By Zara Husaini
Hours: Weekdays 11am – 6:30pm
When Pittsburghers do burgers, we tend to class it up a bit. Some the city’s best burgers exist in “nice” restaurants – or, at the very least, prominent ones. Examples: Tessaro’s, which is practically iconic as far as Pittsburgh dining establishments go, the uber-trendy BRGR, and Eleven, which is one of the city’s go-to spots for a swanky night.
And then there’s Winghart’s. If you’re looking for pretension, you won’t find it here – in fact, you may not find anything, as the restaurant is minuscule and extremely easy to miss. Nestled next to – and practically dwarfed by a neighboring Starbucks – Winghart’s is one of the restaurants in downtown’s Market Square.
The place is marketed as a “burger and whiskey” bar, a place for friends to escape the crowded nightlife scene and bond over great food and great whiskey, and I suspect it will become this, as soon as their liquor license goes through (which will be soon). As of now, the lack of alcohol and daytime-only hours prevents Winghart’s from morphing into what it wants to be.
As it stands, the restaurant itself is mostly a lunch stop – my guess is that local professionals drop in to grab burgers to go quite often. Dining in is certainly an option, but the restaurant’s interior is less than impressive. The bar takes up most of the restaurant’s space, and patrons generally opt to enjoy their burgers right there. The staff is friendly enough that they’ll gladly engage in conversation with customers, if it isn’t too busy. Orders are placed at the bar itself, and when you’re order is ready, it’s served in the most bare bones way possible. I ordered The Shipwrecked Burger (more on that soon), which came packaged in a paper bag – no plate included.
The inside of the eatery is, quite frankly, ramshackle. Winghart’s may not be the cleanest restaurant; it’s certainly not the most refined. For starters, there’s a fireplace that seems as though it’s regurgitating ashes all over the floor on one side. The lighting is dim, even in the day; the feel is decidedly grungy, which is something that can’t be said for too many eateries in the ‘Burgh.
Anywhere else, all this may be off-putting, but the burger at Winghart’s is so good, its setting seems almost charming. As simple as the place may be, the food itself is obviously made of high quality ingredients. The “Shipwrecked” burger, which is named after a staff member, is probably Winghart’s most buzzed-about. A luscious combination of beef, brie, caramelized onions, arugla, and white truffle oil, this burger is definitely something new. Truffle oil and Brie happen to be two of my favorite things, and are probably two of the main reasons that I’ll be going back to Winghart’s in the near future. The bottom line is: Winghart’s has earned the right to come as it is: a place that seems to be in a perpetual state of shambles – because they’ve managed to put a new, excellent spin on a classic dining staple. They take the food more seriously than the digs, and it shows. The meat is perfectly cooked to order, and the fillings all blend together on a soft, buttery bun. The pizzas have been getting great reviews as well.
I think the very essence of Winghart’s lies in its contradictions; it’s a place that proves that you don’t need a gourmet location in order to serve up gourmet food. As the restaurant grows into a bar, I hope it retains this authenticity. Only time will tell, but as of now, Winghart’s is clearly filling a Pittsburgh niche that, up until now, has gone neglected.