Jen Lawton knows her way around a wheel of cheese. She can discern the most subtle of flavors that live deep within the rind, but she can also cut, package and label a wedge faster than you can smile and say “cheeeese.”

As the Cheese Coordinator for the East End Food Co-op, Jen is responsible for procuring quality artisanal cheese for the market. She works closely with both producers and consumers, acting as an advocate for both. A lover of cheese since childhood (her first word was in fact “cheese”), Jen has since become an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (think sommelier status here). With over a decade of professional cheese experience and almost 2 years at the co-op, it is safe to say that Jen is one of Pittsburgh’s go-to cheese heads.

When Jen isn’t meeting farmers, holding baby goats, or crafting cheese plate ideas for co-op customers, she is spending time at home in Regent Square with her wife and twin daughters.

This past week Jen further indulged in her love of dairy with a meal at the South Side’s Page Dairy Mart, finding comfort between two railroad tracks with an ice cream cone in hand:

At the intersection of Becks Run Road and East Carson, near the bald eagle’s nest, and next to not one, but two sets of train tracks, lives Page Dairy Mart. I love it for so many reasons: The lack of frills. The long lines but efficient service. The industrial landscape. The well designed signage. The excellent people watching. Plus, Page’s partners up with a number of other Pittsburgh institutions to create their menu offerings – Mancini’s, Nancy B’s Bakery, Turner Dairy Farm, Esther’s Homemade Candy, to name just a few. It’s fun to get a taste of Pittsburgh in one visit, especially if you’re with out of town friends.

But really any slightly warm day seems like a good excuse for a visit, so last week I made another pilgrimage to Page’s.

I suppose most people come for the ice cream, but there is real food too, and secretly, they have one of the best cheesesteaks in the city. As a transplant from Philadelphia, I am always on the lookout for a good cheesesteak, and Page’s gets theirs right. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s beefy, cheesy, topped with grilled onions and leaking just enough grease to require a handful of napkins. Plus it tastes GOOD. They serve it (and all their sandwiches) up on Mancini’s rolls, in true Pittsburgh style. I skip the lettuce and other nonsense and just get ketchup on the side.   

As far as the ice cream, there are a ton of options but no going wrong.  Post cheesesteak, I had a vanilla soft serve with the cherry dip and a crust of chocolate sprinkles, although sometimes I’ll have the Yinzer sundae instead. A fresh warm blondie from Nancy B’s, hot caramel, the works.  Enough for two to share.

For the complete experience, I like to eschew the benches and sit on milk crates under the bridge behind the shop. There are photos and articles hanging on the back of the building that give a nice history lesson on the location, and there’s no beating the joy of feasting with rumbling trains overhead, the river just beyond the trees.

There’s always a reason to head back—seasonally, they mix fresh fruits into their soft serve.  Blueberries coming soon!

Looking for other Pittsburgh foodies’ best meals? Click here.

Caroline Walden

Caroline is working towards completing her Masters in Food Studies at Chatham University. She is an avid runner with a penchant for tiny spoons.