Cozying up at the Elbow Room

The seating area in the restaurant reminds visitors of a pub with simple wooden tables and booths. (credit: Celia Ludwinski | Assistant Photo Editor) The seating area in the restaurant reminds visitors of a pub with simple wooden tables and booths. (credit: Celia Ludwinski | Assistant Photo Editor)

It’s always important to have a place to go where you feel like a regular. From the bar of the same name in Cheers to the Central Perk coffee shop in Friends, every neighborhood has a spot that feels like home. The Elbow Room, located in Shadyside, is a warm restaurant and bar that fits into this category.

Located on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside, the Elbow Room is a great place to take a date, friends, or even parents.
When it comes to the menu, you can expect typical American pub food. The menu includes a list of appetizers, salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and dinner plates that remind you of a homemade meal. The best things on the menu are the comfort foods.

The French onion soup is unbelievably delicious. Served in a crock, the cheese is overflowing, slightly crisped in the oven, and protecting the chunky onion soup below. On a recent visit, tomato-basil soup was offered as a special and it was also quite good. The pink broth, accented by large tomato chunks, was light-hearted, and the basil was distinctive without being overbearing.

Good chili is difficult for most people to agree on. The Elbow Room makes a superb effort with its Red Chili. Although it looks chunky, it is in fact very smooth in texture and in taste. It had a bit of a spicy kick to it, just enough to add flavor. The chicken fingers are light and served with an amazing lemon mustard sauce. While chicken fingers are usually left to the appetizer or kids’ menu, they make a great dinner option alongside the French onion soup or the Red Chili.

The theme of comfort must run throughout this restaurant. Any item on the menu that looks the slightest bit overcomplicated usually is. One burger that will grab your eye is the Johnny Apple burger. With brie, applewood-smoked bacon, and a slice of apple, it is a good restaurant burger. However, it is difficult to taste a distinctive flavor, and the apple slice ends up adding texture but little else. The sweet potato fries were disappointing as they lacked any bit of crisp. A good rule to avoid this problem: keep it simple and stick to the comfort foods.

Besides a few overcomplicated dishes, there are few negative points. The restaurant is located near the corner of Ellsworth and Maryland, which means it is a trek for those without cars. If you do drive, expect to take five to 10 minutes to look for a parking spot. Aside from these shortfalls, everything else is pretty good. There is rarely a long wait to get a table and service is usually pretty quick. The wine list (if you’re interested and above 21) is solid and the happy hour is pretty good. There is also a loyalty rewards program that gives back to customers for eating there often.

You can impress a date with your knowledge of local restaurants by taking them to the Elbow Room (unless, of course, they’ve already read this article). It is moderately priced and the atmosphere is great. The Elbow Room makes you feel like a regular from the moment you walk in the door. This place only improves each time you visit as you get a sense of the menu. With time, this will become a favorite stop for a nice, relaxing meal.