Tarentum's Massart's Restaurant continues family tradition of fine food, friendly service
With restaurants having the highest failure rate of any business in America, it's rare to have a restaurant last more than 90 years. And to have that restaurant survive and thrive in the same town and with the same family owners for almost a century is amazing.
But that's exactly what Massart's Restaurant in Tarentum has accomplished.
Started in 1923 by Jake Massart as “The Grille,” Massart's moved to several locations in Tarentum, and has been at the East Sixth Avenue site since 1946. Subsequently owned by Jake's son Harold “Stubby” Massart and his brother Gail Massart for 40 to 50 years, the landmark eatery is now owned by Stubby's son, Kirk Massart. He started working there in 1986, and took over the business in 2003.
Kirk Massart credits two things for the success — homemade food and turning their customers into friends. “We don't heat processed foods here, we cook our own from scratch. And our servers know our regulars so well that we know what they will order before they actually get to their seats,” he said.
Massart's has a pleasant ambiance with six padded booths, eight tables and 14 diner-style stools for a seating total of 72. A large, stainless-steel cooking and food prep area dominate the wall and is kept spotlessly clean.
At any time during the day, millionaires mix with contractors, and doctors dine with steelworkers in the “Cheers”-like atmosphere. Even when full of diners with the hustle of food being served, it is a quiet and pleasant atmosphere.
On several visits, we decided to try breakfast, lunch and an early dinner to mix things up.
For breakfast, we had the hotcakes ($2.75 for three). The huge, homemade delicacies were cooked perfectly: light and fluffy. Served with Massart's original syrup, it was a great start to the day.
We also had a traditional breakfast of a ham and cheese omelet, bacon, homefries and toast ($8.35). Everything was excellently prepared in an old-fashioned home style, and there was enough food on each plate for two people.
For lunchtime, Massart's features daily specials. Every other Tuesday, the restaurant offers a hot turkey sandwich ($6.75). Served with fresh mashed potatoes or fresh-cut fries, two thick, moist turkey breast slices are sandwiched between white bread and covered in homemade gravy. With every bite, this offering melts in your mouth with flavor.
No trip to Massart's for lunch would be complete without a cheeseburger ($2.15). These distinctive fresh-ground beef delights are unlike any other. “We use local meat suppliers who grind the beef daily to our specification,” Massart said. He estimates he has cooked over 200,000 of them in his career.
We paired the burger with a bowl of Beef Ribley soup ($2.55). The salty beef broth, laden with homemade dough balls, is a perfect complement to any sandwich. All soups are cooked fresh daily.
Every Thursday, it is spaghetti day at Massart's, ($6.15), and the popularity of the dish is evident by customers who pack the place. A large plate of al dente pasta, covered in a rich sauce with ground beef, is served with a unique celery-salt house-dressing salad and Italian bread. It is easy to understand the repeat business when you take the first bite of this spaghetti.
For dinner, we had the Roast Beef dinner ($7.55) and were thrllled. “We slow-cook our roasts for five hours in the oven and use minimal spices,” Massart said. The beef is so tender, a knife is not needed. Served with mashed potatoes, a vegetable and Italian bread, this meal is a winner.
We also tried the Baked Haddock dinner ($7.20), a Friday special. This is a huge piece of moist, flaky, tender fish that is marinated in tomato juice, onions, celery and butter. It has a pleasant, mild taste. And wait until you taste the mac and cheese served as a side. Macaroni with melted longhorn and New York cheddar cheeses and butter create a one-of-a-kind chunky, great tasting mix.
And, finally, we had to try a piece of the Homemade Pie ($ 2.50 per slice). All pies are baked from scratch daily, including all crusts, fruit fillings and meringues. Our blackberry pie was a bargain, and the tender crust was perfectly flaky.
“We make all our food the old-fashioned way. There are no shortcuts,” Massart said. He points to unusual offerings he has like beef tongue, leg of lamb, stewed chicken and sour meat. “It's somewhat like Ozzie-and-Harriet cooking,” he said, referencing the classic sitcom.
The wait staff is fast, efficient and very pleasant. In most cases, you can be served in less time than waiting in a busy drive-thru car line, but with far better quality.
Eric Felack is a photographer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4695 or firstname.lastname@example.org.