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Strip District : Development News

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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

Bar Marco launching The Wine Room in March

“In the service industry, if you’re a server or an owner or a manager and you go to another restaurant, they’ll usually send out a free dish or something like that,” says Bar Marco co-owner Bobby Fry. “But if you’re a chef, they’ll cook for you.”

Making that experience more accessible is the premise behind The Wine Room — a 10-seat, no-menu dining room located in the fully-finished wine cellar at Bar Marco.

A seating in The Wine Room — which includes food and wine pairings — will be the joint work of Chef Jamilka Borges and sommelier Sarah Thomas, who have spent the last several months fine-tuning their senses of each other’s palates.

“We took a trip to Chicago where we ate the same things and drank the same wines and started training to understand each other’s descriptions,” Borges says. “She can’t taste every single thing that I’m sending, so she’s really trusting on my description of aesthetic or salty or warm.”

Beginning in March, The Wine Room will host two seatings a night, Wednesday through Saturday. The first, a 6:15 p.m. pre-dinner seating for $55, will consist of four small courses. The 8 p.m. dinner seating costs $125 and will treat diners to Borges and Thomas teaming up on between eight and 12 courses.

Because reservations for The Wine Room are pre-paid and include tax and gratuity, Fry says diners need only focus on what’s in front of them.

“It’s the whole idea of making dining a full sensory experience, walking through the dining room and meeting the people you’re going to be dining with, then getting escorted downstairs,” Fry says. “You’re going through our kitchen — our home. There isn’t this weird disconnect between you and the server or you and the chef.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bobby Fry, Jamilka Borges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For updates, follow Dishcrawl Pittsburgh on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

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

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

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Colleen Coll

Eat + Drink: Rum cocktails, beer and...gluten-free fries?

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s week a epic local nommz.

Rum cocktails for everyone
Maggie’s Farm Rum, the Strip District distillery from Tim Russell which opened its doors for bottle sales after Thanksgiving last year, held the grand opening of its in-house cocktail and tasting bar on Saturday. Russell, who for the event partnered with the organizers of Pittsburgh Cocktail Week and Butterjoint Bar Manager Will Groves, offered attendees a menu of five cocktails and a rum punch.

Russell says that eventually, the bar will operate in conjunction with the distillery’s retail hours, but that for now, the bar will only be open Thursday through Sunday, and that he'll likely offer between four and six different rum cocktails at a given time.

CoStar on tap at Gus’s Café
Eat + Drink paid its first visit to Gus’s Café in Lawrenceville over the weekend and discovered a few great things:
1. French fries cooked in gluten-free oil taste just as good as those fried in regular oil (admittedly, we’re still not sure what gluten actually tastes like).
2. A local brewery called CoStar (more on them next week) makes an American-style pale ale called Hopland Park. It’s a dark gold, hazy as apple cider and strikes an extremely fine balance between hop and citrus flavors; remarkably refreshing for how full-bodied it is. Go try it.
3. Gus’s ambience, menu and simple charm — plus the sizable outdoor patio on the way — could eventually make it one of the top neighborhood bars in a city full of great neighborhood bars.

The Porch hosts ‘Bee to Beer’ tonight
To celebrate the release of its Honey Heather Ale, East End Brewing will throw a release party tonight at The Porch at Schenley from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Made with honey from hives kept on the roof of The Porch, this new edition of Honey Heather Ale will only be available on draft at The Porch and its Downtown sister restaurant Six Penn Kitchen, as well as East End’s brewery in Larimer.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Tim Russell, George Haritos

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

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

Eat + Drink: A heavy dose of holiday spirits and more

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

Larkin leads the way on Allegheny River Libation Trail
It seems that craft breweries, distilleries and wineries just recently started popping up in Pittsburgh.

Well don’t look now, but there are 15 such independent producers along the Allegheny River corridor alone. That’s why Bill Larkin, who with his wife, Michelle, owns and operates Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville, is leading the charge in establishing the Allegheny River Libation Trail.

“I pulled everybody together from a certain geographical area and we just had a meeting,” Larkin said. “I think it’s remarkable that there are so many producers in such a small area. I think it’s something that should be exploited.”

The coalition’s first order of business will be to produce a brochure, highlighting all of its members and their proximity to one another. Larkin says that since a lot of the producers already support each other— many order their ingredients together in bulk to save on shipping costs — so this kind of cross-promotion makes sense.

Of the 15 breweries, distilleries and wineries in the neighborhoods along both sides of the Allegheny — from Millvale and Lawrenceville, all the way up through the Strip District and the North Side — 13 intend to participate in what Larkin views as a loose confederation of businesses.

“I don’t think anybody wants to make this an official organization,” he says. “We’re all pretty busy, and I don’t think anyone wants that kind of commitment.”
Stay Tuned Distillery opens in Munhall
One distillery you won’t find on the libation trail, simply by virtue of its location, is the Stay Tuned Distillery, which opened earlier this month.

Located at 810 Ravine Street in Munhall, Stay Tuned specializes in finishing whisky and gin made from spirits distilled at the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. The local operation houses their rectification facilities, a retail shop and a tasting bar.

“We finish their rye and their single malt, and we make our own gin,” says co-owner LeeAnn Sommerfeld.

Though not yet available for sale, Stay Tuned’s PathoGin is made from a barley base and contains more citrus and floral flavors than most mass-market gins. Its rye and single malt whiskys will both be ready in time for the holiday shopping season.

Music at Marty's Market
The folks at Marty's Market are forever finding new ways to make use of their outstanding space. This Friday will mark the first installment of the Music at Marty's series, which will feature local Latin musician Geña. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and include music, freshly prepared Latin cuisine and a Q&A with the musician. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased on the market's website.
Cocktail viewing party
Hey Bartender,” Douglas Tirola’s documentary examining New York City’s craft cocktail culture through the eyes of two skilled mixologists, will screen tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Downtown’s Harris Theater as a part of the Three Rivers Film Festival.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bill Larkin, LeeAnn Sommerfeld

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

After a long, strange trip, Maggie's Farm Rum is open for business

When we checked in with Tim Russell in August, he was a ventilation system away from starting production on Maggie’s Farm Rum out of his distillery on Smallman Street in the Strip District.

With all of his equipment in place, all Russell needed to open for business was federal approval of his label from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. ATF is notoriously nitpicky when it comes to approving alcohol labels, often requiring applicants to make multiple revisions and resubmit to what can be a month-long process.

Russell submitted his third iteration in September. Then, the government shut down.

With his label in limbo, Russell found his entire business on hold. The Washington Post took notice, making Maggie’s Farm the lead item in a feature on how the shutdown impacted people outside the federal workforce. That feature led to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a congresswoman from Texas, telling Russell’s story on the floor of the House.

Last Friday, about two weeks after the 16-day shutdown ended, Russell got word that his label was approved, allowing him to open for business.

“Initially, because of limited quantities, I’m just going to make it available to bars and restaurants,” Russell says, adding that he’ll likely open to the public once the cocktail bar and tasting room areas of his space are ready in the next couple of months.

“I might do a Black Friday thing where I’d open up bottle sales to the public whether the tasting room is done or not,” he says.

Russell will do a tasting of Maggie’s Farm Rum tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bocktown Beer & Grill in Robinson. You can follow the distillery’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

Pittsburgh Public Market reopens in new location

Forced from its space in the old produce terminal and into a new, greener, climate-controlled building, the Pittsburgh Public Market is back up and running at 2401 Penn Avenue, following a soft opening last Wednesday.

“We did the soft opening because the merchants depends on the money as income, but we also thought it was important to get it open,” says Becky Rodgers, executive director of Neighbors in the Strip. “When you go in there, you’ll still see people working on their booths.”

The new Public Market features 25,000 square feet of space, about 10,000 square feet of which are rentable, rendering it just about the same size as the market’s old location, but with greater capability.

The East End Brewery is back to hosting its regular growler hours there, now with eight taps on hand — double the number it had in the old space. Olive oil merchant The Olive Tap will occupy an 1,800-square-foot space in the new building and the market is bringing in several new vendors, including yet-to-be-revealed cheese and wine vendors.

“There are a lot of great merchants in there right now,” Rodger says, adding that she expects around 20 businesses to occupy the space during the week in the market's first year, with more coming in just on weekends.

The new Pittsburgh Public Market will hold a grand opening at the end of November. Until then, the market will maintain the regular hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Becky Rodgers

Eat + Drink: tacos, pierogies and all kinds of beer!

Eat & Drink is Pop City's roundup of local epic nomz.

Casa Reyna opens taco stand
Here’s a new game to play with your friends: how far down any one stretch of Penn Avenue do you need to travel before finding a place to buy a great taco?

Whatever the answer was, the distance just got shorter. Casa Reyna, the restaurant sister of Nic DiCio’s Reyna Market in the Strip District opened up a taco stand outside its 2031 Penn Avenue space. The stand will be open daily from 10 a.m. to about 7 p.m., depending on business, year-round.

First annual Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival
A host of local restaurants will converge at South Shore Riverfront Park this Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. to present the inaugural Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival. Vendors will include Bar Marco, BRGR, Franktuary, Marty’s Market and more. Admission to the event is free and all vendors will be cash-only.

To learn more about the first annual Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival, check it out on Twitter or visit its Facebook page.

Pumking at D’s
For those in in the full swing of fall, D’s Six Pax and Dogz in Regent Square will fill its massive tap room with a vast selection of pumpkin beers starting Friday. In addition to pumpkin beers already on tap, D’s will roll out Southern Tier Pumpking not only from this year, but cellar-aged kegs from the previous three years.

“We’ll also have the Southern Tier Warlock, which is a stout made with Pumking. There’ll be a bunch of other pumpkin beers but it’s really about the Pumking,” says D’s Beer Czar Justin “Hootie” Blakey.

Penn Brewery wins at the Great American Beer Festival
Penn Brewery’s Chocolate Meltdown, a chocolate stout which the brewery plans to release this winter, took home a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival this month.

“It was an old homebrew recipe of mine. I brought it in and we scaled it up,” says Nick Rosich, one of Penn’s brewers. “We get all our chocolate from Besty Ann over here in West View. We use that in the kettle, and we use quite a bit of lactose to bring out that milky creaminess. It’s a chocolate milk stout.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Blakey, Nick Rosich

Space at 1100 Smallman will be 59 new rental units

The Strip District is re-emerging as a residential neighborhood and developer Brian Schreiber is the latest to get in on the action.

Schreiber and his Shadyside-based Schreiber Real Estate will construct a 59-unit apartment building at 1100 Smallman Street, right where the Strip meets Downtown. The structure, which will stand six stories, will encompass a building Schreiber currently owns at the address in addition to an entirely new structure.

“It’s really within the central business district, so it’s well-suited to people who work there,” Schreiber says.

The complex Schreiber is currently calling 1100 Smallman will contain about 60,000 square feet. About two-thirds of the building will be one-bedroom units, and the other third will be comprised of two-bedroom apartments. Each unit will have one bathroom per bedroom. 1100 Smallman will include on-site parking, exercise facilities, a partial roof garden, community rooms and outdoor deck areas.

Art Lubetz’s Front Studio Architects will serve as the designing firm. The parties haven’t yet agreed on a contractor, and Schreiber says he’ll likely choose a leasing agent by the middle of next year. Schreiber says he anticipates rents at 1100 Smallman to range between $1,400 and $1,800 per month. Lubetz is also designing the condos at nearby 1135 Penn, which will be ready offer significant tax credits and will be ready in a few months.

1100 Smallman will not touch any part of Schreiber’s nearby properties, including the buildings housing popular restaurants Eleven and Lidia’s Pittsburgh

The apartment building is scheduled to be completed by either late winter or early spring of 2015.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Brian Schreiber

Eat + Drink: Wigle introducing a rum, the Brooklyn Brewery Mash comes to Pittsburgh and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at all that's good in local food.

Wigle will release a honey spirit this month
Wigle Whiskey, Pittsburgh’s most popular purveyor of local spirits, will take its first step outside the whiskey realm next Thursday, October 17th, when it releases Landlocked — a rum-type spirit crafted from local, organic buckwheat honey.
When Wigle started kicking around the idea of rolling out a new spirit, they knew they wanted it to be something innovative. Most rum is made from sugar cane or types of molasses.

“A great Pennsylvania alternative to those is honey,” says Wigle’s Meredith Grelli. “We could think of no more exemplary honey to western pa than buckwheat honey. It has a distinctive, earthy quality to it. We started experimenting and playing around, and we really liked what we came up with.”

Wigle had patrons participate in blind taste tests with its new concoction going against similar spirits already on the market. After about six months of tooling around with a recipe, they knew they had something special.

“We knew it was time to take it to market when we were beating out industry leaders in taste testing,” Grellis says.
Wigle will hold two sessions from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and from 8 p.m. to 10 pm. Tickets for both sessions are available through their website.

Brooklyn Brewery brings its MASH to Pittsburgh
The Brooklyn Brewery is taking its show on the road. From October 22-27, the Brooklyn Brewery Mash — a five-day festival of parties, pop-up dinners and most of all, beer.

The Mash will be headquartered at Lawrenceville’s Industry Public House, and will feature events there for the first four days of the festival, including beer and cheese pairings, experimental beer tastings and various other specials.

Other events, including as a multi-course, beer-centric dinner, a farmer’s market workshop and a found footage screening will take place at locales around the city, including the Farmers at Firehouse Market, the Regent Square Theater and a host of different restaurants.

A full schedule of Brooklyn Mash happenings is available on the event’s website.

Duquesne’s Red Ring gets all-season patio
The Red Ring, Duquesne University’s signature restaurant at 1015 Forbes Avenue, will open an enclosed outdoor patio, starting tomorrow. The patio will be able to accommodate 46 customers between seven dining tables and nine cocktail tables.

The area will be lined with a full-length cloth awning and feature clear, roll-down vinyl along the perimeter. Radiant heaters for use during cold weather will make the space usable year-round.

Worth tasting
Love the flavors of fall but dislike big chain coffeeshops? Pop City heartily recommends heading to Marty's Market, where the coffee bar is serving up Maple & Clove lattes. They're incredibly delicious.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Meredith Grelli

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: The 61B Cafe, Smorgasburgh, an end-of-summer dinner

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly news roundup on the food scene.

61B Café opens in Regent Square
The long-awaited sister store of Squirrel Hill’s popular 61C Café opened in Regent Square last Wednesday. The 61B Café, which sits on the bus line of the same name, is located at 1108 South Braddock Avenue in the space which formerly held Katerbean, which closed last November.

The 61B Café’s opening, which was supposed to occur last spring, was delayed due to a prolonged remodeling process. The café is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Smorgasburgh: Pittsburgh's first food-exclusive flea market
A plethora of coffee shops, restaurants, markets and specialty grocers will take part in Smorgasburgh, a pop-up food market in the Strip District on September 21st.

Organized by Michael McAllister and Kit Mueller and based on the food-exclusive Brooklyn flea market (minus the "h"), Smorgasburgh will take place in the parking lot across from Marty’s Market at 2301 Smallman Street, and run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We do kind of see it as something that we can do every four to six weeks,” McAllister says, adding that he thinks there will be another one organized before Thanksgiving.

Participants include: The Crested Duck, Meat & Potatoes, Marty’s Market, Olive & Marlowe, Klayvon’s Ice Cream, Wild Purveyors, Bluebird Kitchen, The Pop Stop, Bedillion Honey Farm, Good L’Oven Bakery, Tamari, The Livermore, Pastitsio, Drew’s Pie Supply, Franktuary, Fukuda, Espresso a Mano and Zeke’s Coffee. The event is BYOB, but PortaKeg will be on-hand with beer from Full Pint.

Low Country Boil at Bayardstown tonight!
Urbanist Guide is teaming up Chef Kate Romane of Highland Park’s e2 for an old-fashioned Lowcountry shrimp boil tonight at Bayardstown Social Club in the Strip District. The traditional southern summer sendoff will include shrimp, corn, potatoes, sausage and Old Bay, along with salad, tomatoes, green beans, bread and a house-made hot sauce. The event is BYOB. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased through Showclix.

Oktoberfest at Penn Brewery
The Penn Brewery, located in Troy Hill, will host its annual Oktoberfest celebration both this and next weekend. 

It will run from 5 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. 

For a complete schedule of events, visit the brewery's website.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Michael McAllister

Eat + Drink: Spirits in the Strip and a Party at the Pier

Eat + Drink is...well, this week, it's just about drinks.

Wigle Whiskey will introduce organic bitters

After just a year of hand-crafting small-batch spirits, Wigle Whiskey will launch its first line of bitters next month with a September 13th release party at their distillery in the Strip District.

Chris Kuhn of Social at Bakery Square and Wes Shonk of Meat & Potatoes outgrowth Butcher and The Rye have each created specialty cocktails designed to showcase Wigle’s first two varieties of bitters, Aromatic and Rosemary Lavender. Both will be available at the party, along with small plates and a very particular kind of art exhibit.

“The Allegheny Highlands Botanical Art Society has illustrated all of the botanicals that we used in the bitters,” says Wigle co-owner Meredith Grelli. The society’s works will be on display, as will some of the actual plants Wigle used to craft the bitters, thanks to the Phipps Conservancy.

Grelli says that because the federal government treats bitters as a category apart from other alcohol products, an entirely different set of “nice, easy standards” applies. While bitters typically include certain chemicals, such as dyes or acids, Wigle’s bitters are entirely organic.

“Since we’re using whole, real botanicals, it’s been a six-month process of their lab doing tests to certify that people wouldn’t be able to drink it on its own,” Grelli says.

Wigle plans to release two new varieties of bitters in the Spring of 2014.

Maggie’s Farm Rum distillery coming to the Strip District
Between whiskey makers, wineries and breweries large and small, what more could Pittsburgh possibly want from its alcohol culture?

“There’s nobody making rum or brandy here right now,” says Tim Russell. “I don’t think there are any good American-made rums available to people in Pennsylvania. The state stores have the Caribbean products, and that’s about it.”

Russell is aiming to change that. His company, Allegheny Distilling, LLC, is set to begin making Maggie’s Farm Rum within the next month in his distillery at 3212A Smallman Street.

“Right now, the equipment is in place. I need to get a small ventilation system for my still,” says Russell, who’s already been approved for state and federal permits. “Other than that, we should be able to start production in a couple of weeks.”

Russell says production at Maggie’s Farm will start with white rum, but that he hopes to also produce a few varieties of brandy. He also says that within the next few months, he hopes to add a cocktail bar and a tasting room to the distillery.

Riverlife's Party at the Pier
Looking for something fun to do next Friday? Riverlife is hosting its annual Party at the Pier at the North Shore Riverfront Ampitheater.

The evening of dining, drinking and dancing features fresh local food, signature cocktails and music from DJ Espy. There will be 20-minute boat rides aboard the Gateway Clipper at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., as well as firedancing performances. 

If you're looking to get to one more great party on the water before summer's over, we heartily suggest checking this out.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Meredith Grelli, Tim Russell

Remaking Cities Congress will convene in Pittsburgh this October

Twenty-five years ago, urban planners, architects and civil engineers from around the country and the world convened in Pittsburgh with the specific aim of addressing the problems facing historically industrial cities in a post-industrial world.

The gathering, called the Remaking Cities Institute, involved days of closed-door meetings, idea exchanges and ultimately, a set of recommendations and principles for industrial cities around the world to set about pulling themselves out of their post-industrial funk.

From October 15th to 18th, the organization, now called the Remaking Cities Congress, will gather 300 of the world’s leading urbanists here once again to review what worked, what didn’t and to issue a new list of recommendations which will inform and guide the next generation of urban planning policy for post-industrial cities from Pittsburgh to Germany’s Ruhr Valley.

“There were policy recommendations, and people walked away from [those sessions] and said, ‘we’re going to see how these affect our urban centers,’” says Pam Wigley, the director of media relations for Carnegie Mellon’s College of Fine Arts, who is helping to organize the congress. “The delegates have closed-door sessions on urban planning. They vote, they make decisions on policy, research and economic impact, among other things.”

Pittsburgh has benefitted from several of the recommendations put forth by the last gathering, including making substantial efforts to reclaim riverfronts and redevelop brownfields. Other involved areas, such as Detroit, have had substantially less success.

The congress’s honorary chair, Charles, the Prince of Wales, attended the 1988 conference in Pittsburgh, but this time will send a delegate in his stead and deliver his address via a videotaped message.

“Prince Charles has always had an interest in urban development and community planning,” Wigley says.

In addition to a series of invitation-only sessions, the congress will include several speakers such as Richard Florida and The Brookings Institute's Bruce Katz, as well as a host of tours and mobile workshops which will showcase various aspects of Pittsburgh's resurgence as case studies in post-industrial redevelopment.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Pam Wigley

1135 Penn Condos offer significant tax credits to buyers

The space at 1135 Penn Avenue in Downtown, behind Eleven and vacant for the last five years, will soon house five  condominiums.

Designed and co-developed by Front Studio Architects in conjunction with construction firm MM Marra, 1135 Penn will feature five full-floor units, each consisting of at least 2,000 square feet.

According to Art Lubetz, a principal with Front Studio, buyers of units at 1135 Penn are eligible for tax credits under the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Act (LERTA), which offers 10-year abatements of up to $250,000 of the improved assessed value of a unit. This could save prospective buyers as much as $60,000.

Additionally, Allegheny County is also offering three-year abatements on the first $86,750 of each unit’s value.

The existing structure, which formerly housed a poultry slaughterhouse, dates to 1917 and will be outfitted with heating and cooling units in each condo, high-performance acoustic windows, bare brick walls and indoor parking spaces.

“The top floor has a large roof terrace, and the other two have terraces in the front of the building, which faces south,” says Lubetz.

Two of the units are already sold. Once Front Studio and Marra sell a third, they’ll begin construction, which they anticipate will take about five months.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Art Lubetz

Eat + Drink: Klavon's reopens with PSU ice cream, Hello Bistro expands, Nakama food truck and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly exploration of the best in local food news.

Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor reopening
Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor, a Strip District mainstay, will hold a soft open on Sunday in celebration of National Ice Cream Day.

New owners Jacob and Desiree Hanchar won't make many changes to the place, but one will be notable: they've switched to ice cream from the Penn State Creamery, making Klavon's the only establishment in Pittsburgh to serve the internationally reknowned treat from State College.

“We’re keeping the menu as close to the same as possible,” Jacob Hanchar says. "We’re going to try to keep the phosphates, but they won’t be available during the soft open."

It will be the first day of business since former owner Raymond J. Klavon died of cancer in January. His family sold the building to the Hanchars in late June.

"We gave the place a fresh coat of paint. Other than that, we haven’t done a lot to the shop," Hanchar says. "We’re going to promote companies that are from Pittsburgh, local confectionary makers. We really want to keep the roots and the karma as authentic as possible.”

Hello Bistro expands to the South Side
Eat’n Park Hospitality Group’s Hello Bistro opened its second Pittsburgh location last week, this one at 1922 East Carson Street on the South Side.

The menu emphasizes fresh specialty burgers and salads, includes a variety of bottled beers, and offers a few of Eat’n Park’s mainstays, such as its potato soup and Smiley cookies.

The first Hello Bistro location opened last summer in Oakland, and Eat’n Park is planning a third location for Downtown.

Nakama to debut food truck
Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, which has already expanded across the city with express locations in each of the city’s major sporting venues and Carnegie Mellon University, is launching its first food truck.

The truck, custom-painted by South Side artist Danny Gardner, will feature traditional Japanese hibachi, seasonal sushi rolls, noodle dishes, fried rice and fresh salads, as well as daily specials.

The truck will debut Thursday in Schenley Park as part of the festivities surrounding the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

To find the Nakama food truck around town or check its daily specials, you can follow the truck on Facebook or Twitter (@nakamafoodtruck).

Planet Goodness brings organic options to the Alle-Kiski Valley
For more than a year, Stephanie Riedel, Jake Roach and Sue Ziegenfus have been working to revive the former grocery store at 1012 First Street in North Vandergrift, and turn it into an organic grocery store.

On July 27th, Planet Goodness will open to the public, bringing healthy and organic food to the suburbs northeast of Pittsburgh.

“Always good for the earth in the end is our main concept,” Riedel says. “We really are excited to be bringing the organic and natural food supply to the valley. There’s a lot of folks here who need and want better food choices.”

Planet Goodness will start off relatively small, occupying just 1,560 square feet of the building’s 2,500 square-foot first floor. But Riedel says that plans to keep expanding immediately after opening include a classroom and a recycled garden area.

“We want it to be something of a community hub,” Riedel says. “The thing about rural folks is they want a place to congregate.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Jacob Hanchar, Stephanie Riedel

Eat + Drink: Skybar, Taverna 19, digging on vegan food

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly glance at the lastest happenings in the food scene in Pittsburgh.

A new bar on Carson Street? This one has a twist.

, a new rooftop bar and lounge space located at 1601 East Carson Street, opened last week.

The seventh venture from Adam DiSimone’s AMPD Group, Skybar boasts Pittsburgh’s first-ever rooftop bar and swimming pool, four private rentable cabanas, and food delivery from sister restaurant Local.

The rooftop pool is open during the bar’s daylight hours, and at night, is covered by a transparent platform, making it part of the lounge area.

Skybar is open to the public, but requires either a ticket or reservation on weekends. Ticket prices for varying degrees of access at Skybar range between $10 and $1,000. DeSimone says there won't be a cover on weekdays, but there's only one way to skip any possible lines.

"A membership guarantees you access any time you want," DeSimone says. 

Taverna 19 set for mid-July opening
Pittsburgh will get a monstrous addition to its outdoor dining scene next month when Taverna 19, a Greek restaurant and bar, opens at 108 19th Street in the Strip District.

Specializing in Greek and Mediterranean fare, the 20,000-square foot spot will feature belly dancers on Wednesday through Saturday evenings and a nightclub space on its upper level, bottle service in VIP areas and walls lined with flowers and herbs grown for use in house cocktails.

Taverna 19 will also offer brunch service on Saturday and Sunday.

Stroll the Strip offers a little bit of everything
From a food standpoint, Pittsburgh has no more eclectic neighborhood than the Strip District. Tomorrow night, the second annual Stroll the Strip event will turn the district into a neighborhood party, offering participants a chance to sample nearly all of it.

From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Stroll the Strip invites participants to wander between the event’s 20 host locations — from Wholey Seafood to the Society for Contemporary Craft — and experience all the Strip has to offer in food, drink and art. 

Participants may walk between locations or take advantage of the Pittsburgh Tour Company’s double-decker bus, which will be circulating around the area and stopping at various locations.

The evening will conclude with an after part at Cruze Bar. Tickets to Stroll the Strip are available through ShowClix for $45, or may be purchased at the door for $55.

Randita’s Grill brings vegan fare to Saxonburg and beyond
Last May, Randy Cinski started Randita’s Grill — a food truck specializing in vegan cuisine that popped up everywhere from Washington’s Landing to outlying towns such as Cranberry and Butler.  When a storefront came open in Saxonburg earlier this year, she jumped at the opportunity to establish a permanent location.

“People were asking us to open a restaurant,” Cinski says. “It’s been jumping ever since."

Randita’s Grill, located at 210 West Main Street in Saxonburg, offers lunch and dinner service on Tuesday and Thursday, and lunch exclusively the rest of the week.  When she’s not in the restaurant, Cinski is likely out with her truck, spreading the word that eating well and eating healthy are not mutually exclusive.

“I want to help people figure out how to eat healthy,” Cinski says, adding that her clientele ranges from strict vegans and organic food enthusiasts to people looking to make significant changes in their diets and lifestyles. “Sometimes, I don’t think people even realize what they’re eating is vegan,” she says.

Cinski points to BBQ seitan wraps, African peanut stew and vegan meatball sandwiches as being among her most popular items, and says that she uses local ingredients and materials wherever possible.

“That sometimes dictates my menu,” she says. “We try really hard to buy from local people, right down to our eco-friendly disposable materials.”
Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Becky Rodgers, Randy Cinski, Adam DeSimone

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

Lot 24 luxury apartments open in the Strip District

A brand new 96-unit luxury apartment building in the Strip Distrct held its grand opening last Thursday.

Lot 24
, located at 2404 Railroad Street, is the second joint venture from McCaffery Interests, Chuck Hammel and Bob Beynon, who renovated and opened the Cork Factory Lofts in 2005. MI-Home, a McCaffery subsidiary, will manage the building.

“This was a different type of situation because with the Cork Factory, it was an existing building. Lot 24 is entirely new.” says McCaffery’s Pamela Austin, adding that its red brick and corrugated metal exterior serve to create an industrial feeling that compliments the neighboring Cork Factory and blends in well with the aesthetic of the Strip District.

Antunovich Associates of Chicago designed the building, and California-based hospitality designer Intra-Spec fashioned the interior. Pittsburgh-based contractor Massaro Corporation completed construction on the building in December 2012, and it was fully leased within six months.

Lot 24 offers studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in a variety of sizes and floor plans, and its amenities include a swimming pool, a spa, concierge service, a fitness center, a club room and building-wide WiFi.

Austin says that while the Cork Factory drew a diverse crowd of people, from young professionals to downsizing empty-nesters looking to downsize, Lot 24 is designed to skew young.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Pamela Austin

Eat + Drink: TAPPED pop up beer garden, pop up dinners and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at seasonal deliciousness.

TAPPED pop up beer gardens return for second year
TAPPED, the pop up beer garden project from Epic Development that launched last summer, will return this year with three installments. "Each one is going to take on its own kind of persona," Epic Development's Michael McAllister says.

The first TAPPED event will take place in East Liberty on June 22, and is designed to be a celebration of that neighborhood's revitalization."All of us are passionate about the area and excited about the trajectory of East Liberty," McAllister says.

Joining last year's participants Full Pint Brewing and Bar Marco will be Table Magazine and Braddock's The Brew Gentlemen. A host of food trucks will also be on hand, including FranktuaryBRGR, the PGH Taco TruckThe Pierogi Truck and Lomito, a new venture from the owners of Fukuda.

July's TAPPED event will take place Downtown and highlight the area's arts and culture scene."We will have some fun little twists we're going to keep under wraps until a couple weeks before," McAllister says.

The August event will occur in Upper Lawrenceville and feature local bands and DJs. "It'll be a really fun cap to the summer season," McAllister says.

Pittsburgh Public Market to host monthly Around the World pop up dinners
Chef Mya Zeronis
 will prepare and host the first in a series of Around the World Pop Up Dinners on Friday, August 9 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Public Market. The evening, which will open with Zeronis teaching guests quick lessons on how to make fresh juices, vegetable summer rolls and homemade pickles, will conclude with a vegan-friendly five-course meal.

Zeronis, who sells some of her prepared foods at Lean Chef En Route in the public market, says that she’s always enjoyed pop up dinners. “Even if I were to own a restaurant, I’d want to do this monthly,” she says.

Tickets for the dinner are $35 and available through the Pittsburgh Public Market.

Former Eleven pastry chef starts anew as a chocolatier
Pastry chef Shelby Ortz, who previously spent six years in kitchens at Big Burrito establishments Soba and Eleven, has struck out on her own and started Lux Artisan Chocolates.

Her confections consist of four different bars, including a black fig and pistachio bar, and 12 kinds of bon bons, all with fillings made from scratch — her favorite contains almond, cherry, coconut and caramel.

For Ortz, it’s a career change that arose out of necessity. After she and her husband, also a chef, had a baby last year, Ortz needed to cut her schedule down from the 50-plus hours a week she’d been working.

Lux Artisan Chocolates are available at Mon Amiee Chocolat in the Strip District, Bryant Street Market in Highland Park and Feast on Brilliant in Aspinwall.

Marty's Market expands hours
Marty’s Market in the Strip District has expanded its hours and introduced breakfast service. On weekdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., the market’s cafe will offer breakfast sandwiches, brioche French toast and gluten-free sweet polenta among other offerings. The market itself is has extended its weekday service by two hours and will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m..

Burger 21 coming to Pittsburgh in 2014
Burger 21, a gourmet burger franchise from the owners of The Melting Pot, will expand into Pennsylvania next year with a restaurant in Cranberry. Chad Brooks, owner of eight Qdoba restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, will operate the franchise.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Michael McAllister, Mya Zeronis, Shelby Ortz

Eat + Drink: Carnegie Coffee, Casa Reyna, the return of Vincent's Pizza and more

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

-  The Carnegie Coffee Company, a new coffee shop combined with an existing pharmacy in an old post office in Carnegie, will open to the public on June 15, and hold its grand opening on June 22.

Husband-and-wife-team Ashley Comer and Greg Romeo, who own The Medicine Shoppe in Carnegie, will move that business into the old Carnegie post office at 132 East Main Street.

“We really wanted to model our business after a European–style coffeehouse,” Comer says. “We want it to be a destination, and we wanted to give the people in Carnegie their own place.”

The 2,500-square-foot shop, which will be the first in western Pennsylvania to offer Illy Italian coffee, will also serve pastries from local bakeries and food from Sausalido in Bloomfield.

-  Casa Reyna, the product of three years’ effort from Reyna Foods owner Nicola DiCio, held its soft opening last Friday. The 72-seat Strip District restaurant next door to Reyna Foods on Penn Avenue offers authentic Mexican cuisine, focusing on dishes specifically paired with a variety of house-made tortillas. Casa Reyna also offers a vast selection of tequilas and Mexican beers.

-  Vincent’s Pizza Park in North Braddock, which closed in May of 2012 after more than 50 years in business, will reopen on June 16. Toni Zollner, the daughter of restaurant founder Vincent Chianese, has spent the last year updating and renovating the building, which includes the installation of a new neon sign that closely resembles the original.

-  Franktuary’s Lawrenceville location is now serving brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu, which will change weekly, includes locally farmed breakfast sausages served in buns made from waffle batter, a breakfast take on poutine and pancakes made with a gluten-free brownie batter, as well as a selection of breakfast cocktails.

On several Sundays throughout the summer, 15 percent of the restaurant’s sales will go to one of several local community organizations.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ashley Comer

Bayardstown Social Club offers shared space for grilling and get togethers in the Strip District

Do you wish you had a backyard? A space for summer grilling? Maybe just good outdoor party to go to? Not only does the Bayardstown Social Club in the Strip District offer all those things, it aims to change the way Pittsburghers socialize.

The brainchild of Pittsburgh innovation firm Deeplocal, the combination shared outdoor space and social club offers members a place to grill, drink and talk in atmosphere that’s open, yet intimate.

The idea grew out of Deeplocal’s weekly office cocktail hour.

“The parks are great, but they’re more about families. They’re not really for socialization,” says Deeplocal’s Nathan Martin. “If you live in the city and you don’t have a yard, you can go there and have a casual social experience and meet people.”

After just a month of planning and work on the 5,000-square-foot vacant lot, Deeplocal employees and volunteers transformed it into a space that’s distinctly young, but with an old-fashioned twist.

The club plans to designate certain hours as “adult swim” — cell-phone free time, which it will enforce with cell phone jamming equipment. Laptops are banned entirely.

Bayardstown will also schedule some of the popular local food trucks to come by and offer members dining options.

"We want to promote some of the local businesses," Martin says. "Franktuary has come down and sold kits for grilling."

Martin says this summer’s club activities will include live acoustic music, shared mix-tape sessions and urban camping.

Membership costs $10 per month and is limited to 250 members. At the end of every month, the club will clear its membership roster and reopen its rolls to the public. Non-members may attend with members for $5 per evening.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Nathan Martin

Eat + Drink: The Livermore, Pitaland and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly round-up of news you can consume with your mouth.

-  The creators of Bar Marco in the Strip District have secured the space at 126 Highland Avenue for The Livermore, a new coffee and cocktail joint. It will fill the space previously occupied by The Waffle Shop, an art space/restaurant/internet reality show which started as a Carnegie Mellon class project and lasted four years before closing in July 2012. Livermore is scheduled to open in late June.

-  Lucy Nguyen’s banh mi cart, a seasonal favorite in the Strip District, is back up and running in the parking lot next to Bar Marco. From spring to late fall, Nguyen, who spends winters in her native Vietnam, makes sandwiches of marinated and grilled chicken or pork topped with all manner of herbs and pickled vegetables.

-  Pitaland in Brookline, a Mediterranean bakery and caterer, recently finished renovations to its space and has added an on-site café. Open Monday through Saturday, the café offers breakfast until 11 a.m. and lunch and dinner options until 7 p.m.

-  The café at Sunny Bridge Natural Foods, a specialty grocery store in McMurray, recently unveiled a new catering menu. The café’s chef, Patty Caputo, designed the menu to include dishes made from local beef, chicken and eggs, as well as vegetarian and vegan items. The menu is augmented by selections from the store’s gluten-free bakery, says Sunny Bridge owner Gina Snyder.

-  For the fifth straight year, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will host a farmers’ market. Farmers at Phipps, part of the conservatory’s healthy food and sustainability initiatives, will run every Wednesday from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and offer customers a wide variety of locally grown organic produce from local farms.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Gina Snyder

WindStax opens new plant in the Strip District

When he started WindStax, a wind turbine manufacturing company, Pittsburgh native Ron Gdovic had a design idea and a two-garage space in Apollo.

As soon as it was time for his company to expand, he knew wanted to move back into the city — particularly into an old building.

The new ones “just don’t have any soul,” he says.

The roughly 4,000 square-foot former aluminum factory at 3220 Smallman Street in the Strip District did the trick. Now, Gdovic and his crew have finished setting up shop and started producing some of the most innovative wind turbines on the market.

“We like to promote craftsmanship,” Gdovic says, adding that his shop uses locally-sourced and environmentally-friendly materials in nearly all aspects of production.

The turbines come in columns of 20 and 40 feet and contain just three moving parts. They are made of okoume plywood and held in place with frames built almost entirely out of locally-produced PVC piping and nylon bolts. The batteries the turbines charge are regulated by electronic systems that are also made locally and powered through small solar panels on the tops of the columns.

What makes Gdovic's turbines special is their durability, extremely light weight, and low cost per watt of power. Because they're relatively inexpensive — some can be had for as little as $7,500 — they’re practical for both commercial and residential use.

“Most can power a house for days without wind,” Gdovic says.

While most of WindStax’s business has come from commercial clients such as energy companies, Gdovic says that his new factory has spurred local interest, and that he is talking to potential local clients about harnessing wind power in the city, especially along the rivers.

Learn more about WindStax at their Open House at the factory on May 31.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Ron Gdovic

Eat + Drink: Outdoor dining spots and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of restaurant and food news.

Cure, Chef Justin Severino’s Lawrenceville restaurant, has obtained a liquor license. While the restaurant will offer a full-service bar, its full menu of wines and specialty cocktails won’t be ready for another few weeks. “Right now, they’re just testing some stuff out,” says restaurant spokesperson Gita McCutcheon.

- A new addition to Pittsburgh’s food truck scene, the PGH Crepes cart sets up at the corner of Penn Avenue and 20th Street on weekends and makes its way around town during the week.

“We really like the carts in general. We think it speaks well the entrepreneurial spirit of Pittsburgh,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “It’s a new twist on things, and a nice compliment to the many restaurants downtown.”

To find the crepe cart, follow it on Twitter @pghcrepes.

Waffalonia, the Squirrel Hill-based makers of Belgian-style Liège waffles, will open a kiosk in Schenley Plaza in mid-May.

And now that the weather is good, it’s time to dine outdoors. Here are some of the latest openings:

Make Your Mark Artspace & Coffeehouse in Point Breeze opened its serene back patio last week.

The garden portion of Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville is ethereal and lovely.

The partially re-done patio at Kelly’s Lounge in East Liberty is open, as is the spacious back patio at Lawrenceville’s Round Corner Cantina.

Marty’s Market in the Strip has tables around the outside of its corner location, as well as stools at its garage-door coffee counter.

Orange chairs adorn the patio at Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina.

The Porch in Oakland has some of Pittsburgh’s best outdoor seating, and plenty to go around with school out for the summer.

Biddle’s Escape, a coffee shop tucked away off the main drag in Regent Square, has a spacious and tree-shaded deck.

And Il Pizzaiolo, in both Market Square and Mt. Lebanon has outdoor spaces. In the Mt. Lebanon location, the charming terrace in the back just opened and in Market Square, you'll find tables outside the new location next to Starbucks.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gita McCutcheon, Leigh White

Upcoming mayoral forums address design, planning and public policy and greenspace

How will Pittsburgh’s next mayor ensure that public policy makes good design and planning central to the City’s growth?

That is one of several questions to be asked of Pittsburgh’s mayoral candidates at an upcoming forum to be hosted by the Design Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

“The next mayor will provide leadership on community and economic development across the city,” says Stephen Glassman, president and ceo of the Design Center. “It is important for people interested in good design and planning to hear each candidate’s vision for Pittsburgh’s future, and equally important that our voices be heard by the candidates.”

Glassman says Pittsburgh is at an important inflection point, and with the proper visionary leadership can continue to not only expand its economic base, but provide a model for best practices to the rest of the country.

Each candidate will make the case for why he is capable of providing that leadership, as well as answer additional questions prepared by the Design Center.

Questions will also be taken from audience members, on topics ranging from blight and vacant properties, to historic preservation, riverfronts and multi-modal transportation.

Candidates Bill Peduto, A.J. Richardson, Jack Wagner, and Jake Wheatley are confirmed to participate in the forum, according to the Design Center. It will be moderated by Diana A. Bucco, vice president of The Buhl Foundation.

The Mayoral Candidates Forum on Design, Planning, and Public Policy will take place on Wednesday, May 8th, at Point Park University’s GRW Auditorium in University Center at 414 Wood Street, Downtown. It will run for 90 minutes, beginning at 6:00 p.m., with a reception to follow.

To RSVP call 412-281-0995, or e-mail design@judith-kelly.com.

And tonight, the Pittsburgh Greenspace Alliance and the League of Women Voters are hosting a mayoral forum on the importance of greenspace in the city. Candidates will be asked to discuss their plans as mayor for the expansion and integration of greenspace in Pittsburgh, including parks and trails. 

The Candidates’ Forum on Greenspace takes place at 6:00 p.m.tonight at the Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, in the Strip District. For information and to RSVP, click here.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Stephen Glassman

Penn A Caster Loft Offices want to rock the Strip

An office building in the Strip District is getting a rock and roll makeover. Its exterior walls will soon be wrapped in the likeness of a giant, backlit guitar as the building formerly known as 3030 Penn Avenue becomes the Penn A Caster Loft Offices.

Tusk Development bought the 24,000 square-foot building late last year and wanted to give it a new identity. So when co-owner Jim Genstein returned from a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, they were inspired to give it a new guitar-centric theme.

In addition to the exterior changes, an interior lobby has been redeveloped and now features a guitar touchscreen that controls a video wall and streaming music. Lami Grubb Architects is the project architect.

The three-story building was built in the early 1900s as a warehouse and stored salt as well as the horse-driven carriages that drove goods to and from the nearby Allegheny River.

Genstein’s partner Andy Schaer says the office space is ideal for a tech or creative services company. The loft offices feature brick walls and exposed beams, as well as abundant natural light.

The building is wired for any tech company’s needs—including battery backup for uninterrupted power—and could be built-out to meet tenant needs. The site also includes over 100 parking spaces.

The name Penn A Caster is derived from the Fender Telecaster guitar, which has been played by countless musicians including Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison.

Schaer expects the new guitar-clad facade to be complete within the next eight weeks.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Andy Schaer

Pittsburgh Public Market will relocate to Penn Avenue, more than double in size

The Pittsburgh Public Market is moving to a new location in the Strip District and will double in size to nearly 25,000 square feet.

The market's new home, at 2401 Penn Avenue—directly across the street from Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle—is at the fringe of the Strip District's busy retail core. Cindy Cassell, of Neighbors in the Strip, believes the market will help draw pedestrian traffic into new areas, as well as build connections with Lower Lawrenceville.

Other nearby businesses have begun to enliven the street, including restaurants like Bar Marco and Savoy.

The building will be air-conditioned, and will feature new infrastructure for food preparation. Cassell says a commercial kitchen is also in the works, and expects it to be operational within a year of opening.

Although the building is currently a nondescript cement structure, Cassell says NITS, which operates the market, is planning to add new doors and windows among other facade improvements. Aesthetic changes, including murals, are also under consideration.

The market will leave its current location in the Pennsylvania Fruit Auction & Sales terminal this summer. Disruptions to the historic building are planned as part of The Buncher Co.'s riverfront development.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Cindy Cassell

Eat + Drink: Matteo's now open; Salud Cuban-American; raw vegan at Marty's Market

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene.

Matteo's has opened recently on Lawrenceville's Butler Street, serving Italian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood and steak.

Matteo's is the project of husband and wife duo Matt and Andrea Cavanaugh. Chef Matt Cavanaugh has worked for the past 15 years in the region's dining scene, including Redbull Inn in Robinson Township, and Sarafino's in Crafton. This is the Cavanaughs' first restaurant.

The restaurant’s interior was renovated for Matteo's and seats up to 38 in the dining room. A full-service bar seats an additional 12.

Cavanaugh says assistance from the Urban Redevelopment Authority—including writing a business plan and securing loans—was instrumental in the restaurant's opening.

Matteo's is located next to Pageboy Salon & Boutique at 3615 Butler Street. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. 412-586-7722.

- A new Cuban restaurant is opening soon, also in Lawrenceville.

The owners of Salud Cuban-American Restaurant and Lounge hope to be open by the beginning of next week. Chef and co-owner Radames Magro says the cuisine will feature traditional Cuban entrees, with sides like plantains and yuca, homemade empanadas and papas rellenas, as well as fusion items with classic American fare.

Magro, who was born in Cuba, previously catered events in the area. Magro and co-owner Terry Hircik have been planning Salud for the past decade, he says.

A local muralist will soon depict scenes from Cuba in the restaurant's dining room. Magro says live music and salsa dancing are planned for the lounge space, where the bar will specialize in mojitos, Daiquiris, and other Cuban drinks.

Salud is located in the former Salac's bar, at 4517 Butler Street. 412-605-0233.

- If you've ever wondered how to make great-tasting raw, vegan, and gluten-free meals, a new event at Marty's Market aims to teach you how.

"Raw food artists" Joni James and Daniel Lewis are teaching weekly classes at the organic food market, titled "Raw Possibilities." Attendees will get instruction on making simple yet creative meals from raw vegan ingredients.

Classes are held each Sunday, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., and Monday, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  For more information, and to register, visit Marty's Market's website.
Writer: Andrew Moore

Eat and Drink: Butcher and Rye downtown and Gaucho Wood-fired Grill in the Strip District

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene
Having turned away dozens of potential patrons night after night, Meat & Potatoes owners have announced they will open a second location nearby, Butcher and Rye, this June across from Heinz Hall in the former Palate space.   
“Every time I walked by Palate, I thought it would be nice (to reopen the space),” says Tolga Sevdik, co-owner with Richard DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes on Penn Avenue. “It’s such a great location.”
The new restaurant will seat 85 and feature a menu similar to the popular gastro pub, with perhaps slightly smaller plates. Sticking with a winning formula, it will specialize in classic cocktails, bourbon and rye. The Meat and Potatoes sous chef will move over to the new location, which promises the same farm-to-table fare that has made Meat & Potatoes an award-winning favorite.

The bar will remain on the mezzanine level with some renovation to create a more appealing front entrance. Shantz and Sevdik also plan to open a third casual dining restaurant, Pork & Beans, in Lawrenceville later this year.
In more casual dining, Pittsburgh’s first Argentinian parrilla has opened, Gaucho Parrilla Argentina Wood-Fired Grill at 1607 Penn Ave. in the Strip District.
Chef and owner Anthony Falcon, a native of Brooklyn, NY, was previously the executive chef and food and beverage director at Southpointe Country Club. Falcon says the restaurant was inspired by his Argentinian father and uncle who took one look at the Strip District and said:
“You gotta open something down here. You’ll sell 100 chickens a day.”
Located in the former Big Mama’s, Falcon has created a cozy and casual stand-and-eat and take-out spot with a sizzling selection of hearty grilled dishes, steak and vegetable  sandwiches, sausages, chicken and fish.
The concept is working. Since opening two weeks ago, lines have been winding out the door with patrons drawn by the smoky flavors of the hickory wood-burning fire.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Tolga Sevdik, Butcher & Rye; Anthony Falcon, Gaucho

Eat + Drink: Inca Peruvian downtown; D.J’s Butcher Block; La Palapa Mexican Cuisine; and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene.

•  AJ's Inca Peruvian Restaurant opened this week in Downtown Pittsburgh at 500 Liberty Avenue.  Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken is the star here, along with a variety of other Peruvian dishes.  The restaurant is located in the former Cuzamil space, just outside Market Square.  Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.  412-642-6606.

•  In North Oakland, Legume has re-launched its adjoining bar space under the name Butterjoint.  The word refers to a type of brickwork masonry known for its simplicity and elegance.  Chef Trevett Hooper says it’s a metaphor for how food is prepared at Legume, and now at Butterjoint.

Hooper says the redesigned bar menu—with fare such as pierogies and burgers— now offers substantial meals at a lower price than in the restaurant.  He hopes it will allow Legume’s loyal customers to visit more frequently.  It’s the same quality meat and produce, he says, just with a more straightforward preparation.

The space itself has been reconfigured to provide a more comfortable dining experience.  A weekly variety show, featuring music, comedy, spoken word and magicians, is held on Tuesdays.  And bar manager Will Groves was brought on to revamp the beer and cocktail menu.  214 North Craig Street.  412.621.2700.

•  D.J.’s Butcher Block Specialty Sausage and Meats opened recently in Bloomfield, a small storefront shop offering fresh, cured, and smoked sausage, grass-fed beef, as well as local chicken and turkey.

For the past three years, owner/butcher D.J. Smulick, a former chef at Café Sam, has offered products at various farmers markets.  Smulick sources a majority of meats from local vendors, and seeks to offer high quality products that remain affordable. 

D.J’s also stocks a small selection of local cheese, eggs, pickles, mustards and jellies.  Smulick doesn’t want to become a grocery store, he says, rather he’s just offering a few products that complement the meats.  4623 Liberty Avenue.  412-621-3100.

Also in Bloomfield, multiple sushi restaurants have opened, including Ginza (412-688-7272), at 4734 Liberty Avenue.  And more recently, Fukuda Sushi, which is BYOB, opened in the former Stagioni storefront, at 4770 Liberty Avenue.  And on Sundays, Chef Matt Kemp offers an evening menu at East Liberty’s AVA Lounge.  412-377-0916.

•  La Palapa Mexican Cuisine is the latest food purveyor to join the growing list of vendors at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  Friday through Sunday La Palapa will offer a variety of tamales, quesadillas chilangas, chiles rellenos, frijoles charros, enchiladas, and desserts including flan.    412-992-7206.

Also in the Strip, the Thin Man Sandwich Shop is opening soon at 50 21st Street, in the former 21st Street Coffee and Tea location.  Owners and chefs Dan and Sherri Leiphart have previously worked at Isabela on Grandview, the former Le Pommier, and Lidia's Pittsburgh.  The Leipharts are aiming to bring their classically trained experience to a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. 

•  Wilkinsburg has been a dry borough for the past 80 years.  But now, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) is pushing for a ballot referendum to allow liquor licenses in the community.  It’s cited as a tool for economic development, as alcohol sales could help draw hotels, fine dining, and other entertainment options to the borough.  Visit WCDC’s website to learn more.

Writer:  Andrew Moore     

Shops at Doughboy get $250,000 grant, boosts redevelopment of important city square

It has been decades since Lawrenceville’s Doughboy Square was a vibrant urban center.  But with a $250,000 grant to the Shops at Doughboy, a planned mixed-use development, redevelopment there has been given another boost.

The Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority last week awarded the community infrastructure and tourism grant to the $7 million, 48,000-square-foot project. 

The Shops will be adjacent to the Roberto Clemente Museum at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Butler Street.  Central Real Estate Holdings, a partnership between October Development and Senko Construction, is the developer. 

The URA, which has been heavily involved in redevelopment of Doughboy Square, requested the grant from the county.  The funds will be used for site work ahead of construction, which is expected to begin next spring.

The URA’s Paul Svoboda calls the site a “100% corner” that is important not just to Lawrenceville, but to the entire city.  The intersection is a gateway between Lower Lawrenceville and the Strip District.

Though the project has been reviewed by a number of neighborhood organizations, designs and renderings are yet to be finalized. 

Because of a slope at the site, parking will be integrated below the Penn Avenue street grade, accessible from the building’s rear.  Retail will front the street, with residential units above. 

Svoboda praises the developers for taking an early financial risk in acquiring the site, and for working with local stakeholders to ensure the design is amenable to all parties.

“There’s some risk that they took, but the rewards are going to be big,” Svoboda says.  “Not only for them, but for the whole city.”

Svoboda says recent investments in the square are making good on priorities outlined years ago in blueprints such as the Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, which called for an intense focus on Doughboy Square.

Shops at Doughboy is building on the momentum of several other projects in the square.  In the 3400 block, the Doughboy Square Townhomes development, which was completed last year, brought five single-family infill homes to the neighborhood. 

And at 3431 Butler Street, the planned Doughboy Apartments is a four story, mixed income and mixed use building that includes 39 apartment units and 17,000 square-feet of first-floor commercial space.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore                                                                                            
Source:  Paul Svoboda

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre expansion underway, $10 million development

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) is in the midst of a $10 million expansion to double the size of the school, and a recent land purchase at 2930 Liberty Avenue brings their total footprint to over 60,000 square feet.

Executive Director Harris Ferris says the goal is to build a campus environment in the Strip District.  The new parcel, which is adjacent to the theatre, now provides ample land to build an annex building and three new studios, as well as increase parking capacity on the south side of Liberty Avenue.

The current expansion is the third phase of the School Expansion Plan.  PBT’s Board of Trustees approved the $850,000 purchase price at its July 10 meeting.

In 2010, PBT opened Byham House, a student residence, in the rectory of the former St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Lawrenceville.  And last year, the school expanded its PBT Studios reception area.

With the newly acquired space, PBT’s fourth phase of development includes the construction of a new, 16,000-square-foot building.  Although still in its design phase, the structure will be an annex of the current building, located to the rear of the campus.

Parking will eventually be shifted to the 2930 Liberty Avenue lot, where Ferris says the space will either be surface or multi-level parking, depending on funding.  Either way, he says it will be beautifully landscaped.

“The idea is to create a visual and dynamic presence on Liberty Avenue,” Ferris says.   He also hopes a campus environment that spans both sides of the avenue can help to mitigate traffic.

PBT’s school serves over 800 students of diverse ages, in addition to housing a professional company of 27 dancers.  Ferris hopes the expansion will also help to serve the growing interest in community-based programs.

““That’s kind of an eclectic campus,” Ferris says.  “But it’s unified around our image and our aspirations for the art form.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Harris Ferris

Crested Duck Charcuterie to expand, USDA certification in Beechview

Crested Duck Charcuterie, the Beechview-based meat market and deli, is expanding to become a USDA certified facility.  The planned upgrades will allow the French-inspired charcuterie to ship out of state, and supply large chains such as Giant Eagle.  And according to owner Kevin Costa, it will also be an opportunity for him to give back to the region’s small-scale farmers.

“The small farmers have made my business what it is,” Costa says.  “They have supported me and supplied me with a really good, quality product.  So if I can help them out I don’t know why I wouldn’t.”

According to Costa, there are just a few USDA certified processing facilities in the region.  He says they’re not always easy to work with, nor do they give farmers many options in terms of gourmet products.

Costa says farmers are losing customers because they can’t provide certain custom cuts and higher-end products, especially around the holidays.  He hopes that with the new certification, Crested Duck can help to meet that need.

The shop will offer farmers a full range of nitrate-free meats, including bacon, sausage made with farm-grown produce and many other specialty cuts and orders.  Although similar products are already offered through Crested Duck, the certification will expand the shop’s capacity and distribution means. 

In order to complete the necessary upgrades, Costa launched a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded last month.  In addition to USDA certification, the campaign will aid in expansion of its Beechview retail service, including a new Sunday brunch and occasional evening dinners.

Crested Duck also remains a mainstay at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  412-892-9983.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kevin Costa

Eat + Drink: Charcuterie and cocktails; 90-second wood fired pizza; yogurt and more

This week in Pop City's Eat + Drink roundup:

- Nicky's Thai Kitchen, the popular Allegheny West Thai restaurant, will be opening a new location downtown, at the corner of Penn Avenue and 9th Street.  Sinful Sweets by Christopher George is also planned to open in the adjacent storefront at 901 Penn Avenue.

- The Strip District’s Bar Marco has announced it will team up with Chef Justin Severino, of Cure, every Monday for charcuterie, cheese, and cocktail pairings.  The weekly events will be menu-free, with custom-made cocktails built for guests based on personal preferences.  Cocktails, with small charcuterie and cheese tastings, will be $10.  Bar Marco, 2216 Penn Avenue.  412-471-1900.

- Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria at River Vue is now open.  The restaurant features an Italian imported wood-burning oven and promises a 90 second cooking time.  Located in the ground floor of the recently opened RiverVue apartments, the pizzeria is across the street from downtown’s Point State Park.  Also on the menu are house-made mozzarella, Italian sodas, draft and bottled beer, as well as made-to-order salads and sandwiches.  300 Liberty Avenue, Suite 100.  412-904-4531.

- Yogli Mogli, a franchise of the national chain, opened recently on Washington Road in Mt Lebanon.  The eatery is a self-serve yogurt shop that features classic flavors with unique parings such as blueberry acai, and pomegranate raspberry tart.  Toppings range from mango, lychee, and peaches, to cookie dough, walnuts, and granola.  695 Washington Road, Mount Lebanon.  412-207-2291.

- Mrs. Jean’s Southern Cuisine has moved to a new location at Hosanna House, 807 Wallace Ave., Wilkinsburg.  The restaurant also recently finished taping an episode for Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  412-723-2015.

- The South Side’s Carson Street Deli has reopened after closing briefly for renovations to the sandwich shop and craft beer store.  In addition to bottled beers from local breweries and specialty imports, Carson Street Deli now features 20 taps.  The deli hosts weekly beer samplings Wednesdays, from 6 to 8 p.m.  1507 E. Carson Street.  412-381-5335.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Wild Purveyors Market Stand; Benjamin's Burger Bar; soul food and mobile food

- The Wild Purveyor’s Market Stand is now open in Upper Lawrenceville.  An evolution of the wholesale wild-foods business started by brothers Cavan and Tom Patterson, the market features local Pennsylvania cheeses, meats, and produce, as well as an assortment of seasonally foraged foods.  Currently in stock: chicken of the woods and hen of the woods mushrooms.

And the Second Annual Pittsburgh Picklefest will take place at the market this Saturday.  The event is presented by Crested Duck Charcuterie and Slow Food Pittsburgh.  5308 Butler Street, Lawrenceville.  412-206-WILD.

-  Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar is scheduled to open tonight in Allegheny West.  The restaurant is operated by Paul Tebbets, co-owner of Toast! in Shadyside, and the former BRiX Wood Fired Wine Bar, which the new restaurant replaces. 

BRiX closed its doors earlier this year after difficulties with a zoning permit for its wood-fired pizza oven.  The burger bar will be similar in concept to BRiX while swapping pizza for burgers.  Benjamin’s is located at 900 Western Avenue in the Northside.

-  Fredrick’s Soul Food is now open Monday through Saturday on Smithfield Street, in Downtown Pittsburgh, serving breakfast at 6:30 a.m.  Fredrick’s specializes in chicken and waffles, ribs and wings, yams, greens, and mac & cheese. 

Fredrick’s is owned by Larry Ross.  Ross says the menu consists of family recipes, and his kitchen staff is headed by his daughters Maya and Seaera.  412-232-1900. 633 Smithfield Street.  6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

-  Sal’s City Deli is opening soon in downtown, and will feature made-to-order sandwiches, fresh salads, and homemade soups.  It will be located at 245 Seventh Street, next to the Benedum Theater in the Cultural District.

-  In addition to locations in East Liberty and Cranberry, BRGR’s gourmet burgers are now available to downtown lunch crowds via The BRGR Food Truck.  From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. it will be parked at Grant Street and Forbes Avenue, Monday through Friday.  It also makes regular appearances in the Strip District, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 21st Street and Penn Avenue.

-  Another newcomer to Pittsburgh’s mobile food scene is Oh My Grill, a specialty grilled-cheese themed food truck.  724-996-3955.
 Click here for more information about food trucks in Pittsburgh.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Piccolo Forno to Garden Theater; Stagioni farm dinner; Mac Diner now open; and more

 Eat + Drink is a new occasional section of Development News focusing on restaurant and bar happenings in Pittsburgh.

-  Restaurateur Domenic Branduzzi, of Lawrenceville’s Piccolo Forno, has announced plans to open a second establishment in the Central Northside.  The restaurant, which will likely be named Il Giardino—a tribute to its historic setting—will occupy the former Garden Theater space, and will be a key component in the block’s long-awaited redevelopment. 

Il Giardino joins Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, which announced plans earlier this year to open in the former Masonic building, also on North Avenue.  The block-wide redevelopment is a project of Zukin Realty.

Branduzzi hopes to be open by late summer, 2013.  Construction at both restaurant sites is expected to commence simultaneously.

Branduzzi says the space will be larger than his current restaurant, at 4,000 square feet, and will likely feature a rear patio.  Like Piccolo Forno, the restaurant will include a wood-fired pizza oven, with the addition of a pizza bar.

-  In the South Side, Stagioni will be hosting a family-style farm dinner at their restaurant next Tuesday, September 25th.  The dinner will feature produce from Pittsburgh’s Knotweed Urban Farm, a CSA and cooperative farm in Stanton Heights.  The four-course meal begins at 6:30 p.m. and is $35.  2104 E. Carson Street, South Side.  412-586-4738.

Truth Lounge celebrated a grand opening last week.  The upscale restaurant and cocktail bar replaces the former Café Allegro at 51 S. 12th Street in the South Side’s Bedford Square. The menu focuses on small plates, as well as craft cocktails and high end wine.  412-381-9600.

21st Street Coffee has relocated to a new storefront space in the Strip District, at 2002 Smallman Street.  The cafe is now next door to Kaya.  "No, we aren't changing the name," their website reads.

Mac Diner is now open in Allison Park, a breakfast-all-day eatery serving nine varieties of mac and cheese.  Open 7 days a week, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.  4848 Route 8, Allison Park 15101.  724-939-7434.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Kelly O's Diner now open in the Strip in modern, updated building

Kelly O's Diner has opened in the Strip District, serving breakfast seven days a week.  It is the second location for the diner which has been serving the North Hills for the past eleven years. 

Owner Kelly O'Connor says she had been looking to open a second location in the city, and most recently in the Strip District, for many years.  But then recently everything fell into place.  “It almost felt like fate," she says.

Located at 100 24th Street, Kelly O’s replaces the former Jo Jo's Restaurant in a building that had once been an automotive garage.  The diner is adjacent to the Otto Milk Condos and across from Marty’s Market.

Due to an earlier fire, O'Connor says the interior was partially demolished when she took over the space.  She needed to rebuild the kitchen and bathroom, as well as install new electric, plumbing, and HVAC.

Kelly O's flooring is finished with the diner's signature black and white tiles, and its walls are wrapped in sparkling diamond plate.  On the building's exterior, O'Connor covered the entrance side in a stainless steel facade, providing a modern twist on the diner look, she says.  The remaining exterior walls will be covered in murals.

O'Connor has been working with the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Women in Business for the past three years. The school provides expertise to entrepreneurs in the city, assisting with drafting business plans and providing a business attorney, among other services. 

O'Connor says was attracted to the Strip District for its diversity, and because of its concentration of independently-owned businesses.

"The fact that you’re surrounded by a bunch of small business that make this one really big business community, I think that's awesome," she says.

In keeping with the Strip's tradition, Kelly O's opens early for breakfast, at 5 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and at 7 a.m. on Sunday, and closes at 3 p.m.  412-232-EGGS.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kelly O’Connor

Wigle Whiskey to host Modern Tar & Feathering, will soon unveil new distilled spirits

To celebrate this year’s anniversary of the Whiskey Rebellion--which occurred near here in 1794--the Strip District's Wigle Whiskey plans to tar and feather its patrons.  But don't worry, while the distillery might make its rye whiskey much like it was done in 18th Century, their process for tarring and feathering is much more humane.

The event is a collaboration between the Mattress Factory, Attack Theater, Society for Contemporary Craft, Toonseum, Carnegie Library and the Carnegie Science Center.  Each organization will “tar and feather” attendees, with guests will voting on the most inventive method.  The winning organization will receive use of the distillery for an evening.

But why tar and feather?  Meredith Grelli, co-owner of Wigle, explains that historically Europeans and Americans have protested taxes this way, and that local tax collectors were once tarred and feathered by Pittsburgh distillers.

Along with art-related tar and feather activities, food will be provided by the Pittsburgh Taco Truck, Franktuary, and the Goodie Truck.  And Bar Marco will host an afterparty with $5 Wigle cocktails.

In addition to this weekend's event, Wigle is preparing to release several new distilled spirits. 

In October, Wigle will unveil its first traditional Genever gin, and will be one of only two distilleries in the nation currently offering that spirit, Grelli says. 

And Wigle hopes to have a new line of bitters available before the holidays, with experimental flavors such as lychee or honeysuckle. 

"We hope to just keep innovating and introducing people to new spirits, to lost gems of distillation," Grelli says.

Grelli says since opening Wigle has become a destination for whiskey lovers, with enthusiasts traveling from as far as Scotland and Costa Rica, and from throughout the nation.  She expects the momentum of craft distilleries to continue growing.

"The craft distilling environment and the industry is really where craft beer making was probably 20 or 30 years ago,” she says.  “So we're really at just the start of this.”

Wigle Whiskey is open for cocktails and tastings Wednesday through Sunday.  Tours of the distillery can be booked through their website

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Meredith Grelli

Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille now open in the Strip

To many, the name Wholey's is synonymous with the Strip District.  And with the opening of Wild Alaskan Grille, Luke Wholey is hoping to build on that legacy by offering a full-service restaurant that fittingly serves high-quality seafood.

Located at 2106 Penn Avenue, one aspect of the new eatery will seem familiar to regulars of Wholey’s Fish Market: Luke himself. 

For the past three years, Wholey has served grilled sockeye salmon outside the market that his grandfather established over a hundred years ago.  And Wholey will once again be on grill duty, standing beside his six-foot-wide, cast-iron grill.

"I'm out here seven days a week, manning the grill," he says.  "Cooking has always been a passion of mine, and it's a lot of fun for me to be out here serving my customers."

Wholey’s sidewalk salmon special ($12) is served over rice with grilled zucchini and roasted red peppers.

Inside, the restaurant features a full-service kitchen and menu.  The space is a repurposed warehouse that plays well on the Strip’s legacy and the Wholey name.  It currently seats 150 on the first floor, but will accommodate up to 300 guests once the second level is complete.

Nautical décor features prominently throughout the rustic interior, including work by local artists, fish mounts, and handmade tables of reclaimed electric cable spindles.

Wholey will be missing from the grill in the coming weeks, but he has a good excuse for his absence.  He will be competing in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans.

Wholey, a lifelong fisherman, plans to catch eight yellow perch in Lake Erie, and ship them live to New Orleans, where he will prepare them for the competition on August 11th. 

A hopefully victorious Luke Wholey will celebrate a grand opening at his restaurant on August 15th.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Luke Wholey

Allegheny River Green Boulevard plan moving forward, Strip and Lawrenceville redevelopment

The Allegheny River Green Boulevard is beginning to take shape.  At last week's public meeting, project leaders unveiled specific information about the corridor's future, including a detailed six-mile bicycle/pedestrian path alignment.

The uninterrupted bicycle path is set to run along  Allegheny Valley Railroad's freight corridor between Lawrenceville and the Strip.  

But while AVR continues to pursue commuter rail service in this area, Green Boulevard leaders want to move some aspects of the project forward sooner rather than later.

"We'd love to see new transit options in there, but we also want to move some elements of the plan forward before that," says Lena Andrews, URA senior planning specialist.  "We don’t want to wait for that to happen."

At the meeting, consultants presented test scenarios for Lawrenceville's 43rd Street master plan, which included passive recreation space along the river between 43rd and 48th Streets and a mix of riverfront townhomes and multi-unit buildings.

In the Strip District, consultants recommend future developments to include a 95-foot setback from the river.

Andrews says community members in attendance were supportive of the boulevard project, particularly for the bicycle/pedestrian trail and commuter rail options, but also were eager to see improvements in storm water infrastructure.

Possible funding sources for the project were discussed, and included special assessment districts, tax increment financing, corporate sponsorship, and contributions from foundations.

Andrews says another possibility for making the project financially feasible is to reduce the development's parking requirement.

A reduced parking requirement should make sense for the Green Boulevard.  One of the project’s goals is to reduce the city’s dependence on automobiles by increasing transit options and by providing a safe and direct bicycle corridor.

"It makes a huge amount of sense, and that's the point of building all this new infrastructure…to enable people to live a little less dependently on the automobile,” Andrews says.  “To have a district where the parking requirement is a little bit lower, that not only has benefits for the environment but it makes it cheaper to build, too."

The last public forum will be held later this year in November.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lena Andrews, URA

Marty's Market, Emilia Romagna, and R Wine Cellar now open in the Strip District

A string of openings have come to the Strip District, including the new Italian restaurant Emilia Romagna; Marty's Market; and R Wine Cellar.

Marty's Market, a specialty food store and café, held a soft opening on Saturday, giving shoppers a glimpse of the new market that replaces the former Right By Nature at 2305 Smallman Street.

The market is one-third smaller than the former grocery store, and specializes in locally grown and organic foods. But Marty's seeks to distinguish itself as a unique retail experience, starting with design.

Renovations to the space include three glass garage doors--which open to the downtown skyline--two kitchen areas, and a coffee bar.  Owner Regina Koetters says transparency, from the kitchen to the street view, was a guiding principle in the market’s design.

Marty’s cafe, which seats up to 45, serves made-to-order meals from a menu that changes daily.  The cafe is also planned to serve as a community kitchen of sorts, with tastings and cooking demonstrations by local chefs and amateurs alike.

-  Just a few blocks away Emilia Romagna will celebrate its grand opening this Friday.  The restaurant is a project of Chef Jonathan Vlasic, of the Allentown restaurant Alla Famiglia, and Peters Township’s Arlecchino.

The menu features dishes inspired by those regions of Northern Italy, as well as popular dishes from the proprietors’ other two restaurants.

Located at 108 19th Street, the space will also introduce a new nightclub to the Strip--V Ultra Lounge--which will also open on Friday.  The lounge will occupy the building’s second floor and balcony, and will feature a limited menu of antipastas, burgers, and sushi.

The lounge and restaurant are a project of Vlasic, Vince Isolde, and Chef Cory Hughes.

R Wine Cellar has opened at 2014 Smallman Street, selling house-made wines.  The cellar, a family owned urban winery, currently has four reds and four whites available, including oaked and un-oaked Chardonnays.

Although juices are currently brought in from elsewhere, all wines are fermented, blended, and bottled on site.  And several wines are made using grapes from the Lake Erie Region, including the white Traminette ($12) and the Lake Erie Red ($13).

Owner Steve Russell says they chose this location because they wanted to be in the middle of the developing Strip District.

"We think the potential here in the future is very strong," he says.

Koetters agrees, and says it’s an exciting time to be part of the Strip District, and recognizes that each new businesses is a boon to the neighborhood.

“We’re fortunate to be enjoying a great time in the Strip,” she says.  “There’s a lot of stuff going on… [and] I want Marty’s to be a vehicle to encourage more investment in the Strip.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Tapped, pop-up beer gardens coming to a vacant lot near you

Pay attention to vacant lots in the East End, as they might come alive overnight.  A partnership between Epic Development and the Strip District restaurant Bar Marco is transforming unused parcels of land into pop-up beer gardens throughout the summer in East Liberty, Lawrenceville, Downtown, and the Strip District.

The first pop-up event, called Tapped, was held this past Saturday in the Strip.  Epic Development founder Michael McAllister says he got the idea for these pop-up beer gardens while attending school in Washington D.C., where similar events were taking place.

“The whole idea is to take a site that's inactivated and turn it back over to the community,” McAllister says.

Epic and Bar Marco are seeking to partner with landowners who want to gain exposure for an upcoming development project, or with folks who are simply willing to activate an unused space.  McAllister says it’s an opportunity to build community and connections within a neighborhood.

Saturday’s Tapped event was held on a lot adjacent to Bar Marco’s restaurant on Penn Avenue.  Food was provided by the Franktuary food truck and Lucy’s banh mi sandwich cart, with beer from East End and Full Pint breweries.  The event lasted from 11 a.m to midnight, with DJ’s, bacci courts, and a block party atmosphere.

After moving back to Pittsburgh, McAllister says he noticed a large number of entrepreneurs taking risks with out-of-the-box businesses, especially with exciting, food-related endeavors.  He sees these pop-up parties as a way to continue building excitement for the local, small-business community.

McAllister says the events will be planned organically, and will take a grassroots approach to promoting each pop-up party.
The next pop-up party will take place within the next month in Lawrenceville, at a location yet to be determined.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Micahel McAllister

Changes coming to the Strip: Wholey's warehouse redevelopment; Smallman Street study

Big changes are coming to the Strip District, as two iconic buildings are being readied for major renovations, streetscape improvements are planned, and businesses expand.

A massive warehouse, formerly used by Wholey’s  Market, and still best known for the store’s affixed neon logo, will soon be redeveloped into Class ’A’ office space.  Monroeville-based developer Sampson Morris Group plans to build 225,000 square feet of new LEED-certified office space, and over 120 indoor parking spaces for tenants.

The 7-floor, concrete structure is currently windowless, however new facades will include massive window cut-outs, giving the former cold-storage structure its first-ever openings.  Renovations will add new elevators, heating and cooling systems, and other amenities.

Designed by Desmone & Associates Architects, the building will offer loft-style office spaces, in a style architect Eric Booth calls “converted warehouse chic.”

In other Strip news: Last Thursday, the URA approved a $250,000 grant to the city to help pay for design work related to the Smallman Street corridor.  This work will establish baseline documents of existing conditions, and is tied to the Buncher Company’s planned partial demolition and renovation of the historic Produce Terminal.

The Buncher Company’s current plan is to build a road connecting Penn Avenue to the Allegheny Riverfront, where the developer will build a mixed-use development on 55 acres of land it owns behind the Produce Terminal.

The Smallman Street design work will begin to address necessary changes to accommodate the increased numbers of new residents and traffic that the Buncher development would bring.

And finally, Parma Sausage Products, Inc. is expanding to an adjacent space on Penn Avenue.  The former Fudgie Wudgie shop will be used by Parma as an improved, more aesthetically pleasing space for retail and wholesale customers.  Parma, established in the Strip in 1954, offers salami and dry-cured products, as well as fresh and cooked meats.

And Carhops Sub Shop is the latest restaurant to open in the Strip District, offering cheesesteaks, pizza, and Italian sandwiches.  Relocated to the Strip from the South Hills, Carhops is open Monday through Saturday, 10 to 6 p.m.  1806 Smallman Street, Strip District.  412-904-4774.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Marty's Market, a destination food store, to open in the Strip

Marty’s Market, a new specialty food market and café, will be open this spring in the Strip District.  Owner Regina Koetters says the market will be right-sized, sourcing products from farms and other producers within a 150-mile radius.

Koetters moved to Pittsburgh in 2008 to be a part of the region’s redevelopment, and because she was impressed by the city’s offerings.  It is in that vein that she hopes to create a community gathering place centered around food, and describes the market as a community minded business.  

“I didn't see any need to go beyond the community to get something going,” Koetters says.  “Instead, I wanted a business that celebrated what already exists in Pittsburgh's community, and furthered it in some way.”

Marty’s is located in the former Right By Nature space, but Koetters is quick to say customers should not expect a similar supermarket concept.  

“I’m certainly building on what was great about Right By Nature, but Mary's Market is quite different in concept and function,” she says.  

Marty’s will only occupy 2/3 of the former tenant’s space.  In addition to specialty foods, the market will stock pantry staples, like flour, sugar, and salt.

None of the produce at Marty’s will have been treated with chemicals or pesticides, nor any meat with hormones or antibiotics.  Koetters wants customers to enter the market and not have to worry about those issues, and to know that the products here are of high quality.

“It allows the [customer] to focus on the product, the flavor, the freshness, and what they want to do in their kitchen, as opposed to reading labels the entire time they're in the store,” she says.

In the coffeehouse and café section of the shop, well-known chefs and amateur cooks will be held in equal esteem.  Koetters hopes to develop a menu and product selection that will celebrate Pittsburgh’s diverse communities, while bringing people together around food.

Koetters is currently searching for an executive chef to run the café at Marty’s Market.

“I think I'm building a really cool playground for someone who knows how to do stuff with food,” she says. “I’d love that person to show up and just have a great time, and unlock the potential that I’m creating here.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Regina Koetters

Bar Marco now open in the Strip, European-style wine bar and restaurant

Bar Marco has opened in the Strip District after nearly 6 months of remodeling work in the former No. 7 Engine Co. building.  The historic space has been transformed into a European-style wine bar and restaurant, with an emphasis on communal dining and a menu designed for sharing.

Bobby Fry, one of four co-owners, says the remodeling was done to bring the space back to its original beauty.  Floor tiles have been removed, dry-wall torn down to reveal classic subway tile, and a drop ceiling has given way to an original tin installation from 1905.

The first floor's symmetrical design is intended to encourage conversation among strangers, and create a sense of comfort.  A large bar seats five to six, and opposite, a drink rail lines the window facing Penn Avenue.  In between are three large communal tables, with combined seating capacity at 40.  All furniture was designed by co-owner Michael Kreha, and built in-house, with welding provided by Gray's Welding of Braddock, PA.

Bar Marco is the first dining project of four childhood friends--Justin Steel, Kevin Cox, Fry and Kreha.  Each left various professional careers, coalescing in Pittsburgh around a shared passion for food and drink.

The menu, which Fry describes as European bar food, will change on a regular basis, but recently featured “snack” plates like patatas bravas, arancini, frico, and a duck BLT; and large entrees, also meant for sharing, such as chicken enchiladas, baked caponata, and ribeye with chimichurri.

Bar Marco offers a range of small production wines, and inventive mixed drinks, such as a tequila gimlet featuring house-made lime cordial, and the Bar Marco Manhattan, made with orange bitters.

The second floor, while still a work in progress, is used as an art gallery and private event space.

Bar Marco opens at 5 p.m. and is open late, serving their full menu until 2 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday.  2216 Penn Avenue, Strip District.  724-875-2738.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Bobby Fry

Vietnam's Pho expands in the Strip; new source for banh mi in Pittsburgh

Vietnam's Pho is expanding in the Strip District, adding an Express Bar adjacent to the main restaurant space, featuring banh mi sandwiches, bubble tea, and salad and sushi bars.

Tom Nguyen, co-owner and chef, says when an adjacent restaurant space became available, he and partner Gina Trinh decided to expand because so many customers were asking for those Vietnamese hoagies. 

For banh mi lovers, this is exciting news. Banh mi, (a Vietnamese sandwiches of marinated meats or tofu, pickled vegetables, jalapenos, and herbs on baguette) are increasing in popularity in Pittsburgh. 

Lucy Nguyen (no relation) has served these sandwiches from a sidewalk grill for many years, but spends her winters in Vietnam.  With Vietnam’s Pho’s new Express Bar, these sandwiches will be available year-round.

Nguyen says he is surprised that so many Pittsburghers have been asking for the Vietnamese sandwiches, and that this demand is the whole reason for the expansion.

Nguyen says he personally favors light salads for lunch, which is why he included the salad bar.  Pasta, potato, and tuna salads are included, but also Vietnamese-style preparations, like papaya, lotus, and green mustard salads.  Meals are weighed, and paid by the pound.

At the sushi bar, which seats seven, a chef will prepare rolls in front of the customer.  Rolls include avocado, cucumber, tuna, eel, and California, among many others.

Fruit smoothies, teas, and bubble teas feature tropical fruits like passion fruit, kumquat, mango, as well as peach, honeydew, and other fruits.  And there's even one made from durian, a fruit still considered quite peculiar among American tastes.

Vietnam's Pho has been serving the beef noodle soups that are its namesake, among many other Vietnamese dishes, for the past three years in the Strip.

In celebration of their grand opening, items at the Express Bar will be 10% off for the first two weeks. 

Vietnam’s Pho is open 11 A.M. to 9 P.M.; the Express Bar opens earlier, 9 A.M. to 7 P.M.
1627 Penn Avenue, Strip District. 412-281-8881.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Soruce:  Tom Nguyen, Gina Trinh

Little Bangkok Thai restaurant opens in the Strip

The Strip District can now add Thai cuisine to its ever-expanding list of diverse restaurants, as Little Bangkok celebrated a grand opening on Monday. 

Owned by Drew Kessler and Chef Pornpen Thammasaroret, the 60-seat restaurant occupies one-half of the former Sunseri Jimmy & Nino Co. space on Penn Avenue.

Thammasaroret moved to Pittsburgh from Nakorn Pathom, Thailand three years ago, and has worked as a chef at Benihana in Greentree.

Thammasaroret was able to build relationships with customers at that restaurant, where cooking is done tableside.  When customers would ask her where she was from, and learned that she was Thai, they encouraged her to open a shop of her own, cooking the food she was most familiar with.

And so she did.  Thammasaroret says everyone in the Strip District, including neighboring restaurant and shop owners, have been incredibly kind and supportive. 

Thammasaroret says she didn't have to train to become a chef of Thai cuisine because she grew up with it, watching her mother and aunts cook it in the home. 

“I was born with it,” she says with a laugh.

According to Thammasaroret most menu items at Little Bangkok would be eaten in the home in Thailand, but the Bangkok Basil, Pad Phet, and Pad Thai dishes on the menu are especially typical of home cooking.

Thammasaroret says she chose the Strip District because it’s close to everything she needs, and she hopes to use the freshest ingredients every day.

In the near future, Thammasaroret would like to serve traditional Thai breakfast on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, which includes light soups and a Thai-style omelet.

Little Bangkok in the Strip, 1906 Penn Avenue, 15222.  412-586-4107.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Pornpen Thammasaroret

Wigle Whiskey grand opening this Friday, first distillery in Pittsburgh since prohibition

Wigle Whiskey celebrates a grand opening this Friday, offering the public a chance to taste the first Pittsburgh-distilled spirit since prohibition.

Eric Meyer, co-owner of Wigle Whiskey, says the celebration will include a three-in-one tour: a walk through the production space and the entire whiskey process, from grain to bottle; a history of the Whiskey Rebellion, as told through the distillery’s namesake Philip Wigle; and a tasting room primer on how to drink whiskey.  

A whiskey cocktail will kick-off the tour, followed by a tasting of white, un-aged rye and wheat whiskeys.

Since Wigle is new, don’t expect any aged, dark whiskey just yet.  For now, the available whiskey will be un-aged rye (think tequila), and un-aged wheat (buttery and smooth, similar to a wheat beer), both of which Meyer describes as clear, interesting spirits, good for mixing.

“I think people will be pleasantly surprised by how they taste,” he says.

But for those who can’t wait for the traditional aging process, Wigle will soon offer do-it-yourself kits: a bottle of white whiskey and a small, oak barrel.  Meyer says these smaller barrels significantly reduce the aging time, and a dark spirit can be ready in 2-3 months.

Although this Friday’s event is sold out, tours of the grain-to-bottle facility will continue every Saturday and Sunday through December.  Groups are limited to eight participants; register here.

Still pending a label approval from the federal government, Wigle Whiskey will soon be available for purchase online through the state liquor stores, with shipping to your home or nearest state store.

In the meantime, the best way to sample Wigle Whiskey will be the weekend tours ($20), which begin at 2 P.M. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Eric Meyer

Weigh in on transit, river access, trails and more at the Green Boulevard public meeting Thursday

A public meeting will be held in the Strip District tomorrow allowing residents to weigh in on the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard Plan.

As the first of several public meetings, attendees will have a chance to learn about the project’s progress, as well as how to provide feedback on the corridor’s design and plans.  A series of interactive activities will generate information on how residents currently use the corridor, and how they’d like to use it in the future.

The Green Boulevard is a planning project looking at a six mile stretch of rail right-of-way between Downtown, Lawrenceville, and beyond.  The goal is to transform the existing rail corridor into a multi-modal green boulevard with river and park access, bicycle and pedestrian trails, and passenger rail service, in addition to freight traffic.  

Lena Andrews, URA planning and development specialist, says planning for this corridor is important because Lawrenceville and the Strip District are growing, but the infrastructure is lacking and in disrepair.

“In order for things to keep moving there needs to be new infrastructure in that area,” Andrews says.

The Green Boulevard is a continuation of the Mayor Ravenstahl’s Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, which was released earlier this year.  Planning for the boulevard is supported by a $1.5 million grant funded by HUD and DOT, and will continue through March 2013.

Allegheny Valley Railroad, a company who controls much of the rail right-of-way, recently received a $350 million commitment to develop a passenger rail service, which would include the Green Boulevard corridor.  Andrews says both plans are integrally related, “but we just need to make sure [the passenger rail] is part of a larger citywide vision.”

Andrews says earlier research showed a huge lack of open space and infrastructure needs in the corridor, and that the Green Boulevard could solve those problems by providing a new form of mobility, new connections to downtown and Oakland, and address storm water runoff.

“All of the things that the Riverfront Vision plan pointed out were really lacking in the Strip District and Lawrenceville, this right-of-way has an opportunity to help to solve,” Andrews says.

November 17, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St. in the Strip District.  For additional information, contact Lena Andrews, 412.255.6439.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lena Andrews

Sand Presso, Korean-style coffee and sandwich shop, open in the Strip

Sand Presso Coffee and Sandwich Bar, where lattes and espresso are served alongside bulgogi (marinated Korean barbecue) and chicken teriyaki sandwiches, opened recently in the Strip District.

After practicing law together for nearly 20 years, David Kim and Mark Goldstein decided to open this Penn Avenue shop together, located in the storefront below their law office.  Part of a chain that has over 50 locations in Korea, this is the first Sand Presso in the United States.  Kim’s parents, Mr. and Ms. Kim, run the day-to-day operations of the shop.

One reason for opening Sand Presso was to serve as a model for immigrants coming to the United States looking to open a business. Their law firm, Goldstein & Associates, LLC, specializes in immigration and business law.

When entrepreneurs open shops like Sand Presso, it’s not only good for supporting a family, but it contributes valuably to the region, Goldstein says.

“It’s also good for job creation in Pittsburgh,” because each new business will create jobs for U.S. workers, he notes.

Entrepreneurs in different countries have already expressed interest in opening additional Sand Presso shops in the Pittsburgh area.  But international business aside, he says the most important detail is the quality of the food and the coffee.

The shop offers cappuccino, espresso, latte, and regular coffee, among other options.  Teas, fruit smoothies, and hot chocolate are also available.  Along with the bulgogi sandwich are bibimbap -- a traditional Korean dish of rice, vegetables, and egg -- egg salad sandwiches, and other daily specials.

Sand Presso is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.  1125 Penn Avenue, Strip District, 15222.  412-315-7428.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Mark Goldstein

Bar Marco, European-style eatery and wine bar, coming to Strip District

Bar Marco, a new European-style eatery and wine bar planned for the Strip District, held an "Under Construction" party last Friday with live music, art exhibits, and complimentary food and drinks.  The event offered a brief taste of what is to come from Bar Marcos, as well as the work to be done.

Owned by four childhood friends—Justin Steel, Michael Kreha, Kevin Cox, and Bobby Fry—the Greensburg-Salem High School graduates hope to create a warm and lively atmosphere influenced by the wine bars of Italy and Spain.

“It should be a real community centered space, with lots of conversation when you come in,” vinyl records playing, and hearty street food, Fry says.

Menu items will include what Fry calls Bar Marco’s specialty, arancini—fried rice balls, often stuffed with mozzarella cheese—sausage and meatballs over polenta, fresh roasted vegetable salads, and paninis.  Fry says the eatery will source from Strip District and Pittsburgh vendors, including Parma Sausage and the Crested Duck Charcuterie. 

The bar will replace the Firehouse Lounge, and Embry, in the former No. 7 Engine Co. building.  Renovations for the new space include the removal of partitions and the tented deck which had been constructed on the building's eastern wall. In place of the deck, Fry says a cast-iron courtyard is planned, to feature grapevines, an herb garden, and outdoor seating.

Fry and Kreha have both recently returned to Pittsburgh from New York City.  The two friends had considered opening a wine store in that city, but encouraged by the rapidly expanding food scene in Pittsburgh, decided to start a business here instead.

Fry says each partner brings a different skill set to the project.  Kreha, who has worked as a designer and architect, is designer and general contractor for the building’s renovations.  Cox and Fry will both have management roles, as well as kitchen and bartending duties.  And Steel will be the restaurants chef.

The group plans to open the first floor of Bar Marco by mid-November.  For more information call Bobby Fry: 724-875-2738.
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Bobby Fry

Preserve Pittsburgh Summit to engage over 300 students with historic preservation

This Friday over 300 students from Pittsburgh-area schools will participate in the Third Annual Preserve Pittsburgh Summit.  Hosted by the Young Preservationists Association (YPA) of Pittsburgh, the event will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

YPA President Dan Holland says the event is designed to teach young people what it takes to bring old buildings back to life, and to encourage engagement with historic structures in their own schools and communities.

“Our goal is to get young people reengaged in the community, and to help shape a better future in their respective communities,” Holland says. “We want Pittsburgh to be a center for youth activity and innovation.”

The year’s theme is Change and Continuity. As part of the summit, seven different tours will lead participants through the Strip District, Lawrenceville, and Downtown Pittsburgh.  Holland says these tours will showcase historic properties that have both changed and remained the same through preservation.

The tours are organized by themes, including food, waterfront, loft housing, bridges, Main Street Lawrenceville, and a downtown walking tour.

Holland says he hopes the summit can instill within young people the confidence and the ability to do similar type restoration projects in their own community.  He hopes students can become motivators for restoring historic properties.

“If they go back to their neighborhood and they see that there's a vacant building, they will then be able to say, this building doesn't have to be torn down, it can actually be restored,” Holland says.

Keynote speakers include State Senator Jim Ferlo, city council members Patrick Dowd and Natalia Rudak, and Felicia Mayro, Director of the Neighborhood Preservation Center in New York City.

Tours are currently full, but $10 tickets to the lunch are still available.  For more information contact the YPA: 412-205-3385.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dan Holland

Residences at the Strip continues riverfront living

Another residential loft project is planned for the Strip District.  Last week the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved a $1 million Proposal Development Funding loan to Cork Factory developers Chuck Hammel and McCaffey Interests, Inc., which provided the necessary funds to move the project forward.

Residences at the Strip, as the project is being called, will be a continuation of the successful Cork Factory lofts at 2349 Railroad Street.  The Residences project will consist of new construction on a vacant lot between 24th and 25th Streets. 

Mayoral Spokeswoman Marissa Doyle says this project is a continuation of Mayor Ravenstahl’s vision for the Strip District.

“We've seen the success of the first phase of the Cork Factory, so we're very excited about this opportunity to build on it,” Doyle says.  “Something like this really furthers the mayor's vision to connect residents to the riverfront, which has been an ongoing mission of ours.”

The Residences will consist of a four-story building and 96 residential housing units.  Total projects costs are expected to be $18 million.

Doyle links the Residences project with the renovated Otto Milk Building, the original Cork Factory, and the future Buncher riverfront development.  She says these projects are part of Pittsburgh’s Third Renaissance, which is different than those of the past because of the deliberate focus on neighborhoods.

“It really shows a positive shift in the Strip District neighborhood and we really look forward to this new development project building on that momentum,” Doyle says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Gigi Saladna, URA; Marissa Doyle

Wigle Whiskey brings distillation back to Pittsburgh

The first whiskey distillery since prohibition is set to open in Pittsburgh. Wigle Whiskey, located on Smallman Street in the Strip District, hopes to bring modern innovations to the classic beverage, while respecting the rich tradition of Pennsylvanian distilleries.

"Our challenge is Pittsburgh's challenge," says Eric Meyer, who co-owns Wigle Whiskey with his father, Mark Meyer. "We want to embrace the past but we also have to adapt to the modern age that we live in."

Wigle Whiskey will be a grain to bottle distillery, using only local, organic grains. Meyer says tours of the distillery will be given, allowing customers to taste, touch, and smell the whiskey in all stages of production.

Wigle has partnered with EDGE studio and MM Marra Construction to design and build an environment that will be welcoming for whiskey newcomers, Meyer says. Bright orange, green, and blue colors are used in the distillery, as a direct contrast to the dark hues often found on mainstream whiskey labels.

Although whiskey is most often associated with Kentucky, Meyer says the Pittsburgh region played an important role in developing the beverage, as evidenced by the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s. Paying homage to that history, Wigle Whiskey is named after Philip Wigle, an important figure in the whiskey-tax uprising.

The building which houses the distillery was most recently an engine repair shop. But years ago, the warehouse was connected via an underground tunnel to the Phoenix Brewery just across Smallman Street. Meyer says in this way, the building is returning to a historical use.

The family-owned business will also serve as a museum of the Whiskey Rebellion, told through the experiences of Philip Wigle. Tours of the distillery will be given Thursday through Sunday.

Meyer hopes to be fully operational by the fall, once the necessary federal and state permits have been received.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Eric Meyer, Wigle Whiskey

Floral company greenSinner grows sustainable cut flowers

In the world of cut flowers, being environmentally conscious can be a difficult task. Flowers are often sprayed with chemicals and flown half-way around the world before a florist can turn those petals into a tasteful arrangement. But Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber are hoping to change that, at least a little, by locally sourcing as many flowers as possible for their new greenSinner floral & garden company.

Weber says finding a variety of local flowers is easy this time of year in Pittsburgh. In addition to their own small-scale growing operation, many regional farms grow flowers and sell to a local distributor. But then there are some flowers, like roses, that Weber says still need to be imported.

"We try to be as green as we can, but we sin when we must," Weber says.

Eventually, greenSinner would like to have a permanent flower-farming operation of their own. But in the meantime, they're making use of underused lawns belonging to friends, family, and local businesses, as well the Healcrest Urban Community Farm in Garfield.

To extend their growing season, greenSinner is looking to utilizing hoop houses and green houses, but also encourage the use of evergreens and potted plants in place of cut flowers during winter months.

In addition to their floral business, Weber says greenSinner hopes to organize a sustainable events community in Pittsburgh, in order to expand green practices to more facets of event planning.

greenSinner is a vendor at the Pittsburgh Public Market, where they sell potted plants, cut flowers, and other garden items. They do flowers for weddings, for homes, Mother's Day bouquets, and flowers for hotels, restaurants, and salons, changing arrangements every two weeks.

See them in the Strip, 2100 Smallman Street; Fridays 10am - 6pm, Saturdays 9am - 5pm, Sundays 10am - 4pm. 412-532-6107.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Jonathan Weber

The BeerHive opens craft beer bar in Strip

The BeerHive is Pittsburgh's newest source for craft beers. Owned by three brothers, John Patterson, Will Patterson, and Joe Robl, the BeerHive aims to not just be a bar though, but to fill the craft beer retail market in the Strip District.

"Everybody comes to the Strip to get their finer meats, cheeses, and breads," John Patterson says, "why not get a fine beer to go with dinner that night?"

In addition to their retail selection, the BeerHive offers twelve beers on tap, an extensive bottle list, and a full bar-menu of house-made foods.

The BeerHive is planning to host Texas Hold 'Em tournaments, open mics, and acoustic shows in the coming months. And on their second-story level, a rotating gallery of art called The Buzz features local Pittsburgh artists.
And if you want to bring the party home, BeerHive offers mix-and-match six packs, and growlers of any draft beers. In each six pack, you buy only four bottles and get the next two free.

Patterson says within their first four weeks of opening, they have realized a lot of business comes from tourists seeking local products in the Strip, including beer.

"When people come to Pittsburgh they want to drink Pittsburgh beer," Patterson says. "We have a lot of really awesome breweries, and they seem to keep popping up. They make really fine products, and so it's a chance for us to support them, too."

In the next month or so, Patterson says he and his brothers hope to begin serving breakfast on weekends, including Wings and Waffles, mimosas, and craft-brewed breakfast stouts.

Patterson says opening the family-run business has been a lot of work, but that he enjoys working with his brothers. "That's when we are at our best," he says, "when we are working together."

The BeerHive, 2117 Penn Avenue (located in the former Saloon in the Strip building), 412-904-4502

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: John Patterson

Soup Nancys are hot and cold in the Public Market

Despite warm June weather the Soup Nancys are attracting an early following for their homemade soups at the Pittsburgh Public Market. And although they're offering inventive hot meals, on a recent Saturday a bowl of chilled spring pea and mint soup was a lesson in how to eat cool in the summertime.

Owners Linzee Mihalcin and Sara Raszewski made their debut in the market just two months ago. Their soups change frequently, but recent selections include artichoke bisque, Thai hot and sour, shitake egg drop, and sweet potato with roasted peppers and lime.

Raszewski says they place a heavy emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, and often feature produce from fellow Public Market vendors such as Goosecreek Farms, Morning Dew Orchard, and the Berry Patch.

The two began planning Soup Nancys just over a year ago. Raszewski says the business model of the Public Markets allows entrepreneurs an option for starting a business without needing large amounts of start-up capital.

And Raszewski is as eager to see the Public Market succeed as she is her own business. "I think Pittsburgh needs something like this," she says. "It's a more low risk way to start a business."

Mihalcin says for a new business, being in the market might actually be a better option than owning your own space. "You can't really beat the traffic in here," she says. "You might have your own store front, but you won't have the foot traffic."

Linzee's husband, Matt Mihalcin, built their vending space at the market using butcher block counters, and other light-colored woods. The space is warm and welcoming, and pulls people in for conversations.

"We're good at cooking and entertaining," Mihalcin says. "It's like somebody's home kitchen."

"I'd say we're pretty darn good home cooks," Raszewski says.

Soup Nancys are at the Pittsburgh Public Market, in the Strip District, Friday 10-6, Saturday 9-5, and Sunday 10-4.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Linzee Mihalcin and Sara Raszewski

Pedal Pittsburgh showcases design and architecture with one-of-a-kind city bike ride

What better way to enjoy Pittsburgh's great neighborhoods and architecture than on a bike? That's the goal of Pedal Pittsburgh's 18th annual ride scheduled for Sunday, May 22.

A fundraiser for the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), the various bike rides will all begin and end at SouthSide Works. Attracting more than 2,000 riders each year, it's the only ride of its size within the city limits says Jennifer Fox, director of administration at CDCP.

"It's not about the first one to the finish line," she explains. "It's really about a leisurely ride that's going to take you past some fantastic views and places." With routes ranging from six to 60 miles, and many refreshment stops along the way, riders and families of all skill levels can take part.

The six routes travel through the South Side, Northside, Lawrenceville, Squirrel Hill and Mount Washington, giving cyclists--especially those who travel the entire 60 miles--a great way to experience the city and its neighborhoods, says Fox.

One group joining the ride is Team East End Brewing Company and OTB Bicycle Café (EEB/OTB). The first 50 riders to RSVP for their team will get half of their registration covered for the event and a Team EEB/OTB t-shirt.

This year, Fox explains, CDCP will have activities for riders at its rest stops to showcase what good planning and design brings to communities.

Over the past 10 years Fox has coordinated Pedal Pittsburgh, she says they have consistently seen more people get involved. "It's amazing to see that many people on bikes," she adds.

Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. at SouthSide Works, with the first group of riders taking off at 7 a.m.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Jennifer Fox, CDCP

Dreadnought Wines introduces new multimedia classroom and educational opportunities

Dreadnought Wines, the Strip District's purveyors of gourmet wine from around the world, has just finished construction on a new classroom space within their store at 2013 Penn Avenue, and will be expanding their famous wine classes for novices and veterans alike with exciting new multi-media tools, added programming, and certification opportunities.

"The new space will hold 33 students in classroom style, but we can configure it for whatever a particular instructor wants," says Deb Mortillaro, co-owner of Dreadnought Wines. "We'll have a 62" flat screen television for PowerPoint demonstrations and instructional videos. We'll also have our wine display with wine from different regions up against the wall."

The room will enable added daytime classes for the public, as well as private corporate events. The first session in the new room will be the Young Wine Makers class tomorrow evening from 6 to 8 p.m. for $50, where a wide variety of innovative blends and varietals made by the next generation of wine enthusiasts will be sampled and discussed. Click here to view the calendar of upcoming classes, taught by the seasoned expertise of Mortillaro and co-owner Mike Gonze, as well as a number of guest expert lecturers.

In addition to the expanded class offerings, Dreadnought is working with WinePicks on an iPad app that will display their current selection of wines with detailed information about each bottle. In the near future, they will plan to offer a program to qualify people for the prestigious Wine and Spirits Education Trust Certification.

"The Wine and Spirits Education Trust is a group out of London and they have several levels of certifications. We're discovering that because the sophistication of the restaurant business here in Pittsburgh is really rising, this qualification is going to become more and more important in the restaurant industry," says Mortillaro.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Deb Mortillaro, Dreadnought Wines

Photograph copyright John Farley

City introduces 20 year Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan

While the neighborhoods adjacent to the Allegheny River have undergone a heavy transition from industrial zones to thriving commercial districts in the last two decades, their connection to the river itself was lost long ago following the advent of industrialism, leaving a large swath of land underutilized and ecologically impaired. On Monday, the City released its sweeping 77-page, 20-year Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, designed to reorient the city toward the riverfront and generate new transit systems, housing, and businesses.

Since 2009, Mayor Ravenstahl and the City of Pittsburgh, Riverlife, and the URA have been working with consultants Perkins Eastman Architects to develop the multi-phase plan that covers 6.5 miles of sustainable development along the Allegheny riverfront from Downtown through Highland Park. The plan incorporates several major redevelopment projects already on the table, such as the proposed Green River Boulevard project, which entails a new commuter rail line, riverfront commercial and residential development, and environmentally-minded landscaping. Another component includes Buncher Co.'s redevelopment of the Terminal Produce Building on Smallman Street, as well as the construction of new residential buildings. A proposed trolley and new bike lines would better connect the Strip to Lawrenceville and take the traffic burden off of Butler Street, Smallman Street, and Penn Avenue.

The plan includes a lengthy list of initiatives to be implemented in different phases, such as the creation of new tax credits to aid potential developers, improvement of the sewage overflow system to clean up the river, the reintroduction of native plant and animal species, a focus on developmental "hot spots" like Lawrenceville's Heppenstall Plant, the repurposing and maintenance of several historic structures, and the movement of Strip District and Lawrenceville industry to a new site near the 62nd Street Bridge.

The initial phases laid out in the Allegheny Riverfront Vision are predominantly public projects to be initiated by the URA and the City of Pittsburgh in collaboration with a 16-member steering committee, with the assumption that these projects will quickly draw in private investment for the later and less concrete parts of the plan.

An event is being held to celebrate the plan on March 14 at 6:30 p.m. in The Roberto Clemente Museum at 3339 Penn Avenue.

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Writer: John Farley
Sources:  Joanna Doven, press secretary for the Mayor's Office

From industry to community: Rethinking the Allegheny riverfront

The Allegheny Riverfront Vision plan hosted its final community meeting last week to address development of the 6.5-mile stretch between the Strip District and Highland Park.

Perkins Eastman has been working for more than a year on the still in-progress masterplan, under a $350,000 contract from the URA.

The plan makes suggestions for the City of Pittsburgh and Buncher Co.'s joint strategy to redevelop some 80 acres of riverfront land. The City could combine parcels of its own -- including with Produce Terminal in the Strip -- with industrial properties Buncher owns. Construction could start in the Strip in 2013, with the 40 undeveloped acres behind the Produce Terminal. The City and URA will spend some $20 million in capital funds to remediate the site and prepare it for redevelopment. A 1,000-unit development -- five buildings of 200 units each -- has been proposed.

Perkins Eastman envisions a new way of looking at riverfront parcels, says principal Steve Quick.

"In the past, the riverfront has been seen as a place for industry. We're looking at it now as a community-oriented place with a mixture of uses, including residential and business and low-impact industry, like the robotics and software coming out of the universities," says Quick.

The Perkins Eastman plan aims to maintain the character of the "neighborhoods on the rebound," as URA executive director Rob Stephany described the Strip, Lawrenceville and Morningside at Thursday's meeting.

Quick, with Senator Jim Ferlo, assuaged fears that this redevelopment project is anything like Soffer's SouthSide Works, which Quick calls a "standalone type of development." "We are looking for something that will spur development, something more inborn in the communities," Quick says.

Perkins Eastman suggests to:

- Add parking facilities.
- Restore the natural slope down to the river to get people closer to the water.
- Transform the Allegheny Valley Railroad into a pedestrian-friendly green path.
- Anchor the Produce Terminal with the in-development public market on one end and the Society for Contemporary Craft on the other, with restaurants and professional spaces in between.
- Capture all stormwater for storms of one inch or less (more than half the storms in Pittsburgh) through green roofs, pervious ground surfaces and trees.
- Increase the tree canopy coverage in the Strip District and Lawrenceville to about 40 percent. There are currently only about 200 trees total in the study area.
- Create bike/ped connections.
- Take into account the Allegheny Valley Railroad's planned commuter line between New Kensington and Arnold through Oakmont into Downtown.
- Create a new "Golden Triangle" by connecting Downtown and Lawrenceville, and eventually Oakland, via a trolley system that stretches, initially, between the Convention Center to 40th and Butler Streets, which Quick says needs to be more of a "civic center" than an "auto-oriented corner."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Steve Quick, principal, Perkins Eastman

Image courtesy Allegheny Riverfront Vision plan


Neighbor Teaze: Growing Steel City T-shirt line laughs with, not at, yinz guyz

Fashionista Julia DiNardo was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and now splits her time between her here and New York City, which offers a few more opportunities for the style industry-ambitious than does Steel City. DiNardo teaches and advises fashion students at NYU's Gallatin School, has worked with GQ, Redbook, Liz Claiborne and J.Crew, and has her own website, FashionPulseDaily.com.

DiNardo had her own eponymous sportswear label for awhile, but about five years ago, nostalgia drove DiNardo to try something new -- T-shirts. She was holding a trunk show at Sugar Boutique during Lawrenceville's 2005 winter Cookie Tour, and the boutique asked if she'd be interested in creating something wearable and gifty. DiNardo -- who at the time had no experience working with tees, graphics or screenprinting -- was loving and missing Pittsburgh's neighborhoods from afar, so came up with the first two Neighbor Teaze -- Lawrenceville and the South Side.

Five years later, she's still coming up with tees. Each tee features a snappy slogan and an accompanying image. For instance, Squirrel Hill reads, "Keepin' it Kosher Since 1927," and Point Breeze is "Frickin' Fabulous Since 1903." The all-purpose "Pittsburgh" one, with its yellow bridge graphics, reads, "446 Bridges, 3 Rivers, & 1 Dahntahn Since 1758."

The line now includes 15 neighborhood-specific tees, including the Strip District shirt ("Stimulating the Senses Since 1915"), which was just released a week-and-a-half ago at the inaugural Pittsburgh Flea. The Heinz History Center is even keeping a shirt from the first printing in its permanent textiles collection.

DiNardo says she releases a new shirt every three to four months (Mt. Lebanon may be next), and is always looking for grassroots input, as well as interns. Future plans include a photo submission project (email an image of yourself in a tee; get a discount); a short video, in mid-May, of people discussing what they think makes the Strip District so special; and even a message board where people can post personal stories about their neighborhoods.

DiNardo maintains a Neighbor Teaze web store, and the tees can be purchased locally at Jupe Boutique, Sugar, the Picket Fence, CoCo's Cupcake Cafe, the Mattress Factory and more.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Julia DiNardo, Neighbor Teaze

Image courtesy of Neighbor Teaze

21st Street Coffee and Tea caffeinates and educates at new Three PNC Plaza spot

It's not that your coffee is bad. It's just that you don't know better. Yet.

21st Street Coffee and Tea wants to help.

The independent coffee bar opened its new Downtown space a couple weeks ago in the ground floor of Three PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh's newest mixed-use high-rise. And owners Luke and Alexis Shaffer are busy getting Downtown caffeine-seekers up to speed. Everything is made-to-order, including that regular ol' cup of Joe. Customers can order by bean type (all Direct Trade), and by preparation method (pour-over, Chemex, espresso machine or the super hi-tech Clover).

Orders are more like conversations. Noticeably absent from the dialogue are phrases like "sugar-free frozen caramel mocha with extra whipped cream." Instead, the Shaffers discuss filters, temperatures, how long to let black tea steep versus green, the farms from which the beans come, and how coffee, when grown, roasted and served expertly, tastes more like a naturally sweet fruit than the astringent stuff you drip brew in your kitchen before full consciousness.

The Shaffers, who started 21st Street when they returned to Pittsburgh from New York City, are both former engineers. They bring the same precision and seriousness of constructing a bridge to constructing the perfect cup of coffee.

21st Street maintains its flagship location (established 2006) on 21st and Smallman Streets in the Strip District, and before opening the Three PNC spot, served coffee in the Frick Building, Downtown.

Like its Strip location, the Downtown 21st Street serves a selection of baked goods from Priory Fine Pastries on the North Side and Colangelo's in the Strip. The small street-level Downtown storefront -- with light blue walls and polished concrete floors -- faces a concrete courtyard that edges Fifth Avenue and Larrimor's clothing store, which recently relocated to One PNC Plaza. Architect Todd Demangone assisted the Shaffers with their design concept.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Luke and Alexis Shaffer, owners, 21st Street Coffee and Tea

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

The kind of bug you wanna catch: Pittsburgh Flea launches in Strip District

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Pittsburgh's massive citywide outdoor flea market is opening this weekend.

The Pittsburgh Flea will run 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday from April 18 through Nov. 14, 2010 at 21st and Railroad Streets in the Strip District.

Pittsburgh Flea founder Janis Surman says the response to the weekly market has been overwhelming.

"Everyone just keeps gushing, 'Thank you, thank you.' You would think I just fed a starving nation," Surman says. "It's flea frenzy. There's been so much interest. We've got more than 230 vendors for opening day! I'm wait-listing vendors."

Surman says many vendors have committed to being anchors for the season, but weekly tables are still available for $40 each Sunday. There are also special package rates available.

Shoppers can expect antiques and crafts, from original art to reconstructed home furnishings, from vintage tees to all-natural cosmetics and beauty products

And, of course, there will be food and drink. Look for La Peri Dolci biscotti and macaroons, Thai food from Highland Park's Smiling Banana Leaf, Fudgelicious, Mercurio's Mulberry Creamery, T Hill's Smokehouse BBQ & Grill, Franktuary hot dogs, Goodie Truck treats, and more. DJ J. Malls from Title Town Soul & Funk Party & Jerry's Records will be spinning tunes on Sunday, too.

The Flea's neighbor in purpose and location, Pittsburgh Public Market, is expected to open this summer in the Produce Terminal on Smallman Street between 18th and 19th Streets. That market will host about 42 vendors of fresh produce, prepared foods and crafts, and will be open Friday through Sunday each week. It will also include space for cooking demonstrations and community events.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Janis Surman, Pittsburgh Flea

Image courtesy Pittsburgh Flea

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre breaks ground on student housing in Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) broke ground last week on the Byham House, its new dormitory in Lawrenceville that will host up to 16 high-school aged students as well as one full-time resident advisor.

PBT acquired the building in November 2009 for under $300,000. Renovations are anticipated to cost more than $600,000. Jendoco is the general contractor, and the project is designed by Fukui Architects, where one of the architects is also a parent to a PBT School student.

The project will integrate, for the first time, a sustainable housing component into the PBT School. Currently, out-of-town PBT students stay with host families throughout the city. Of the 21 current fulltime high school students, 16 are from out-of-state, says Aaron Rinsema with the PBT School.

"The students and their family recognize that the PBT School is a destination institution where they can advance their ballet training," says Rinsema. "The student housing continues to advance the concept that Pittsburgh, as a city, is a destination place for so many great artists and athletes."

The three-story, 7,000-square-foot property is located at 3501 Liberty Avenue, less than one mile from the PBT studios in the Strip District. The building was the former rectory for St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, which is now the Church Brew Works restaurant. The property has been used for many years as housing for social services organizations, including Familylinks, says Rinsema

PBT hopes to complete renovations in time to house students for its 2010 Intensive Summer Program, which begins in June.

The dormitory is part of a $1.5 million capital project, which incorporates other organizational enhancements and is funded by a $750,000 allocation from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, and matched by contributions from Allegheny Regional Asset District, The Byham Charitable Foundation, The Adams Foundation, The Wagner Family Charitable Trust, and anonymous funders.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Aaron Rinsema, PBT School operations director

Photograph courtesy of PBT

Enrico Biscotti to open Highland Park location

Come spring, Highland Park might as well be called the "Enrico's district" of the city.

Already a gathering spot for coffee-lovers thanks to Amy Enrico's Tazza D'Oro, the neighborhood is now welcoming Enrico Biscotti (no relation) to its Bryant Street business corridor. The Strip District staple plans to open its secondary location the first weekend in March at 5904 Bryant St., previously occupied by restaurant Reynolds on Bryant.

The location is across the street from Thai darling the Smiling Banana Leaf, and from where Point Brugge owner Jesse Seager is completing a $2.5 million property renovation with plans to open his Park Bruges bistro in the spring.

Chef Kate Romane says Enrico Biscotti is still deciding exactly how to use its new space, which seats about 50 and will include a bit of outdoor dining once the weather warms up. The location will definitely sell its namesake biscotti and be open for weekend brunch, and its ample kitchen will be the site of much wholesale baking and Flying Biscotti Catering work. The location's basement area may be used as a banquet room, and also in some capacity for Carlo's Garage Winery, which currently operates out of the Strip District's garage.

Though Enrico's Highland Park location will not officially open until March, it already opened its doors during last week's blizzard. For two particularly snowbound days, the cafe set up a sort of high-class soup kitchen, serving neighbors free, fresh helpings of homemade focaccia, beans and greens, and soup (pasta e fagioli, lentil veal, carrot ginger). The response was better than anticipated, says Romane--some 60 folks showed up to welcome the new eatery, finding out about it through Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth alone.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Kate Romane, Enrico Biscotti

Photograph courtesy Enrico Biscotti

Pittsburgh Flea to bring food, crafts, finds to Strip District starting in April

Pittsburgh is getting a massive outdoor urban flea market this spring.

Pittsburgh Flea will start April 18 in the Strip District, at 21st and Railroad Streets. The event will run every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Nov. 14, 2010--rain or shine.

The market will host about 120 individual vendors selling antiques, collectibles, handcrafted jewelry, vintage clothing, art and fresh produce and artisanal foods.

Pittsburgh Flea founder Janis Surman says the market will appeal to Pittsburghers' desire for things that are good for the environment and their personal finances. The market will present shoppers with fun, frugal opportunities to reuse and repurpose goods, from mid-century furniture to toys from their grandfather's youth, and to explore some of the region's food and craft finds.

Lots of vendors have already committed to the seasonal event, says Surman, including Franktuary, Zum Zum Pierogies, Mercurio's Mulberry Creamery gelato, Pretzel Crazy confectionery-covered carbs, My Goodies vegan bakery and The Goodie Truck. And to tempt your wallet: Third-Day Luxury Soaps & Healing Gardens, Joyful Noise Studio art, vintage recycled birdbaths by Foxglove Woodland Studio, Catherine's Creations jewelry and many more.

Surman was recently laid off from a high-ranking corporate position after 17 years with AT&T, and found herself looking for that "what's next" thing. She decided to offer a service that could provide a livelihood for herself as well as other small business owners, entrepreneurs and artisans.

"In this economy I see a flea market in the Strip as a win/win for everyone," says Surman. "Flea markets are a little economic engine all their own. I've always loved the quirky stuff you can find at flea markets, not to mention the prices. And I was shocked when it hit me that Pittsburgh didn't really have a centrally located, downtown flea market. The time has really come."

Surman decided to hold the Pittsburgh Flea in the Strip District because it is so centrally located, and is already a weekend destination for locals and visitors alike. The flea is also going to be held quite close to the Produce Terminal (on Smallman Street between 18th and 19th Streets), where the Pittsburgh Public Market will open this spring. That market will host about 42 vendors of fresh produce, prepared foods and crafts, and will be open Friday through Sunday each week. It will also include space for cooking demonstrations and community events.

Surman has worked closely with Neighbors in the Strip to ensure that the Pittsburgh Flea and the Pittsburgh Public Market do not replicate services, but instead, work together to create an economic and entertainment hub in the Strip District.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Janis Surman, Pittsburgh Flea

Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Flea

Heat Nightclub aims to make Strip District all-night clubbing destination for all

The Strip District's welcoming its newest nightlife destination, Heat Nightclub, which hopes to host fun-lovers of all sorts.

The nightclub will feature an 18-and-over section to appeal to students from Pittsburgh's numerous college campuses, as well as two stories of 21-and-over drinking and dancing for gay and straight club-goers alike, says club director Ryan Skyy. Since Pittsburgh's oldest gay and lesbian nightclub Pegasus Lounge closed a couple months ago, Skyy says Pittsburgh's nightlife has been lacking. So why not create a new club that cuts across preconceived barriers? Pittsburgh's ready, Skyy says, for Heat's male and female go-go dancers, and drag queen-emceed talent competitions.

"We're doing some things that are pretty progressive for Pittsburgh," says Skyy, a musician who worked at Station Square's Bar Room with other members of Heat's new management team. "The club motto is, 'Wear what you want; be who you want.' We want Heat to be the club for everybody, to bridge between the gay bar scene and the straight bar scene. "

In addition to appealing to Pittsburghers across spectrums of sexuality and age, Heat also hopes to appeal to both early birds and all-night party people. The club plans to open a Nakama-style sushi restaurant and lounge on its first floor, and hopes to get its after-hours license by late April.

"The Strip District used to be the place to be, but it kind of died down," says Skyy. "But the Strip is going through a renaissance right now. We realized there are a lot of developments happening in the area, a lot of high-end lofts, the Right By Nature, the Pittsburgh Opera building. We see a future for nightlife in the Strip, and want to get in on it."

Heat, at 108 19th St. between Smallman Street and Penn Avenue, is described by its management as an upscale, L.A. or Los Vegas-type club with posh, all-white décor accented with pops or red and visual projections. The 1,200-person capacity nightclub is opening in the spot previously occupied by Pure and Moto nightclubs.

Heat hosted a New Year's Eve preview party (through only word-of-mouth and guerrilla marketing, it attracted more than 800 club-goers), and is celebrating its grand opening Fri., Jan. 29 with hosts Ruthie and JD from MTV's The Real World.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Ryan Skyy, Heat Nightclub

Photograph courtesy of Heat Nightclub

Tree Tender course returns: Get in on greening Pittsburgh one street tree at a time

Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest is bringing back its popular Tree Tender course, which has certified more than 600 stewards in its three years of existence.

Registration is now open online for the 2010 course, which starts in mid-February and costs $40. A reduced rate option is available.

The course will offer sessions in the Strip District, Larimer, Greenfield, Mt. Washington and Riverview Park. The sessions will train residents in tree biology, structure and function, and teach the basics of tree planting, pruning and care. After completing the course, Tree Tenders can work in their communities to plant, care for and prune young trees.

Pittsburgh had about 30,000 street trees in 2005, the year of the most recent inventory. More than 3,000 of those trees have been removed due to disease, vandalism or neglect, and thousands more are at risk of being removed if they do not receive much-needed care. Organizations such as Friends and TreeVitalize (a partnership of several organization, including Friends, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, DCNR, the city and the country) are working to preserve and replenish the urban forest, and they rely on volunteers--such as trained Tree Tenders--to do much of the community work.

Caitlin Lenahan, with Friends, says Pittsburgh residents stand to benefit in numerous ways from investing in tending to their neighborhoods' urban forests: Other than just beauty, Lenahan points to studies that say street trees slow down and calm traffic, making streets safer. Also, streets with trees have higher property values, which impact not only home sales, but also retail sales--customers are willing to pay more for goods and services when there are street trees. Additionally, street trees have a huge impact on the environment--Pittsburgh in particular, with its sewage overflow, can benefit from fewer hard surfaces and more landscaping that absorbs stormwater, Lenahan stresses.

Treevalize has planted about 4,500 trees since 2008 with the help of nearly 2,000 volunteers. The goal is to plant 20,000 trees by 2012. To meet that goal, about 2,500 trees must get planted this spring in the Pittsburgh area, says Lenahan. Programs like Friends' Tree Tenders course help make possible that goal.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Caitlin Lenahan, education and outreach coordinator, Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest

Photograph courtesy of Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest

Last piece of funding approved for $1.3M Strip District public market

The Strip District is one step closer to getting its long-awaited public market.

Last week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved a $100,000 grant that will help make improvements to the market's future site at the Produce Terminal on Smallman Street between 18th and 19th Streets. The URA grant is the last piece of funding for the project, which is totaling about $1.275 million.

The Pittsburgh Public Market is designed by Indovina Associates Architects, which also designed the Otto Milk Building Condominiums. The market will occupy about 6,500 square feet of the now-raw warehouse space. Renovations will include adding electricity, ceiling fans and heating, lighting and security systems. Glass garage doors have also been proposed, and are awaiting historic review approval. These improvements should get underway in February, and the market is expected to open in late April or early May, says Cindy Cassell with Neighbors in the Strip, which has been working on bringing the idea to fruition since 2001.

"Large public markets really are local landmarks in most cities," says Cassell. "The Strip District has a lot of products a public market has, but when you're in a privately owned property, it's different. In a public market, we'll have community programming spaces so we can do demonstrations, classes and cultural celebrations."

The Pittsburgh Public Market will have space for 42 vendors, ranging from fresh and prepared foods to arts and crafts to local, seasonal produce. So far, vendors will include: 21st Street Coffee and Tea, Elysian Fields Farm, Pittsburgh Candy Buffet, Tracy's Treats natural skincare products and more. The market will be open Friday through Sunday each week.

Pittsburgh Public Market is being made possible through funding through the URA, a Department of Community and Economic Development Grant from Rep. Don Walko and Governor Rendell, a federal Health & Human Services Grant (the market will create about 100 new jobs, including jobs for low-income individuals), the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Cindy Cassell, economic development and market manager, Neighbors in the Strip

Image courtesy of Indovina Associates Architects

A place for smiles: Eat'n Park constructs first LEED-built restaurant in city

Eat'n Park has announced it's breaking ground this month on a new Fox Chapel restaurant. The location, which is scheduled to open May 2010 in the Waterworks shopping plaza, will be the first LEED-built restaurant in the city of Pittsburgh, and the second in Allegheny County, according to Eat'n Park officials.

The restaurant's design will feature outdoor seating and a drive-up window. Green elements include Energy Star equipment, recycled building materials and a solar reflective roof that minimizes heat gain, as well as lots of natural light, energy-efficient lighting and parking spots reserved for carpooling and low-emissions vehicles.

Eat'n Park is shooting for LEED Silver certification, and potentially reaching for Gold, depending on costs, says Andy Dunmire, vice president of design and construction. This will be Eat'n Park's first LEED-built restaurant; however, others have been retrofitted with green elements, says Dunmire.

Green building design is just one component of Eat'n Park's green initiatives, says Jamie Moore, Eat'n Park's director of sourcing and sustainability. The company has taken other eco-friendly steps, such as eliminating placemats to reduce waste; seeking local and artisanal produce, dairy, meats and baked goods (working with Harvest Valley Farms in Gibsonia and Parma Sausage in the Strip District, among others); and converting fryer oil into biodiesel fuel (since 2004, almost 120,000 gallons have been converted).

For 2010, Eat'n Park is focusing on expanding recycling efforts, which means more recycling dumpsters at more locations. Eat'n Park is also working with students at Duquesne University's Sustainable MBA program to determine the carbon footprint of several restaurant locations, says Moore.

The Eat'n Park Hospitality Group was founded in 1949 as a family car-hop, and now includes Eat'n Park Restaurants, Parkhurst Dining Services, CURA Hospitality and Six Penn Kitchen.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Andy Dunmire, vice president of design and construction, and Jamie Moore, director of sourcing and sustainability, Eat'n Park

Image courtesy of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group

PBT, CLO purchase properties for housing students, building sets

Two major Pittsburgh arts institutions announced last week they have purchased properties to ensure the continued success of their endeavors. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) has acquired a property in Lawrenceville that it plans to convert to student housing, and Civic Light Opera (CLO) has purchased a modern industrial building in Springdale it plans to use for set construction and storage.

PBT's new building is at 3501 Liberty Ave., about a half mile from PBT's Strip District studios. The building was purchased for under $300,000, and will receive about $600,000 worth of renovations, says Harris Ferris, PBT's executive director. Future dormitory is part of a $1.5 million project to increase the school's capacity and its ability to complete internationally for the most talented students.

The project will integrate, for the first time, a sustainable housing component to the PBT School. Currently, out-of-town PBT students stay with host families throughout the city. Of the 34 high school students enrolled in PBT's fulltime program, 15 are currently housed with host families.

PBT's new property was the former rectory for St. John the Baptist Church, which is now the Church Brew Works restaurant. The three-story, 7,000-square-foot building will be renovated to create housing for as many as 16 high-school-aged students, plus a full-time resident advisor. PBT hopes to complete renovations by June 2010.

PBT's other future development plans, according to Ferris, include making improvements to the facility at 2900 Liberty Ave., such as new studio floors, expanded parking, exterior landscaping and even a conditioning area for Pittsburghers looking to use dance as a method of core training.

The PBT building acquisition is funded by a $750,000 allocation from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which was matched by contributions from Allegheny Regional Asset District, the Byham Charitable Foundation, the Adams Foundation, the Wagner Family Charitable Trust and anonymous funders.

CLO's new property is a 68,000-square-foot building at 997 Sherosky Way in Springdale that it purchased for $1.1 million. The property, which was formerly home to Fortco Plastics, will house CLO's Construction Center. Occupancy is expected by the end of March 2010.

CLO has bee, leasing a space for about a dozen years at 403 Bingham St. on the South Side for set construction and storage. It maintains its administrative offices Downtown in the Benedum Center, where it also puts on most of its performances.

"The decision to own rather than lease gives us that much more security as we move forward," says Jim Mercer, general manager of CLO. "We don't see it as growth, though, because its impact on the budget will be neutral. It's not going to cost us any more on an annual basis to own rather than lease."

Tom McCaffrey, SIOR, an industrial broker with Grant Street Associates, represented CLO in the transaction. Gene Galiardi and Scott Long of Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate represented the building's owner.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Harris Ferris, PBT; Jim Mercer, CLO; Tom McCaffrey, Grant Street Associates

Photograph of Mame production courtesy of CLO

Hostel territory: Group works to bring affordable travel lodging to city

Pittsburgh attracts about 4 million visitors a year, and many of these visitors are looking for affordable accommodations.

Most hotels cost about $100 a night, says Katherine Camp, which can be a lot for budget-conscious travelers. These travelers used to have the option of checking into the Pittsburgh International Hostel, in the city's Allentown neighborhood, but that facility closed in 2003 due, in part, to problems with its size (too large) and location (too far removed from hotspots).

The Pittsburgh Hostel Project is trying to bring back the hostel option. Led by Camp (a planner at East Liberty Development, Inc.), her fellow CORO classmate Tony Lodico, Sarah Papperman and Venture Outdoors program coordinator Lora Woodward, the organization formed about a year ago with the mission to "provide high-quality, community-oriented accommodations, allowing budget-minded travelers to enjoy Pittsburgh." The Pittsburgh Hostel Project held a successful fundraiser at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern in July 2009, and has more than 600 Facebook fans. But it's still trying to find its footing regarding what the organization should look like, and more importantly, what the hostel should look like and where it should be.

"A hostel is a lagging, not leading, indicator of a successful young neighborhood," says group organizer Lodico. Allentown, therefore, many not have been the best spot for such a facility, but Lawrenceville or the Strip District--with their bustling nightlife and easy access to public transportation--could be.

The group hosted a potluck Sunday night to encourage dialogue and find new directions. About a dozen participants attended, ranging from group organizers, to developers pitching properties and strategies, to Burgh-based travel junkies offering up anecdotes and suggestions for the kind of place they'd want to stay.

What emerged over shared cookies, pie and pita was the idea that a hostel offers a very unique service to a city. It attracts a different kind of traveler (one who'd be more eager to try an Iron City at Gooski's than a martini as Olive or Twist, perhaps), and through its communal spaces, it engages these travelers in different kinds of conversations than those most hotel-goers have with their concierge.

Most mid-size Rust Belt cities, with the exception of Cleveland, do not have hostels, the Pittsburgh Hostel Project organizers say, so it could be up to Pittsburgh to lead the way.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Katherine Camp, Tony Lodico and Sarah Papperman, Pittsburgh Hostel Project

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

With 200 additional racks, city nearly doubles bike parking spaces

With no bike racks available, cyclists are often forced to chain their transportation to signs, fences, parking meters and even, yes, trash cans.

"We shake our head when we have to lock to a trash can, and joke, 'Ah, the indignity of bike commuting,'" says Bike Pittsburgh director Scott Bricker.

Now, with the addition of 200 more bike racks throughout the city, dignified bike parking opportunities will just about double, says Bricker. Each rack has parking for two bikes, meaning that there will be 400 more bike parking spaces throughout Pittsburgh.

The City officially launched the Small Business Bicycle Rack Program last week with the installation of a rack in front of Enrico Biscotti in the Strip District. The Small Business Bike Rack Program was created through a collaboration of Bike Pittsburgh and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Taking Care of Business Districts Program, which " aims to revitalize business districts through targeting City services and providing resources for small business owners and the residents who frequent those neighborhood lifelines," according to the City.

The City will install bike racks in the Strip District, Bloomfield, South Side, Polish Hill, Squirrel Hill, Carrick, Lawrenceville, Friendship, Garfield, Shadyside and Brookline, and will install more upon request and evaluation. Businesses can request bike racks online at www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us. Requests will be assessed by the City's Bike Ped Coorinator.

The bike racks are in the same style as the original Bike Pittsburgh Three Rivers model, designed by Wall-to-Wall Studios and made locally by Red Star Ironworks. The new racks were manufactured by Dero Bike Rack Co., from Minneapolis, Minn for $251 per rack. The total cost of the bike rack program is $25,100 and will be paid for from the City's Taking Care of Business budget which consists of $850,000 in grant money from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Bike Pittsburgh donated 100 racks through support from Richard King Mellon Foundation and William Benter Foundation.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh; Joanna Doven, City of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy City of Pittsburgh

Strip District sees new historic loft apartments, condo groundbreaking

Residential living is flourishing in the Strip District with the opening of a new loft apartment building and the groundbreaking on new historic condominiums.

31st Street Lofts, located at 3080 Smallman St., features 14 for-rent loft units in a former schoolhouse. The building, which was constructed in 1871, last served as an educational facility in 1934, and has been used as a warehouse and as Crucible Steel Company's administrative headquarters over the years. In 2000, it was purchased by Bonn and Art McSorley, who leased its spacious showrooms to interior design and decorative accessory retailers. The McSorleys then made the decision to convert the building into housing. The $3 million renovations were designed by architect Vince Finizio, and Bridges Construction served as the contractor. Prices go from $1,350 for a one-bedroom to $1,575 for a two-bedroom. Two apartments have been rented, and a grand opening celebration will be held Nov. 10.

The nearly 40,000-square-foot, four-story building (with a full basement that includes a wine cellar) features original hardwood floors, 12-foot-high ceilings, in-unit laundry facilities and green elements such as Energy Star appliances, non-VOC paints, energy-efficient lighting and bike racks. Each unit is different: Some have bathrooms where fireproof concrete vaults used to be, others have two levels of lofted space and all have views packed with distinctive Pittsburgh landmarks (Polish Hill's church, Downtown's skyline, the Allegheny River).

Bonn McSorley says most interest, so far, has come from young professionals and empty-nesters who are "tired of suburban living" and ready to reconnect with the city and one another.

In addition to the 31st Street Lofts, the Otto Milk Condominiums are adding to the Strip District's residential options. Construction broke ground earlier this week on the $19 million rehabilitation of the historic Otto Milk Building at 25th and Smallman Streets. The structure was built in 1865 and formerly housed to two brewing companies and the Otto "Milk" Company. It will be transformed into 56 condos and two commercial spaces by developer Jack Benoff, president of Solara Ventures, which previously rehabbed 17 condos at 941 Penn Ave., Downtown.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Bonn McSorley, 31st Street Lofts; Joanna Doven, city of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy 31st Street Lofts

Tazza D'Oro and 21st St. Coffee expand to Carnegie Mellon and 3 PNC

Both Tazza D'Oro and 21st Street Coffee and Tea are expanding by collaborating with high-profile Pittsburgh institutions.

Tazza D'Oro, which has established a deep-rooted coffee culture in Highland Park, is opening its second location at Carnegie Mellon University's new Gates/Hillman Center. The cafe is celebrated for its locally sourced and vegetarian food, and single-origin coffees prepared by highly trained baristas. The spot in CMU's $98.6 million computer science center, which was dedicated in September, will employ 10 new baristas (who were hired and trained over the summer) and seat about 80 people. It is expected to open the middle of next week.

21st Street will open its third location on the ground floor of Three PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh latest high-rise, which will house PNC and Reed Smith law offices, as well as luxury condos and the four-star Fairmont Hotel. The independent coffeehouse, which focuses on no-nonsense, high-quality beverages (direct-trade coffees, organic teas, local milk and more), maintains its flagship location at 21st and Smallman Streets in the Strip District, as well as a coffeebar in the Frick Building, Downtown. Owner Luke Shaffer says he and his wife Alexis submitted a proposal to PNC back in March 2008, and found out in May 2009 their proposal had been accepted over at least a dozen other interested parties, including national names.

The 600-square-foot PNC location will have seating for about a dozen customers. It is still under construction, and Shaffer anticipates opening in December.

Three PNC is such an ideal location for 21st Street, says Shaffer, because it is so accessible to all those who work, live and play Downtown.

"The area is really shaping up," says Shaffer. "The Fairmont Hotel is going to be the nicest hotel in the city, there are so many condos around and high-end retailers like Larrimor's are going in, too. There is a lot of competition in that area in terms of places you can go to purchase something called 'coffee,' but as we've learned in the Strip, each is unique, with its own followers and own niche."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Luke Shaffer, 21st Street Coffee and Tea

Photograph of Tazza D'Oro shaping up on CMU's campus courtesy of Tazza D'Oro

Your Inner Vagabond coffeehouse reborn as flavorful Istanbul restaurant

Your Inner Vagabond has been a unique venue for Lawrenceville since it opened at Butler and 42nd Street almost two years ago. The Middle Eastern coffee and tea creations and globe-spanning cuisine have been only part of the appeal; the BYOB "coffeehouse and world lounge" has also maintained an ever-changing roster of community and arts events, from bellydancing performances to board game gatherings to late-night concerts.

So when owners Andrew Watson and AJ Schaeffer made it known they were looking to sell the business, Istanbul Grille owner Coskun "Josh" Gokalp and manager Mindy Adleff knew they stumbled upon the perfect opportunity. Gokalp's been operating his Downtown grab-and-go Istanbul Grille location as his only location since this spring, when he shuttered his Shadyside spot. He was looking to expand to a sit-down space, and Lawrenceville, where manager Adleff lives and the couple spends much of their time, seemed (and still seems, they say) like the best place to do that.

Gokalp took over Your Inner Vagabond mid-October and renamed it Istanbul. Istanbul, much like Your Inner Vagabond before it, operates as a hybrid eatery and performance space, and is still BYOB. Much of the original decor remains, including the back "harem" room with the stage. The front room, which used to be full of sofa seating and low tables, is now an official dining space with tons of comfortable booths. The menu changes daily, and features Turkish delights such as a creamy mushroom and pea salad with dill, a subtle baba ganoush, a whole goat and grilled eggplant with the slightest hint of mint. Coffee comes from Fortunes in the Strip District, and Adleff says she's looking to add more global beverages, such as bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee. The space doesn't have a full kitchen, so Gokalp makes everything fresh Downtown, and the food is finished and served to-order in Lawrenceville.

Gokalp, who's originally from Turkey, moved to Pittsburgh from New York City about four years ago, and says he couldn't be happier here.

"In Pittsburgh, people are still hungry for everything," Gokalp says. "Pittsburgh is growing fast and there are niches to be filled."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Coskun Gokalp and Mindy Adleff, Istanbul

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Changes in store for upper, lower Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill, like any neighborhood, is changing.

The business corridor along Forbes and Murray Avenues is seeing some longstanding shops go out, and new shops going in; and plans are shaping up for revitalization along the lower portion of Murray Avenue, closer to Forward Avenue and the Parkway exit.

It was announced last week the Barnes & Noble bookseller, which occupies two floors at 1723 Murray Ave., will be closing this winter. The large store was an anchor of sorts for the business district, and had shared that block with Panera Bread, which closed last month and is currently vacant. Some new businesses for the area include: independent denim retailer Zipper Blues in the former spot of Cheryl W boutique (now in Point Breeze), a frozen yogurt shop near the flagship Dozen location, and an art gallery on Forbes Avenue.

Further down Murray Avenue, change is under way in the form of a "Gateway" study commissioned by the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition (SHUC). The $12,000 study completed last year--by Strip District-based architecture/urban design firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative and landscape architecture firm Pashek Associates--highlights the important role this area plays in welcoming people into the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and makes recommendations on improving pedestrian safety and wayfinding, incorporating public art, and adding new lighting and greenery. The study was made possible through a grant from the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

"Squirrel Hill is one of the most stable neighborhoods in the city. It's a great example of how neighborhoods should be," says Steven G. Hawkins with SHUC. "The business district is within walking distance of a great number of homes, and there is a variety of housing types, which creates a diverse population. After all these years, it's time to do something to make the entrance better represent the neighborhood."

Currently, a mural is being completed on the side of Alan's Pet Shop at 2229 Murray Ave., and SHUC is looking at adding bike racks and trash cans, and has made a request to Councilman Doug Shields to include new street lights in the 2010 budget. SHUC is also working to plant between 40 and 50 trees along Murray Avenue in the spring as part of the TreeVitalize program.

The "Gateway" study's most significant component is a proposed median with trees and lighting on Forward Avenue between the Parkway and the major Murray Avenue intersection. Plans for that construction project are still in design and funding, and years from completion.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Steven G. Hawkins, Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition

Image courtesy of Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition

Connections made for cyclists along city streets, county trails

Pittsburgh is getting a lot more accessible to cyclists thanks to bike markings in the city streets, and trail completion along the Great Allegheny Passage.

The goal, says Scott Bricker with Bike Pittsburgh, is to create a citywide network so cyclists can navigate between where they live, work and play without getting behind the wheel.

About a week-and-a-half ago, Forbes Avenue--just east of Carnegie Mellon University up to Murdoch Road--got designated bike lanes as well as shared lane markings, or "sharrows," where the street is not wide enough or there is a steep downhill. The area also features new curb bump-outs, which slow traffic. The Forbes Avenue bike markings connect some existing bike lanes--those striped over the summer on Beacon and Wightman Streets, as well as the bike lanes on Schenley Drive and Beechwood Boulevard. Plans, according to Bike Pittsburgh, are to continue the markings through Frick Park and up to S. Braddock Avenue.

Other new markings include those along Penn Avenue in the Strip District, which received its sharrows connecting Penn to Liberty Avenue's bike lanes in August.

"What we're seeing now is the result of some concentrated efforts from Bike Pittsburgh and the city's bike/ped coordinator and traffic engineers to try to get some paint on the pavement and get work done before the weather changes," says Bricker. "We're trying to create a unified bike transportation system around the city. The idea is that one day they'll all connect."

Until about two years ago, Pittsburgh's only bike lanes were in and around the parks, says Bricker. But bicycles, he says, are more than recreation--they are also transportation, a way to get around the city efficiently and, increasingly, safely.

For those looking for recreational cycling, the Great Allegheny Passage is another step closer to completion. On Friday, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato opened the newest stretch of the 335-mile biking and hiking trail that stretches from Downtown's Point State Park to Washington, D.C. The newest stretch is a mile-long length of trail in Duquesne, Pa. that includes a 60-foot tunnel. With the opening of this new stretch, trail users will be better able to use the Riverton Bridge, a 1,200-foot span that carries the Great Allegheny Passage across the Monongahela River between McKeesport and Duquesne.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh; Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Photograph courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh

Dean Supply provides products for restaurant pros, home chefs

The Strip District--Pittsburgh's irrefutable "foodie" destination--now has another spot for those who love to cook and eat.

Restaurant supply company Dean Supply opened in June, and hosted its grand opening over the weekend at 3300 Penn Ave., on the Lawrenceville-side of the Strip District, across the street from vintage shop Hollywood Rag, which opened last month.

Dean Supply offers thousands of items, such as closeouts, china, glassware, flatware, party supplies, paper products, janitorial supplies, kitchen utensils, smallwares and new and used equipment. It is open to the food service industry as well as the public, and provides free customer parking--a rarity in the Strip.

"After one visit, you'll never both going to a 'party store' ever again. The low prices and high quality guarantee that your parties will be kicked up a notch," says Cindy Helffrich from Neighbors in the Strip. "It's also a great place to spice up your dinnerware affordably, and to equip your home kitchen in a professional manner."

Dean Supply features a 10,000-square-foot showroom, and has created 21 new jobs. Dean Supply is always accepting applications from qualified individuals, says co-owner Matt Cozza.

Dean Supply is owned and operated by brothers Craig and Matt Cozza, and Dennis Savinda. It is located in a property that previously housed a restaurant supply shop. That business--Lewis Brothers--was founded in 1937 and closed about a year ago. Unlike Dean Supply, Lewis Brothers was not accessible to the public. The Cozza brothers did extensive renovations to make the space more visitor-friendly. Dean Supply still employs many of Lewis Brothers' experienced managers and staff.

Dean Supply has a license through Dean Supply of Cleveland, which enables the store to purchase items at a significant discount over retail prices, and pass the savings onto the customers, says Cozza.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Cindy Helffrich, Neighbors in the Strip; Matt Cozza, Dean Supply

Photography copyright Caralyn Green

Construction association completes renovations of new headquarters

It's a tired saying, but it doesn't make it any less true: You've got to practice what you preach.

And as Master Builders' Association (MBA) members are responsible for 90 percent of the square footage of LEED-certified buildings in the Greater Pittsburgh region, it was time for MBA to go green.

The contractor association has completed renovations of its new Green Tree headquarters, and is expecting to receive LEED Gold certification, the second highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. Green elements include a sophisticated air ventilation system, motion sensors to reduce energy consumption and new exterior walls and windows for proper insulation.

The two-story, 10,000-square-foot building at 631 Iron City Drive was designed by Strip District-based Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, and the contractor was F.J. Busse Company, Inc., which Jon O'Brien with MBA says has a "forte in interior build-outs." The project was 100 percent union-built, and finished on time, says O'Brien.

MBA purchased the building in 2007, after about 30 years in a property it owned at the corner of Poplar Street and Noblestown Road that is now occupied by a Rite Aid. MBA employees moved into the new offices in May 2009 after extensive renovations to the building that was originally constructed in the 1970s.

"We totally gutted it down to the steel," says O'Brien. "We wanted a state-of-the-art building our members and industry in general would be proud of. We wanted to show the region in the appropriate way."

The first floor houses MBA nonprofit Christmas in July and its three staff members, as well as a large conference center that can seat up to 80. The second floor houses offices for six MBA employees.

MBA will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house celebration on Thursday from 3:30 to 8 p.m.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jon O'Brien, Master Builders' Association

Photograph courtesy Master Builders' Association

Park(ing) Day transforms car spots into public spaces

Some of the city's parking spots are getting new occupants come Friday. Gone will be the quarter-chewing gas guzzlers, and in their place… Sod. Potted plants. Benches. Bocce. Suits reading newspapers, and lunch-breakers debating Steelers strategy.

With the intention of raising awareness about the importance of public spaces, Park(ing) Day is temporarily transforming some of Pittsburgh's parking spots into public parks.

This will be the second year Pittsburgh is participating in the annual, one-day international event that started in San Francisco in 2005.

Last year, more then 20 parks were created in various neighborhoods by artists, activists and citizens. Highlights included a bike rental area by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Councilman Patrick Dowd and Bike Pittsburgh's Scott Bricker; a sod-covered car in Oakland by artist Sean Derry; and a five-spot space (with a makeshift bocce court) at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, donated by the Trust for Public Land, which was hosting its conference during the event.

"Imagine how different the city would be if we used parking spots for parks instead," says Andrea Lavin, an event organizer. "In New York they were able to close down Times Square and make it pedestrian. They took back the space from the cars and give it back to the people. The event is about acknowledging that the best way to build cities is not to build them for cars, but for the multiple ways people get around."

Interested participants are urged to contact event organizers. This year's Park(ing) Day is organized by the Mattress Factory, the Office of Public Art and the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

A map of park locations will be posted on Park(ing) Day's blog the day of the event.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Andrea Lavin, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh; Emily Craig, Mattress Factory

Photograph courtesy Timothy Burak

Hollywood Rag: Buy, sell and trade in the Strip District

In the last five years, 3232 Penn Ave. in the Strip District has been filled with cubicles, paintings and, now, vintage clothing. All under the same ownership.

Buy-sell-trade shop Hollywood Rag opened, under the tutelage of Josh Freedman, in late August in a 750-square-foot space on the Lawrenceville edge of the Strip District.

When Strip District resident Freedman first got into the Penn Ave. space, he was running Freedman Capital Group, a mortgage brokerage firm that employed 17 and closed between $4 and $6 million a month across the U.S. The economy being what it is, Freedman shut down and let everyone go in August 2008, and decided to convert the office into an art gallery. Freebird Gallery hosted one show in October 2008. The show--by Emmeric James Konrad, who painted all the tables and walls at Lawrenceville's Remedy Restaurant and Lounge--sold out.

After executing the Freebird Gallery concept, Freedman set off on a cross-country trip, hitting all the major cities, and getting ideas for what to do next. The one thing that popped