Every day is good eats day at Jo Jo's in Strip District

| Thursday, April 1, 2010

Let others dine. Customers at Jo Jo's Restaurant come to eat. With the food police stripping the fun from menus coast to coast, this Strip District diner serves up old-fashioned fare like steak and eggs, Buick-sized omelets, teetering stacks of pancakes and their ubiquitous, buttery home fries. Every day is fry-day here. Opening near the crack of dawn and closing before rush hour, they turn out the kind of all-American comfort food that has sustained truck drivers, churchgoers and commuters for more than 20 years. The denizens of clubland -- such as bartenders finally off work and clubgoers who don't want to go home yet -- also flock to Jo Jo's for its fast and friendly service.

The low-profile diner hunkers down among the trendy urban lofts of upper Smallman Street. Owner Robin Flaherty inherited the business from her father, who opened the original restaurant at another location in 1986. Her children pitch in with running the place. They moved to their present location in 1994. They have their own parking lot, a big plus in this part of the city.

Jo Jo's Restaurant serves breakfast all day, beginning at 5 a.m. weekdays. If you're looking for ambience, you've come to the wrong place. The feast here is for the stomach, not the eyes. The bare, white walls are there to hold up the roof. Five ceiling fans turn overhead from a drop ceiling. The scrolled red benches at the booths and tables provide a spot of color. On the other side of the counter, coffee warms on multiple burners. A mountain of home fries can usually be seen piled up on one end of the grill. They must go through spuds by the truckload.

The portions are large, the prices modest. Flaherty says they make their own spaghetti sauce and roast their own turkey. Try the cold turkey sandwich ($4.25). It's so good you don't need condiments. They also have a selection of burgers, soups and dinner specialties, including chicken Parmesan ($6.75).

The menu includes steak and eggs with home fries and toast ($9.95) and the Jo Jo's Breakfast Sandwich ($5.95), served on toast, English muffin or bagel and featuring a fried egg, cheese and your choice of bacon, ham or sweet or hot sausage.

"They have the best potatoes and French toast in Pittsburgh," says Jim Cvetic, a boxer and former Allegheny County Police detective who says he eats there a couple of times a month. "The service is good, the place is good, it's Pittsburgh, man."

Those in the mood for a nosh can grab the homemade chili to go ($3.49 bowl; $2.69 cup). One of the best values and best-tasting selections is the Jo Jo Omelet ($8.50). It was huge, smothered in home fries. The eggs, melted cheese and sausage had a hot, savory consistency. The cost included a side of three pieces of toasted Italian bread.

Additional Information:

Jo Jo's Restaurant

Location: 100 24th Street, Strip District

Hours: 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays. Cash only

Details: 412-261-0280

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