Good drink and food coming to the Strip District




Conventional wisdom and social norms generally frown upon the notion of quaffing beer at an 11 a.m. Friday happy hour, but if you’re Scott Smith, you’ll have real reason to celebrate at that time today.

That’s when the cold gold of his beers will start flowing from a $7,000 state-of-the-art stainless steel 12-tap system at the grand opening of the new East End Brewing taproom on 19th Street in the Strip District’s Pennsylvania Building.

“We just want to keep our wits about us and keep the beer flowing,” Mr. Smith said of the taproom that has been months in the making, since the closure of the brewery’s Pittsburgh Public Market location at the end of February.

Despite the region-wide ubiquity of East End beer, and it’s geography-specific name, maintaining a presence in the Strip was of great importance.

“Pouring beer there for six years in two locations was a wonderful way to get a good handle on the regular trade in this neighborhood. The Strip District is an incredible, one-of-a-kind thing. At 9 a.m. on a Saturday, we’d have people in line to taste beer — only in Pittsburgh. Only in the Strip. It’s truly a unique legacy as our city’s food center.”

Speaking of food, it’ll be bring-your-own.

“We thought about doing food. But I know nothing about running a restaurant. My guys aren’t chefs or cooks. We could put some half-[baked] food in a microwave, but why would we do that when some of the city’s best food is steps from our door? Primanti’s, Penn Mac, Asian food, tacos — where do you stop?”

To celebrate, Mr. Smith said they’ll tap the first kegs of Green Giant, an IPA made with Citra hops.

“We’ve brewed it twice before, and it sold out immediately,” Mr. Smith said. “This time, we made a whole bunch.”

Opening elsewhere

• Pork & Beans, the Downtown collaboration between chefs Richard DeShantz and Keith Fuller — and among, if not the most anticipated, new restaurant of 2016 — is on track for a mid-July opening according to general manager Tolga Sevdik.

• In Lawrenceville, not every storefront on Butler Street is a restaurant, it just seems that way sometimes, and the city’s ninth ward may soon add two more Asian destinations to the mix. Banh Mi & Tea will serve the classic Vietnamese sandwich at 4502 Butler St. Nearby at 4401 Butler, a liquor license permit indicates that an establishment — Ki Ramen — is in the making. Roasted Barrelhouse & Eatery, with a focus on roasted meats and craft cocktails, is also set to open at 3705 Butler St. in the former Eclipse Lounge.

Those are all in addition to Roger Li’s Umami, which opened earlier this spring, as did the Abbey on Butler and Geppetto Café.

• On the South Side, the East Carson Street nightclub Twelve now is a full-service restaurant, Twelve Whiskey Barbecue. A kitchen has been in the works since its opening in early 2014, and, as the new name indicates, the focus will be barbecue and smoked meats from chef Alex Balint, who also runs the popular Doce Tacqueria next door.

Farther down the drag, another Pittsburgh Public Market refugee, The Colombian Spot, will bring its empanadas, arepas and other specialties of the South American nation to 2019 E. Carson, which was once the longtime home of the City Grill but in recent years had been a series of short-lived establishments.

• Bob Portogallo will take his monstrous sandwiches and Italian and Eastern European fare at Portogallo’s Peppers N’at from his current shop in his native Swissvale across the Monongahela to a new location on Braddock Avenue in Braddock to open in September. The new location will have an outdoor beer garden and a bocce court.

• In Avalon, the small California Avenue café once known as Skinny Pete’s has added some girth to become Fat Jack’s, a sandwich shop with a daily morning breakfast buffet.

• Finally, regional powerhouse the Big Burrito Group will open the 14th location of its venerable flagship franchise Mad Mex in July on North Lakeside Drive, North Strabane, with a large outdoor deck that overlooks Canonsburg Lake. In addition to the existing eight Pittsburgh-area locations, there are three in Philadelphia, and one each in State College and Columbus, Ohio.

Dan Gigler: dgigler@post-gazette.com; Twitter @gigs412.





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