Pamela’s Diner voted ‘Best Breakfast’ in The Pitt News’ survey


TPN File Photo

Pamela’s Diner on Forbes Avenue in Oakland.

By Adrienne Cahillane, For The Pitt News

When Tim Blosat was looking for a space to house Pamela’s Diner in Oakland, he didn’t anticipate the four board games on the restaurant’s wall becoming such a well-known fixture of the neighborhood. 

“When we bought the place, these four [board games] were here,” Blosat, the owner of the location, said. “I saw them and knew I could bring in my own collection of games.”

Known for its lyonnaise potatoes and crepe-style hotcakes, Pamela’s Diner on Forbes Avenue was voted the best breakfast spot in The Pitt News’ “Best Of” survey by students. With five locations across Pittsburgh, Pamela’s has a firm grasp on the diner scene since its first location opened in Squirrel Hill in 1980.

Blosat said Pamela’s is no stranger to awards from the community, and it has frequently claimed best breakfast joint in The Pitt News’ surveys. 

“We often rotate the plaques we’ve received,” Blosat said. 

When Blosat was 19 years old, Pam Cohen, the restaurant’s namesake, hired him, and he advanced his way up through the business. 

Belle O’Hara, a junior professional communications and media studies major, enjoys Pamela’s for the nostalgic feel. She usually orders the diner’s famous hotcakes or blueberry hotcakes.

“I have gone since I was a kid, so every time I go I think it’s so cool how I can go to this place that I used to go to as a kid,” O’Hara said. “The cool atmosphere and really nice staff make it a really great experience.” 

Maura Mazzella, a manager at Pamela’s, is one of the people who keep the restaurant running behind the scenes every day. Mazzella started working at Pamela’s in 2004 when she was just 13 years old. She said her favorite parts of her job are meeting new people and serving customers.

When asked about the most popular items on the menu, Mazzella knew the answer immediately.

“All of the varieties of hotcakes are popular, especially strawberry,” Mazzella said. 

Pamela’s also serves blueberry, banana chocolate chip and banana walnut hotcakes, which cost $10.50. Their menu also boasts a substantial amount of savory diner fare, such as a $11 western omelet or a $11.25 spinach and feta omelet. 

One of the most well-known provisions at Pamela’s is the lyonnaise potatoes, which are potatoes mixed with onion and butter. The potatoes are served with many meals and also can be ordered for $4 as a side all day. During lunch, Pamela’s also serves a variety of burgers and sandwiches for a fix of classic diner food. 

Hotcakes at Pamela’s Diner on Forbes Avenue in Oakland. (TPN File Photo)

Mazzella thinks that Pamela’s proximity to Pitt’s campus makes the “business more laid-back” and keeps the atmosphere “fun.”

Blosat agreed that the comfortable feel of Pamela’s has helped their success within the community, even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“People want to support local businesses and mom and pop shops,” said Blosat. “We’re here, but not quite where we want to be.”

Not only is Pamela’s beloved by Pittsburghers, but former president Barack Obama visited the Strip District location in 2008 during a campaign stop and loved the pancakes. 

“Soon after, Pam Cohen and Gail Klingensmith, the owners of other Pamela’s locations, were called to cook for a hundred veterans in the White House kitchen,” Blosat said. “[Pam] is a creative person, and her family in the restaurant business encouraged her.”

Blosat and Mazzella both said one of the highlights of their jobs is seeing the people who frequent the restaurant. They recounted growing close with regular customers over the years and even being invited to parties and weddings.

“I have learned tons of lessons, especially people skills … Pam always wanted to treat people right,” Blosat said. 

“It’s redundant work,” Blosat added. “But no days are ever the same.”