Location: 1430 Potomac Ave., Dormont. 412-561-9320. www.dor-stoprestaurant.com
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Fare: American diner-style breakfast and lunch
Raise your hand if you had holiday houseguests! We did, including Angelique's father, Wolfgang, who hails from Germany. Truth be told, if not for family, Wolfgang probably would never return to the United States at all. It's the German life for him: cars, food, beer -- all better over there, he'll proudly have you know.
But when Wolfgang makes his biannual pilgrimage to Pittsburgh, there is one peculiarly American custom he likes to revisit: that of the American diner breakfast. Something about the combination of cholesterol, carbs and cured meat, all prepared on a vast greasy griddle, makes his eyes light up like, well, like a kid's on Christmas morning.
We completely understand. So together we went to Dormont to check out the Dor-Stop, a family-run breakfast and lunch place in the heart of the charming Potomac Avenue business district. In a cozy but not cramped corner location graced with big picture windows and framed photographs of Dormont days gone by, Bob and Vicki Lawhorne have created a local institution centered around food that they proudly proclaim is made "from scratch." Wolfgang registered his pleasure before we even sat down; the Dor-Stop was shaping up to be just the homey sort of place he'd hoped it would be.
We found the menu split about evenly between breakfast and lunch. There were standard diner-style offerings such as eggs, pancakes, and hot and cold sandwiches, as well as a couple distinctive options, including German potato pancakes, ham off the bone and a sandwich tantalizingly called a "meatloaf melt."
As it happened, Jason was the only one in a lunch mood, so he took two for the team by ordering the meatloaf melt and a cheeseburger. The melt was beautifully prepared, on golden Texas toast with sautéed, lively peppers and onions. It would be fair to say that the meatloaf seemed a bit long on filler and short on beef, but Jason enjoyed its moist, tender texture as well as its light but well-seasoned flavor.
Jason didn't think that the brilliant meatloaf melt could be topped, but then came the cheeseburger. It was a thing of beauty, a generous but not jaw-breaking six ounces of freshly ground beef on a Kaiser roll, lightly dusted with flour and possessing a hearty base to absorb the burger's juices. Wolfgang took one look and declared, "I don't like to eat cheeseburgers, but if I did, I would eat that one." Unable take his eyes off the picture-perfect burger, he repeated the sentiment about a minute later. Soon, he was using his knife and fork ("the proper way to eat, you see") to liberate a generous bite for himself. He declared the cheeseburger a success, and Jason agreed.
Meanwhile, Angelique sampled French toast two ways. The first, made the "regular" way with Texas toast, was distinguished by a browned, cinnamon-y crust that made it good enough to eat without any syrup at all (not that we necessarily recommend that approach). The second, Lori's stuffed raspberry French toast, was a Dor-Stop specialty that really needed no syrup to sweeten its appeal. It was not stuffed so much as coated: The bread was dredged in crushed cornflakes before frying, resulting in a panko-like crust that formed a crispy barrier between the airy bread and the gooey raspberry jam, as well as the sweetened, berry-flavored cream cheese dolloped on each slice.
The other breakfast foods we tried confirmed that the Dor-Stop has more than mastered the most important meal of the day. Hotcakes were light and fluffy without being puffy, and the German potato pancakes were satisfyingly crispy-creamy with just enough salty griddle grease still clinging to them to flavor the starchy spuds within. An omelet featured firm egg enclosing lightly sautéed, flavorful veggies. A side order of ham off the bone was baked to drive off excess water and intensify the meat's salty-smoky flavor, then fried before serving to add a bit of browning. The effect was meatier and more flavorful than the more typical ham steak simply seared on the stovetop.
The Dor-Stop is a bustling yet homey place where the family-run vibe extends to everything from the friendly service to the simply satisfying food. Our German guest critic concurs: The Dor-Stop is everything an American diner ought to be.