2537 Wylie Ave., Hill District
If you're going to name a restaurant after your grandmother, the food better be good. And Grandma B's Café doesn't disappoint.
Opened in April, the modest Wylie Avenue diner is Dorian Moorefield's gift to his grandmother: "She always wanted a restaurant," the owner says.
Formerly known as Shorty's and Big Al's, Grandma B's is known for its hearty breakfasts, dinner specials and relaxed atmosphere. So far, says Moorefield, "We've had a really good reception" from local residents.
Chalk that up to the work of veteran chef Al Diggs, who proudly proclaims from the grill, "I can cook anything."
On a recent Tuesday morning, Diggs served up everything from grits to hotcakes. I ordered one of Grandma B's most popular breakfasts: the Al Special ($7.50), a platter of pancakes, sausage or bacon, home fries and cheese eggs. The pancakes were light and fluffy, the scrambled eggs moderately cheesed. Better yet, the home fries weren't a greasy mess.
Diggs serves his potatoes straight-up, without onions and peppers, but his spicy seasoning gives the home fries some kick. Asked for his recipe secret, he says, smiling, "I would love to tell you, but I can't."
For lunch, Moorefield says favorites include the grilled-chicken salad ($8.50) and the Big Al burger ($7.50, with fries), which is topped with Diggs' signature barbecue-style sauce. But dinner is where the chef truly gets creative.
Diggs, a Penn Hills resident who used to work as a chef at Chatham College and Churchill Country Club, says his dinner specials include chicken lasagna, chicken chili, fried cabbage -- "Sometimes just some good ol' home cookin'."
The chef says it's rewarding to be cooking in the Hill. "It's giving something back to the community," he says. "A year ago, you couldn't get a cup of coffee here."
After working in "high-stress" restaurants, Diggs says Grandma B's is also more relaxing. During my visit, it sure sounded that way.
"We've got a guy named Mr. Chuck," says Moorefield, of Hazelwood, discussing the restaurant's regulars. "He walks down here every day and takes Al's paper."
"I read the sports section before he comes," jokes Diggs.
Then there's "Sweet" Georgia Brown, who stops by every Monday.
"She pays her tip when she comes in the door," Diggs says.