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Totin's Diner offers home cooking to break chain-restaurant blues

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By William Loeffler
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
 

Totin's Diner has staked its claim as an alternative to the chain restaurants that dominate the Route 19 corridor in the North Hills.

Fewer people are cooking meals at home, so owner Jim Totin is banking on bringing home cooking to diners at competitive prices. Many of the dishes featured in the restaurant are favorites from his North Side childhood -- pierogies, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut and pork.

"It's home cooking with a Pittsburgh twist," says Totin, who opened the business with wife Joanne on Halloween. "A lot of this stuff was passed down from my grandmother and my mother."

Hunkered down at the top of a hill just before the congested Wexford Flats, Totin's serves breakfast all day and makes a good cup of coffee.

The interior uses a chessboard color scheme of red, white and black -- red and chrome booths, white walls and black trim. The hard, shiny surfaces are softened by natural light from highly placed windows. On the walls hang Steelers memorabilia and kitschy advertisements from the 1950s. A traffic light is mounted on the wall. A framed ad from the old ESSO oil company exhorts motorists to "Put a tiger in your tank!"

Take your time choosing from the extensive selection of omelets, which are priced between $5.99 and $7.99. Most feature a choice of home fries, pierogies or potato pancakes. The Western omelet ($6.99) is made with three eggs, onion, green pepper, ham and American cheese. There were abundant onions and plenty of chunks of fresh ham. For an intriguing finger food, try the Buffalo Pierogies ($4.99). The traditional potato dumpling is dipped in hot buffalo wing sauce. The roasted turkey and field greens wrap ($7.49) features turkey, spring green, tomatoes and mozzarella in a garlic herb wrap. It's fresh, but some diners may want to ask for a bit more of the olive oil dressing, which barely makes its presence known. It comes with a choice of French fries, fruit cup or cottage cheese. The french fries are crisp and not greasy.

If you want to ward off a vegan, order Joanne's Pretzel Club, ($6.99) a monster sandwich made with roasted turkey, bacon, American cheese, lettuce and tomato stuffed between a pretzel-bread bun. It can stand toe to toe with a Primanti's sandwich.

Totin's also features daily lunch specials, including ham barbecue on Mondays and sloppy joes on Tuesdays. Dinner specials include stuffed chicken on Wednesdays and beef stroganoff on Thursdays. The service is prompt and friendly and the staff seems genuinely glad that you came in.

Additional Information:

Totin's Diner

Location: 10283 Perry Highway, Wexford

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 7 a.m.to 3 p.m. Sundays

Details: 724-759-7102 or website

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