Location: 146 E. Main St., Carnegie. 412-278-0304. www.babyfacescatering.com
Hours: Mon.-Tue. 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Wed.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. 7 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Prices: Sandwiches and burgers $5.50-8.25; entrees $10-14
Fare: Breakfast and burgers
Atmosphere: Traditional Main Street cafe
We can't help ourselves -- we're Carnegie boosters. The town (not the man) is a gem: a hop, skip and a jump from Downtown by highway or busway, yet convenient to all the suburban malls and big boxes a shopaholic could want. It also offers a charmingly restored main street, nice houses in need of but a little TLC to buff up their original beauty, and a magisterial library on a hill.
Indeed, Carnegie boasts a gustatory amenity that few other communities can match: BabyFace's Carnegie Grill. Other towns may trumpet their swanky bistros or landmark pizzerias, but Carnegie appeals to lovers of the all-beef patty with BabyFace's down-home, diner-style menu. Most of the week, it's open for breakfast and lunch, but on three nights the storefront stays open for dinner, with a handful of proper entrees (steak, seafood, pasta) plus a daily special.
The décor is café-casual, with warm gold- and terra-cotta-painted walls, a coffee counter for to-go cups, and repurposed old church pews for banquette seating. But no one's daintily nibbling a scone or a panini here. OK, maybe a few people are nibbling a panini; BabyFace's does have some on the menu, along with wraps and "fork and knife" sandwiches, such as meatloaf and hot roast beef. But most people are sinking their teeth into a burger.
With 22 varieties to choose from, Babyface's doesn't stretch its burger count with standard combinations. After your basic cheeseburger ("plain and simple"), the list jumps to concoctions such as the Stampede (cheddar cheese and barbecue sauces, Cajun spice, grilled mushrooms and an onion ring), the Sicilian (grilled salami, capicola, hot banana peppers, onions and Provolone), and the Crosby (Canadian bacon, maple syrup and Colby jack cheese). Process of elimination was a lengthy affair, but Jason finally decided on a burger that also invoked a local diner classic (and BabyFace menu offering), the Devonshire, while Angelique succumbed to the temptation of the daily burger special.
Taking its inspiration from turkey Devonshire, in which turkey on toast reaches divinity (or depths of sogginess, depending) with the addition of cheese sauce, BabyFace's Devonshire burger takes the bird out of this vintage dish and puts what's left on a burger -- with bacon. The BabyFace burger patty is juicy and robust, a satisfying base for all its topping flights of fancy. The Devonshire's cheddar sauce was thick, so that it held up well to the beefy burger, though it could have had a sharper tang. Thin, crispy bacon slices were an inspired addition, contributing salty, savory notes, and the toasted sesame seed bun recalled the traditional Devonshire base while adding substance to this excellent sandwich. Based on this and the meatloaf -- about which more in just a moment -- we would definitely give BabyFace's traditional turkey Devonshire a try.
Jason, who used to arrange his weekly lunch plans around the meatloaf schedule of a restaurant near his old office, also felt called to order BabyFace's open-face meatloaf sandwich. This he found truly extraordinary, with a tender texture and a flavor that was beefy but mild -- this was no crude hunk of baked ground beef. The gravy was equally good on the loaf and on the accompanying fries, which were, themselves, excellent representatives of their genre, fried with the potato skin on to bump up the contrast between their crispy exteriors and creamy insides.
Meanwhile, Angelique bit into a burger topped with fried egg and pepper-jack cheese -- alas, however, barely enough to detect. This was too bad, as the creamy kick of the pepper jack could and should have been a delicious foil to the hearty beef and mild egg flavors. Fortunately, the patty itself was so juicy, the near-absence of cheese did not consign the burger to dryness. A side of homemade potato chips were as good as the fries, crunchy and full of judiciously salted natural flavor.
We went home to rest our appetites, thinking that BabyFace's has given us 22 more reasons to love Carnegie.