The best place in Pittsburgh for Sunday brunch offers outdoor seating, live classical music and homemade goodies. The only catch … you have to bring the breakfast treats yourself.
At the weekly summertime Bach, Beethoven and Brunch Classical Music Series, hundreds fill Mellon Park, toting picnic baskets, linen tablecloths and plenty of food, for a brunch-off. The concert series is a decades-long tradition at the park, which spans Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze.
Representatives from the City’s Office of Special Events, which hosts the event, serve as judges, doling out prizes that change each week to one lucky team.
“Sometimes people really go all out,” said Dodi Bryne, program coordinator with the office. “It’s not huge elaborate prizes. It’s just the fun of it.”
But that doesn’t stop brunch-goers from bringing dazzling spreads.
At The Four Seasons Brunch display, pastries and tea sandwiches filled tiered pastry trays lined up along pastel table cloths Sunday. The group, a combination of three families who participate once each year, even offered a printed menu for the judges. The menu lists each decadent treat, divided by the seasons — lemon meringue cupcakes for spring, a tomato-mozzarella-basil tart for summer, Grandma’s pumpkin pie for autumn and croque monsieur savory bread pudding for winter. For an added effect, silk flowers dotted the table representing each season (pink peonies for spring, for example).
“We just kind of go overboard. We always joke, we spend hundreds of dollars on it and win a $10 gift card,” Jenn DeRosa said, laughing. She organized The Four Seasons Brunch along with Lauren Stein and Jan Janowitz and their families.
“We always impose a theme on ourselves,” Stein said. “It’s an opportunity to try new recipes.”
After winning the Sunday competition and earning their prizes of a coffee mug and a Giant Eagle gift card, the group opened their resplendent table for anybody to grab a snack.
The Garden Fresh group brought along several varieties of salads with homegrown ingredients, along with plastic look-alike crystal glasses for beverages for their first time competing. Jessica DeFelice, of Aspinwall, and Nicole Trombley, of O’Hara, led the team’s homemade display.
“We picked as much as we could from the garden,” DeFelice said.
Other groups take a more laid-back approach, spreading blankets on the grass and bringing homemade treats — or even snacks from Panera. Yes, it’s OK to let somebody else do the cooking. And you can attend the event without participating in the competition.
“It’s a draw for the whole city,” said Steven Hawkins, a board member for the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition, which sponsors the event. “It’s sort of like the old-time band concert in the town square, a relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning.”
For some picnickers, the Bach, Beethoven and Brunch is a time-honored weekly tradition.
“I’ve been coming 30 years,” Betty Kelly, of North Huntingdon said who attended with her friend Betty Lawson, of Lower Burrell. “It’s the perfect way to spend a Sunday.”
Local community groups, from the Carnegie Library to Rodef Shalom to the Squirrel Hill Historical Society, bring tents with activities and information.
A different musical group has performed each week, from River City Brass to Aeolian Winds to the Mon Valley Community Band. Go see the Allegheny Brass Band perform Aug. 6 and the East Winds Symphonic Band on Aug. 13.
Bryne describes the event as a “picnic atmosphere” with a “soothing” and “laid-back” vibe. There are just two Sundays left in this summer’s concert series, so it’s time to get to menu planning.
Enjoy the music of Allegheny Brass Band at an outdoor concert series. Guests are invited to bring along a brunch — and even to compete in a best brunch competition.
Where: Mellon Park at Fifth and Shady Avenues (Point Breeze/Squirrel Hill)
When: August 6, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
How much: Free