The Vandal fits right in to Lawrenceville amidst the sea of trendy, chef-driven restaurants. But does it fit in too well? Does it stand out? These were some of the questions we had to ask.
The Vandal is an interesting mix of casual and formal. Upon first glance you get a welcoming vibe for a more casual dining experience, but the prices and the presentation of the food skew the experience to something a bit more than casual.
With breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch menus, this BYOB establishment utilizes lots of local suppliers and farms to provide the ingredients for its simple but interesting menu. We visited the first time for dinner and returned later on for brunch, and share both experiences in this full review!
Chef Driven Menu Items at The Vandal
We first dined on a Saturday evening when the menu included several vegetable starters and sides, a burger, a pork sandwich, and several plated entrees with proteins including fish and meat.
We started out with the beet “snack,” which was our favorite dish of the night. The presentation was stunning with purple and orange jewel-toned beets resting beside a dollop of white ricotta and on top of a cara cara orange sauce, with an edible flower providing the finishing touch.
Orange salt also dotted the plate which made for a delicious contrast with the sweet beets. The ricotta was quite possibly the creamiest ricotta I've ever had, and a perfect foil for the other components.
For entrees we decided on the pork sandwich and trout entree. The pork sandwich had delicious melt-in-your-mouth meat, served on a crispy sesame seed baguette with apple butter and kale.
The apple butter was a great sweet-tart accompaniment to the rich meat, and the kale provided a nice crunch.
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The trout was beautifully presented, but lacked the interesting flavors and textures of the other dishes. The trout was served on top of homemade spaetzle with sides of potato chips and pickled fennel.
The trout was tender but it, as well as the spaetzle, needed a bit more seasoning. The potato chips were delightfully thin and crunchy- I could have eaten twice as many. The pickled fennel was the most interesting component of the dish with a tangy, crispy bite.
A Return Visit for Brunch
After our dinner experience, we kept reading amazing reviews about their brunch, and we immediately thought to ourselves: did we do wrong by only going for dinner?
It took a fair bit of time (well over two years, if we are to be honest), but we finally made it in for the brunch service which focuses on small plates of the sweet and savory varieties.
We opted for a mix of both and went with their short stack of purple corn pancakes with bluebery as well as the fried chicken sandwich (something we've heard many rave reviews about since they opened).
The pancakes were quite delicious and were packed to the brim with blueberries.
In fact, I'd say they are amongst the better pancakes we've had in the city which is truly saying something; however, the portion size itself was quite small. (But at $8 you could easily add on a side or two to round this one out more).
The chicken sandwich is topped with a carrot and rutabaga slaw and chili honey, giving it a sweeter flavor than we had expected.
We opted to add a fried egg on top as well at the behest of our waitress which added even more richness that, to be honest, is probably not as necessary here as it is as other places. But the chicken was fried quite well and showcased the flavors of all the ingredients evenly.
Overall, we enjoyed our meals at The Vandal, and it does a good job at standing out amongst the competition in the neighborhood (which is no tall order).
The entrees are often served straight up without sides, so you would do well with ordering one or two for the table to share to make the meal.
I do wish The Vandal focused more on highlighting the local component of the dishes, and perhaps a bit more on portion sizing to offset the lack of included sides, but at the same these are only minor complaints after two pretty delicious meals.
Do yourself a favor and head down to The Vandal for a meal today!
The Vandal is located at 4306 Butler Street.
For more restaurants in Lawrenceville, check out Pusadee's Garden, Morcilla, The Abbey on Butler, Salonika Imports (lunch specials), or grab some ice cream at Naturoll Creamery. Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!
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