Last Updated on January 14, 2021 by Jeremy
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If you've spent any amount of time on this site, specifically on our Pittsburgh restaurant reviews database, you would know that the Eastern European vegan joint Apteka is one of our favorites. While we are not vegans ourselves, we absolutely adore the intense and often rich flavor profiles this restaurant can get out of their dishes (they also have what could possibly be the best pierogi in the city, but we'll leave you to decide that one).
One thing Apteka does that we think is pretty awesome is having a periodic special menu of “junk food” (burgers and fries) that they aptly named Crapteka.
We should reiterate- their name, not ours.
This limited popup takes over the Apteka menu from time to time, but for several years we never made it in for any number of reasons. But in January 2021 the restaurant changed their entire menu over to the Crapteka theme for the month and we got an order on the first day before they inevitably sold out (in 30 minutes).
All we have to say is these vegan burgers are fantastic- if you can't get your hands on one at least.
Apteka's Crapteka Delivers Delicious Vegan Burgers
The main features of the Crapteka menu are their vegan burgers. Where most places seem to use a black bean base, Apteka goes for a unique combination of mushroom, beet, and buckwheat. Our biggest fear with any vegetarian burger is that it will be dried out, but we were pretty pleased when biting into these to note that the patties were still quite moist, held up well, and had a distinctly mushroom and beet flavor profile that screamed umami.
These are not attempting to mimic the flavor of beef (in our opinion at least), but hold their own as being a respectable patty fit for a burger all the same.
The Klasyk Burger is their take on the American classic- lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, Heinz Ketchup, and sunflower-based mayo (which tasted every bit as good as regular mayonnaise). If a tried-and-true burger is your thing, this one hits all the right notes.
The Freako Burger is a bit more out there. It features saffron and charcoal mayonnaise, raisin sweet and sour “sos” (sauce), pickled fennel, a pumpkin seed cabbage slaw, and roast onion. This one had a rather intense and tangy flavor profile from all of these melding together. They combined so well that it was a bit hard to identify any individual notes of the toppings, but if you are looking for something a bit off-the-wall this one could be a great option.
While we would say we enjoyed our large burgers (which we ate every last bite of in a single sitting), we talked about the Activated Fries even more.
These are seasoned french fries covered in a powdered seasoning from the restaurant's “dehydrator projects” and includes dried mushroom, fermented beet, sweet corn, and cabbage in the mix. If you are a fan of seasoned fries, it is really hard to beat these (or is it, beet these?). The flavors really pop and work well with their undisclosed green sauce dressing as a pairing. (Note- the photo below does not do the level of seasoning justice- it was ample.)
Be Wary of This One Selling Out
Since Apteka went takeaway only in mid-2020 due to the pandemic, they would routinely sell out of their dishes on any given day. This is, of course, not surprising. So when the restaurant released their Crapteka menu in January 2021, it came with warnings that it would likely sell out fast.
In the first weekend, it did.
For the first weekend of Crapteka, orders opened at 11am for same day pickup. On the first day, the burgers and fries sold out in 30 minutes (a few salads were available later on). On the second day, they sold out in under five minutes.
It is always a wonderful thing to see restaurants sell out of their menus as fast as some Pittsburgh beer releases, but due to its popularity, some would-be patrons are likely going to be disappointed if they do not order when the moment the menu goes on sale.
For the second weekend, Apteka changed their ordering system such that Friday and Saturday orders started on Thursdays at noon for both days. As ordering rules may change in the future, you may want to periodically check their social media for updates so you do not miss when the menu becomes available. It is likely to sell out every time.
So we will leave you with this extra bit of advice- regardless of when orders open, know what you want ahead of time, be quick in putting it in your cart, and don't forget to set a pickup time from the separate menu section as well. The faster you are with this, the more likely you'll get your order to go to completion. And if you want to order wine from their awesome natural wine shop, well, you may do well putting that on a separate order just to ensure your food order goes through first!
Apteka is located at 4606 Penn Avenue in Bloomfield. The restaurant periodically features its Crapteka menu for a limited time. We tried this one when the restaurant ran the menu in January 2021 which at the time was takeout only with advanced online ordering.