Vendors at Pittsburgh International averaged 3 critical violations over the last two years vs. 14 when the Post-Gazette checked 4 years ago.
Spirits were high and the food exquisite at Saturday’s grand opening of Superior Motors in Braddock.
Three years in the making, the long-awaited restaurant from chef Kevin Sousa finally had a chance to meet its public. And for those lucky enough to snag one the night’s coveted seats, it proved magical.
“It’s so beautiful, and the view is awesome,” said Mercedes Mancuso of Moon, who was there with her boyfriend, Ken Vescio, for their 10:30 p.m. reservation. She was referring not just to Studio for Spatial Practice’s stylish, minimalist design but also the scene across Braddock Avenue. Against a coal-black sky, U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works’ smokestacks were belching out clouds of white steam.
“And everything was delicious,” added Mr. Vescio of a dinner that included grilled octopus served with huitlacoche, a type of Mexican mushroom, and raspberry-infused tequila cocktails.
The 78-seat restaurant is located in the former ground floor of one of the first indoor Chevrolet dealerships in the country. Construction proved difficult and expensive. Despite the most successful restaurant Kickstarter campaign in history, unexpected building issues caused delays and frustrations, and Mr. Sousa also had to secure additional investors and loans to cover the overruns.
Scallops are plated on the night of the grand opening of Superior Motors on Saturday. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
But the resulting space is among Pittsburgh’s most inviting restaurants, with exposed brick walls paired with cool concrete and warm wood creating a hip, contemporary vibe.
Almost every seat in the front room has a view of the busy open kitchen, the centerpiece of which (and something you smell as you near the front door) is a wood-burning oven. And you can’t miss the steel works across the street either, which sits on the historic Braddock’s Field on the banks of the Monongahela River and provided steel for the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Superior Motors is Mr. Sousa’s fourth restaurant in Pittsburgh. A native of McKees Rocks, he owned Salt of the Earth in Garfield from 2010-2014 and also ran Station Street Hot Dogs and Union Pig & Chicken in East Liberty.
Investor Gregg Kantor was spotted at the bar, and Gisele Fetterman, who lives above the restaurant, also dined with friends while her husband, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, babysat their three children upstairs.
The New American menu is quintessential Sousa: simple but nuanced, to the season and almost too pretty to eat. A chilled melon soup ($7) infused with coconut and curry first cools the palate, then surprises with the unexpected bite of jalapeno seeds and crunch of fermented peaches and pine nuts. Raw scallops ($13) sliced razor thin are nestled in a grassy bed of fresh sorrel and topped with sliced crabapple and nutty quinoa. Slices of grass-fed beef ($32) from Lamppost Farm in Columbiana, Ohio, topped with locally foraged chanterelle mushrooms and a succulent corn sauce, are so tender they almost melt in your mouth.
Dessert options include a delicate pavlova paired with stone fruit and the hint of jasmine, and a sourdough poundcake topped with creme fraiche and a crunchy sunflower brittle you could eat by the handful.
“I woke up this morning thinking about that soup,” said Susan Lammie, who traveled from Cranberry with her husband, Scott, and son Ryan, and was reached by phone Sunday morning. “It was just so beautiful, and there was the element of surprise when they poured it into the bowl onto the iceberg of cantaloupe.”
The couple loved the fact that the restaurant sits next door to Unsmoke Systems Artspace, where before dinner they attended an exhibit.
“We loved that we could have an artful dinner and also see art next door,” said Ms. Lammie. “It’s such a wonderful collaboration and destination.”
As he left the kitchen around midnight to mingle with a few remaining guests, Mr. Sousa looked happy and relaxed.
“I feel celebratory,” he says. “I’m really pleased with the crew and kitchen and front of house.
“I never doubted I’d pull something off,” he added with a smile. “It took what it took.”
Gretchen McKay: email@example.com 412-263-1419 or om Twitter @gtmckay.