Josiah Martin | A&E Editor
Deep in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood, in the shadow of the 85-foot-high Four Mile Run bridge, lies one of the city’s greatest hidden gems — Big Jim’s. My experience there forever changed my perception of what dinner has the potential to be.
Big Jim’s doesn’t look like much from the outside. The building is tucked away in the almost entirely residential “Run,” with its main door on the side and only one glass block window to peer inside. Once you enter, you get to behold the dark wood-paneled interior of the restaurant, littered with signage for the countless beers available at the bar. It’s a hometown feel — the sort of atmosphere that Pittsburgh establishments like “The O” and the Strip District’s Primanti Bros. are often lauded for, but turned up to 11.
I and three other Duke Editors had a short wait in the packed restaurant for a four-top table in the far corner of the bar. It was a tight squeeze, as bussers and patrons had to side-step past our table, but it wasn’t that much of a bother.
My only major regret is passing up the chance to participate in “three dollar spaghetti night,” a special offer that tells you everything you need to know about Big Jim’s menu. It’s primarily standard diner fare and pasta, done well, and served in absurd quantities at a low price. It’s the kind of place Guy Fieri would feature on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. He did, by the way.
Associate Photo Editor Katia Faroun and I both got gnocchi, which was served with a starter salad and a basket of garlic toast. Opinions Editor Colleen Hammond got fried provolone sticks and terrifically crispy fresh-cut fries.
Overall, the food didn’t exceed my expectations. It was delicious, but it was what it was.
Then there’s Griffin.
Photo Editor Griffin Sendek got a calzone. Their signature menu item, Big Jim’s Calzone, is a $15 meat-and-cheese monstrosity that comes with a warning to “allow up to 45 minutes.” We waited roughly an hour for this footlong masterpiece to arrive, but Griffin said it was worth the wait. We estimated that the beast weighed roughtly three pounds, and the leftovers the young Sendek was able to take home fed him for two additional days. It was truly glorious — well worth the wait and the price tag.
The staff was friendly, the food was good, the restaurant felt like home. Big Jim’s in The Run is exactly what it should be. If you want a big dinner for a small price in a comfortable setting, take the trip down into one of Pittsburgh’s lesser-known neighborhoods and see what the hype is about.