When it wheezed its last breath in May 1984 at the young age of 21, the Dorothy No. 6 blast furnace at the United States Steel Duquesne Works had once laid claim to being the largest in the world with a massive 29-foot hearth.
The demise of the plant, which was named for the wife of a former company president, and the unsuccessful fight to save it became a symbolic death knell of the days of Big Steel in the Mon Valley.
Thirty years have passed and some of those hard memories have given way to the warmth of nostalgia, such as at the new Dorothy 6 Blast Furnace Cafe in Homestead, where a chalkboard cheekily concedes: "If we can't pour steel, we'll pour beer."
Owner Tom Kazar of West Mifflin has paid homage to the smoky days of yore with eclectic, fun decor and a hearty, reasonably priced menu.
Stained glass windows hang above the entrance, as does a huge, 52-light crystal chandelier in the foyer. Colorful, surreal and psychedelic paintings from local artist Rick Bach are on the walls.
The bar is a marvel. The poured concrete surface is inlaid with company logos of five mills where Mr. Kazar's family members once toiled -- U.S. Steel, Mesta Machine, Dravo, Jones & Laughlin and Levinson. The bar's edge is fitted with steel rail from the U.S. Steel Homestead Works that once stood nearby, which Mr. Kazar bent by hand.
Behind the bar is a crane hook, and some of the shelves are made from the gears of a 19th-century machine from Lima, Ohio, that Mr. Kazar, an expert metal worker who owns a body shop, cut up. Mr. Kazar also made the tap handles, which are fashioned from railroad spikes and chain links, and let pour forth a very respectable selection of 20 drafts.
Some patrons have even brought in steel industry mementos for display including a brass-stamped union card, an orange safety helmet and porcelain J&L signs, one of which explains the mill's whistle signals.
Channeling the spirit of nearby Eastern European church basements and kitchens, the pierogies at Dorothy 6 are worth the trip alone ($5.95 for three). Made by Mr. Kazar's sister, Bernadette Kazar, they're fried, finished in the oven for an extra bit of crispness and then hit with a dash of pepper.
My dining partner was a 46-year-old friend from Italy who'd never had a pierogi before. His verdict? Mente. Soffiato. (Mind. Blown.) Unfortunately his chicken club sandwich ($8.95) was fairly unremarkable.
We also split a tasty order of meatballs stuffed with smoked mozzarella ($6.95), and I was quite pleased with the meatloaf, which came in generously thick slabs with perfect mashed potatoes and a side of crispy green beans ($15.95).
Other entrees include flat iron and strip steaks ($14.95 to $22.95) and salmon croquettes with an Old Bay aioli and a fall vegetable hash ($17.95).
The opening of Dorothy 6 is part of a recent spate of good development news that's been a long time coming for the beleaguered Homestead business corridor. It includes the recent opening of former Steelers Baron Batch and John Malecki's artistic collaborative, Studio A.M., a production facility and brewpub for Meadville-based Voodoo Brewing now under construction at the former municipal building, and the $13 million One Homestead project of 51 apartment and townhouse units and four storefronts to open in May.
Although the days of blast furnaces lining the Monongahela are long gone, their memory is well served at places like Dorothy 6.
Dorothy 6 Cafe is at 224 E. 8th Ave., Homestead. 412-205-3121; dorothy-6-blast-furnace-cafe.com.
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