Pittsburgh’s Oakland district is a gourmand’s dream, with tempting trash bins around every corner offering everything from cupcake wrappers to apple cores. Home to two of the city’s largest universities, the region is known for its fragrant aromas of lager and vomit.

If you’re anything like us, avoiding a crushed tail from Friday night crowds is a top priority. But that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on substance. The Kitchen on Winthrop is down a quiet residential street, but we can assure you, it holds its own against Oakland’s finest dumpsters.

The Kitchen on Winthrop is in a safe neighborhood, free from cats and birds of prey. We felt welcome the moment we squeezed through the inviting holes that riddle the building’s foundation.

The staff thoughtfully left the lights low for a romantic atmosphere, and the space between the wall and the shelving was perfect for a cozy dinner for two. If you’re used to other eateries in the area, you might be surprised by the cold, but we didn’t mind cuddling up. The lack of artificial heating added a rustic, seasonal charm to the ambience.

Thawing pipes left a puddle of water in front of the sink, which was cool and refreshing after our long trek through the scantily furnished living room. It had a particulate mouthfeel and a hint of calcium in the mid-palate.

For an amuse-bouche, we started with the crumbs left on the cutting board. Carefully cut from authentic supermarket bagels, these little bites were totally nosh-worthy. They had been left out for several days to age them to perfection.

There were several choices for a main course, including a bag of whole wheat flour and a molding heel of bread. The options were a bit carb-heavy, we admit. We selected half a bag of basmati rice. The bag was supple and easy to gnaw on, and we thoroughly enjoyed the delicate crunch of the rice. Crafty diners may prefer to bring the burlap home as nesting material, but we found it tasty as is.

While we dined, we were startled by a human in the hallway, but it didn’t seem to see us or enter the kitchen. It only slumped against the stairs and wept. At any rate, we didn’t let it spoil our appetite.

As for dessert, the plating left a lot to be desired. It took us several minutes to chew through the plastic, although we did feel richly rewarded by the cashews inside. We ate every bite.

As we were finishing, we could hear the human, now upstairs, playing the Smiths, which added a quirky allure to the otherwise sparse atmosphere. However, we preferred the previous soundtrack of dripping water and distant trains passing.

Other than that, our one quibble was that there had been no fresh fruits or vegetables available. Still, it’s not a bad thing to specialize in comfort food.

We’re not ashamed to say that, after such a hearty meal, we left a joyous trail of poop all the way out the door. But we’re sure the staff at the Kitchen on Winthrop don’t mind as the floor was already crisscrossed with trails from previous visitors.

The Kitchen on Winthrop is one spot we can see ourselves returning to night after night. Next time, we might even bring the whole family. Two very enthusiastic tails up.


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