5430 Penn Ave., Friendship
412-661-9355, or www.qspgh.com
A lot's changed since 2002, when the Quiet Storm started serving vegetarian and vegan food. Back then, most people didn't know what "vegan" meant, let alone how to pronounce it. And when Jilly MacDowell's catering business did weddings, it revealed its vegetarian roots only in the side dishes.
Today, says MacDowell, 100 percent vegan weddings are common enough to constitute a niche market -- one that Quiet Storm arguably dominates.
Moreover, what started as a coffeehouse with food has become a full-fledged restaurant, one that makes the veg path an especially tasty and world-beat way to travel. And lately, veg virgins are more like a once-a-week phenomenon at the funkily homey Friendship eatery, with its signature parti-colored linoleum floor.
Here, you can stick with neo-comfort food -- like the mushroom-and-oat House Burger, with its side of hand-chopped salsa and tortilla chips. Or you can range far afield with a variety of offerings: the bone-warming Curry Plate; a pulled-pork quesadilla (actually made with sweet-and-spicy seitan); the Fez Burrito (smoky tempeh, basmati rice, sweet potato, apricots, dates and hot peppers); and the Banh Mi, a Vietnamese-style hoagie with pickled veggies and seitan sausage and ham.
There's even the comfort-fusion of the Pierogidilla -- a quesadilla filled with smashed potatoes, broccoli, veggie bacon, slaw and cheddar.
About half the restaurant's sandwiches and main dishes are vegan, that is, devoid of animal products. (The "cheese" in a pimento cheese dip, for instance, is made from roasted red peppers and white beans.)
And there are still coffee and other specialty drinks, ranging from a double-espresso root beer and a pumpkin latte to a piña colada milkshake and the Mission of Burma, a concoction of lemongrass tea, jalapeño, lemon and orange slices.
There's even a fast-food menu of meals ready in five minutes, including a five-cheese mac-and-cheese. But even these dishes, like everything else, are made from scratch, and drawn from local, organic and seasonal ingredients whenever possible.
The restaurant also works with urban farmers to compost its vegetable waste and coffee grounds -- something that might make you feel a little less guilty about enjoying the rich cakiness of a vegan chocolate-chip bar for dessert.