It's just after 8 a.m. on a chilly Saturday and the English Premier League soccer diehards are shuffling in to Piper's Pub on the South Side in their red Man. U. jerseys and blue Chelsea scarves, ready to watch their clubs' matches beamed across the pond. Coffee and Bloody Marys are the order of the morning, perking up droopy eyes.
Drew Topping, the owner of Piper's, is in the storefront next door -- animated and skipping through topics such as the South Side "blitz," the local food scene and Pittsburgh politics, but mostly sharing the plan for this site: the Pub Chip Shop, an authentic United Kingdom-style fish-and-chips shop set to open in April.
Brits have been eating fish and chips for more than 150 years. It's an institution that has been celebrated by everyone from Dickens to Tolkein. The takeaway shops that sell it are as ubiquitous there as burgers-and-fries drive-thrus are here.
The Pub Chip Shop claims to be the first of its kind in Pittsburgh -- and is perhaps overdue in a city named for an Englishman.
At Piper's, they've spent 15 years perfecting their recipe of the Anglo staple -- haddock -- with a top-secret breading that they'll serve in the shop.
Mr. Topping was inspired by a 2009 trip to Scotland, where he saw long lines at the "chippy" shops for late grub in a bustling pub area. When the Victorian building next to his pub became available, he pounced. The historical home of W.C. Kessler's flower shop, its stained-glass windows still advertise violets, roses and valley orchids.
But years passed and the fish was becoming a white whale. A longstanding joke at Piper's has been that the shop will open on Tuesday. Mr. Topping simply never specified which Tuesday.
About 18 months ago, things started to coalesce. He acquired a massive, like-new fryer at a bargain from an Ohio school district. Other U.K. delicacies such as meat pies, pasties and baps were added to the menu, so special equipment including a pie press was purchased from England. Baked goods from Threefiftyº bakers also will be available.
The fried fish will be served with chips in a cone fashioned from butcher paper. They won't be available by the end of this Lent, but Mr. Topping isn't worried.
"Thank goodness for Pittsburgh because that culture of Friday fish, it never changes," he said. "I love the town for that reason," he added. "It's what we do."
Dan Gigler: email@example.com; Twitter @gigs412. First Published March 7, 2013 5:00 AM