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Friendship Circle finds new Squirrel Hill home at site of old Gullifty's

Rabbi Mordy Rudolph and his wife Rivkee have been running The Friendship Circle since its inception in 2006, when 15 teen volunteers were paired with about a dozen children with special needs. Today, the program boasts more than 200 alumni. 
 
The organization has outgrown its 1,200-square-foot storefront space and will move to a new, 10,000-square-foot home at 1922 Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill as part of a multi-million dollar renovation at the site of the now-closed Gullifty's restaurant.
 
“Friendship Circle began eight years ago with about a dozen volunteers and a desire to remove barriers for children with special needs,” explained Chuck Perlow, a founding board member and co-chair of the capital campaign. “Today, this vibrant program works through nearly 300 active teen volunteers and more than 120 friends who are no longer defined by their disabilities. This unique space will be a celebration of the dramatic connections created and those yet to come.”  

Since 1994, Friendship Circle organizations have been created in more than 60 cities around the world. The program allows children and young adults with special needs to enjoy the company of teenage and young adult volunteers in a full range of social activities. Friendship Circle aims to enrich the lives of all participants through mutually advantageous interactions and lasting friendships.
 
Rudolph said the renovation will allow the growing organization to continue to engage students with activities like art, drama and cooking clubs. The renovation will include a first-floor storefront with glass windows along the Murray Avenue front of the venue, opening it to the community. This floor will include a multi-purpose space with a performance stage, a teen lounge, a pop-up gallery space, new elevator and a working kitchen for cooking clubs and other opportunities.
 
A second floor with work pods will allow youth with special needs to actively participate in the planning and behind-the-scenes work of Friendship Circle in a supported work setting. The second floor will also include a play space for younger children, a parent lounge, executive offices and conference room space for the staff of Friendship Circle. A rooftop garden and outdoor recreational space will maximize the footprint of the building and provide space for members to garden and enjoy the outdoors.
 
On a visit to a Friendship Circle site in Michigan, Rudolph said he witnessed the organization using its center to create a simulated community within the building. Inside the site were storefronts and a manufactured Main Street. While Rudolph said the idea of community is apparent in this model, he prefers the opportunity that the Murray Avenue location gives the Pittsburgh space. Participating in an existing community is more beneficial than creating an isolated environment, Rudolph said.
 
In addition to creating a person-to-person community in Friendship Circle, Rudolph said, the new building has the opportunity to create relationships with neighboring businesses. Rudolph explained that he hopes to engage with existing neighbors, like barbers and grocers, for Friendship Circle field trips and outings.
 
Working on the new venue are Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel Architects and construction manager John Paul Busse of F.J. Busse Company. Stuart Horne, an architect with Seigle Solow Horne and former Friendship Circle board member, is helping to oversee the project. The new venue will be completely ADA-compliant, with parking available behind the building as well as at street meters.  
 
“I think that there is tremendous potential just by moving into the space,” Rudolph said, adding that though the organization has grown so much in almost a decade, he is still excited about the future. “[In some ways,] it feels like we’re still in our infancy … like we’re just getting started.”
 
Rudolph says the goal is to complete the renovation by fall 2015, in time for the start of the 2015 – 2016 school year.
 
Source: Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, The Friendship Circle

Rustbuilt and Citiparks team up to bring Squirrel Hill its first farmers market

The new Squirrel Hill Farmers’ Market debuted in the parking lot that runs from Bartlett Street to Beacon Street — directly behind the old Gulliftys — last weekend on Sun., June 1.
 
City Councilman Corey O’Connor cut the ribbon Sunday, marking the official opening of Squirrel Hill’s first farmers market and Citiparks’ first weekend farmers market.
 
The Squirrel Hill Farmers’ Market is a unique partnership between Citiparks and RustBuilt, a nonprofit working to nurture next-generation entrepreneurship and innovation in Pittsburgh and throughout the Rust Belt.
 
Nearly a thousand people wandered through, according to Alec Rieger, executive director at RustBuilt. He said vendors were almost completely sold out by noon — and the market runs from 9AM to 1PM
 
“I would say it was a really big success,” Rieger says. 
 
Featuring more than 20 vendors, Rieger says produce and food products “run the gamut.” He says the market offers high end organic food, mixed organics, prepared food, cheese, meat, baked goods, Italian ice, artisan vinegar and, he joked, no market would be complete without kettle corn.
 
“Meaningful public health and environmental arguments aside, this market is both a community development and economic development initiative, with the overarching goal of leveraging the neighborhood’s human capital, in order to create greater communal connection, cohesiveness, and commerce in Squirrel Hill and beyond,” says Rieger about the event.
 
He adds that the market fosters public health, environmental consciousness and, most importantly, community. Rieger says he hopes the market is a space where one does “not just grab your broccoli and go.” He says he wants people and families to sit and stay awhile. 
 
To create a neighborhood atmosphere, the market will begin hosting music as early as this weekend and hopes to have crafts and activities for children in the future.
 
The Squirrel Hill Farmers’ Market is also partnering with local social service agencies to provide market access to nearby homebound elderly and will accept EBT and FMNP vouchers.
 
The market will be open from 9AM to 1PM every Sunday through the end of November.
 
Source: Alec Rieger, RustBuilt

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

Eat + Drink: Mead in Carnegie, a new bar in Squirrel Hill and dark brews at East End

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

Penn brewer will open meadery in Carnegie
Dave Cerminara might brew beer, but it’s mead he loves.

That’s why he’ll leave his job as assistant brewer at the North Side’s Penn Brewery later this year to open Apis Meadery at 212 E. Main Street in Carnegie.

Though its popularity has waxed and waned, humans have been making mead — a wine whose fermentable sugar is derived from honey — for at least 4,000 years.

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for eight or nine years now,” Cerminara says. “When you get into the world of mead, there are so many varieties. It doesn’t have to be just honey wine. It can be melomels or fruit wine — it can be lots of things. We’re trying to show people what mead really can be.”

Cerminara says that by the time he’s ready to open, he hopes to have between six and ten varieties ready to go. Among them will be standard meads for summer and winter made from clover honey, melomels (fruit wines) flavored with peaches and apricots or blackberries and raspberries, and pyments.

“Pyment is specifically grape and honey blended. For the grapes, we chose a Sangiovese, and I’ve been making that one for about nine years,” he says. “It has that robust richness, but it has the nice honey finish on the back.”

Cerminara says he hopes to open for business by early July.

New Squirrel Hill bar will specialize in local brews
Local attorney Peter Kurzweg new venture, the Independent Brewing Company, is set to take over the space at 1704 Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill, which until late last year was occupied by Fanattics sports bar. Independent plans to offer a definitive selection of locally brewed beers. An opening date hasn’t yet been confirmed.

East End to host Festival of Darkness
Reeling from not having seen the sun in two months? East End Brewing can’t really help with that, so they’re embracing the darkness.

The brewery will host its Festival of Darkness on Saturday, February 1st. For $5 (which goes right toward East End's collection for Light of Life) you can taste 12 of East End’s darkest ales, stouts and porters. The full lineup includes everything from their year-round and seasonal brews to one-offs, such as Homewood Reserve 2013 — Black Strap Stout aged for nine months in Maker’s Mark barrels.
You can view the full lineup on the festival’s event page.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Dave Cerminara, Peter Kurzweg

Eat + Drink: Fish, fireplaces, macarons by mail

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

Toro Fest 2013
Bloomfield’s Fukuda, which celebrated its first anniversary in October, is hosting its first annual Toro Fest this week, with a full calendar of events scheduled through next Monday. Named for the Japanese term for fatty Bluefin tuna, Toro Fest isn’t just a celebration of the food itself, but of fish and sustainability on the whole.

Throughout the week, Fukuda will offer sessions on Japanese culture and language at the restaurant, and end the week by taking over No Menu Monday at Bar Marco on December 16th.

For more information, check out Fukuda’s Toro Fest calendar or the event’s Facebook page.
 
Macarons by mail
Gaby et Jules, the French patisserie on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill which started this year as a joint venture between Paris 66 owners Fred and Lori Rongier and Master Pastry Chef David Piquard, has opened up an online store and begun taking orders for its deservedly celebrated macarons.

In addition to its normal range of flavors, Piquard has rolled out a holiday line which includes gingerbread, peppermint white chocolate, Orangette (chocolate and orange, Eat + Drink’s favorite), chestnut and egg nog — a flavor Piquard was initially skeptical of, but which was made at Lori Rongier’s urging and much to our delight.

To ensure the macarons arrive fresh, Gaby et Jules ships only Monday through Wednesday and utilizes USPS Priority Mail.
 
Get inside, get warm
Today’s high is under 30°. Tomorrow’s is under 20°. But are you really going to let that keep you from enjoying your weeknight happy hour? Consider joints with fireplaces:

For drinks, stop by 1947 Tavern on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Monterey Pub in the North Side’s Mexican War Streets district is another cozy option. A few blocks away, Max’s Allegheny Tavern offers German fare by an old fireplace. Toast! offers excellent food and great wine in a beautiful old building in Shadyside which has fireplaces on all three stories. Eat + Drink’s favorite, though, is The Oak Room — the hotel bar inside the Mansions on Fifth. It’s seldom crowded unless there’s an event, and it’s easily one of the five coziest rooms in the city.

Writer: Matthew Wein

ACTION Housing to redevelop long-vacant Squirrel Hill property

After sitting vacant for nearly a decade, the space that formerly housed Poli restaurant in Squirrel Hill has been acquired by ACTION-Housing and will be redeveloped into a mix of residential and office units.

After more than a year of effort, ACTION acquired the property at 5685 Forward Avenue through a sheriff’s sale in September. It will partner with Jewish Residential Services to convert the site into a multi-purpose facility after demolishing the existing structure.

“We’d build up four or five stories,” says Linda Metropulos, ACTION-Housing’s director of housing and neighborhood development. “We’d build the building as a condo, and JRS would have the ground floor. We’d have the residential space above.”

Metropulos adds that JRS would likely use its portion of the space to build out its offices and improve the Howard Levin Clubhouse — a non-profit facility assisting people affected by mental illness — which currently sits in the space adjacent to the former restaurant.

She also says that while plans are very premature, the project will cost somewhere between $12 and $15 million to complete. Though ACTION hasn’t formally enlisted an architecture firm, Metropulos said it is doing preliminary consultations with Downtown-based FortyEighty Architecture.

“We’d probably start construction at the end of 2015,” Metropulos says. “It’s a lengthy process.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Linda Metropulos

Eat + Drink: A new Downtown spot from Spoon, bottles of rum and much more

Spoon chefs preview dishes for new Downtown restaurant
Grit & Grace, the new Downtown venture from Spoon Executive Chef Brian Pekarcik and Chef de Cuisine Curtis Gamble, previewed several new dishes during No Menu Monday this week at Bar Marco. We sampled the pickled dates with apple, pear and manchego cheese, the dim sum trio comprised of Hamachi sashimi, Ahi tuna crab rolls and soba noodles with shitake mushrooms and orange-chili vinaigrette, and a salmon entrée served with crispy pretzel bread pudding, braised cabbage and pickled mustard seeds.

The pork larb and curried goat also went over extremely well. Grit & Grace, which will occupy the space at 535 Liberty Avenue formerly held by Taste of Dahntahn, plans to open next month.

The perfect gift for your favorite rum drinker
As we hinted at in an item last week, Maggie’s Farm Rum, Pittsburgh’s newest hand-crafted spirit, will be available to the public for bottle sales only the day after Thanksgiving. Made from Turbinado sugar cane, the French West Indies-style white rum will retail for $28 per bottle.

After Black Friday, Maggie’s Farm will go back to dealing exclusively with local bars and restaurants until owner Tim Russell finishes construction on the distillery’s tasting area and cocktail bar.

Oysters all over
Oysters are all the rage right now and there’s no shortage of places to get them:

Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle
in the Strip District will host the 10th annual Guinness Oyster Festival on Saturday starting at noon. In addition to fresh oysters on the half-shell, the menu will feature fried oysters and oyster stew.

Salt of the Earth
, Kevin Sousa’s flagship eatery in Garfield, has been serving different varieties of oysters on the half-shell as a part of its Tuesday late-night menu since May. The best part? They’re only a dollar apiece.

Recently opened in East Liberty, Bar Marco offshoot The Livermore is now offering an oyster happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Like Salt’s, they’re only a dollar each.

Yiddish food? Where else?!
Nu, the modern Jewish bistro from the owners of Pamela’s, is now open for lunch and dinner service at 1711 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. We stopped by for lunch last week and found an absolute revelation in the smoked brisket chili, served with sour cream, shredded cheese and pickled red onions.

The Jewbano — a sandwich featuring thick-cut corned beef, brisket and fried pickles among other things, was delicious, as was our half of the salmon burger topped with lox and capers.

The matzo ball soup was a little on the salty side, but be warned: Nu has taken a side in the light and fluffy versus heavy and dense knaidlach debate, entrenching itself firmly on the side of matzo balls which will sink right to the bottom.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

Eat + Drink: Pamela's owners launching 'modern Jewish deli,' Legume's new lunch hours and much more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at all the news that's fit to eat and/or drink.

Pamela’s founders bringing an old-world Jewish deli to Squirrel Hill.
An eat-in, modern Jewish deli will open in Squirrel Hill next month. Nu (from the Yiddish interjection for “well?” or “so?”) will occupy the space formerly held by Pamela’s sister restaurant Aji Picante at 1711 Murray Avenue, which held its last dinner service on Saturday night.

In addition to new twists on traditional Jewish fare, such as homemade pickles and matzo ball soup, Nu will smoke and hand-carve all its own meats. It will also have its own line and workspace, rather than share a kitchen with Pamela’s, as Aji Picante did. The sit-down restaurant will retain Aji’s outdoor seating, but won’t have any cases, nor will it sell deli meats.

“It’s going to be a little upscale looking, but not expensive,” says Pamela’s co-owner Gail Klingensmith, adding that executive chef Kelsey Sukel and co-owner Pam Cohen’s sister Rise’ will operate the restaurant.

“This is a family passion. It’s a slice of Americana, and it’s our history,” says Klingensmith, adding that Nu, which she projects will open around October 15th, will probably operate 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. “We’re old girls, but we can still make it to eight.”

Legume now open for lunch
The popular, locally sourced Oakland bistro has begun a lunch service that will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The menu, which will change every day, will include small plates, sandwiches and salads. Also, we hear the chocolate mousse cake is a legitimate slice of heaven on Earth.

“Steel Town” filmmakers holding fundraiser at Bar Marco
Steel Town,” a live-action, short film currently in pre-production that tells the story of the Homestead Steel Strike, will host a fundraiser and live table read at Bar Marco next Wednesday, October 2nd, at 6 p.m.

Carnegie Mellon alumni Nick Hurt and Yulin Kuang wrote the screenplay, and Hurt will direct when principal photography begins in November. The fundraiser’s host committee includes city councilmen Bruce Kraus and Bill Peduto, as well as State Representative Erin Molchany.

You can RSVP for the event by calling Producer Dan Vetanovetz at 937-243-1518, or e-mailing steeltownmovie@gmail.com. The producers of “Steel Town" are also operating a Kickstarter campaign that has just nine days remaining.

Pittsburgh Opera will perform at Downtown Farmers’ Market
Puccini, Rossini and Bizet aren’t varieties of mushrooms, but they’ll nonetheless be featured during each of the next three Market Square Farmers’ Markets.

The Pittsburgh Opera will perform tomorrow, October 3rd and October 10th between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., to celebrate the arrival of fall and the Opera’s 75th season. Lunchtime concerts have long been a staple of Market Square, and this marks the Opera’s first appearance in the series.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gail Klingensmith, Dan Ventanovetz

Eat + Drink: A French patisserie in Squirrel Hill, an outdoor dinner in Downtown and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly romp through news which makes your mouth water.

Gaby et Jules brings fine French pastries to Squirrel Hill
Fred Rongier and David Piquard’s grandfathers shared the dream of opening bakeries in France. Neither ever did, but their grandsons are living out those dreams in Pittsburgh.

Gaby et Jules, a French patisserie from Paris 66 owner Rongier and Piquard, his master pastry chef, will hold its soft open at the end of August with a grand opening to take place in September. The shop is located at 5837 Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, which formerly held the Oliver Flower Shop.

“In France, a bakery is a boulangerie.” says Rongier. “That’s not what we’re doing. This is a patisserie. Everything looks better and tastes better.”

Rongier says that in addition to Piquard’s famous French macarons, the shop will offer all manner of French baked goods which have helped make Paris 66 the city’s premiere spot for authentic French cuisine.

“He likes to make things,” Rongier says of Piqurad. “He’s going to wake up like an artist in the morning and he’s going to create a dessert. He doesn’t want to copy someone else’s. He does his own. He’s the one with the golden fingers.”

In addition to retail business, Rongier says he expects Gaby et Jules to develop a solid wholesale business, as Paris 66 already sells a lot of baked goods in larger quantities to local restaurants.

“We’ll do a lot of wedding cakes, for sure. If you go to someone else’s house and you want to bring a tart, you’ll have it,” Rongier says. “You won’t even want to eat it, it’s so nice.”

Bloggers will host outdoor dinner in Downtown
Local food blog eatPGH is teaming up with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to host what’s being called Pittsburgh’s first urban supper.

“It’s basically dinner outside,” said eatPGH’s Laura Zorch. “Everybody’s doing farm dinners, which are fantastic, but how about something between skyscrapers?”

The dinner, which will take place on September 14th in the lot at 919 Liberty Avenue in Downtown, will feature a seven-course meal designed and cooked by local chefs Richard DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes and Keith Fuller of Root 174.
Zorch says that final details will be announced later this week, but that tickets for the dinner will cost $125 and include both the meal and an open bar.

“We’re still working out right now how many people we can fit in the space. We’re hoping to have up to 100,” Zorch says.

Full Pint Brewing opens an in-house pub
Since its inception in 2009, Full Pint Brewing has become one of Pittsburgh’s most popular local breweries.

Now, the North Versailles-based craft beer maker has added a scaled-down brew pub to its facilities.

In addition to growler sales and a bar, Full Pint now offers a menu of appetizers and sandwiches, served in an endearingly informal atmosphere in its warehouse brewery. The pub is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through  Wednesday, from 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Hours are subject to change if the pub is empty after 9 p.m.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Fred Rongier, Laura Zorch

Eat + Drink: Mineo's Pizza expanding, Rebellion Ciderworks adds tasting room

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at the news from a food-and-libations standpoint.

Mineo’s expanding
Mineo’s Pizza House, a Pittsburgh favorite since it first opened in 1958, will extend its operations into a neighboring building on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

The expansion will allow Mineo’s to install a full-service bar, broaden its menu and increase its seating capacity by about 40.

The shop has possessed a full liquor license for three years, but until now, has only sold beer and other malt beverages.

The expansion will take over the building which formerly held Engel’s Market, a small, independent grocery store which Claire Engel and her family operated for 46 years before shutting its doors in April.

Rebellion Ciderworks opens tasting room
Seven years ago, Slippery Rock farmer Derek Kellogg started making small batches of hard cider as a hobby.

“I wanted a product that I could grow from start to finish,” Kellogg said. “When I started reading about the tradition and history behind cider, not only here but around the world, I became obsessed with it.”

That obsession led Kellogg to establish Rebellion Ciderworks in 2010. He started selling his hard cider at farmers’ markets and to Slippery Rock’s North Country Brewing Company.

Last month, he opened a tasting room at his farm.

Kellogg, who juices his apples by hand using a wooden rack-and-cloth press dating to 1921, currently imports many of his apples from New York, but that’s soon to change.

“My orchard isn’t producing yet. I just started planting it,” Kellogg says, adding that Rebellion’s orchard will contain different kinds of apples, from wild varieties and popular English apples to historical breeds, like the Virginia crab apples favored by Thomas Jefferson.

Rebellion currently offers three kinds of cider. A sweet cider, which Kellogg calls “a starter cider” is a blend of dessert apples, and preferred by people new to hard cider. He also makes a semi-sweet cider entirely from Macintosh apples, and an English-style dry cider made using four kinds of British cider apples.

So is cider the new craft beer?

“It’s going to take a while for traditional cider to really become more mainstream,” Kellogg says, “but it’s the fastest-growing sector of the alcohol market right now.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Derek Kellogg

Schenley Park to get two new water management systems

In an effort to reduce runoff and pollution and restore the ecosystem in Panther Hollow, two new rainwater management systems will be built in portions of Schenley Park.

“These are pilot projects and they’re part of a larger effort to restore the Panther Hollow Watershed,” says Erin Copeland, a restoration ecologist for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

One system will consist of French drains along Bartlett and Beacon Streets in Squirrel Hill, near the park’s perimeter.

The drains are designed to collect surface water and groundwater into special piping which will redistribute the water.

The other system, which will be installed along Schenley Drive through the Bob O’Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park, involves a process called retentive grading.

Utilizing strategically chosen areas of the golf course, the conservancy will construct 20 to 25 earthen mounds perpendicular to water flow and made of soil mixtures designed to effectively soak in the most water.

Copeland says that together, the two systems will absorb about 1.9 million gallons of water each year, all of which will be redistributed to the Panther Hollow Watershed.

The systems, both of which qualify as pieces of green infrastructure, are part of the conservancy’s larger plan to restore the streams, woodlands and lake in Panther Hollow.

“Right now, the lake drains back to the sewer system,” Coleman says. “We’d like to change that. We want to get that water back out of the lake and create a stream in Junction Hollow.”

The upgrades, which the conservancy has been planning since 2010, will be completed next spring.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Erin Copeland

Eat + Drink: AVA moving to Oakland, Wigle Whiskey expands, Syrian cuisine in Squirrel Hill and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly dive into the world of local consumables.

AVA Bar & Lounge moving to Oakland
AVA Bar & Lounge, which announced last week that it would close its location on South Highland Avenue in East Liberty and seek a new space, will move to 304 North Craig Street in Oakland in August.

The new spot, formerly Luna Bar, will allow AVA to expand to two floors and offer a parking lot for its customers at the corner of Craig and Center Avenue.

"It's just a better market for us," says AVA owner Justin Strong. "It's where we started."

Strong says the space's second floor will host AVA's events, such as jazz and open mic nights. The first floor will be a bar and lounge area.

Strong has launched a campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, seeking to raise $35,000 in the next four weeks to help cover AVA's moving costs make the transition to the new location as seamless as possible.

Naya brings Syrian cuisine to Squirrel Hill
Radwa Ibrahim, who formerly owned Middle Eastern restaurant Tyma’z in the North Hills, has moved her operation to 2018 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

Her new venture, Naya, offers Syrian-style home cooked food along with her versions of Middle Eastern favorites, such as falafel, babaganoush and stuffed grape leaves.

Ibrahim, who opened Naya earlier this month, said that many of her regular Tyma’z customers have already made the trek into the city to continue enjoying her cooking.

Wigle Whiskey expanding to the North Side
Wigle Whiskey, the Strip District-based distiller of local and organic spirits, has purchased a warehouse in the Spring Garden section of the North Side and will begin converting it into a barrelhouse.

“We were quickly running out of room, so we’ve been searching for a space for a while,” says Wigle’s Meredith Grelli. “The building fit all our needs and we love the neighborhood.”

The space, which occupies about 10,000 square feet at 1055 Spring Garden Avenue, is the former home of the Balestreire Produce Company. It will house Wigle’s barrels of aging spirits, its innovation lab and a state-of-the-art whiskey garden, thought to be the first of its kind in the country.

“We imagine it as this seasonal kind of space where we’d have community events and small concerts, and the garage would become kind of a bar area,” Grelli says.

Architectural firm Edge-studio will design the new space. Wigle has hired contractor Marty Marra to undertake the construction. Grelli says they hope to open the space in the summer of 2014.

North Side Sandwich Week kicks off
Thirteen locally owned and independent restaurants are taking part in the second annual North Side Sandwich Week, which started yesterday and will run throgh June 23.

Elks Lodge #339 will host a sold-out sandwich sampler event tomorrow evening, at which attendees and celebrity judges will crown a new sandwich king or queen.

Each participating restaurant will hang a Sandwich Week banner, and customers can use their smartphones to scan QR codes in order to vote for their favorite sandwiches.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Justin Strong, Radwa Ibrahim, Meredith Grelli

Gateway at Summerset accepting applications

The Gateway at Summerset, a new rental community overlooking Homestead and the Monongahela River from the southern end of Squirrel Hill, already has residents living in its first completed building, and more scheduled to move into its second building later this month.

Co-developed by Ralph A. Falbo, Inc. and Pennrose, The Gateway, which is located inside the Summerset at Frick Park development, has already pre-leased many apartments in as-yet-unfinished buildings. The six-building rental complex is “pretty full through mid-July, though we do still have some available in the first building,” says Pennrose’s Stephanie Fuchs.

Though its initial target demographic was young professionals, Fuchs says that the community's close proximity to the rest of the East End, South Side and Waterfront, as well as a host of on-site amenities, has drawn a wide array of tenants.

“We have some people who are downsizing and looking toward retirement, and we have a handful of people who are relocating for residency opportunities,” Fuchs says. “It’s so close to the city, but when you pull in, it has that traditional neighborhood feel.”

In addition to one-bedroom units, the community has two different styles of two-bedroom units, each of which are customizable and contain multiple amenities, including private laundry facilities in each unit.

The community also offers a plethora of shared spaces, including a community center, pool, fitness center, basketball court and playground.

To learn more about The Gateway at Summerset, visit its website or call 412-422-1144

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Stephanie Fuchs

Schenley Drive to get skinny; Panther Hollow watershed restoration

Schenley Drive is going on a diet.

The road, which cuts through the Bob O’Connor Golf Course, will get a “skinny street” makeover as part of the upcoming Panther Hollow watershed restoration project.

Because of stormwater runoff, Panther Hollow Lake—which is at the bottom of the watershed in Schenley Park—has gone from a recreational pond to a polluted eyesore.  And its plight is just one of the more visible effects of the park’s stormwater runoff problem.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) is implementing a number of new green infrastructure designs to improve the park’s stream and groundwater recharge health.

The “skinny street” project, which will narrow the 40-foot-wide road to approximately 26 feet, will divert more than 3 million gallons annually of runoff by introducing porous surfaces to the roadway. It is the third pilot project in the restoration project.

Through public meetings, PPC learned that many residents feel unsafe in the park because of speeding vehicles.

“We could have a really big impact by narrowing the street,” says Erin Copeland, senior restoration ecologist with PPC.  “We have the opportunity to improve so many different aspects of watershed health, and recreational experience in the park.”

Adjacent to the road, infiltration berms will channel water into rain garden wetlands, and a new porous pathway for pedestrians and bicycles will run along the road, separated by a buffer of plants. This design will allow water to soak into the ground slowly and prevent erosion.

The pathway would still be paved—not crushed limestone or gravel—but the application will actually soak in water to the subsurface layer. Cyclists will still be welcome in the Schenley Drive roadway, Copeland says, where sharrows will be painted.

Designs for the “skinny street” have yet to be reviewed Department of Transportation traffic engineers.  Copeland says the first two pilot projects are shovel ready and could begin as early as this summer.

PPC is completing the green infrastructure projects with support from the Department of Public Works, City Planning, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Alcosan, as well as the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and PPC volunteers.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Erin Copeland
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