Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Winghart's in Market Square

The Shipwreck burger on a side of fries.

The most popular first sentence in a blog is: "Sorry I've been away from my blog for a while." So there, you have it. I've been in a lot of physical and emotional pain. I fell on ice while shoveling snow and shortly after an important relationship ended abruptly. These were not reasons not to write, but they seemed like good excuses to not do anything that makes me happy.

Winghart's Burger & Whiskey Bar on UrbanspoonApril can be an odd month for weather in Pittsburgh. I tell people that you experience every season in April, so it's one of my favorite months. So, we saw a sunny Sunday with a high in the 80s. And now the forecast shows a week of sullen, grey and damp weather. But soon enough, the sun will be blinding and the heat and humidity will carry the smells of Summer into the streets.

I had to go downtown to argue my case against what I though was a ridiculous parking ticket. Someone I know from Twitter saw my location and asked me if I'd like to get lunch. We'd never met, but we're both cooks and have shared a lot of opinions on food in this town. I suggested Winghart's, a burger grill in Market Square, one of several newer burger joints that have opened recently in Pittsburgh. It really gave me something to look forward to.

Waiting for over an hour in Parking Court, for nothing.
I waited in a room of 20 people watching "The View" from comfortable black leather chairs. There was a re-cap of chef Jamie Oliver pouring sugar into a school bus to demonstrate how much of it children in this country eat. A woman was shouting into her cell phone, setting appointments to get a labradoodle groomed and lining up a babysitter. Impatient, angry looks spread through the room as their case number was not the next one called. Ricky Gervais saved me from insanity as he served up a witty counterpoint to the hosts of the View. My case number was called. I actually said "I throw myself to the mercy of the court," and got a smile from the judge. He dropped the fee from $40 to $20. (I paid $12 for parking to effect this, so I suppose it was a wash.)

Wingharts in the corner of Market Square Downtown.
Winghart's is nestled into the corner of Market Square, next to Starbucks. There was a short line going out the door when I approached around noon. I had no idea what my lunch partner looked like; just a brief description. I lingered and probed the area, looking at peoples' hamburgers, fries and pizza. The grill area is open and you can practically taste the burgers as you walk through. A counter with stools looks onto the grill. It's a tight fit, but not uncomfortable.

The "Crew" from my second visit. Blue (left) and Captain (right).

A large brick pizza oven takes up the back of the kitchen. It struck me as odd, to serve both burgers and pizza in such a small space. But it's logical; two great comfort foods, so why not do them together? Though I didn't taste the pizza, I saw great care being put into their production. The line of people were patient and smiling and the wait was not long. My online friend bumped into me and we started chatting. Without planning on it, we ordered the same burger, The Market Square, medium-rare.

A friendly grill cook named Shipwreck was on deck, expediting orders and coordinating a few other cooks. It didn't take long until we were handed our burgers in cardboard boxes and  sat outside in front of the place in the cool air. I took a bite and said "This is a great F'ing burger." I said that a few times. We both agreed. My new friend and I found that we had a lot in common. We're looking to do something new in Pittsburgh and we shared these ideas. It was exciting to talk about the places he'd worked and a couple of people we knew in common.

The Market Square Burger. A good choice.
This was a worthy hamburger. It rested on a pile of tasty, crisp fries and its juices dripped through them to tasty effect. Winghart's doesn't smash their burgers into the grill. The meat was almost loose but intact and so very moist. There was Gruyere cheese, bacon, mushrooms and red onion. Fresh tomato, crisp lettuce on a full, soft bun. It didn't last long. I didn't take notes. The meat was fresh, temped perfectly and with just a hint of char. I was not picking this hamburger apart for content; I was immersed in a burger experience, and this was as good as it can get.

I'll be back soon enough to write up the details and take fancy pictures. I'm not sure that I'll ever come around to trying one of their pizzas, as the burger was just that good. But it's nice to know that I can bring a vegetarian friend along and not worry about limited options.

So, I'll keep on writing, if you keep reading. There are so many places I've been and people I've met that I want to write about. Writing is therapeutic. But it still won't keep me from tearing up when I hear "The Two of Us" by the Beatles. Time is also therapy, and hamburgers.

Oh, and they have their liquor license.

Munch's review of Winghart's in the Post-Gazette
China Millman's article on Pittsburgh Burgers in the Post-Gazette


  1. Anonymous4/13/2011

    What else looked good on the menu? Anything else cry out to you besides the market square? How long did it take you during lunch time to get your burger?

  2. The whole menu looked good to me. Service was prompt. I think we waited in line for five minutes and then another five to get the food. It would be a good spot to visit for lunch if your time is limited.

  3. I just ate my computer! Looking at that burger made me TICKED that I didn't read my email before I left downtown today!!! How was this burger compared to Tasarro's in Bloomfield ?(which is my current fav)

  4. Yum! You made me want a burger!

  5. Good do have you back to writing - keep it on! The burger looks great and Market Square with the tables and chairs out so much nicer than in February. I think I should plan for play off season next year - like ... May (shouldn't be a problem next season when Sid is back ;).

  6. That sounds like the kind of place I want to go to!

  7. I promise to keep reading. I have family in Pittsburgh now for about 15 yrs and I love to try new places to eat when I come up. I will make a note of this place for sure because I LOVE a great burger.
    Hope you heal fast and find new happiness.

  8. Glad you are back writing!

    I am adding this place to my "try it" list, sounds great.

  9. you know, the post you didn't edit is one of my favorites. glad to have you back to blogging.

    and i am truly sorry to hear about the breakup and the other stuff that been going on for you...never fun.

  10. Anonymous4/22/2011

    That picture of that burger is spot on. This is just a great burger place! The make bacon taste awesome on burgers.

    Sorry to read about your troubles above. Glad you got back on the saddle at least a little bit.

  11. I don't even really like burgers & that photo has me drooling, ready to try them out after Easter. Thanks for the tip!

    Glad you are back to writing...

  12. Glad you're back, man. Now I really want to check out Winghart's...that burger looks fantastic!

    Also looking forward to the day (soon) when you and I share some good food and a decent drink to wash it down.

    Hang in there, buddy. I've been where you are. It gets better, and - in hindsight - faster than you might believe when you're still stuck down there in the moment. But you keep writing, and I'll keep reading. I promise. =]


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