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Name that suite! A new hotel downtown invites 'Burghers to do just that

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is opening its first boutique hotel downtown in October, Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh. But before the Steel City’s guests arrive, prospective patrons have the opportunity to name the luxurious one-bedroom spa suites. 
 
From Mon., July 21 to Wed., July 30, the virtual community will be able to submit recommendations for the suite name. The hotel will offer 13 suites. One suite will be titled the Majestic suite, the Monaco’s take on a presidential stay. The other 12 suites will be referred to with the online competition’s winning moniker.
 
The Facebook contest is open to Pennsylvania and Ohio residents. To enter, one must “like” the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh Facebook page and then post their locally-inspired name on the page’s wall with the hashtag #SoundsSoSuite.
 
Three finalists will be selected and another round of voting will run from Aug. 4 through Aug. 11.  The grand prize winner — with the most likes for his or her suggestion — will be the first to stay in the suite on the hotel’s opening night in October and be awarded dinner for two at the hotel’s restaurant.
 
Six random contestants or fans of the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh page will also have the opportunity to win a prize.
 
“Aside from the grand prize, three people who submit names will win an overnight stay with us and three people who vote on the finalists will also win overnight stays,” confirmed Rob Mallinger, Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh general manager.

This 248-room hotel will mark the 11th Monaco site for Kimpton nationally — other cities to boast a Kimpton Hotel Monaco include Philadelphia, Washington DC and San Francisco.                                       

Mallinger says the suites are double the size of a regular hotel bedroom, have flat screen TVs and luxurious bathrooms, including a deep-soaking tub. Kimpton hotels also incorporate local themes in their design. The Pittsburgh hotel’s meeting rooms are named after notable Pittsburghers and the rooms have a black and gold, with hint of turquoise or emerald, color scheme.
 
“One of the great things about Kimpton is the way hotels take on a local identity,” Mallinger says. “As a native of this great city, I could not be more proud to be opening this unique luxury hotel in my hometown.”
 
Mallinger says he is also excited about some of the hotel’s other features debuting this fall. In addition to the warm and courteous staff, Mallinger says the hotel offers complimentary daily wine, there will be a couple of bikes available for guests to cruise through downtown and an “excellent” chef driven restaurant.  The Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh will also accommodate pets, offer a 24-hour fitness center and the front desk will be equipped with everything from hair straighteners to heating pads to computer chargers, available for little or no charge through Kimpton’s signature “Forgot It? We’ve Got It” program.
 
“Generally speaking, I thinking the Kimpton is bringing something new to the city,” he says. “We want guests to experience everything we offer.”
 
The Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh will open downtown in the Reed Building at 620 William Penn Place in October. For more information and updates, please visit the hotel’s website at www.monaco-pittsburgh.com.
 
 
Source: Jacklin Rhoads of Cashman & Associates,  Rob Mallinger

NOLA's grand reopening promises to make this summer even hotter

From the summer weather, to hot jazz, to spicy sauce, NOLA on the Square’s grand reopening promises to bring the heat.
 
NOLA, Pittsburgh’s downtown destination for New Orleans, La. — NOLA — cuisine and live jazz music, announced the entertainment line-up for its reopening celebration, kicking off July 15.
 
Opening in 2011, NOLA was a Market Square staple until a fire forced it to close its doors on Feb. 24, 2014. Just less than six months later, NOLA is ready to start serving Cajun and Creole favorites again.
 
“Luckily, we were very organized about it,” says John Ajay, corporate beverage director for The Big Y Restaurant Group, general manager of Perlé and assistant general manager of NOLA, about the renovation. “We were able to move pretty quickly on this.”
 
The reopening will feature several events, including a weeklong JazzFest — a nod to New Orleans’ popular spring music festival. NOLA’s JazzFest will run from July 15 to July 19 and feature a different artist every night. The Fri., July 18 and Sat., July 19 events will host multiple performances.
 
“Friday and Saturday are sort of a jazz marathon,” says Karen Poirier, president of KeboWorks and NOLA media preview.  She explains that the Friday performances will run from 4PM to midnight and Saturday’s acts are all day from noon to midnight.
 
After JazzFest, NOLA will return to its regular live music schedule with performances Wednesday, Friday and Saturday beginning at 8PM.
 
On July 30, NOLA Chefs Andrew Hebson and Leonard Pisano will go head-to-head in a Chef vs. Chef battle of the hot sauces contest to be decided by a panel of Pittsburgh celebrity judges. The panel includes WQED’s Director of Programming and host of QED Cooks Chris Fennimore; popular food and drinks writer Hal B. Klein; and comedian and WDVE morning show personality Bill Crawford.
 
The chefs will use dueling Louisiana hot sauces Crystal and Tabasco creatively in their recipes. Patrons have the option to join in on the fun and order from the hot sauce battle menu or stick to NOLA’s traditional menu.
 
NOLA will also debut Speakeasy as part of its reopening. Dedicated to craft whiskeys and beers, Speakeasy is a companion bar to Perlé, NOLA’s upstairs neighbor, also reopening July 15.
 
Poirier calls Speakeasy “a new destination” and private event venue for NOLA. She added that “Speakeasy is the mancave complement to Perlé,” which Poirier describes as a romantic, late-night tapas lounge. Decorated in a dark, masculine style with club chairs, Speakeasy will operate Friday and Saturday nights from 8PM to 2AM.
 
In addition to the launch of Speakeasy and Perlé’s comeback, the bars will also introduce a Vintage Champagne Room — located between Speakeasy and Perlé. The Champagne Room will host upwards of 500 bottles from Dom Pérignon to Moët & Chandon to Ace of Spades.
 
While the paint is fresh and the art is new, NOLA is still the Market Square restaurant Pittsburgh knows and loves — complete with its popular open-air kitchen.
 
“We’re just really looking forward to opening back up," Ajay says, noting that both customers and neighboring businesses have shown encouragement during the renovation process. "We’ve had a lot of support over the past few months. It’s a nice little neighborhood we have in the Square.”
 
 
Source:  Karen Poirier, KeboWorks, John Ajay

PNC Financial tops off its new global headquarters Downtown

The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. celebrated the topping off of its new global headquarters, The Tower at PNC Plaza, Tuesday. Officials, labor dignitaries, construction workers, PNC’s employees and project partners gathered to sign the final steel beam before it was placed atop the building structure.  

The 33-story, 800,000-square foot tower—located on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Wood Street—will house approximately 2,200 employees upon its opening in fall 2015. The building will help accommodate PNC’s growth and support further business development in Downtown Pittsburgh. PNC says they expect 2,500 people to be hired during construction of The Tower at PNC Plaza.   

“The tower’s construction is a reflection of PNC’s commitment to Pittsburgh and a testament to our tremendous growth over the past decade,” says PNC Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Demchak. “The new headquarters will serve as a statement about the importance that we place on sustainability and innovation and on providing the best-possible environment for our employees.” 
 
With a double-skin facade and a solar chimney, the tower is anticipated to ventilate naturally at least 42 percent of the year and consume 50 percent less energy than a typical office building. The building’s floor-to-ceiling windows and narrow floor plates will allow daylight to illuminate 90 percent of all open workspaces, and a water recycling system is expected to decrease the tower’s annual water consumption by 77 percent.  PNC says they believe that the building will exceed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification and set the new standard for green building. 

“In 2000, the 650,000-square-foot PNC Firstside Center opened as the first U.S. LEED-certified financial services building and the largest LEED-certified building in the country,” a statement from PNC explains. “Since then, PNC has certified 225 projects to LEED standards, including more newly constructed LEED-certified buildings than any other company."
 
Source: PNC

Giant Chess, Jenga and Connect Four are coming downtown this summer

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is introducing Project Pop Up: Play through its Pop Up program on Fri., June 13 in Market Square.
 
In 2012, more than 90 artists, entrepreneurs and nonprofits submitted proposals to activate downtown storefronts. Finalists were invited to “pop” into downtown for limited engagements. After the pilot year, three of the Pop Ups signed long-term leases.
 
Project Pop Up was envisioned to be replicated and its reach includes one-time events and programs to create strong public places in Downtown Pittsburgh. Previous Pop Ups have included fashion, night markets, food and nature events.
 
“As an organization we enjoy doing unique, fun things,” says Leigh White, PDP vice president of marketing and communications. “We do them to activate downtown.”
 
Project Pop Up: Play is an initiative to help relieve workday stress with a game break. On June 13 in Market Square, during lunchtime, stop by to play some cornhole, super-sized chess, life-sized Connect Four and mega Jenga.
 
“Every adult wants to play,” White says. “It doesn’t matter if you are in a suit or … work clothes.”
 
All games are free to anyone who wants to participate. The PDP is planning to pop up the games several times a week all over downtown. White calls the games “great stress relief“ and a “great way to meet people.”
 
In addition to Pop Up: Play, the PDP is also currently hosting Project Pop Up: Patio and Project Pop Up: Fashion will be back again this year on Fri., July 18 in Market Square. Last year, Pop Up: Patio was located in Strawberry Way. This year, the Patio and Play initiatives are rotating.
 
“The biggest thing for us is that we want this to be a public participation event,” says White about how Pittsburghers have the power to request where they want the games and patio in downtown.
 
The PDP wants input about where to pop up with the fun. You can suggest a location on twitter or facebook by reaching the PDP with the hashtag #PopUpPlay for the games and the hashtag #PopUpPatio for the patio — the patio is currently located at the Gateway PAT station parklet during the Three Rivers Arts Festival — you can also email the PDP with a location request at pdp@downtownpittsburgh.com.
 
Social media will also be used to announce where you can find the games next.
 
 
Source: The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Leigh White

Pittsburgh to host 25th annual meeting of the Intelligent Transportation Society

Last week, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America selected Pittsburgh as the host city for the 25th Annual ITS America Meeting and Exposition next year.
 
The Intelligent Transportation Society of America is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to advancing the research, development and deployment of Intelligent Transportation Systems to improve the nation’s surface transportation system. Founded in 1991, ITS America’s membership includes more than 450 public agencies, private sector companies and academic and research institutions.
 
Taking place June 1 - 3, 2015, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, the event is expected to draw more than 2,000 of the nation’s top transportation and technology policymakers, innovators and engineers, investors, researchers and business leaders to Pittsburgh to address the critical role of technology in the nation’s and region’s transportation future.
 
“ITS America is thrilled to host our 25th Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa. — a city that is at the forefront of researching and developing high-tech transportation solutions,” says Scott Belcher, president and CEO of ITS America. “Pittsburgh is leading the way in advancing technologies such as smart sensors for parking, real-time traffic and transit information, advanced vehicle and robotics technologies and smart mobility applications that are revolutionizing transportation as we know it.”
 
Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, DC have both recently hosted the annual meeting and exposition.
 
Co-hosted with ITS Pennsylvania, the 2015 Annual Meeting will feature keynote speeches and panel discussions with the intelligent transportation industry’s premier thought leaders and rising stars, and provide attendees the opportunity to experience the latest transportation innovations through interactive technology demonstrations, a bustling exhibit hall, technical tours and networking events.
 
“ITS Pennsylvania is excited to have the City of Pittsburgh selected as the Annual Meeting location," says ITS Pennsylvania President Dan Corey. "With a surge of activity in recent years in university research, technology transfer and robotics, Pittsburgh is transforming itself into a center of intelligent transportation activity. There has also been a tremendous ITS focus on transportation, safety, operations and mobility issues throughout the state that we look to share with our colleagues. ITS Pennsylvania thanks ITS America for the selection and is ready to help make this meeting a success for both our organizations as well as the region.”
 
 
Source: Intelligent Transportation Society of America 

Try Vinyasa flow or the Grape Vine this summer in Market Square

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Lululemon recently launched Yoga in the Square, a free yoga practice which will be held every Sunday in Market Square throughout the summer. The series kicked off Sun., June 1.
 
“Yoga in the Square is a unique, new and healthy way to experience downtown,” says Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the PDP. “We look forward to many yoga practitioners from around the city enjoying the urban oasis that is Market Square. We hope following practice, visitors will stick around and enjoy brunch and a great Bloody Mary at one of downtown’s delicious brunch venues.”
 
Each week, a different yoga instructor will lead the class geared toward yogis of all levels — from beginner to expert. Teachers from studios throughout the city will offer people the opportunity to sample a variety of yoga experiences.
 
Leigh White, PDP vice president of marketing and communications says Market Square offers myriad events, including those like Yoga in the Square that promote health. She says the yoga series is intended to get people active and downtown.

“We are really encouraging people [of all yoga levels] to come down and give it a try,” she says, calling herself a “yoga novice” who herself will be trying something new.
 
The inaugural practice was led by Wendy Foster Elliot of Salt Power Yoga last Sunday and Dezza Pastor of the Yoga Hive will teach the session this Sun., June 7.
 
The hour-long yoga session begins at 10AM and will occur every Sunday through August 24. Yoga will be dependent upon weather. Lululemon and the PDP will provide notification by 8AM on Sundays with weather cancellations listed on the event Facebook page and on the PDP social media outlets, www.facebook.com/DowntownPittsburgh and Twitter @downtownpitt.
 
White says the PDP is also excited about the program because it gives residents the opportunity to start their Sundays downtown. She adds that she hopes Yoga in the Square can become part of a Sunday morning ritual.
 
However, if you're more into cutting a rug than hitting the yoga mat, Market Square is also hosting Dancing in the Square every Friday afternoon throughout June from 5PM to 7PM
 
The PDP and the Pittsburgh Chapter of USA Dance have partnered to bring ballroom dancing to Market Square. Dancing in the Square will feature free ballroom dancing instruction, as well as performances by students and professionals from local dance studios.
 
Similar to Yoga in the Square, Dancing in the Square will rotate instructors and feature various styles of dance. In addition to traditional ballroom dances, favorite group dances such as the Electric Slide, Cha Cha Slide and the Cupid Shuffle will be taught and danced each week.
 
This Fri., June 6, instructor Chris Drum with DJ Brian Lee, will kick off the series. Performances by the Chris Drum Dance Team and USA Dance Pittsburgh Youth from the Woodland Hills High School Youth Program will follow the class.
 
“USA Dance is happy to share the excitement of dance in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. There will be dance lessons in Market Square, along with performances by Yes, You Can Dance!, Woodland Hills School Youth Program and Embrace Dance [Project] — designed for amputees with prosthetics,” says Ramona Corey, of USA Dance Pittsburgh.
 

Source: The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Leigh White

Market Square Farmers Market opens Thursday with flower bulb giveaway

The Market Square Farmers Market returns on Thurs., May 15, for its 10th season. Presented by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the market features more than 30 vendors selling locally grown produce, plants and small batch foods.
 
To kick off the season, The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will give away thousands of tulip and daffodil bulbs at the reopening of the market. The bulbs will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis with a limit of two-dozen bulbs — they are anticipated to run out fast, according to the PDP.
 
“We have been so pleased with the success and growth of the Farmers Market, making it one of the best attended and most diverse markets in the region,” says Jeremy Waldrup, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “The market ushers in spring for so many people, bringing excellent produce, fantastic entertainment and sunny days.”
 
In addition to vendors, the market features free, weekly entertainment, including performances from a variety of local festivals and groups such as the Pittsburgh Blues Festival and the Pittsburgh Opera. Singer-songwriter Joel Lindsey, will kick-off this performance series Thursday, with a set from 11:30AM to 1:30PM.
 
The market will occur each Thursday from 10AM to 2PM. and will run through Oct. 30. New this year, the streets surrounding Market Square will be closed to through traffic during the market, starting at 8AM each Thursday.
 
To keep up with the schedule and other details, please follow Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership @DowntownPitt or visit www.downtownpittsburgh.com/.
 
Source: the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Mellon Square is reopening after a $10 million spring cleaning

More than 3,500 daffodils are emerging from planters in Mellon Square, heralding the imminent completion of a three-year, $10 million construction project to restore a historic landscape site to its original, 1950s elegance.
 
The project to rejuvenate Mellon Square in downtown was born from the efforts of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh with funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and BNY Mellon. Heritage Landscapes lead the design team.
 
Restoration of the space has remained true to the mid-century design of its principal creators, John Ormsbee Simonds of Simonds & Simonds and James A. Mitchell of Mitchell & Ritchey. In 1955, they completed a revolutionary concept put forth by Richard King Mellon and Mayor David Lawrence.
 
The space was developed to anchor the city’s business hub and spur economic development during Pittsburgh’s post-World War II renaissance. The project also provided a memorial to Richard King Mellon’s father, Richard B. Mellon, and his uncle, Andrew Mellon.
 
Despite efforts by the city to maintain the space, “lack of resources, time, weather, use, pigeons and vandalism took their toll on Mellon Square,” and the park began to deteriorate, according to the Parks Conservancy.
 
The damage was not just cosmetic, explains Susan Rademacher, parks curator for the Parks Conservancy. By 2007, when plans to renovate the park were initiated, the original, cold war technology was beginning to fail. Corrosion corrupted the fountain, mechanical, electric and plumbing systems were broken and some terrazzo paving had deteriorated.
 
“By the end of the 20th Century, much of the original elegance had been lost,” she says. “Our overarching goal is to bring back Mellon Square as an urban oasis.”
 
New features from the restoration include the Interpretive Wall — telling the story of Mellon Square and its relationship to the Mellon family — and the construction of an elevated terrace overlooking Smithfield Street based on an original concept by Simonds and Mitchell. New lighting has also been installed for nighttime viewing and to set off plantings and architectural features.
 
“Mellon Square was created to be a refreshing oasis in the heart of the city, and throughout our restoration process we have carefully honored the legacy and intent of its visionaries,” says Parks Conservancy President and Chief Executive Officer Meg Cheever. “Visitors will see the grand Central Fountain once again animating the square with choreographed water displays pouring into its nine, 3,500-pound bronze basins, each of which has been repatinated. The signature terrazzo paving has been repaired, and people at street level will see the Cascade Fountain spilling its way through basins along Oliver and Smithfield.”
 
A $4 million permanent investment fund has been established as part of the $10 million project for long-term maintenance of the Square. This, together with an agreement with the city giving the Parks Conservancy a significant role in the ongoing management and maintenance of the space, will help to ensure that the restored Mellon Square will endure.
 
Rademacher said the park is meant to serve those living and working in downtown. She noted that the space was intended to be enjoyed two ways, looking below from a towering office or “looking up.” She said the panorama from the Square creates a view of Pittsburgh’s iconic architectural drama.

The rededication and grand reopening of Mellon Square will be Wed., May 28 and Thurs., May 29.  A cocktail reception is planned for the evening of May 28. The public celebration on May 29 will also kickoff the Thursdays at noon summer jazz series in the square.
 
Source: Pittsburgh Parks Conservatory, Susan Rademacher, Ellis Communications

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership celebrates 20 years by planning for the future

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosted their 20th Anniversary Annual Meeting April 1, touting the development of Downtown and their ongoing neighborhood projects.
 
Governor Tom Corbett provided opening remarks at the event, held downtown at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, about the investments the state has made in Downtown and how these ventures have positioned Downtown Pittsburgh to be a competitive central business district.
 
“Pittsburgh continues to see renaissances; evolving, growing and becoming a model for other cities,” Corbett said.  
 
Mayor William Peduto provided the keynote presentation, speaking about his vision for the future of Downtown Pittsburgh. His remarks focused on several areas: the revitalization of the Smithfield Street Corridor, his commitment to attract 20,000 new residents to Pittsburgh and the importance of a multi-modal transit system serving the city. The mayor announced plans to create the city’s first protected bike lane later this year and news of Bike Share coming soon to Downtown.
 
In celebration of the PDP’s 20th anniversary, a weeklong series of events are being planned for the week of July 15 through July 21. This celebration will include special editions of some of the PDP’s most popular summer activities, like Christmas in July at the Market Square Farmers Market. There will also be outdoor activities including a member’s day at PNC Park, a Project Pop Up Fashion Market highlighting the local retail scene and a partnership with national fitness-wear retailer Lululemon Athletica offering free outdoor yoga classes for 13 weeks in Market Square on Sundays throughout the summer. The PDP will also produce a series of public film screenings in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
 
The annual report also highlighted many PDP programs and services. The PDP Clean Team provided 32,816 labor hours, including the removal of 1.291 million pounds of trash and 3,080 instances of graffiti; the PDP Street Team addressed 320 panhandling incidents, nearly doubling the number of homeless outreach contacts over the previous year with 1,286 occurrences; and, the PDP Volunteer Program welcomed 1,842 volunteers who performed 6,005 volunteer hours.  

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
 

Eat + Drink: Beard award nominees, the local mac & cheese scene and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly look at epic local nommz.

Pittsburgh has two Beard nominees
For the fourth year in a row, Pittsburgh will have some skin in the game when the James Beard Awards are announced on March 19th.

Downtown’s Butcher and the Rye is one of 25 semifinalists for “Outstanding Bar Program,” and Justin Severino, the chef and owner of Cure in Lawrenceville, is one of 20 semifinalists for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.”

More than 600 culinary professionals vote annually on the awards, which recognize excellence in cuisine, culinary education and culinary writing in the United States.

Previous Pittsburgh semifinalists in the “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” category include Legume’s Trevett Hooper in 2013 and Kevin Sousa, then of Salt of the Earth, in 2012. Salt was a semifinalist in 2011 for “Best New Restaurant.”

Pittsburgh’s Best Mac & Cheese
It used to be so easy. When asked where to get the best in the ultimate comfort food, Pittsburghers could quickly respond “Kelly’s.”

While the East Liberty lounge is still very much on the list, now there’s a conversation to be had.

Meat & Potatoes
offers a mac & cheese made with chorizo and pulled pork. Its sister restaurant, Butcher and the Rye, one-ups it with a sophisticated combination of taleggio, fontina, chevre, cheddar and parmesan.

SMOKE, the popular Homestead (soon-to-be Lawrenceville) taco joint, takes a consistently delicious yet experimental position and has served up everything from a Caprese-style mac with buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes and basil to a version with chorizo, swiss and gorgonzola.

Newest to the scene is Independent Brewing Company, which touts East End Brewing’s Smoked Porter to go along with cheddar, gouda and fontina cheeses.

Do any of these knock Kelly’s out of the top spot? Are there any we missed? Let us know what you think.

March Dishcrawl
The next edition of Pittsburgh’s Dishcrawl will take place on Tuesday, March 25 and will feature four locations in Pittsburgh’s most famous-for-its-food neighborhood, the Strip District. February’s sold-out Dishcrawl took diners around Downtown last week, stopping at Sharp Edge Bistro, Six Penn Kitchen, La Cucina Flegrea and Perle.

Writer: Matthew Wein


Eat + Drink: Independent Brewing Company, Quiet Storm's menu at Ava, Pittsburgh Beerfest

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at epic local nommz.

Independent Brewing Company opens today
The Independent Brewing Company, the new venture from brothers Matt and Peter Kurzweg that specializes in serving up local brews and spirits held a successful soft opening over the weekend and will open full-time today.

Don’t be mistaken, Independent doesn’t brew its own beer — but neither did its namesake. The tavern takes its name from a conglomerate of about 15 small breweries which formed in Pittsburgh in 1905. Until Prohibition, the Independent Brewing Company held the second-largest piece of western Pennsylvania’s beer market behind only the still-extant Pittsburgh Brewing Company. Independent went bust in 1933, its name, logo and trademarks all abandoned.

The Kurzwegs claimed and revived them, and Independent’s “IBC” bottle stamp lies set in a stately, old-fashioned mosaic tile backsplash above the bar, installed just last week. All beers served at the tavern will come from within a 100-mile radius of Pittsburgh.

For its opening, Independent will tap selections from Pittsburgh-based East End, Hop Farm and CoStar breweries, as well as offerings from Elk Creek in Millheim, Four Seasons in Latrobe, Sprague Farm in Venango and North Country in Slippery Rock.

“Wednesday and Thursday, we’re going to have a super-limited menu consisting mainly of bar snacks,” says Peter Kurzweg. “Monique [Ruvolo] is starting up on Friday with a full menu.”

Ruvolo, formerly the chef at Club Café, has created a menu divided into small and large bites. The appetizers include Mo’ Fries — French fries topped with feta, parsley, garlic and cumin. An initial selection of four bigger plates is highlighted by a house mac & cheese made with smoked gouda, Fontina, cheddar and East End Brewery’s Smoked Porter, sandwiches of bacon or tofu and tacos made with chicken cooked in a local stout.

The tavern’s music, Kurzweg says, will be very carefully curated to match with the beers. Independent’s first customers on Saturday were treated to a steady dose of James Brown while Four Seasons Brewing’s Get Down Brown Ale was on special.

Independent Brewing Company is at 1704 Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill and is open Wednesday through from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday noon to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ava/Quiet Storm open today!
Though the sight of Justin Strong going rogue and slinging coffee outside of Ava Café & Lounge’s new Oakland location would have been pretty hilarious, it’s not going to come to that.

Ava got its green and white sticker yesterday and will open its first-floor café — a joint-venture with former Quiet Storm owner Jill MacDowell — today from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The café had been scheduled to open Monday, but the opening was pushed back two days until a health inspection could be completed.

Strong tweeted the menu yesterday.

Pittsburgh Beerfest
The Pittsburgh Beerfest, a two-night festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown, will take place next Friday and Saturday.

The winter sibling of the Pittsburgh Summer Beerfest held at Stage AE promises a selection of at least 300 craft beers on hand. VIP and general admission tickets remain, but Connoisseur’s Level tickets are already sold out.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Peter Kurzweg, Monique Ruvolo, Justin Strong

Downtown Pittsburgh CDC 'hatching' new crowdfunding resource

It’s a debate as old as Mineo’s versus Aiello’s, North Hills versus South Hills or Penguins versus Flyers: Are you a Kickstarter person or an Indiegogo person?

Okay, so maybe it’s just not quite on par with those rivalries. But thanks to a new program launched by the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation you can crowd-fund your next big idea with a resource right here in Pittsburgh.

The PDCDC has launched Hatch — a civic crowd-funding program especially for creative improvement projects in and around Allegheny County.

“Initially, we’d envisioned this as a Downtown-only program, but it really doesn’t take that much to widen the geographic scope so other communities can benefit from it,” says the PDCDC Communications Director Hadley Pratt. “We’ll work with you to craft a good plan on any sort of project that can benefit the community in some way.”

Like the other crowd-funding sites, Hatch recoups a small percentage of the project’s total funding — in this case, 6 percent. But if the project is referred to Hatch through another community organization, Hatch will split its share evenly with the referring organization.

Hatch, which launched in January after nearly a year in development, is already working to help fund a handful of projects including a theater space, an off-leash dog park, a street lighting project and a lecture series.

At the same time, Pratt says she thinks the program spread the word about crowd-funding to people who might not normally use it.

“We really want to see complete, well-thought-out project proposals and we’ll work with people every step of the way to make sure they have things they can use to engage an audience,” Pratt says. “We want to see things that have a great chance of succeeding and making a difference in the area. We’re open to a lot.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Hadley Pratt

Market Square will debut public art program next week

Don’t you just hate it when it’s that time of year between the holidays and spring and there’s nothing run going on outdoors?

Of course you do. Now, the Market Square Public Art Program is here to fill the void.

Started as a collaboration between the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the city’s office of public art, the Market Square Public Art Program is a pilot program that will place a piece of interactive installation art in Market Square during the winter months of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

“Last March we did a temporary installation for just a weekend. It snowed that weekend, it was cold, but people came out and it was a great event,” says Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership CEO Jeremy Waldrup. “This will serve as a pilot for this initiative for the next couple of years, and it will serve as a model for temporary public art around the city.”

The program’s first installation, called Congregation, will debut next Friday and run through March 16th. An interactive piece involving sound, light and video, Congregation will go on display from Dusk until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from dusk to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

“The great thing about this and the way it’s designed is that it won’t displace any other event,” Waldrup says, adding that’s an important consideration for Market Square, which is already a very heavily programmed part of Downtown. “This is specifically a night time event, so we didn’t want to push things out so much as complement them.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Jeremy Waldrup

Eat + Drink: Sousa leaves Salt, meatballs rolling Downtown

Sousa leaves Salt
Kevin Sousa, Salt of the Earth’s executive chef since its launch in the fall of 2010, announced yesterday that he had stepped down and sold his stake in the restaurant in order to devote his time to other projects.

“It was something in the back of my mind when [Braddock Mayor] John Fetterman and I started to really pull together what we thought was a pretty great idea,” Sousa says, referring to his new venture, Superior Motors. “I shelved it for a while, and when the Kickstarter succeeded, it was so moving and inspirational to me that I felt it was a good time to sell my part of Salt.”

Chad Townsend, Salt’s chef de cuisine, takes over as executive chef. Melissa Horst will stay on as the restaurant's general manager.

“Chad is a great friend. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a more talented chef in the city,” says Sousa, who hired Townsend nearly three years ago. “Chad had just come off a stint in France and he came to Salt looking for a change. We didn’t have room for him at the time, but he didn’t care and came on as a line cook. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”

Townsend says that he has no major or immediate changes planned for the restaurant, and that he’s eager to carry on.

“It’s a chance to continue what he started,” says Townsend, adding that he’d been receiving congratulatory messages throughout the day from colleagues. “Pittsburgh is great like that. Everybody gets along. Some of the other chefs and I are planning to do something [at Salt] in the spring. We all want to succeed and we all want to have the best restaurant in our own right, but it’s a great community for us.”

Sousa says that he’ll be using his time to make sure that his other restaurants, Union Pig & Chicken (and its second-floor bar, Harvard & Highland) and Station Street Food are running well before he spends the spring and summer working full-time at Braddock Farms in preparation for opening Superior Motors.

“I know a lot about food and the process of farming, but I’m not a farmer,” he says. “To deliver what I want, I need to give it everything I have. I feel like I owe it to everybody to deliver something great in Braddock and do the things I said I was going to do.”

At long last, meatballs
Emporio: A Meatball Joint will open its doors today at 4 p.m., and you're never going to believe what's on the menu.

Actually, you probably have a pretty good idea.

The new venture from Sienna Mercato is a 120-seat  restaurant with a 20-seat bar. In addition to meatballs made from everything from beef to pork to a vegetarian option rolled from mushrooms, white beans and cauliflower, there will be 32 beers on tap, wines, cocktails, cream sodas and Italian ices.

Emporio, on the first floor of Sienna Mercato at 942 Penn Avenue in Downtown, will be open for dinner service the rest of this week and begin its lunch service next week.

Mercato's third-floor restaurant, Il Tetto, is on track to open in the spring and will include substantial rooftop seating.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Kevin Sousa, Chad Townsend

Eat + Drink: Dishcrawl Pittsburgh, Summer Winter Warmer and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly guide to local epic nommz.

Dishcrawl takes off
Dishcrawl, the neighborhood restaurant tour which takes diners to four different neighborhood restaurants in one evening, will hold its first event of 2014 on February 19th.

There are just two catches:
1)      Diners won’t know the restaurants until 48 hours before the event.
2)      February’s incarnation is already sold out.

Dishcrawl, which takes place in about 100 cities across the United States and Canada, first game to Pittsburgh last year with stops in Lawrenceville and Shadyside. But new director Colleen Coll has her sights set on giving the event a more distinctly local flavor than it’s had in the past.

“Sometimes people don’t know a certain neighborhood, then they get to go to four restaurants in one night. It’s great to get to that experience all at once,” Coll says.

February’s edition will take participants to four different restaurants in Downtown Pittsburgh. And because it’s already sold out, Coll has started planning March’s excursion. Her destination? The Strip District.

“One of the things we like to focus on is having an area with at least 20 restaurants,” she says. “Between Downtown and the Strip, those neighborhoods are perfect. One event’s not enough for Downtown. I was surprised they weren’t picked in the first place.”

For updates, follow Dishcrawl Pittsburgh on Facebook and Twitter.

Summer Winter Warmer back on tap at Roundabout
Consider this a public service announcement: Summer Winter Warmer is back on tap at Roundabout Brewery. This brew, which starts out smelling like a floral West Coast IPA and seamlessly transitions into a rich, full-bodied English-style warmer full of roasted malts, is a delightful little journey of flavor. It’s like seeing the sun for the first time in six weeks.

Markets need friends too
The Pittsburgh Public Market would like to be your friend, and it doesn’t mean on Facebook.

Fresh off its move into the new space at 2401 Penn Avenue in the Strip, the Public Market is debuting its “Friends of the Market” program. In exchange for pledging your charitable support at one of the four levels between $25 and $250, the market is doling out perks ranging from stickers and tote bags to free use of its meeting space.

One way to join is by attending the market’s first annual tasting event this Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and include samples from the markets various vendors. The price of the ticket covers your first year-long membership in the program and gets your name on the wall under the list of founding members.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Colleen Coll
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