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Haunted History: Senator John Heinz History Center

Before it was the Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman St. in the Strip District had a much more chilling legacy.
 
No, we’re not talking ghost stories. Well, not yet.
 
In the late 1800s, the building hosted The Chautauqua Lake Ice Company, which stockpiled ice harvested from New York lakes and shipped to Pittsburgh via railcar. 
 
This ice company, which delivered ice to residents in the days before refrigeration, burned down in 1893 and continued operation as The Chautauqua Lake Ice Company. 
 
Unfortunately, the worst was not behind the ice company. The second reconstructed building caught fire in 1898-- and this time it was more serious.
 
Museum Project Manager Lauren Uhl called it a “spectacular fire.” However, the building was reconstructed a third time and stood for good in the same year, 1898.
 
“People have refrigerators and they don’t need ice so much anymore,” Uhl said about the 1950s as she walked me through the site’s history.
 
The ice warehouse closed in 1952 and was sold to Adelman Lumber Company. Uhl said the building served as warehouse space until it was acquired by the Heinz History Center, which opened in 1996.
 
“We wanted something that reflected Pittsburgh’s industrial history,” Uhl said about what made the old ice warehouse an attractive museum space.
 
The building’s history is not lost in the modern museum. Uhl noted intact exposed brick, open space, metal doors, windows and beams from its original warehouse use.

“I’ve always felt in some ways that our building is our best artifact,” she said. 
 
The 1898 fire is also remembered at the History Center through office urban legends and ghost stories.
 
"Our security guards here are definitely prone to spreading tall tales,” said Brady Smith, senior communications manager at the history center. “Whether they’re true or not is up to whoever is listening!"
 
Staff, nighttime security guards and visitors have claimed that supernatural activity happens on the fifth floor, reporting strange sounds and apparitions interacting with exhibits.
 
"I’ve personally never heard [or] seen any ghosts in my four years here, for whatever that’s worth," Smith said.
 
Uhl agreed that she had never experienced anything supernatural at work.
 
“It’s a terrific building and I love working here,” she said, noting the site and the Strip District's significant role in Pittsburgh’s history.

"Ghosts or not, it’s a great place to work,” Uhl added with a laugh.
 
 
Source:  Lauren Uhl, www.heinzhistorycenter.org, Brady Smith

Heinz History Center opens new Museum Conservation Center

The Senator John Heinz History Center opened its new Museum Conservation Center last week, providing Pittsburgh with a place to bring heirlooms -- from family Bibles to photographs -- for professional services and advice on caring for antiques.

By appointment, trained staff will provide visitors with information on how to preserve their treasures, including works of art, photographs, wedding dresses, and furniture. The Museum Conservation Center also connects visitors with conservators should their heirlooms require professional repair.
 
With the opening of the new Conservation Center, the History Center becomes one of the first museums in the nation to provide professional conservation services directly to the public.
 
“It’s a place where visitors can link with professional services and seek advice,” said Barbara Antel, Conservation Services Manager.
 
The Conservation Center provides visitors with access to the same quality assessment and treatments that the museum provides for its own collections. 
 
The center is also an education resource. It opened to the public with a hands-on workshop focusing on preserving paper documents. Experts provided tips on how to best preserve birth certificates, passports, letters and other materials.
 
“The process of conservation is to preserve an object from further deterioration,” Antel said about the center’s educational efforts.
 
The next family archives workshop is Nov. 22. A “Holiday Heritage Workshop,” discussing care for delicate ornaments, linens and antique china, will be held Dec. 11.
 
In addition to conservation services, the nine-floor LEED-certified green building also houses the History Center’s collection of more than 32,000 artifacts. The new 55,000-square-foot storage space features Smithsonian-quality lighting, temperature, humidity, pest control and security.
 
The Conservation Center is located behind the History Center in the Strip District at 1221 Penn Ave. and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, primarily by appointment.
 
 

Pittsburgh Public Market hosts first-ever Food Swap

From spicy wing sauce to eggs laid by backyard hens, if it's homemade or homegrown, it's up for grabs at the city's first-ever food swap.

The Pittsburgh Public Market and Good Food Pittsburgh’s Emily Catalano are hosting the Pittsburgh Food Swap on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 2-4 p.m. at the market.
 
Catalano says that the city has played host to smaller canning and themed swaps in the past, “but this is something that is a little more than canned goods.”
 
She says she first got the idea for while living in Philadelphia, where she attended food swaps. She was delighted to see the community come together — while some goods were made by professionals, the majority were shared by home chefs.
 
“It was a really awesome community feeling,” she said. 
 
When it comes to what foods can be swapped, almost anything goes. In Philadelphia and with swaps she's attended, Catalano saw homemade truffles, jam, extracts, cookies, whiskey, marshmallows and ravioli.
 
So what can’t be swapped?
 
“No Oreos,” Catalano said with a laugh. She also asked that any questionable homemade goods stay in the home pantry.
 
All food must be individually packaged. Containers of soup are great, but don’t bring a pot. Participants must sign a waiver that their food is safe for family, friends and neighbors to enjoy. She suggests labeling food with safe-to-consume-by dates.
 
Catalano said she went on a spicy kick for the swap and is contributing wing sauce, pickled jalapenos and bread and butter pickles. She said others who have signed up are bringing eggs from backyard hens, strawberry plants and baked goods.
 
Only those sharing items can participate in the swap, and attendees must register for this free event online. The swap begins at 2 p.m. with mingling and sampling; after 30 minutes of greetings and tastings, the swap commences.
 
Catalano said contributors should bring samples for others to try. It works like this: Bring 15 packages of cookies, leave with 15 different items from other swappers. Catalano suggested bringing 10 to 15 items to trade.
 
Sometimes you don’t get everything you want. "But most of the time, you end up getting a pretty decent haul,” Catalano said.

 

TBT: Bar Marco's hot history

It’s no surprise to patrons of Bar Marco that the building has a storied past. In case one misses the “No. 7 Engine Company” emblazoned above the restaurant’s entrance, relics of its 19th century foundation are seen in the tile walls and embellished tin ceiling.
 
The site served as a firehouse — hence the Engine Company — from 1860 to 1949, according to Bar Marco owner Robert Fry. He explains that the building was the last firehouse in the city to stop using horses to pull fire wagons. Fry says the modern entrance of Bar Marco was once the back of the firehouse, where the horses would pull up.  In 1905, the building was reoriented to face Penn Avenue. 
 
There are a few links to the firehouse’s Antebellum history that the customer does not see when visiting Bar Marco. An old hose shaft provides a ladder to the roof and there are bricked in tunnels in the wine cellar that are connected to other original buildings throughout the Strip. According to Fry, these tunnels are rumored to be part of the Underground Railroad.
 
When the Engine Company ceased operation, it became an Iron Workers’ Union Hall — the inspiration for the name of Bar Marco’s second-floor events space, The Union Hall. The building then served as offices before becoming the Firehouse Lounge and Embry.
 
The site began operating as Bar Marco in fall 2011. But before the restaurant opened its doors in January 2012, Fry and his team worked to restore the building’s history.

They pulled down dry wall and a drop down ceiling, renovated floors and brought the site back to its original glory.  
 
“We just did everything we could to bring everything back to its natural beauty,” Fry says.

Source: Robert Fry

The Neighborhood Flea debuts Sunday in the Strip

A new artisan marketplace is coming to the Strip District. The Neighborhood Flea will feature vintage clothes, repurposed furniture, crafts, food trucks and more at its inaugural market Sun., July 27.
 
Carrie Nardini, organizer of The Neighborhood Flea, started the I Made It Market seven years ago. She and Stephanie Sheldon, who she met through I Made It Market, were inspired by urban flea markets such as the Brooklyn Flea, and started The Cleveland Flea last year with Ohio community development organization St. Clair Superior.
 
Nardini says she and Sheldon worked together in Cleveland to bring farm fresh produce, mid-century collectibles from furniture to housewares, clothing and handmade goods to The Cleveland Flea.  
 
“[It was] a cool experience to be able to bring all of these small businesses together into one space,” she says. Nardini added that this experience helped her branch out of the homemade circuit she usually works with in Pittsburgh.
 
She says she sees a lot of potential in Pittsburgh for this kind of bazaar because of the pride the city has in its neighborhoods.
 
“The act of shopping at the flea encourages dialogue and neighborly exchanges," she says. "Meet the vintage aficionado whose plates remind you of Sunday dinner at your grandmother’s. Learn about the woodworker who forages the fallen trees of your favorite park. Sip the city’s finest coffees and eat the best mobile food [the] community has to offer.
 
The flea will start as a monthly event in the Strip, but Nardini says she hopes to see it expand to other Pittsburgh communities. The market will be hosted monthly in the parking lot across from Marty’s Market until winter.
 
Nardini says this is not the sort of dusty, overstock “flea” many associate with the word. Instead, The Neighborhood Flea is a curated arts event.
 
“The Neighborhood Flea is a vibrant, pop up urban marketplace offering an inspired shopping experience in Pittsburgh's historic Strip District,” she says.  “[It] is a celebration of the craft and time of vendors who make and curate fine collections. In bringing together top-quality vendors and discerning customers in an urban setting, a new neighborhood magically emerges.”
 
Nardini explains that visitors to Neighborhood Flea can expect a wide range of vendors specializing in vintage clothing, home goods, locally made bath and body products, handcrafted items, foods and “strong brews.”
 
Some vendors that have already signed on for July 27 kickoff include Red Pop Shop, Natrona Bottling Company, PGH Taco Truck, A-Boss Opticians (specializing in vintage frames) and Royal Establishment. Wigle Whiskey and Marty’s Market are also participating in the event.
 
Nardini describes these businesses as “hidden treasures [from] all around the city” that Neighborhood Flea is bringing together in one place.
 
The Neighborhood Flea is located at 2300 Penn Avenue in the parking lot across from Marty's Market. Pop up dates are currently set for July 27, August 24  and September 28 from 11 AM - 4 PM. For more information, follow The Neighborhood Flea on Facebook at facebook.com/neighborhoodflea.
 
Source: Carrie Nardini

New bake shop in the Strip offers custom cakes and bacon cinnamon rolls

Dulcinea Bakeshop will open its doors Sat., June 14 in the Strip district. The bakery located at 2627 Penn Ave is next door to Savoy restaurant and one of several shops to recently find a home in the Strip on Penn Avenue toward Lawrenceville. 
 
“I think the Strip and Lawrenceville are just going to connect at some point,” Tabrina Avery, Dulcinea owner, says with a grin about the expanding neighborhood.
 
Avery, a Le Cordon Bleu Pittsburgh graduate, says she is excited to start a business in the Strip and is trying to support neighborhood shops. The bakery will offer La Prima coffee and Opening Night Catering’s Harry Ross and Jean Ross
have been helping Avery navigate opening a new business — she has a history of baking wedding cakes for the catering company.
 
Avery has worked as a baker for a couple of other Pittsburgh restaurants since she moved to the city in 2007. Dulcinea is her first independent venture.
 
 “I was a huge fan of Don Quixote as a kid, Dulcinea was the woman he fell in love with and it kind of always stuck with me,” Avery says about choosing a name for her shop.
 
Wedding cakes and cakes to order will be a part of Dulcinea’s menu.  Avery says she will have specials that change weekly and will focus on breakfast style baked goods for the menu. She says the bakery will offer savory quiches, danishes (including a cardamom flavor), pound cake, cake by the slice and even bacon cinnamon buns.
 
“My cinnamon buns are out of this world,” she says with a laugh. Avery adds that she likes to focus on pure flavors when baking. She says, “I like to take simple classics and elevate them.”
 
The grand opening will be from 10AM to 5PM Saturday.  Avery will feature her house dulce de leche cake for the occasion.
 
Source: Tabrina Avery

Pittsburgh Public Market to open shared commercial kitchen this summer

The Market Kitchen at the Pittsburgh Public Market, a shared-use commercial kitchen, is set to open this summer.  Located on the campus of the Public Market in the Strip District, The Market Kitchen will be available to both market vendors and local chefs.
 
Kelly James recently came on as the kitchen manager for The Market Kitchen and addressed a group last week at a Farm to Table lunch and learn focusing on small business development. Many attending the event were interested in learning about the shared, commercial kitchen.
 
“I come here, to this project, as a chef,” James said to the group.
 
She shared her own experience of opening and running the Sugar Café in Dormont. Though the business closed, James says she learned how to help other entrepreneurs navigate the competitive food industry and consider other business models — instead of the traditional, and costly, brick-and-mortar store.
 
“I get to help other people in small businesses avoid the pitfalls,” she says.
 
The Market Kitchen is an economical way for startups to begin their business. James says that by having a space that provides a state-of-the-art kitchen — and is up to code ­­­­— entrepreneurs have the opportunity to start small, get noticed and grow into a shop. 
 
“We’re a nonprofit, so we are here to help people start,” James says.
 
She says a yearly membership of $100 and a $17.50 hourly rate for use of the kitchen — a nominal price compared to most new business costs — will provide Market Kitchen members with the opportunity to utilize the space and have access to Public Market customers. Members can schedule to access the kitchen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
 
This access to the Public Market is flexible. For extra costs, one could become a vendor; or, it could be as simple as providing samples to market patrons for product exposure.
 
James says she began accepting applications for the kitchen last week. Applicants must be businesses with proper food safety certifications. Fledgling and seasoned chefs are both welcome to apply, and those getting in on the ground floor will have priority, first-come, first-serve kitchen scheduling.
 
“Whether you are just starting out on the path or looking to expand and grow your food business, our goal is to provide you a service that is economically superior to building or leasing your own commercial facility. We offer a unique direct line to success with access to a retail space to sell and market your product within Pittsburgh Public Market. Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District is a perfect place to spread your wings,” the Public Market’s website states.

In addition to entrepreneurs, James says caterers, food truck owners, cart vendors, established restaurants seeking more space, bakers and personal chefs may find the kitchen attractive for its professional appliances and secured storage.
After this kitchen is completed, the market may build a second kitchen. James calls this demo-kitchen “phase two.” She says this installation will provide opportunities for cooking classes and events.
 
The Market Kitchen is expected to be open July 1, 2014, or a few weeks earlier in June. She invites those interested to follow construction progress on the Public Market’s website.

Source: Kelly James, the Pittsburgh Public Market

Creamery now offering locally made ice cream in the Public Market

Last month, Family Farms Creamery in the Pittsburgh Public Market used their local dairy products and other ingredients from the market, or the Strip District, to whip up something new — locally crafted ice cream.
 
Larry Neskey, Family Farms manager and ice cream maker, and Family Farms owner Nathan Holmes explain that their creamery is sourced by a family of local farms that process their own yogurt, cheese and milk.
 
Their ice cream is made with these ingredients and the products from a veritable Strip District scavenger hunt. Neskey says the creamery strives to “source as locally as possible.”
 
The fig balsamic flavor is made with balsamic from The Olive Tap, which sells gourmet olive oils in the Public Market. Blackberry swirl is the fruit of Clarion River Organics. Mon Aimee Chocolat in the Strip’s product is present in the chocolate ice cream and other flavors with chocolate chips and chunks. Penzeys Spices’ peppermint was used to create the peppermint chip.
 
These flavors aren’t your usual ice cream options. Even the vanilla isn’t plain.
 
Staple flavor, Landlocked Vanilla Bean, was crafted by creating a vanilla extract with Wigle Whiskey’s Landlocked spirit — the distillery’s interpretation of rum. Family Farms has also carried a whiskey peach flavor using Wigle’s product.
 
“I like to look at it like a microbrewery,” Neskey says about playing with flavors. He added that there will be certain flavors like the Landlocked Vanilla always on tap, but other experimental flavors will cycle through.
 
Speaking of beer, East End Brewing Co., also a vendor in the Public Market, can be found in the creamery’s Black Strap Stout ice cream.
 
Neskey and Holmes say they focus on using local ingredients and trying to be creative. They are currently playing with goat cheese and bleu cheese ice cream recipes and other flavors requested by customers — they took suggestions from patrons when they launched the ice cream.
 
If you aren’t into ice cream, that’s OK. The Public Market location has a dairy-free sorbet available.
 
The ice cream is currently available $6.00 a pint, or by the scoop at the Public Market and Sewickley Farmer’s Market. Neskey and Holmes say their ice cream will be available this summer at other markets where Family Farms is a vendor, Market Square Farmers Market, the market at Phipps Conservatory and Southside Farmers Market.
 
Source: Family Farms Creamery, Larry Neskey, Nathan Holmes

Milkman Brewing Company to open brick-and-mortar spot in the Strip

Pittsburgh’s Milkman Brewing Company will open a brick-and-mortar location next month at 2517 Penn Avenue in the Strip District.  The brewery is an addition to the revitalized 2500 block that also hosts the newly opened Kindred Cycles full service bike shop — near the new Pittsburgh Public Market location.
 
Milkman Brewing co-owners Justin Waters, Jamie Rice and Kyle Branigan met at a home brew event in 2010 and have been brewing beer together ever since. Rice and Waters say Milkman Brewing has “bounced around,” making appearances at events and festivals, but that they are excited to have found a home in the Strip. 

Their May opening will bring a spot to fill up your growler. Patrons can choose old favorites such as the Dahntahn Brahn Ale (brown ale), Peppercorn Rye (made with a variety of peppercorns and rye grain bale) and The Mean Ass Hank (an Irish Whiskey-oaked DIPA) or try one of the new brews they are planning.

Eventually, Waters and Rice say they hope to host events at the new brewery.
 
While there is no grand opening date yet, the milkmen invite locals to stay apprised on opening news by following them on Facebook and Twitter.
 
In the mean time, Waters and Rice noted Milkman has three upcoming events: a tasting at Bocktown in Robinson on April 25, a tasting at Bocktown in Monaca on April 29 and a beer dinner at Tender in Lawrenceville on April 30.
 
 
Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Milkman Brewing Company, Justin Waters, Jamie Rice

New bike shop in the Strip aims to make pedaling around PGH more accessible

Kindred Cycles, the new full service bicycle shop in the Strip District, will open next week. The closest bicycle shop to the center of Downtown Pittsburgh and three blocks from the Strip District Trail, Kindred Cycles specializes in commuter and folding bikes as well as repair and maintenance.

Owners Katharine Jordan and Aaron Stein have a mission of love and support for people using pedal power. With more than a decade of combined professional experience wrenching, they see an opportunity to include average Pittsburghers in the growing bike-riding community.

“More and more people are realizing that biking puts a smile on your face. The best trip is one that I would have used my car for,” gushes Aaron. “When you bike you see the neighborhood differently.”

Kindred Cycles hopes to grow with the riding community by promoting accessibility for new riders through programs like Positive Spin, partnering with local businesses, and eventually organizing classes and group rides.

“We want to encourage the average Pittsburgher to bike by giving everyone access to a friendly and inclusive community-driven bike shop,” Katharine summarizes.

Kindred Cycles fits like a true spoke in Pittsburgh’s continuing transportation evolution. Last month, Mayor Bill Peduto gave the opening address at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. and announced that the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project selected Pittsburgh to develop protected bike lanes. The Pittsburgh Bike Share Partnership will start this summer. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center will host the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place National Conference in the autumn.
 
Writer: Adam Schøtt Hovne
Sources: Katharine Jordan and Aaron Stein

Eat + Drink: Wigle's 92 Neighborhoods series, a beer dinner at the Frick and vegan food in Aspinwall

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly roundup of epic local nommz.

Wigle launching neighborhoods series
It’s a busy time for the folks at Wigle Whiskey. Later this month, their aged rye will become the first Wigle product to hit shelves in Pennsylvania’s state stores. Though Wigle may be expanding their reach, the family-owned distillery hasn’t forgotten its mission to bring whiskey to Pittsburgh.

On Friday, March 21, Wigle will host the first installment of its 92 Neighborhoods Series with an evening focused on the history, food, art and culture of East Liberty.

“We have so many great partners in East Liberty. It’s a neighborhood ripe for celebration,” says Wigle co-owner Meredith Grelli. “Our goal is to have one of these every month with a different neighborhood with the goal of celebrating each neighborhood in the city.”

Kevin Sousa will be on-hand with food from his East Liberty restaurants, Station Street Food and Union Pig & Chicken, and will talk about his approach to starting fresh businesses in East Liberty.

“I’m going to give a short presentation and then it’ll be an open discussion,” he says.

Local merchants Olive & Marlowe, which recently moved from the old Pittsburgh Public Market into a new retail space in Indigo Square, will also attend, along with a plethora of East-Liberty-related organizations.

As for the fare he’ll be serving up, Sousa is holding off on planning a menu until he has a better idea of what the weather will be like.

“If it’s chillier, it will lean more toward the barbecue end,” he says.

Tickets to the East Liberty celebration at Wigle cost $20 and are available through the distillery’s website.

Café at the Frick holding craft beer dinner
The Café at the Frick, the on-site restaurant at the Frick Art & Historical Center and one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gems, will hold a craft beer dinner on Thursday, March 20.

The Café will stage one seating, at 7PM, and pair beers from Fat Head’s in North Olmstead, Ohio with a five-course tasting menu prepared by the Frick’s Executive Chef Seth Bailey.

“We will be pairing each course with a different Fat Head’s beer selection,” Bailey says, adding that among the courses, diners can expect a shrimp crème brûlée with a sweet onion sugar.

Tickets for the dinner are $70, which includes both tax and gratuity. You can purchase them by calling 412-371-0600.

Randita’s expanding to Aspinwall
Randita’s Grill, the Saxonburg-based vegan restaurant and catering service which has become immensely popular since its humble food-truck beginnings in May of 2012, will open a second location in Aspinwall this year.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Meredith Grelli, Kevin Sousa, Seth Bailey

Walnut Capital bringing Homewood Suites to the Strip District

Walnut Capital has had a hard time finding the right use for the retail/restaurant space at 1400 Smallman Street in the Strip District so they’ve opted to tear it down and start over. The local developer is currently demolishing the on-site structure and will build a Homewood Suites in the space next to Lidia’s Pittsburgh.

“This is a really great new use for the space. The market could use a hotel and it’s going to complement Lidia’s,” says Walnut Capital’s Greg Perelman, adding that demolition should take about another two weeks. “We’re over the toughest part right now.”

The 150-room hotel to the Strip, right on the edge of Downtown, is a new model from Hilton, designed to cater mainly to business travelers. It will be the first Homewood Suites within the city. A second location is slated to open in Robinson this summer.

Pittsburgh-based builder PJ Dick will handle the construction, and Walnut Capital will partner with Concord Hospitality, which will manage the hotel.

“The market in Pittsburgh for limited-service hotels is pretty tight,” Perelman says. “It’s a very strong market right now. I think we’re close enough to downtown and the convention center, and it gives people an alternative.”

Once demolition is complete, Perelman says, the construction on the hotel should take about 18 months.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Greg Perelman

Eat + Drink: A barleywine festival, a writer in the kitchen, mac & cheese fallout and more

‘Hell with the Lid Off’ celebrates 10 years at Kelly’s
Kelly’s Bar and Lounge will host its 10th annual Hell with the Lid Off Barleywine Festival on Saturday, March 8, with sessions running from 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 pm.

Hell with the Lid Off offers participants the chance to taste more than 100 different barleywines, about 35 of which will be available on draft.

“From what we understand, it’s the only festival of its kind in the country and it’s here in Pittsburgh,” says Kelly’s General Manager Deirdre Kane. “We have barleywines dating back to 2004 and some from breweries which are no longer in production. It’s some really rare stuff.”

Tickets for Hell with the Lid Off are $75 and available both at Kelly’s (located at 6012 Penn Circle South) and through Showclix.

Hal Klein: Journalist, Cook, Renaissance man
“I kind of came of age in California and I miss eating really good Mexican food,” says local food writer Hal Klein. “A lot of people think that Mexican food is really just tacos and burritos, but it goes way beyond that.”

Klein will trade his pen for an apron next week when he hosts Bar Marco’s March 10 edition of No Menu Monday. Though he’s done it twice before, Klein says he expects this go to be something of a departure from his prior outings.

“The first one was a challenge because I’d never cooked in a restaurant kitchen and I’d never cooked for that many people before. The second time, I felt like I was really in the zone and knew what I was doing. This time, I’m cooking things on a much bigger scale,” Klein says. “It’ll be a challenge, but it will be pretty cool.”

Among his offerings, the self-taught cook is planning two soups, carnitas, refried beans, pickled vegetable and stuffed poblano peppers.

“I think culinary school is a really good thing, but I think a lot of chefs will tell you that the best education that they got was working in kitchens with other chefs,” Klein says. “Be organized, take a deep breath, have good help.”

Mac & Cheese Now! Redux
Eat + Drink’s glance last week at the Pittsburgh macaroni and cheese scene caused something of a stir on the old Internet.

E-mails and tweets poured in with omitted gems, including offerings from Salt of the Earth, Winghart’s, Union Pig & Chicken, Tartine and Blowfish BBQ.

Pittsburgh mainstay Kelly’s and the upstart Independent Brewing Company nearly came to blows via Twitter over the question of mac supremacy, but cooler heads prevailed.

Sewickley Soup Crawl
The third annual Sewickley Soup Crawl will take place on Saturday, March 15 from noon to 3 p.m. in Sewickley Village. This year’s special guest will be actor Larry Thomas, best known for his portrayal of The Soup Nazi in the 1995 Seinfeld episode of the same name.

For more information, visit the Soup Crawl’s website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Deirdre Durant, Hal Klein

City, Buncher agree to explore other plans for Strip District produce terminal

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced Friday that the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Buncher Co. agreed to a six-month hold on Buncher’s plans to develop a section of the Strip District which includes the produce terminal building on Smallman Street.

Buncher’s proposal involves demolishing the western third of the building, but Peduto has met with company executives regularly since taking office in January in an effort to find an option that would see the building preserved.

“What six months does is allow us to put together a viable economic plan for the adaptive reuse of the terminal building,” Peduto says. “If we can find other options that would help to see their development occur, help to preserve the terminal building and create an adaptive reuse for it, we’re going to pursue it, and Buncher is willing to be a partner in helping us get there.”

In addition to preserving the building, the city would like to see Smallman Street completely refurbished from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, including making the stretch more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists and transforming the area into Pittsburgh’s answer to Seattle’s Pike Place Market or Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal. According to Peduto, it’s just one section of the Allegheny Green Boulevard and Allegheny Riverfront Vision, plans the city would like to implement.

The agreement, which allows the city to work with other developers in trying to find a solution which both preserves the terminal and meets Buncher’s need for access to the site of its planned $450 million Riverfront Landing project, does not usurp Buncher’s option to buy the building from the URA for $1.8 million. Any equitable solution, Peduto says, will involve access to the site through the terminal.

“Even the preservation community understands that would be a condition by which the preservation of the building could happen,” Peduto says. “Even with that, it opens up the terminal building in a way that you have different pods, and those pods could be of different uses, from housing to commercial to other options that are kind of cutting edge. With all those proposals that are out there, the critical part of the next six months is showing the financing.”


Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Bill Peduto

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

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