As promised, today we will bring you the first of our Beltway Tours, the Red Belt. In case you missed our intro post and are totally clueless as to what we mean when we say ‘Beltway,’ feel free to take a few minutes to check that out and get caught up to speed.
We decided to start with the Red Belt to get into the swing of things, seeing as how it’s the shortest and fastest of the routes. The Red Belt does not form a complete circle, but instead an arc north of the city, so most of your travels are East to West (or West to East, depending). It has two clearly-marked termini, one in Tarentum, and one in Ambridge. Previously when we have driven the Red Belt, we’ve started at the Ambridge location and worked our way closer to the city, but this time, we opted to start in Tarentum.
And that’s why, even though we live on a Belt (the Blue Belt), we had to trek out to the highway and head toward this sign on Route 28 to even begin. For reference, this is the guide we use when doing our Belt drives. As far as I can tell, that page provides the clearest directions available.
Tarentum is a borough north and east of Downtown Pittsburgh, but still in Allegheny County. What would make you want to visit Tarentum? Well, I’m not really sure. There’s the well-respected Gatto Cycle Shop and apparently also some peregrine falcons chilling in the bridge.
We set out on this leg of the Beltway tour on St. Patrick’s Day, which was rather gloomy and overcast, and it was a few weeks before things started sprouting. However, due to the rural scenery on much of the Red Belt, I could imagine this being a blast during autumn when the fall foliage colors are really in effect.
The first point of interest we encountered was the Tour-Ed Mine. Apparently, this is a formerly-functioning mine that now houses a museum and is open for tours with miners! And the website promises that we will be entirely in the dark in a mine, just like we would be for real in District 12, so I am like 342% certain this place is going on the 2014 Achievement list!
There’s also the Popeye’s Mini Mart of Culmerville. Apparently Culmerville is part of Tarentum, but it also has its own private airport somehow.
But what was my favorite part of the Red Belt drive?
Brunch at Zottola’s Pub & Eatery!
Zottola’s is in an area called West Deer Township. The building is a former hotel, but it’s now a restaurant serving dinner every day and breakfast on the weekends. They also seem to have a space for live music in the dining room.
This place was incredible!
I got the Zottola’s Big Breakfast, because I just couldn’t narrow it down. For only $7.50 (yes, that WHOLE PLATE was only $7.50), you get French toast, two eggs, breakfast meat, home fries, and toast. Everything was incredible. The eggs were a perfect over easy, the sausage juicy, the French toast fluffy and hot.
Michael opted for the Bakerstown Fritatta, which featured three eggs with mushrooms, onions, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, bacon & sausage, topped with Shredded Parmesan and served with rye toast. The plate was sizzling hot and so filling (okay, okay, I had a few bites).
We loved everything about Zottola’s! The interior is so charming, it felt like having brunch at a bed & breakfast. The service was great and our coffee cups never went empty. Trust me when I say that this place is worth the trip out into the wilderness of West Deer Township!
After breakfast, it was back onto the Red Belt. The area past West Deer is when things start to get a little tricky signage-wise, and we made one brief wrong turn before finding our way back to the route in Warrendale. (If you decide to try driving this route yourself, pay extra-close attention around the Warrendale-Bayne Road and Bakerstown-Warrendale Road area, that’s where the lack of signage was. Of course, it doesn’t help that everything has similar names around that area too!)
Much of what you pass along the Red Belt is rural, with lots of homes and fields and big, sprawling churches. There’s a pretty awesome Jesus statue above the road at one of those churches, but Michael wouldn’t let me pull over to get JC’s picture.
Finally, as you start to come into the Leetsdale/Ambridge area, things get more industrial. There’s a road that I thought I would love called Wine Road, but apparently, it has nothing to do with the wine you can drink.
Our Red Belt drive, including brunch and the small detour when we took the wrong turn, took just over 2 hours total. This one is an easy route to start your journey into the Beltways of Allegheny County. Just make sure you save room for a meal at Zottola’s!