South Side's Pub Chip Shop elects to open on November's 1st Tuesday


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Not unlike a political candidate, Drew Topping has waited for this first Tuesday in November for four years.

In early March, the owner of the East Carson Street institution that is Piper's Pub was just a few weeks from an opening his second venture, The Pub Chip Shop, an authentic United Kingdom-style fish-and-chips shop in the matching Victorian-era building next door. Billed as the first of its kind in the area -- perhaps overdue in a city founded by a Scotsman and named for an Englishman -- it was to be the culmination of a four-year ambition inspired by a 2009 trip to Scotland.

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 burger joints are here. 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.

The Pub Chip Shop would feature not only that namesake dish, but other U.K. specialties such as meat pies, baps, pasties and donner kebabs. Baked goods from Threefiftyº bakers would also be available. Pie presses and baking equipment were imported from England.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the "chippy."

A ventilation system that did not meet city code had to be rectified. Architects, engineers and contractors were consulted. Further approvals and inspections were required. An opening date continued to be put off to the point it seemed as if perhaps the coven of witches from Macbeth had put a Scottish curse on the place.

Ultimately seven months and an entire baseball season passed but now, The Pub Chip Shop will open -- on a Tuesday.

A years-long joke among Piper's staff is that from the time Mr. Topping purchased the building (once home to a florist with stained glass windows that still advertise violets, roses and valley orchids) in 2010, patrons have asked when something was opening there. "Tuesday," became the tongue-in-cheek answer. They just never said which Tuesday. And now, on the front door under the meat clever logo -- an homage to the original working title of the place, "Jack the Chipper" -- it simply says, "Established Tuesday."

Mr. Topping said that Tuesday, Nov. 5 -- Election Day -- will stand as the official opening of the shop, but don't be surprised if there is soft-opening activity next week.

Despite all the delays, Mr. Topping said he's not upset.

"You have to take the path you're given," he said from inside the shop on Monday afternoon. He added that the extra time has given general manager Mindy Keisler-Johnson, formerly of The Sharp Edge, and her staff time to perfect their dishes and baking processes, and she's had time to give Piper's menu an overhaul, too.

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


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