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Eat + Drink: Bluebird Kitchen expands, Kevin Sousa celebrates, winter restaurant week details

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

Bluebird Kitchen opens second Downtown location
Bluebird Kitchen, the popular Downtown breakfast and lunch spot, opened a second location Monday on the lower level of the First Niagra Building at 11 Stanwix Street.

Like the original, the new installation will offer made-to-order breakfast, salads, sandwiches and pastries. The new Bluebird will be open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the rest of this week, with breakfast service scheduled to debut next week.

Liz Moore opened the first Bluebird Kitchen at 221 Forbes Avenue, just outside of Market Square, in the spring of 2012.

Crowdfunding pays off for Superior Motors
Kevin Sousa’s crowdfunding campaign for a new farm-to-table restaurant in Braddock reached its goal and then some on Monday.

The Kickstarter campaign for Superior Motors, which sought to raise $250,000 in 33 days, wound up crossing that threshold some 18 hours before time ran out. By the time the clock hit all zeros, Sousa had raised $310,225 from 2,026 different backers, most of whom gave pleged $100 or less.

At the end of last week, the campaign was in serious danger of not hitting its goal. Sousa says that over the weekend, he and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman were staring down the possibility of what to do if they hadn’t met their goal.

“It’s incredibly humbling,” Sousa says.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, Winter 2014
The winter edition of 2014 Pittsburgh Restaurant Week starts next Monday and runs through the following Sunday. More than 75 local restaurants will participate, offering everything from specials for $20.14 to prix-fixe menus and other specials.

The kickoff and preview party will take place tomorrow at Bill Chisnell Productions, located at 1111 Penn Avenue in Downtown. Tickets, which may be purchased through ShowClix, are $50 in advance and $60 at the door.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Kevin Sousa

Developments to watch from the new administration

After taking the oath of office Monday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto pledged in his inaugural address to “build the Next Pittsburgh.” Here are two major building projects initiated on Luke Ravenstahl’s watch — one which could see some drastic changes, the other the new mayor will have the opportunity to help shape — before they become part of the Next Pittsburgh.

Riverfront Landing
The Buncher Company’s original $450 million plan to redevelop riverfront space in the Strip District included an office and residential complex, extending 17th Street all the way to the Allegheny River and demolishing about a third of the iconic produce terminal on Smallman Street in order to make it happen.

The plan has drawn criticism from historic preservationists who don’t want to see any part of the building razed. Yesterday, Buncher agreed to put its plans for the building on hold while it works with Peduto’s office to try and find a solution agreeable to both sides

City council tabled a vote in December which would have granted the terminal an historic landmark designation and made it vastly more difficult for anyone to damage it.

Peduto has said that he would like to see the terminal reused without demolishing any part of it, and has compared it to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, which before its overhaul was also scheduled for demolition.

Almono site
In November, city council approved an $80 million tax-increment financing plan (TIF) — the largest in Pittsburgh’s history for the site of the former LTV Coke Works in Hazelwood.

While contractors will likely spend most of 2014 grading and building interior roads and utilities on the 178-acre site, no plans for its actual development have been finalized.

Peduto has said that he would like development of the site to include significant green infrastructure to help manage stormwater runoff and alleviate some burden from the city’s already overloaded sewer system. Such measures could include canals, shallows and stormwater gardens and parks, like the one built last year in Larimer.

Writer: Matthew Wein

Local firm bringing hotels to Millvale and Connellsville

Last year, Millvale welcomed its first library. If all goes plan, this year will see construction begin on Millvale’s first hotel in recent memory.

Local firm Hotel d2 Services has partnered with the Millvale Borough Development Corporation and Cobblestone Hotels to get the project moving.

“We started working with Cobblestone about eight months ago, and they expressed a strong desire to enter the western Pennsylvania market,” says Hotel d2’s Chris Rosselot. “There’s a big market for 30-to-60 room hotels in this area.”

Hotels d2 has already reached an agreement with the MBDC on a site — on Evergreen Street, next to the Drai Laag Brewery — and retained the services of Bridgeville-based architectural firm JMAC. Hotels d2 and JMAC are close to breaking ground on another hotel in Connellsville, though they’ve yet to select a contracting firm for either project.

“The whole crux of this initiative is to have community ownership as well,” Rosselot says. “Our team is identifying community members who’d have interest in ownership. We don’t want to pull in some investor from California to  fund the whole thing.”

The Connellsville building will have 54 rooms and be located right near the Great Allegheny Passage. Rosselot says It will cater toward the recreational guest, while the Millvale hotel will have more urban feel.

“There isn’t one prototype,” he added.

Groundbreaking on the Millvale site, he added, could begin as soon as late spring or early summer if everything goes according to plan, and that the hotel is projected to open in mid-2015. Construction on the hotel in Connellsville could begin as soon as February with the Cobblestone Inn & Suites ready to open toward the end of 2014.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Chris Rosselot

Eat + Drink: Ten Penny and Gus's open, Bella Christie branches out

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

Ten Penny to open this weekend
Ten Penny, the latest and most dining-focused restaurant and bar from AMPd Group — which earlier this year opened Skybar on the South Side — will open at the corner of Tenth Street and Penn Avenue in Downtown this weekend, according to AMPd Managing Partner Adam DeSimone.

Executive Chef Scott DeLuca, formerly of BOhem Bistro in Seven Fields and the South Side’s Truth Lounge, has designed a menu which explores new takes on classic American comfort food. The restaurant will sport 24 taps of craft beer to go with an extensive wine and cocktail menu.

Gus’s open in Lawrenceville
Gus’s Cafe, the long-awaited Lawrenceville venture from George Haritos, held its soft opening last week and is now operating full-time from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, with the kitchen closing at 11 p.m.
In addition to a generous beer selection, the café offers wine, cocktails and a variety of gluten-free dining options, including french fries, crepes and doughnuts.

Located at 4717 Butler Street, Gus’s takes its name from Konstantinos “Gus” Haritos, who opened Shadyside’s Harris Grill back in 1951. George Haritos, who sold Harris in 2003, also plans to open another restaurant at 5416 Butler.

Bella Christie coming to Lawrenceville
Bella Christie & Lil’ Z’s Sweet Boutique, the dessert-centric bakery known for making extravagant cakes for every occasion you could think of (and even a few you probably wouldn't), will open a new spot in February. The Aspinwall-based bakery will take over the former Dozen Bake Shop space at 3511 Butler Street.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Adam DeSimone

Emerald View Park will receive National Park Service assistance

Mount Washington’s Emerald View Park, which occupies 257 contiguous acres of land on Pittsburgh’s highest mountain, garnered some major support last week when the National Park Service deemed it eligible for its Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.

“This is a great opportunity for the park to get more recognition for the kind of efforts we’ve been putting into it,” says Ilyssa Manspeizer, director of park development and conservation for the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation.

The MWCDC, Manspeizer said, will utilize the NPS’s help in conducting a park use survey, finding continuing funding for park development and engaging the community in an ongoing conversation about how to best finance the park, among other things.

“We’ll be able to call on the assistance of some of their specialists,” Manspeizer says.

Emerald View Park links existing parks on Mt. Washington with degraded community green spaces and hillsides to form one of the region’s largest urban parks. The most recently refurbished piece, the Saddle Trail Head off of Sycamore Street, debuted to the public in September —a small but crucial connecting piece in the park’s extensive and growing series of commuter trails.

“We’re looking at several possibilities for next year,” Manspeizer says. “One is a connection from the Sycamore piece to the McArdle roadway, so it would be great for safe, commuter pedestrian access.”

Emerald View Park’s partnership with the NPS will last through September of next year, at which point it will be free to re-apply for further assistance if needed.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ilyssa Manzpeizer

Community group seeking buyer for historic North Side church

If Pittsburgh has taught us anything, it’s that you can convert an old church to suit almost any need.

Between community centers, art studios, bars and restaurants, a preponderance of old churches has proved one of Pittsburgh’s greatest assets during its ongoing reinvention. Now, there’s an absolute gem on the market.

But don’t expect it to be there for long.

The church which housed the First Immanuel Evangelical Congregation, built by German and Swiss immigrants in 1889 is for sale by its owner, the Community Alliance of Spring Garden and East Deutschtown. The alliance purchased the church four years ago to save it from demolition, and had a congregation using its sanctuary as recently as last month.

Now, it’s looking for a new owner to bring economic potential to the neighborhood while taking care of the historic building.

“We want someone who’d love and care for it, but who’d also bring some kind of economic stimulus to the neighborhood” says Nancy Noszka, a development consultant who’s working with the alliance to help sell the building at 1000 Madison Avenue at Tripoli Street.

Noszka adds that the alliance is working to have the building designated an historic landmark with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, and that among the interested parties are people who would look to turn the space into an artists’ social club, gallery space or concert venue.

The church itself occupies a little about 16,000 square feet, including two adjacent buildings which are not a part of the original structure. The building is in pretty good shape for being nearly 125 years old, and sanctuary is in nearly pristine condition — including leaden stained glass windows which, though boarded on the outside, trace their origins to a turn-of-the-century Highland Park glassmaker.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Nancy Noszka

Carnegie Mellon gets $10 million gift toward renovating Heinz College space

Hamburg Hall, the home of Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College, will undergo a major overhaul over the course of the next two years, thanks in part to a gift from the Heinz Endowments.

“It’s all going toward renovating and expanding the home of the Heinz College,” says CMU spokesperson Abby Simmons.

The renovation and addition to Hamburg Hall constitutes the second of four phases of expansion CMU has planned for the western portion of its campus along Forbes Avenue in Oakland.

“The crux of phase two is creating a larger auditorium, renovating the rotunda and developing some collaborative spaces for students to meet for projects — a sort of open, common area,” Simmons says. “It’s very focused on improving the student experience and improving growth and enrollment.”

The Heinz College offers the nation’s top graduate and post-graduate programs in information technology and management, and a program among the 10 best in public policy analysis, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings. Not surprisingly, it’s seen a 30 percent spike in enrollment since 2008.

“What we’re finding is that the enrollment growth we’ve experienced the past several years has made it necessary to create more space for students and faculty,” Simmons says.  “This is part of an ongoing relationship that the Heinz College has benefitted from. We’re very thankful for their support through the years.”

Simmons added that Phase II of the expansion is tentatively due to be completed by December of 2015.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Abby Simmons

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

An artist and an antique dealer form one of the Strip District's coolest shared spaces

Michael Lotenero was an artist looking for workspace. John and Marla Zerrer were antique dealers with a little more space than they needed.

“These guys were looking to rent the space out to other antique dealers, and I just walked in one day and asked if they’d be willing to rent it out for one artist to use as a studio,” Lotenero says.

That’s how the front half of Zerrer’s Antiques, located at 2703 Penn Avenue in the Strip District, became the headquarters for Lotenero Art + Design. And why not?

Lotenero and the Zerrers will celebrate one year together with an open house tomorrow from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., showcasing both businesses’ finest in art and antiques, respectively.

The building, which in 1890 housed the upscale Hays Hotel & Saloon, sports unfinished bare brick walls and an ornate ceiling of pressed tin — all frozen in a state of decay that’s warm, interesting and oddly suited to its joint purposes.

Because it’s situated in an area of the Strip that’s closer to Lower Lawrenceville than it is to the food markets, the block hasn’t seen much foot traffic since the Zerrers moved in about five years ago, but that’s changing with the relocation of the Pittsburgh Public Market.

“I’ve noticed a lot more foot traffic on the block,” says John Zerrer. “You see some, but usually it’s people going to check out the warehouse with the Steelers jerseys. But the week the market opened, we had people who stopped in on their way to or from the market who said they had no idea we were here.”

The partnership has benefitted both businesses. Zerrer’s dedicated clientele, some of whom do prop work for movies, have inquired about using Lotenero’s art. People who specifically seek out Lotenero’s work find themselves in a room full of eclectic antiques, rethinking the way they want to decorate.

“I’m here almost every day. It’s an open studio. I wanted to be exposed to people walking in and being around,” Lotenero says. “It’s a weird experiment. I get to rifle through some weird, old things.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Michael Lotenero, John Zerrer

Pittsburgh-based eyewear company gets serious about charity

To any Pittsburgh outsider, the fact that Penn Avenue Eyewear isn’t located anywhere near Penn Avenue might make about as much sense as the Port Authority’s bus numbering system, or how streets here have a funny way of casually turning into staircases.

But even most Pittsburghers would be at a loss to explain why a company called Penn Avenue Eyewear would be located on the North Side. The fledgling online retailer of locally designed glasses frames started out as an optical lab on Penn in the Strip District, but recently moved its operation after establishing a large retail presence online.

“We officially launched in May. We’re really just starting out,” says Caitlin Northup, the company’s creative director.
While the company has quickly gained traction as an online retailer, Northup thinks its new charity initiative could help put the company on more Pittsburghers’ maps. Last week, Pen Avenue Eyewear began allowing customers to choose a charity to receive 10 percent of each purchase.

“We’ve been giving to charity and doing some special events. We got to thinking about it more and we wanted to put the choice in our customers’ hands,” Northup says.

Currently, the list includes seven local and national charities, but Northup says she hopes that list will grow with customer input.

“The more the merrier at this point,” she says. “I’d love to get to the point where we have so many charities that people can search them by name or location or anything. I want to completely open it up so people can find something which means something to them.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Caitlin Northup

Kevin Sousa to open farm-to-table restaurant in Braddock

If all goes according to plan, Chef Kevin Sousa could bring a game-changing installation to Braddock. But first, he needs the funding.

Sousa, whose restaurants include Salt of the Earth, Union Pig & Chicken and Station Street Hot Dogs, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds necessary to build Superior Motors a hyper-local restaurant from top to bottom, and just one part of what he sees as a local ecosystem capable of stimulating Braddock's economy.

"We don't have a lot of capital right now. The banks are not, at this time, willing to come to Braddock or take that risk," Sousa says. "We're really going for it. We feel like we've really put together a great campaign."

Superior Motors will occupy the space at 1121 Braddock Avenue in a structure which dates to 1921 and was one of the first indoor car dealerships in the country, known for a time as you guessed it Superior Motors. It's directly across from the Edgar Thompson Steel Works, which Sousa says provides a "malignant beauty."

The restaurant will get about 85 percent of its ingredients from within a two-block radius. In addition to utilizing Braddock Farms and the Braddock Apiary just down the street, Superior Motors will sport a 1,000 square-foot greenhouse on its roof, plus an additional 4,000 square feet of on-site, raised-bed gardens. Next door, the Braddock Hostel will provide no-cost housing for the restaurant's staff of culinary and service interns from across the country.

"There will be significant discounts for everyone who lives in Braddock," he says. "It won't be a matter of income. Everyone who wants to eat here will be able to afford this restaurant."

Additionally, Sousa is working with the Braddock Youth Project to offer the area's young people opportunities to develop practical skills in the food and farming trades.

"The goal is to provide more than just summer classes," he says. "We're working on a whole sustainable curriculum."
Sousa projects Superior Motors will be ready to open in early 2015.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Kevin Sousa

Eat + Drink: Kelly's new hours, an unusual seasonal beer and more

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

Kelly’s offering lunch service
Kelly’s, the decades-old East Liberty happy hour-mainstay, is known for its cocktails, ambience and baked mac & cheese. Now, after years of catering exclusively to Pittsburgh’s nightlife, the bar and lounge has expanded its hours and is open daily at 11:30 a.m., offering full lunch service.

“We have the same menu all day long, but we’ll be running daily lunch specials as well,” says Kelly’s general manager Deirdre Durant, adding that the specials will feature pot pies made from scratch which will change week-to-week, and sandwiches, including a lamb burger with pickled red onions.

Lunch isn’t an isolated incident, either. The bar will remain open until its usual 2 a.m. daily closing with happy hour running unchanged from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

An unexpected seasonal beer
Many beer drinkers tend to prefer hoppy beers during periods of warmer weather. But as he’s wont to do with just about everything, Roundabout Brewery’s Steve Sloan has created another stellar hybrid beer which bends convention.  

Called New Zealand Summer Winter Warmer, it combines an English-style winter warmer — a strong ale with heavy and sweet malt flavors — with a generous but not overwhelming amount of New Zealand hops. After all, our winter is their summer.

The result is a balanced, seasonal ale which is likely to satiate both malt fans and hopheads — something previously not thought possible.
 
Prohibition dinner at Tender
Eighty years ago tomorrow, the United States ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing Prohibition. To commemorate the occasion, Tender Bar + Kitchen is celebrating with a Repeal Day dinner featuring spirits from Laird & Company, America’s oldest commercial distillery.

Tickets for the event are $65 and include a four-course meal and cocktail reception with Lisa Laird, the distillery’s ninth-generation owner. For more information or to buy tickets, check out the event page.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Deirdre Durant

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

Giant Eagle looks to open grocery store Downtown

On the heels of developer Ralph Falbo’s plan to open a boutique food market and wine bar in Market Square, Giant Eagle is exploring the notion of opening a full-service grocery somewhere in Downtown Pittsburgh.

While Giant Eagle hasn’t yet chosen a site for a Downtown location, there are several it is considering.

“We have been collaborating with Giant Eagle on a feasibility study to see if Downtown is a location that would be suitable for them, and the indicators are positive,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “They’re looking at a number of sites but haven’t settled on anything.”

Downtown Pittsburgh hasn’t had a full-service grocery store since Rosebud Fine Food Market and Deli, which was located at the corner of Seventh Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard, closed in 2010 after just two years of operation. Prior to Rosebud, Downtown’s last grocery store was The Market on Market Square, which occupied the former G.C. Murphy building on Forbes Avenue and closed its doors in 1994.

Demand for a grocery store in Downtown Pittsburgh has steadily grown over the last several years as the area’s residential population has increased. According to a report the PDP released earlier this year, about 8,000 people live in the Greater Downtown area. The same report stated that in answering an open-ended question about retail needed in Downtown, 33 percent of residents identified a grocery store as their top priority.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Leigh White

Award-winning Holiday Market returns, bigger and better

The Peoples Gas Holiday Market, which earlier this year won a Merit Award from the International Downtown Association, is back up and running in Downtown Pittsburgh’s Market Square.

“Last year, we had 12 to 15 vendors. This year, we have more than 25,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “We have six vendors who came in from overseas and from across the country.”

This year’s market boasts vendors selling holiday goods from Eastern European cultures familiar to Pittsburgh, all the way to special items from Ireland and Nepal. There’s a large tent offering traditional, handmade German decorations, a selection of trees and wreaths of various sizes and plenty to eat.

White added that in addition to adding some more international flavor to this year’s edition — which has turned Market Square into a miniature holiday village — the market has added some Pittsburgh-specific retailers to its repertoire.

Drew and Jeannine Hine’s South Side-based Vessel Studio Glass had a booth part-time at last year’s market, but is back again this year, occupying a full-time space, where they’re offering everything from intricately designed cheese knives to hand-blown tree ornaments —including a mock-up of the much-beloved rubber duck which spent three weeks in Pittsburgh waters earlier this year.

“We’re making more every night just to keep up with demand,” Jeannine Hine says.

White says the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is expecting more than 250,000 visitors to the holiday market, and that it anticipates a very positive effect on the Downtown economy. Last year, for every $100 consumers spent in the market, they spent an additional $500 in Downtown’s other businesses and restaurants.

“One of the biggest reasons we do this is that we want people to come Downtown and shop here, but also shop at the other stores and restaurants, and we’re really seeing the effects of that,” White says.

For a complete list of the market's vendors and operating hours, visit its website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Leigh White
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