Downtown Pittsburgh may not yet be a full-fledged residential neighborhood, but Downtown resident Richard DeShantz hopes that his new Theater Square restaurant will be a neighborhood joint, the kind of place where people come weekly to eat and drink.
Mr. DeShantz, who is also executive chef at the luxurious Nine on Nine restaurant a few blocks down Penn Avenue, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, describes the soon-to-open restaurant as a gastropub, "an unpretentious place where you can come in a T-shirt and grab a beer, but you're still getting high-quality, chef-driven food."
Mr. DeShantz was selected by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to take over the spot at 649 Penn Ave. that has been vacant since Toni Pais closed Cafe Zao there in August.
The name of his new place, Meat & Potatoes, is a tongue-in-cheek reference both to traditional bar food and to the refined comfort food that has flourished in recent years. The menu runs the gamut from burgers to sweetbreads to chicken and dumplings. Several preparations of mussels, listed on a frequently changing chalkboard menu, will be a signature offering. The opening menu may include a version with beer and saffron, and another with foie gras butter and ramps.
Mr. DeShantz emphasized that while he loves cooking the intricate, contemporary dishes served at Nine on Nine, Meat & Potatoes will offer the kind of food he would cook with other chefs on a night off.
Of course, drinks will be as central to the experience as the food.
"We're really taking pride in our drinks here," he said. The cocktail list will emphasize pre-Prohibition-era style cocktails, and we can expect lots of interaction between the kitchen and the bar staff. Already they've started aging rum in bourbon barrels.
The menu will also feature a snack section, with items such as fried Brussels sprout leaves, devils on horseback and fried chicken livers with dipping sauces.
Modern speakeasy style also has influenced the decor. A 25-seat black lacquer and marble bar is the focal point of the dining room that also features large antique mirrors and iridescent wall paper.
The restaurant will seat more than 100, while an outdoor patio that will open in early summer will have space for 60. Unlike most Downtown restaurants, Meat & Potatoes will be open seven days a week. They'll serve food until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Mr. DeShantz plans to open the restaurant for dinner before the end of the month, with lunch and weekend brunches to follow.