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Bottle shop and bar program opens at Marty's Market

Brunch just got boozier at Marty’s Market in the Strip District.
 
Last Thursday, the gourmet grocer already boasting a coffee bar, café, market and butchery, opened its anticipated bottle shop with a wide craft selection from regional breweries. And, this weekend, Marty’s unveiled its new bar program with its brunch menu now bolstering breakfast beers and cocktails.
 
Beverage consultant Will Groves, formerly with Legume's bar Butterjoint, is helping to establish the bar program and bottle shop. Groves said he was excited to work with Marty’s as the coffee bar’s products and espresso machine is fodder for interesting coffee cocktails, like the Kentucky Cortado, an espresso and whiskey brunch cocktail at Marty’s. Groves added that not a lot of bars have access to professional, high-quality espresso.
 
Though the restaurant menu may only feature a dozen or more beers, café customers can grab a beer from the bottle shop’s wide selection to pair with their meals. Marty’s popular outdoor seating area and coffee bar stools also allow drinking.
 
Groves said he focused on providing an array of local brews and a wide selection of IPAs in the bottle shop.
 
"If you break out the best selling beers in America right now by style …  IPA is No. 3,” he said. “It’s your standard beer for a craft beer consumer.”
                                          
Groves noted North Country Brewing Company out of Slippery Rock and Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Chillwave Double IPA as personal favorites in the bottle shop. He said the Chillwave Double IPA is hoppy with a hint of honey, which gives it a floral note and adds to drinkability.
 
In addition to existing six-packs, customers can also purchase individual beers or create their own six-pack for $12.99.
 
With the launch of the bar program and beer shop, Marty’s Market is currently hiring new positions, from bartenders to baristas and beer geeks to staff the new bottle area.
 
Source: Regina Koetters, Marty’s Market, Will Groves 
 

Bottom Dollar site in Garfield to become ALDI store

After Bottom Dollar announced it would be closing all 20 of its Pittsburgh locations by the end of 2014, the fate of the Bottom Dollar site at 5200 Penn Ave. in Garfield generated much concern from residents.
 
ALDI announced last November that it planned to purchase Bottom Dollar stores, not operations, though the specific locations were uncertain. 
 
Brent Laubaugh, vice-president at ALDI's regional headquarters in Saxonburg, Butler County, recently announced that the Penn Avenue store -- which has been the focus of much recent community activity to bring another high-quality food retailer to the city's East End -- will open again as an ALDI grocery store. 

ALDI announced that the company has completed its purchase of 66 real estate assets from the Delhaize Group, including the Penn Avenue location. The transaction includes the land, buildings and leasehold improvements associated with Delhaize’s recently retired Bottom Dollar Food operation.
 
Mayor Bill Peduto’s office released a statement that Peduto, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, and the citizens and business owners in the Penn Avenue corridor were excited about the news from the ALDI.
 
"The ALDI business model will be a great asset to the residents of Garfield and a number of the neighborhoods surrounding it," Peduto said. "For folks who want to stretch their grocery dollar, ALDI can be a great place to shop."
 
In 1987, a Giant Eagle grocery store closed on Penn Avenue, forcing neighborhood residents to travel miles to purchase groceries. For residents without cars and elderly residents, this proved to be a hardship, especially in the winter months, according to Peduto.
 
The mayor and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald met in February with ALDI officials and urged them to give the Penn Avenue location serious consideration as a possible third store in the city. ALDI currently operates stores in Pittsburgh on Baum Boulevard and East Carson Street.
 
"ALDI said they would work to achieve a positive outcome for the community with this site, no matter what would happen, and they were true to their word," Peduto said. "Today's announcement is another great example of what happens when Pittsburgh business, neighborhood and our government leaders -- including Executive Fitzgerald and City Councilwoman Deb Gross -- come together to work for the common good."

In December 2013, ALDI embarked on an accelerated growth plan to open 650 new stores by the end of 2018, with the goal of operating nearly 2,000 stores across the country. ALDI also is planning to invest more than $3 billion to pay for land, facilities and equipment. When the expansion is complete, ALDI will have stores coast to coast and anticipates serving more than 45 million customers per month. The expansion is expected to create more than 10,000 new jobs at ALDI stores, warehouses and division offices.

To see the full list of stores ALDI plans to re-open across the region, please read this announcement from the organization. 
 
 
Source: Office of Mayor William Peduto, ALDI

Support The Pop Stop's new 'Sweet Truck' with a crowdfunding campaign

“It started with just a bike,” said Todd Saulle, co-owner of The Pop Stop, a local gourmet popsicle vendor.
 
The Pop Stop is a husband-and-wife business -- Saulle and his wife Laura -- that started in 2013 with a bike, some coolers and a fresh new product that combines fresh fruit and herbs to make ice pops.
 
“Everything is fresh,” Saulle said. He then joked, “We don’t use any frozen fruit … until we freeze it ourselves.”
 
The coolers, packed with dry ice, could carry about 200 popsicles, Saulle said. But the cooler and bike combo was cumbersome. So, in 2014, The Pop Stop upgraded to two small push carts.
 
With the carts, The Pop Stop has been a staple at city events like Shadyside's Weather Permitting, the North Side's annual Deutschtown Music Festival and the weekly Downtown Farmers Market in Market Square. 
 
But, Saulle is currently working on a way to improve mobility and garner more business with the Pop Stop Sweet Truck, a food truck peddling artisanal summer treats.
 
“Last year, we did about 80 different events,” he said, noting markets, weddings and parties. “We’re really trying to double what we did last year.”  
 
Saulle noted that the truck will be able to handle any size event. He joked that while working some events with the cart he would run out of product and need to leave and come back to continue to sell ice pops.
 
The 1970s Good Humor ice cream truck has been purchased off Craigslist, registered and converted into The Pop Stop’s Sweet Truck, logo and all. But, Saulle said, the interior is still empty.
 
That’s where you come in.
 
Saulle started a foodstart.com crowdfunding campaign to finish the build-out of the truck. Prizes for donating include free treats and ice cream parties.
 
“[You] get to experience the thing you put money toward,” Saulle said about the prizes.
 
Not only will the truck allow Saulle to sell more popsicles, but he will be able to expand to different products as well.

While small-batch ice pops will remain the primary focus, Saulle said he wants the truck to provide the best versions of your favorite novelty mobile treats like shaved ice, ice cream and soda.
 
The Sweet Truck plans to serve “raspados” (Latin American shaved ice with fresh fruit, natural syrup and condensed milk), Leona's Ice Cream Sandwiches (local lactose-free ice cream) and locally bottled Red Ribbon Soda.
 
The truck will also allow The Pop Stop to roll out enhanced versions of their pops, like chocolate dipped ice pops that can be rolled in toppings from shaved coconut to nuts to spices. 
 
The Pop Stop Sweet Truck’s first scheduled event will be May 10 at The Neighborhood Flea in the Strip District.
 
Source: Todd Saulle, The Pop Stop, www.foodstart.com/project/thepopstop

Marty's Market to open bottle shop and launch new bar program

Pretty soon diners at Marty’s Market in the Strip District will be able to enjoy mimosas and craft beverages with brunch. Regina Koetters, Marty’s owner, said she hopes to unveil a new bar program and bottle shop next month at the market and restaurant -- which is currently BYOB.
 
Marty’s currently features a coffee bar, café, market and butchery. Patrons have recently noticed construction to meet requirements for a liquor license, as laws call for walls with specific dimensions, seat number conditions, stock area qualifications and staff training. 
 
Koetters explained that the coffee bar will broaden to feature both craft coffee and espresso drinks and craft cocktails. Seating will expand into the new bottle shop.
 
Existing refrigeration has also been converted for the bottle shop. Koetters explained that some brews require refrigeration from bottling to drinking, and the transformation ensures quality products.
 
While the bar will feature four or five seasonal craft cocktails and a rotating wine list featuring about a dozen selections at a time, the focus of Marty’s bar will be on local craft beer.
 
“Ours is a celebration of what’s in our region,” Koetters said about Marty’s mission to feature locally and ethically sourced products. “What’s really happening in Pittsburgh is beer.”
 
Will Groves, formerly with Legume's bar Butterjoint, has been working with Marty’s to establish the bar program. Koetters said he has been meeting with a myriad of brewers within 50 miles of the restaurant, trying to find ways to showcase as many as possible.
 
She said she wants to introduce consumers to local products while keeping bottles at an affordable price. Though the restaurant menu may only feature a dozen or more beers, Koetters said café customers will have the opportunity to grab a beer from the bottle shop’s wide selection to pair with their meals. She added that Marty’s popular outdoor seating area and coffee bar stools will allow drinking.
 
“Hopefully, more people can meet in the Strip,” Koetters said about the expansion, explaining that bikers riding along the river may enjoy a casual stop with a beer, while brunchers can relax with quality meals and mimosas.
 
Koetters said she hopes to have the bar program and bottle shop open at the end of April. She added that she plans to feature a happy hour with seasonally and thoughtfully paired snacks in the future, though there are no firm plans yet.
 
 
Source: Regina Koetters, Marty’s Market 

Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport lauds local flavor with farm-to-table restaurant

When visitors land at PIT and unpack their bags at the Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport, their first taste of Pittsburgh can now be local and organic.
 
Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport recently announced the opening of bellfarm Kitchen | Bar, a new farm-to-table style restaurant. Located on the lobby level of Pittsburgh’s airport adjacent hotel, the venue provides guests and residents with a locally sourced dining experience.
 
Named after John A. Bell of Carnegie, bellfarm Kitchen is an homage to the airport’s roots. In the early 1920s, Bell purchased a number of small farms in Moon Township and established a commercial dairy farm on his 1,900 acres of land. In April 1942, Allegheny County bought Bell Farm to begin construction of airline runways. The new airport, originally christened as Greater Pittsburgh Airport (renamed Greater Pittsburgh International Airport in 1972) opened on May 31, 1952.
 
More than two dozen farms, distilleries and purveyors throughout Pittsburgh and surrounding counties supply the restaurant with hormone-free meats, organic produce and high-quality craft beer and spirits.
 
“Our menu offerings are grounded in our commitment to the quality of food we serve and revolve around our guests’ active lifestyles. Thoughtfully sourced, carefully served,” said Executive Chef Nick Saxon. “We incorporate organic and local ingredients wherever possible, which allows us to provide unrivaled levels of flavor and quality. We’re supporting our local communities and providing guests and Pittsburgh locals with balanced offerings that reflect the tastes they love.”
 
Seasonal menus will highlight local bounty with robust flavor combinations like the signature in-house cured and smoked pork belly quesadilla served with cilantro pesto aioli, an organic Amish-farmed mesquite roasted chicken with natural drippings with fire-roasted poblano hash and braised greens, a grass-fed Black Angus beef tenderloin with caramelized shallot compound butter, and a succulent house-made veggie burger.
 
In addition to its farm-to-table style menu, bellfarm Kitchen features a contemporary environment for patrons with a communal table, expanded bar, and tabletops made with local, reclaimed wood. The space also lends itself to various seating configurations that provide accessible dining options for business meetings, happy hour gatherings, private dining events and more.
 
The restaurant is open seven days a week, 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. The bar is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
 
Source:  Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport

Eat'n Park opens Delicious Raw Juice Bar Downtown

Eat'n Park Hospitality Group has stepped into a new arena after partnering with all-natural juice and smoothie bar, Delicious Raw. The company opens Pittsburgh’s first Delicious Raw location, adjacent to the Downtown Hello Bistro, today.
 
“Over the years, [at] Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, we’ve served pretty much everyone,” said Mark Broadhurst, Eat'n Park retail development vice president.
 
He explained that with several businesses across the region serving families, students and professionals, Delicious Raw is a new way the company can feed the community as the local health and wellness market grows. Broadhurst noted a juice craze in recent years with other juice concepts coming to the market.
 
Pittsburgh has seen development in this trend with The Pittsburgh Juice Company in Lawrenceville, South Side’s Amazing Café, Salud Juicery in Shadyside, GOODLife Juices, Savasana Juice, Lawrenceville’s Embody Natural Health, Fresh from the Farm Juices, Shadyside’s Living Juicy Raw Café and Root System Juice Company, which can be found at the Pittsburgh Public Market.
 
“It’s a good time for juice,” Broadhurst said.

He noted that novice Pittsburgh juicers should not feel intimidated to try Delicious Raw. Broadhurst explained that the menu has several options with fresh raw juice made right before your eyes and cold-pressed juices for the shopper on the go. There are also smoothies and add-ins for energy, immunity and digestive health.
 
Broadhurst said the menu is divided into different categories: Revitalizers, Roots and Green Goodness. He said the fruits and roots are approachable for beginners, and the greens with spinach and kale pack a daily dose of vegetables. Broadhurst called it a great visual to see the juices prepared. He said one and a half pounds to two pounds of produce goes into each 16-ounce drink.
 
Eat’n Park’s first Delicious Raw location is at 280 Forbes Avenue. While there are no firm plans yet, Broadhurst said juice could appear on the menu in the future at the company’s other businesses.
 
 
Source: Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, Mark Broadhurst
 

Innovative online supper club Dinner Lab launches in Pittsburgh

Dinner Lab began in New Orleans in 2012 and has since become a national sensation. The pop-up supper club has hosted innovative dining events in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York. Today, Dinner Lab announced Pittsburgh as its newest city.
 
“We’re really excited about coming to Pittsburgh,” said Zach Kupperman, co-founder of Dinner Lab. “Pittsburgh [has] an amazing cultural and culinary scene … Pittsburgh is a very cool and underground cultural city with a lot going on.”
 
According to its website, Dinner Lab is an underground dining club that strips away the typical restaurant trappings and replaces it with a pop-up experience. City-dwellers become members online to receive a calendar of events. The menu is posted beforehand, but the location isn’t disclosed until the day before or the day of the event.
 
“Dinner Lab, at its core, is a membership-based social dining club,” Kupperman said.
 
The company operates as a subscription service where people pay upfront for access to the calendar. This is not to be exclusive, but how Dinner Lab subsidizes the cost of dinners, hires local people and rents kitchens. Guests then pay for each dinner and have access to not only events in the local market, but in every other city that Dinner Lab operates. Tickets, which include gratuity and alcohol, are purchased through the website a few weeks prior to the event.
 
Dinner is usually five courses (though it can be more), includes all-you-can-drink beer and wine. There's a pre-dinner cocktail hour, too. Membership rates vary between $100 and $200, depending on the participating city, but Pittsburgh’s membership rate is $125. Starting today, you can register online.
 
Dinner Lab chefs are usually the second or third at great restaurants. But, as Kupperman explained, they are often in the back of someone else’s kitchen, cooking someone else’s food. There is a disconnect between what chefs prepare on a regular basis and what they actually care about, he said.  
 
Dinner Lab pulls about 50 percent of its chefs from the local market and then will bring in top performing chefs from other Dinner Lab city markets. The group requires its chefs' food to tell a compelling story. Chefs have the opportunity to cook for an event and create a menu that is unique to their experience and palate.
 
Dinner Lab focuses on global cuisine enjoyed in random, local places outside a traditional restaurant setting. Kupperman said abandoned warehouses, old churches and rooftops are transformed for one night as a pop-up dinner venue. Guests dine together at community tables. Food is designed to be the common element to bring participants together.
 
There is also a diner feedback component to Dinner Lab. Diners rate each course and all of this information is aggregated and delivered back to the chef.
 
Though Dinner Lab officially launched in Pittsburgh today, it will be a few weeks before the first event. Kupperman said it will take time to hire people to operate the program in Pittsburgh and scout venues. Once Dinner Lab is established in a city, members can expect as many as six or seven events per month.
 
Pittsburgh’s first event will feature New Orleans Chef Mario Rodriquez, most recently of La Petite Grocery in the Big Easy. His menu concept will feature the flavors of Malay cuisine through the lens of a fine dining chef. 
 
Source: Dinner Lab, Zach Kupperman

AMPD Group plans Social House Seven, an Izakaya-style Asian restaurant

Izakaya is a style of restaurant in Japan that serves shareable plates and a variety of drinks and sake, according the AMPD Group, which is launching an Izakaya-style Asian restaurant in Downtown Pittsburgh.
 
The AMPD Group, a Pittsburgh entertainment and hospitality development and management company, recently announced its newest venture, Social House Seven, located in the Downtown Aria Lofts, the home of Bossa Nova Lounge for 12 years.
 
“The Group has been searching for a location for our new Izakaya-style Asian concept for some time. We have had this concept on the drawing board for the past four years and are excited to finally bring it to fruition. Social House will be our best project to date,” said Michael DeSimone, AMPD Group Partner.
 
Opening summer 2015, Social House will feature a custom-built robata grill and sushi bar along with an expansive lunch and dinner menu of shareable pan-Asian dishes ranging from Japanese to Thai, Korean to Chinese. In addition to sushi and grilled meats, including Kobe beef, the menu will feature shareable vegetarian and gluten-free items.
 
Adam DeSimone, AMPD Group Partner, described robata as a Japanese grill and said Social House’s robata will be a solid fuel grill with charcoal. “The great thing about a robata grill is it sears the meat … and captures all the juices within the meat,” he said, adding that the six-foot grill will run at about 800 degrees and capture juices to keep the meat tender.
 
The 7,300-square-foot restaurant will seat 175 guests with space for another 60 at the main bar and robata and sushi bar. The restaurant will also feature a 2,300-square-foot late-night lounge and event space, reminiscent of Bossa Nova, to host receptions, fundraisers and corporate events for up to 150 guests.
 
The lounge space can also serve as overflow to the restaurant and will turn into a late-night environment at the conclusion of dinner service on weekend evenings with Pittsburgh’s best DJ’s.
 
“We’re predominantly a restaurant, but have a strong nightlife component to it,” Adam DeSimone explained.
 
Social House will feature Asian-style décor with framed glass, wood trussing ceiling features and 16-foot hand-carved Buddhas peering over the restaurant.
 
“There’s nothing like it in Pittsburgh,” Adam DeSimone said, calling the location at 123 Seventh St. in the Cultural District “second to none.” He added that the AMPD Group, which developed Ten Penny, Steel Cactus, Local Bar & Kitchen, Diesel Club Lounge, Skybar Pittsburgh, Dominic’s Deli at PNC Park and Delanie’s Coffee, is excited to introduce this latest venture to the city. 
 
Social House Seven will serve lunch Monday through Friday, brunch on Saturday and Sunday and dinner seven days a week. The lounge will be open Thursday through Saturday. Valet service will be available during dinner and late-night hours.
 

Double Wide Grill expands to third location in North Huntingdon

Since 2006, Double Wide Grill has been a South Side staple. Six years later, the gas station-themed eatery opened a second restaurant opened in Mars, Butler County. Now, Double Wide Grill has plans to open a third location in North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, at what used to be Teddy’s Restaurant.
 
“This location is very different than the other two, which makes us really excited to get things underway,” said Double Wide co-owner Steve Zumoff. “Rather than turning an existing building into a restaurant, or building from ground-up, the new location was already a restaurant, so now it’s all about us transforming the space into the Double Wide brand that people already know and love.”
 
Double Wide Grill in North Huntingdon will be located just off the turnpike on Route 30, and is expected to open summer 2015. The menu will feature their popular ribs along with burgers, barbeque, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free specialties. Zumoff explained that the location will also continue to carry some of Teddy’s favorite menu items, like the stuffed pork chop.
 
“We’ll have 40 American craft beers on tap that will rotate with the seasons and a big menu that caters to meat-lovers and vegans alike, plus many gluten-free options,” said co-owner Scott Kramer.
 
Zumoff explained that North Huntingdon was attractive because of its new housing, business and office developments. Last summer,Express Scripts, a St. Louis-based Fortune 100 company serving 90 million people each year, announced that it was moving 600 employees to a 70,000-square-foot facility in North Huntingdon.
 
Zumoff added that the new, highway-adjacent Double Wide location is in a high-traffic area, wedged between a Giant Eagle, Target and Walmart Supercenter.
 
The 6,500 square feet of space will be transformed to have the same vintage gas station theme that has become the recognizable branding of Double Wide Grill. The inside will seat 220 people and the upcoming, newly constructed outdoor patio will seat up to 70.
 
“The new location has the garage look like our other ones … but we’re looking to make it a little more roadside [themed],” Zumoff said, explaining that they want incorporate a historic highway theme à la Route 66, as the location is off Route 30. “Hopefully, the travelers on the highway will find out about us … We’ll be the place they stop, a roadside attraction.”
 
Double Wide Grill in North Huntingdon is slated to open during the summer of 2015. Other locations are in South Side on East Carson Street and in Butler County on Route 228. 

Casual dining options come to Lawrenceville with The Vandal, Smoke BBQ Taqueria and more

Joey Hilty, formerly of Bar Marco, and Emily Slagel, owner of Lawrenceville boutique Mid-Atlantic Mercantile, are bringing casual dining and approachable fare to Central Lawrenceville with The Vandal, opening in May at 4306 Butler St.
 
The duo explained that they were inspired by their dining experiences in cities throughout Iceland and Europe. They wanted to create a neighborhood dining experience on the Butler corridor.
 
“Amidst the evolving dining culture in Pittsburgh, we saw a real need for an affordable, convivial eatery,” Hilty said. “Our intent is for The Vandal to be an everyday neighborhood spot where you can grab dinner with your friends or a lunch alone with a book and your laptop.” 
 
The Vandal isn’t the only casual dining experience coming to Lawrenceville -- Smoke BBQ Taqueria opened this week at 4115 Butler St. While the soft opening boasts irregular hours, the smoked meats, migas and breakfast tacos are being met with a warm welcome. Owners Jeff Petruso and Nelda Carranco are from Austin, making it a bona fide Texas joint. Feb. 16 will mark the first Smoke Monday, where customers can can bring Smoke tacos to Row House Cinema next door to enjoy with a movie. Atlas Bottle Works, within Row House, is also conveniently adjacent to Smoke to fit the restaurant's BYOB policy.
 
Allegro Hearth Bakery’s owner Omar Abuhejleh also has plans to open a vegan and Mediterranean café, bakery and coffee shop at 5202 Butler St. in May. And, Morcilla, the second Lawrenceville venture from chef Justin Severino of Cure, will open this summer at 3519 Butler St. In a previous interview with Pop City, Severino said the new restaurant will be a casual, neighborhood restaurant with shareable snacks and tapas.
 
Open for lunch and dinner, The Vandal plans to offer an ingredient-driven menu six days a week. Sandwiches and snacks will be available all day with larger offerings, like steak frites, available for dinner only. Hilty plans on building the menu using what is fresh and seasonally available. The result will be menu items like a lamb sausage sandwich with tahini-spiked potato salad. Sandwiches will start at $8 while larger portioned dinners will start at $14.

For beverages, the restaurant will have a range of soft drinks from house-made lavender-hibiscus soda to Korean apple soda as well as a BYOB policy. Hilty said he hopes to eventually have a liquor license for the venue and to collaborate with Lawrenceville breweries and bottle shops.
 
While the name The Vandal has a strong, almost aggressive, sound to it, Hilty explained that the atmosphere will be far from threatening. Conversely, he said the design will be soft, cozy and minimalist.
 
“It’s important for us to design a warm, community-focused space,” Slagel said. “Through the union of food and design, we are able to cultivate the experiences that we want to have in our city.” 
 
Slagel’s vision and attention to detail will displayed throughout the intimate 30-seat space, from the custom bench seating to the menu design. Future plans include updating the rear outdoor patio into a beer garden or al fresco space with a wood-fired pizza oven.
  
While The Vandal is not slated to open until May, Hilty will host a menu preview at Bar Marco’s no-menu Monday on March 2.  For more information, visit www.thevandalpgh.com.
 
 
Source: The Vandal, Joey Hilty

Study: Liquor ban turns off would-be Wilkinsburg restaurateurs

The liquor license ban in Wilkinsburg is discouraging potential restaurateurs from opening up shop in the borough, according to the Urban Partners Market Study of Wilkinsburg.

From the study: “Full-service sit-down restaurants are also in short supply in the Wilkinsburg business district. A major contributing factor is the prohibition of alcohol in restaurants in the borough, which is typically a significant revenue generator for restaurants. As a result, prospective restaurateurs interested in opening new venues are avoiding Wilkinsburg, which is keeping the demand for finer dining high and the supply relatively low.”

The Borough of Wilkinsburg has been a dry community since 1870, but the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation aims to change that this spring.
 
The WCDC Board of Directors recently voted to pursue a liquor license referendum to legalize the sale of liquor licenses to restaurants in the Borough of Wilkinsburg. This effort is supported by the WCDC 10-year Wilkinsburg Business District Revitalization Plan, which was approved by Wilkinsburg Borough Council in 2010. The revitalization efforts of the Wilkinsburg business district were recently recognized by the state with a Main Street designation.
 
A statement from the WCDC said they believe restaurant liquor licenses will attract new businesses to Wilkinsburg and increase investment in the area. WCDC Executive Director Tracey Evans explained that the community currently offers several small diners and take-out businesses, but not a lot of sit-down restaurants. She said this referendum could bring more restaurants and evening activity to the borough. 
 
“With so many nice restaurants right on our border, why not encourage the same in Wilkinsburg and keep dining dollars in our community? Today, if you live in Wilkinsburg and want to meet friends for dinner and a cocktail you have to go to Regent Square, Point Breeze or East Liberty,” Evans said.
 
To lead a successful campaign, the WCDC and volunteers must circulate petitions between February 17, 2015, and March 10, 2015, and collect 1,059 signatures from registered Wilkinsburg voters. If that goal is met, the liquor license referendum question, “Do you favor the granting of liquor licenses for the sale of liquor in the Borough of Wilkinsburg?,” will be placed on the May 19, 2015, primary election ballot in Wilkinsburg.
 
In addition to attracting new businesses to Wilkinsburg, existing Wilkinsburg establishments, including Salvatore’s Pizza House and Biddle’s Escape, have expressed interest in acquiring liquor licenses once they are legally able to do so.
 
“Prohibiting liquor licenses hurts Wilkinsburg,” said Biddle’s Escape owner and Wilkinsburg resident Joe Davis. “Residents can easily go a few blocks away to a neighboring community, like Swissvale, Braddock or the city, to enjoy a beer or glass of wine. We need to make this an option in Wilkinsburg, too.”
 
Additional information about the WCDC’s liquor license campaign is available at www.wilkinsburgcdc.org/liquor-license. For a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit www.wilkinsburgcdc.org/liquor-license-faq. To volunteer during the campaign, call (412) 727-7855 or email marlee@wilkinsburgcdc.org.
 
 
Source: WCDC, Tracey Evans

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina receives big Yelp win; plans expansion

Last week, Yelp ranked Strip District restaurant Gaucho Parrilla Argentina No. 7 on its Top 100 Places to Eat in the United States for 2015. Gaucho was the only East Coast eatery listed in the top ten.
 
“It’s just awesome news. [It’s] great for us, great for our neighborhood and great for the city,” said Gaucho chef and proprietor Anthony Falcon. 
 
Rachel Carlson, Yelp Pittsburgh community director, explained that the bar for good food in Pittsburgh has been raised. And while taste and quality are part of the equation behind a positive Yelp review, Carlson said Yelpers also make note of good customer service and atmosphere. She noted that users recognize these qualities at Gaucho.
 
“They have 298 reviews and a perfect five-star rating. And that’s unheard of.” Carlson said about Gaucho’s online popularity. 

Falcon said regular customers and new faces have been commenting on the Yelp shoutout. The win comes on the heels of some other news for Gaucho.
 
The restaurant at 1607 Penn Avenue will be expanding into the building next door. Falcon said the project, which has been in the works for one year, finally has the green light from the city. He said construction is expected to begin as early as next week and added that he hopes it is completed in three or four months for summer business.
 
“The new space will be a lot more comfortable for our customers,” Falcon said. Currently, Gaucho only has limited stool seating. But, the expansion will bring additional stools, tables and chairs to accommodate 40 people. He added that there are tentative plans for a bar in the future. “We really want to focus on local craft beers and South American, Argentine-inspired wine.”
 
He said the current Gaucho space will be converted into a large kitchen and the space next door will serve as the dining area. In addition to physical renovations, Falcon said the menu will also add items, like more vegetable dishes, paella, coffee and baked goods. But don’t worry, the mouthwatering steaks, five-hour braised rosemary beef sandwich and other customer favorites will all still be there.
 
Falcon said he wanted to give “a massive, huge, heartfelt thank you” to the community and out-of-town diners who supported Gaucho on Yelp. He said these positive reviews and local support are what made the restaurant No. 7 in the country.
 
 
Source: Anthony Falcon

CMU alumni launch Greek yogurt brand Naturi in Pittsburgh

Greek yogurt is everywhere these days. But some companies offering Greek-style yogurt often sneak in a lot of hidden sugar and other additives. Brand-new Pittsburgh company Naturi Organics promises that its Greek yogurt is made naturally with local and organic ingredients. 
 
Naturi is the brainchild of Aditya Dhere, Anes Dracic and Jennifer Mrzlack, graduates of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. For 2014 grads Dhere and Dracic, Naturi started as a final graduate school project. Mrzlack, a 2010 Tepper alumna, brought her food experience -- after three years at Heinz -- to the team in July.

Mrzlack said Dhere, an American-born Indian, and Dracic, a Bosnian refugee who moved to the United States as a child, both had mothers who made yogurt at home. She added that Dracic’s family had a farm in Bosnia and that his mother sold yogurt from a cart.
 
Mrzlack also made yogurt and applesauce for her young sons, which sparked her passion for natural, healthy ingredients.
 
On Jan. 12, Naturi hit the shelves at 48 local businesses with more retailers in the works. Distributors are Paragon, Frankferd Farms and Clarion River Organics.
 
In addition to serving both the Google and American Eagle Outfitters campuses, Naturi customers include the Fairmont Hotel, Hotel Monaco, Marty’s Market, the East End Food Co-op, McGinnis Sisters, Espresso A Mano, 21st Street Coffee and Tea, Coffee Tree Roasters, the Duquesne Club, Feast on Brilliant, Red Oak Café, DJ Butcher Block, Tula Organic Salon and Spa, Today’s Market, Sewickley Confectionary -- which provides home delivery -- and more. Strip District hot spots Bar Marco and Wigle Whiskey will offer Naturi-made items.
 
“I cant say it enough,” Mrzlack began, “I [really] want to thank the Pittsburgh community … Everyone has been so supportive.”
 
Naturi, Mrzlack explained, is committed to flavorful Greek-style yogurt with clean, organic ingredients and low sugar. The yogurt is produced at Sunrise Family Farms, an organic farm in upstate New York.
 
While Naturi is committed to keeping a small carbon footprint (many ingredients are sourced within three miles of Sunrise farms), the brand also packs flavors with a “worldly” punch.
 
The initial flavors include Pure (plain), Seedless Raspberry, Coffee + Chicory and Indonesian Vanilla + Saigon Cinnamon. These natural flavors need little added sugar, Mrzlack explained. She said raspberry is naturally sweetened with real fruit, the chicory gives the coffee yogurt a chocolate feel and vanilla and cinnamon are innately rich in flavor.
 
Naturi operates out of the Birchmere Ventures offices in the Strip District above 21st Street Coffee. On Saturday, the new company is getting to know its Strip District neighbors. From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Naturi will be at the Organically Social booth in the Pittsburgh Public Market doing a public meet-and-greet event.
 
Source: Jennifer Mrzlack, www.naturi.com
 

Hotel Monaco's The Commoner to open Downtown with a grab-and-go café

For a quick bite or a full-on dining experience, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants offers pub fare with a Pittsburgh twist for hungry downtown diners.
 
Kimpton will open its first Pittsburgh restaurant, The Commoner, adjacent to the new Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Jan. 20. The 120-seat restaurant will feature American classics with a modern flair, a wood-burning oven and an extensive craft beer list.
 
In a rush? Try The Commoner’s grab-and-go café The Commoner Corner. This sidewalk café and smoked meat carvery will serve breakfast and lunch and features a large service window on Strawberry Way for customers on the go.
 
"We've been working hard to perfect our menu and develop relationships with local farmers to highlight the best of the Allegheny region," said Executive Chef Dennis Marron. "The Pittsburgh dining scene is really making a name for itself, and I'm excited to bring my take on European pub fare and American classics to the table. The menu and vibe we've created here is going to be a hit with everyone -- from downtown professionals to sports fans and theater-goers to hotel guests."
 
Chef Marron's menus will offer American tavern classics with Old World influences and regional produce. The onion soup burger, steak and ale pie (braised with local East End Brown Ale) and brick chicken are just a few examples where pub style meets Pittsburgh flavor. Pennsylvania-grown and seasonal products, like PA Noble cave-aged cheddar, Castle Valley Mills cornmeal, Starr Valley Farms beef and Elysian Fields lamb, will be highlights in many dishes, like the cheddar board, PA burger and braised lamb shank.
 
“We’re a modern American tavern located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh,” said The Commoner General Manager Matthew Rafferty. He added that the restaurant will focus on drafts and “slow-roasted and braised meats.”
 
The dinner menu will prominently feature an array of dishes from the kitchen's central wood-burning oven. With wood-fired dishes ranging from appetizers to main courses, diners will be able to choose from broccoli-cheddar flatbread to herb-rubbed bone marrow to charred cauliflower with sage-walnut pesto, among other smoky, rustic favorites.
 
Breakfast at The Commoner will have something for everyone, including lighter options like baked egg whites with kale, oven-dried tomatoes and zucchini, and heartier offerings like Irish soda bread, French toast with Chantilly cream and whiskey barrel-aged maple syrup.
 
At the bar, lead bartender Joshua Holliday will oversee a robust cocktail and spirits menu and a locally driven craft beer list anchored by 12 draft lines and 50 bottles and cans, including local selections like Church Brew Works' Thunderhop Extreme Double IPA and Voodoo Brewing Company's KillaPilz.
 
The wine list will feature six wines on tap, guided by Kimpton’s Master Sommelier Emily Wines. Holliday has worked closely with Chef Marron and Rafferty to create inventive cocktails, including a barrel-aged negroni and an old-fashioned, with house-made syrup and BBQ bitters.
 
The Commoner Corner’s menu will feature items that are unfussy and ideal for diners on the go. Breakfast will include a range of freshly baked pastries, croissant sandwiches, fresh-pressed juices and smoothies and artisanal coffee beverages. Lunch will feature hot sandwiches with house-smoked, hand-carved beef, turkey and portabella mushrooms and a variety of fixings. Save time and room for milkshakes and floats.
 
The Commoner, at 458 Strawberry Way, will be open seven days a week for breakfast and dinner starting January 20. The restaurant begins lunch service Feb. 3 and kicks off its Saturday and Sunday brunch on Feb. 21. The Commoner Corner will serve weekday breakfast and lunch beginning Jan. 20.
 
Full menus and information will be available at www.thecommonerpgh.com.
 
 
Source: Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Justin Rude, Matthew Rafferty
 

Pop-up chocolate shop keeps mouths watering in Shadyside

Just before Christmas, Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate, a pop-up shop in Shadyside, opened its doors boasting holiday goodies. But this pop-up hasn't disappeared into the night. Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate will continue to see Pittsburgh through all the big chocolate holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter.
 
The seasonal chocolate emporium was launched by Pittsburgh native Lissa Guttman, who recently moved back to Pittsburgh after a 10-year stint in New York City. While there, she worked with award-winning pastry chef and Food Network personality Jacques Torres to launch a line of highly successful chocolate boutiques in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
 
“I loved the food scene in New York, but I missed the soulfulness of Pittsburgh,” Guttman said. “So, I decided to fuse the two. I also love the idea of creating whimsical shopping experiences -- unexpected retail destinations that last for a season or two, but create fun moments and leave customers craving the next incarnation.”
 
Guttman said she wanted to bring her love for chocolate and Jacques Torres quality products back to her hometown. She added that Torres was excited to expand his brand beyond New York -- Pittsburgh is the first city outside New York to carry the line. Guttman said Pittsburgh has proven to be a great market for premium goods.
 
The store’s mouth-watering offerings range from holiday favorites to exotic creations like chipotle-infused “wicked hot chocolate.” Guttman said products also range from kid-friendly to adult-friendly, including chocolate-covered cereals and nuts to chocolate ginger.
 
“Everything is chocolate,” she said of the "here today, gone tomorrow" shop featuring both large edible gifts and snacks.
 
Guttman added that the pop-up model was used at all eight of Torres’ New York chocolate stores. She said her seasonal shop could grow into something more.
 
“I could see myself doing a lot more of these in various neighborhoods or on trucks,” Guttman said, adding that, for the time being, she is focused on getting to know Shadyside.
 
Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate will remain open through Easter at 813 Copeland Way.
 
 
Source: Lissa Guttman
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