Monday, January 31, 2011

Max's Allegheny Tavern

Saturday evening, we ventured to a part of town that is pretty unfamiliar to us, the North Side. Inspired by Forked!'s recent dining experience and by an Entertainment Book coupon, we decided to try Max's Allegheny Tavern, known for its German food. We zipped down the parkway and into town, threaded our way north and onto Suisman Street, parked in a metered parking lot about a block away, and walked down the street to MAT.There's is one small step to get inside and while SP is good at getting the wheelchair up one or two steps, we did find out that the restaurant does have a ramp that they will put out for wheelchair users. My first thought upon entering was: sauerkraut. MAT is known for its German fare and things were off to a good start with the smell of kraut. There was a party of five people who had arrived just minutes before us and I'm not sure what the issue was, but it took about 5-10 minutes to finally be seated. We went through the bar area, through one dining room, and into another dining room and were seated at a large table for four in a corner and next to the cuckoo clock:It really did cuckoo on every hour and half past hour. I didn't get to see much of the interior decor because I ended up seated facing the corner - it felt like I'd been a bad girl and my punishment was to face the corner!!! I have the impression that it is an oldish, antique-ish interior. Victorian comes to mind. I didn't want to turn around and gawk or try to take photos. Most of the other diners were older people, I had the impression they were somewhat regulars, and we 'young ones' sort of got the once over. Also, my first thought once we were seated: Wow! All these diners and no one is talking it's sooooo quiet how are we ever going to talk and not be overheard???

The menu is inside a 'newspaper' dated March 1898 (I think).One 'news article' is the history of MAT. It's a very interesting read, especially if you love history, and I do. The very short version: this area of Pittsburgh, north of the Allegheny River and now called the 'North Side,' was once called Allegheny City and lots of Germans settled in the eastern part of Allegheny City in what was known as Dutchtown. MAT was once a hotel and during Prohibition it operated as a speakeasy. (It was around 1907 that Allegheny City was annexed by Pittsburgh.)

I ordered iced tea. MAT's iced tea passes the test: unsweetened and freshly brewed. A cute touch: it's served in a mason jar (as is water and, presumably, other non-alcoholic beverages).SP chose the German Beer Sampler, four German draft beers.From left to right: Spaten Lager, Kostritzer Black Lager, Waresteiner Premium Ale, and Hacker Pschorr Weisse. I didn't try any of them. SP enjoyed them all.

Soon enough, a bread basket arrived. It contained several types of rolls: a crescent shaped roll covered in sesame seeds, pumpernickel rolls, butter rolls, plus pats of butter, a container of apple butter, and a container of red cabbage relish.To start, we decided to share the Fried Provolone Wheel. I know, not very German, but I love cheese!:Look at the size of that cheese wheel! And the knife sticking out of it! And the marinara! I cut into it and cheese oozed out:So good. Look at my mini wedge:Cheese! This was quite tasty. And large. Not too much breading compared to the cheese, lots of marinara, ooey gooey goodness. Yum!

We also started with Fresh Spinach Salad with Max's Hot Bacon Dressing:Yum. Hard boiled egg, sliced mushrooms, warm vinegary bacon dressing. Very tasty. The spinach salad made me remember one of the very first dishes my mom let me cook on my own. It might not sound like much now, but when I was 12 years old (or around there), she let me make a spinach salad with hard boiled egg, mushrooms, and a warm bacon dressing. I was allowed to fry the bacon and make the dressing all by myself. I remember everyone really liked the salad and for a while, I made it once every month as part of a Sunday dinner.

SP decided to dine on Hasenpfeffer:Hasenpfeffer is a rabbit dish - I did not know that (SP did). Specifically, rabbit braised in spiced wine sauce. He ordered the recommended sides: spatzle and red cabbage. SP's comments: it's rare to find rabbit on a menu and he enjoys rabbit and this was very tasty. It was bony, but he says rabbit always is.

I opted for the Sampler Platter, mostly because I couldn't decided which veal schnitzel I wanted!There's a list of 'popular entrees' and you get to choose three. I chose Jager Schnitzel:Schnitzel Royale (topped with tomato and gouda):And Schnitzel Liechtenstein (topped with Westphalian ham, Emmenthaler cheese, and green olives: Each entree comes with your choice of two sides. I chose Potato Pancakes with sour cream instead of apple butter:And German Potato Salad:Where to start? This was a huge platter of food! The Jager Schnitzel was tasty. Lots of chopped onions and mushrooms in the gravy, which tasted similar to a roast beef gravy. The Schnitzel Royale was quite tasty - then again, I love tomatoes and cheese. The Schnitzel Liechtenstein was interesting. The ham and cheese made it seem sort of like 'schnitzel cordon bleu.' I wasn't sure if I really liked the addition of green olives. I mean, the olives themselves were quite tasty, I like green olives, but I am not sure how I really like them on top of the schnitzel with ham & cheese. Even after eating the leftovers on Sunday for lunch, I am still unsure.

At first I was kind of disappointed in the look of the potato pancakes because they were like regular pancakes, not like the potato pancakes I am used to where the potato is grated. I know both ways are 'real' potato pancakes, it's just that normally I prefer the grated potato version. But these were so good! Oh my gosh! I couldn't stop eating them!

The German Potato Salad was just OK. It was a little too saucy for my personal taste, though the sauce was tasty, and there wasn't as much bacon taste as I expect in German Potato Salad.

I brought home about half my meal. SP wanted to try dessert, so I said I would split it with him. He chose Apple Fritter.When our server plopped 2 dishes filled with enormous servings of fritter, I thought she had misunderstood and gotten us 2 servings of dessert. She saw my reaction and said, oh, no, she split it for us and that was one order split in two. Yikes!!! A close up of my fritter plate:There was just enough ice cream with the fritter, which was quite tasty. I would've liked a bit more apple in it, but the fried dough was quite tasty. I tried to take a close up, but it's tough to make out the apple slices in the sea of fried dough:I managed to eat most of the dessert, probably because even though I was feeling quite full, there's something about fried dough.

As for service, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Our server was friendly enough, but not too chatty. She seemed a bit... hurried? Overwhelmed? Forgetful? Anxious to get us out the door? Indifferent? I thought she asked us for our orders awfully quick, and I had barely begun to digest the menu. It was our first time at MAT and the menu isn't super huge but there are enough choices, plus the fact that it's German food (with which I am not overly familiar), to make you want to really peruse the menu. SP's iced tea went without refilling. He kept meaning to mention it, but she sort of came over, took care of her business, and zipped off before we could bring up the iced tea. He did also have a glass of water, but one glass of water and one glass of iced tea is far less than he normally drinks (beer doesn't count; even when he drinks beer, he goes through the usual amount of iced tea). I wouldn't say she was rude, just a little... abrupt and harried, maybe is the best way to describe it. That seems a little odd because while the tables seemed to all be occupied, there weren't a lot of people waiting to be seated when we left.

Overall, we really enjoyed MAT and would go back.
Max's Allegheny Tavern on Urbanspoon


  1. When I was in college (oh, so long ago, ha!) I interned at the development organization in the Northside and remember everyone raving about Max's! Never made it though, because I am not a huge ran of German food.

    The cheese looks amazing (of course) and so does the schitzel royale. Gouda makes everything "gooda" though!

    I went there once last year and LOVED it - the food, the atmosphere, the beer, and the service. I guess initially I'd say we had the same type of service, but it was pretty busy when we went. By the time we were finishing up, our server hung around to talk with us a while.
    We also had the same experience with the dessert, but with bread pudding. I thought it was a nice touch that they split it up.
    I wish it were closer to me - I'm almost never in the North Side, but maybe that's for the better... I'm sure I'd be a lot poorer, fatter, and more inebriated if they were any closer to my place. :)

  3. I'm so glad you guys had a chance to try out Max's. It's quickly become my big recommendation for restaurants to try in Pittsburgh. With baseball season right around the corner, I expect more time spent on the North Shore, which now means dedicated trips to Max's while I'm at it. Oh, and there's always Wednesday Banjo Night at the Elks Lodge just down the street.

    About the service, we had similar treatment from our waitress, but I just chalk it up to the way the place is laid out. There are more tables than immediately meets the eye, and I think their waitstaff is fairly minimal, with waitresses serving double duty in both the dining area and bar area. Or I could just be talking out of my butt and defending them just cause I love their food and atmosphere so much. Either way, it's something that is okay to put up with for the rewards you receive otherwise.