Mom eats muffinsMom eats muffins

There’s something about having to rely on the ministrations of strangers for my morning meal that makes me cranky, and I’ve become pretty discriminating about local muffins. The easiest for me would be if our neighborhood grocery store, the Frick Park Market, sold decent breakfast pastries. I can roll out of bed, pull on some shorts and a tee-shirt, and walk half a block to get there. They have great coffee, made of freshly ground beans from La Prima Espresso, but despite the fact that a local woman makes the muffins and delivers them herself, I can’t recommend them. They are heavy and greasy and not always fresh; I think the folks at the Market just keep selling them until they are gone, even if they are days old. I know from a short-lived attempt some years back at doing some baking of my own to sell at a local coffee shop that you just can’t make any money if you use good ingredients, so I’m also guessing that the woman who makes these compromises a little on quality. (Not to mention the nerve of the owners of the Market, going on a two week vacation, right in the middle of my kitchen remodeling and forcing me to get in the car and drive to get my first cup of morning coffee!)

The next contenders are the Starbucks outlets in the area; I’ve tried the muffins at two or three of them and they are all about the same so I’m guessing that they use the same supplier. They are lousy – too sweet, oily, and have that nasty, greasy surface that sticks to your fingertips, along with a chemical flavor that lingers in the mouth long after the muffin is gone.

I really wanted to like the muffins at the Coffee Tree Roasters, an independent coffee shop here in Pittsburgh that has about three local stores because I try to support the independent shops, but alas, I had the same complaints about their muffins as I did the ones at Starbucks. They weren’t quite as bad, but were still oily and too sweet.

The very best muffins are the ones at Whole Foods and there’s no getting around the fact that they use the same ingredients I would use in my own home made baked goods; butter, eggs, and nothing artificial. They’re a little further than I want to drive in the morning, though, and they don’t open until 8:00 AM.

My runner up is The Bagel Factory in Squirrel Hill. They make the muffins on-site, and they’re almost as good as the ones at WF – buttery, without that oily, sticky feel that the other ones have, and not too sweet. They also sell big cups of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and I think their coffee is pretty good, too, although Poppy doesn’t like it so much.


You poor thing. I will make you all the coffee and breakfast you want this weekend in NYC! I’ve only eaten good muffins once or twice in my life. Dean & Deluca carries some good ones but not always, and it’s not worth the risk.

I’m not a big muffin fan, but I can certainly vouch for Pittsburgh coffee.

La Prima has a shop on the CMU campus, in the building next to where I work/sleep/learn, so it’s been a beneficial friend for a while now. I also like the Coffee Tree in Shadyside and Craig St. Coffee in Oakland for bean juice. The Bagel Factory (Shadyside) had great coffee when they were using Caribou Coffee, but they’ve switched now, and I don’t like the new stuff as much. But, that’s just as well, since I don’t live around the corner from it anymore.

I’ve lately been using my own grinder, espresso machine, and coffee maker to satisfy my cravings. I highly recommend Kopi Luwak coffee, but aside from that, I’m happy as long as the coffee is organic and the growers are getting a decent percentage of what I pay for it.

The one coffee shop in Pittsburgh I definitely do not like is Kiva Han. Their espresso is like five parts coffee and one part bleach or something… but their hummus is good!

(Wow, I totally hijacked your comments… sorry about that!)

A good muffin is so hard to find!

Colin, where on campus can I find La Prima coffee? I’ve been getting my coffee at the Skibo coffeeshop in the U center – don’t know what kind of coffee they use but it’s not too bad.

I agree with you about Kiva Han and if I’m on Craig Street I’ll go to Craig Street Coffee in preference.

It shouldn’t be long before I’m making coffee at home again with my own grinder and my beloved Bodum Santos coffeemaker. The countertops and sink are being installed on Aug. 30th and the contractors are applying themselves to finishing details at this point – the end is in sight!

BTW, don’t worry about highjacking comments; I love it when people spout off!

The end of the kitchen renovation is in sight? That’s good news. Eating muffins all over town is fine, but nothing beats being able to make exactly what you want, exactly how you want it, in your own kitchen.

I do like muffins, but don’t feel justified in eating 400+ calories before 9am very often. I used to make my own lemon poppy seed muffins, which I can highly recommend :)

As for coffee, I (unlike Colin) am not very picky about coffee as long as it is a good meduim brew. I drink too much coffee from a Starbucks-esque vendor in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning and have basically killed all hope of knowing what good coffee is. Alas.

Anyway, I don’t know about the muffins, but the bagels at Crazy Mocha are incredibly good. Maybe the muffins are too?

I spend a lot of my time in Hamerschlag Hall, and when I realize I’m slowing down and can’t find a usable cup for one of the automatic coffee machines in Roberts Hall, I’ll go to La Prima in Wean Hall. It’s on the fifth floor, which is actually the ground floor if you’re coming in from the mall. When you walk inside, it’s immediately on your right. Can’t miss it!

You’re right about Skibo; their coffee isn’t too bad. But, I always feel like the staff has no idea what they’re doing, which makes me somewhat timid when ordering.

The lack of edible food at Starbucks is perplexing. If they can get people to spend $4 on a cup of coffee, you’d think they could figure out how to bake a pound cake or a scone.

And please, why can you not get a real-or indeed any- croissant with your coffee at a Starbucks or any coffee place downtown? I am not a huge fan of muffins-though I’m sure I’d prefer your homemade ones to the Tasty-Kakes clones on offer. but if I am buying some morning coffee out, for a treat, I don’t think a croissant should be too much to ask from a pretentious coffee shop?

A person does not want to have to bring her own goddamn croissant. It’s not as if there is a bakery down town that has them, anyhow. And it’s quite a
production to make your own. I asked at one of the Starbucks recently, and they said, “Nobody likes them.” Naturally this made me feel quite the treasured customer.

There is, in fact, one Starbucks I’ve visited that has tasty croissants. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly on the way to work. This particular Starbucks is next to the Holland Park tube station in West London. Maybe the croissants are better because of the proximity to France? :)

Lindy, you’re right, why doesn’t Starbucks carry croissants? Of all pastries, they stay freshest and are the most difficult to screw up. Isn’t there an Au Bon Pain downtown? They have pretty good pastries, including croissants. And USA Gourmet in the strip district also sells croissants, if they’re still there, that is.

Thanks for the tip about Wean Hall, Colin, although my husband tells me he knew about it all along (I don’t know why he never told me!) I’m more like Kathryn, though, in that although I can recognize really horrible coffee, my palate isn’t sensitive enough to make distinctions between one premium roast and another.

I forgot about that La Prima in Wean. I used to go there every morning during my freshman year, although that never kept me from falling asleep in psychology class.

You’ll all be happy to know that Starbucks is in deep trouble here in New York for having rat and cockroach problems all over downtown. Employees report seeing little critters munching on pastries when they come in in the morning, which may or may not be true.

I can’t believe someone said that “nobody likes” croissants!

Nationwide I find that muffins are impossible, as are Starbucks baked goods which I think they make out of play-doh. The brew at Kiva Han has got to be the worst far and wide and last time I got some the lid didn’t fit the cup and it slopped all over my hand and the bag I was carrying to the airport. Better that way. Humph.

The good muffins (and not so good coffee) can be found at Sweetie Sweetie in Regent Square. They usually have 8-12 kind but if you get there after 9 the pickings are slim

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