu items and a strong commitment to providing all of what it does to the Pittsburgh community. I only wish they were open past 6pm on the weekdays so I could enjoy them just that much more! OH and I just noticed their new 2010 hours are till 9pm on the weekdays – so SWEET! They made my wish come true!
Almost anything that includes the “tofu-scramble”
If you order from other parts of the menu, my guide is to stick with things that are either spicy-ish or that have an aioli of some kind.
If you order food you can get a bottomless cup of coffee – great for those long workin-on-laptop-in-a-coffee-shop days…
DO NOT GET:
Muesli is just kind of disappointing
My guide for not ordering is to stay away from anything that meets your mental picture of the word “hearty”. Whatever that means.
If you are a chick, try to get waited on by the tall, cute, dark-haired boy named Tommy. Some say his eyes are like the ocean after a quiet storm(!), and he’s po – po and perfect… But no really, he is, I swear, the #1 most posted about dude on Missed Connections (you know, on craigslist), and is so for a reason. He’s a flirt and a half and believe me you, he will greatly improve your meal by at least two Zagat ratings!