The public is invited to the Lawrenceville brewpub to “add atmosphere” to the show.
True story of one boomeranging Pittsburgher’s recent relocation:
A friend who’s lived in Chicago for more than a decade grew tired of the Monsters-of-the-Midway-sized cost of living and decided he’d been away from his beloved ’Burgh for far too long. So he ditched the Gold Coast for the Golden Triangle, the City of Broad Shoulders for the City of Bridges, 312 for 412, Kanye for Wiz, Old Style for Iron, Bleacher Bums for Left Field Loonies, Smokin’ Jay for Big Ben, Bill Swerski for Pittsburgh Dad, and Paris on the Prairie for the Paris of Appalachia.
In searching for a rental in his “new” home, this Mon Valley native was initially attracted to the action of the South Side, the continued development Downtown and the re-emergence of East Liberty, but either the properties or the price tags weren’t right at the places he checked out. He found a perfect spot on the back side of Mount Washington but feared the neighborhood might be too sleepy after years of Second City life.
That fear was allayed after a single Friday night visit to the bustling nearby Shiloh Street business district, and specifically to The Summit.
Opened just less than two years ago by a team of local barroom vets, The Summit is that rarest of drinking establishments that deftly combines a chic cocktail lounge with a corner pub sensibility (and it is, in fact, on a corner), with none of the self-serious pretense often exhibited by those in the former category, nor any of the lowest common denominator elements of the latter.
Artist Brian Arlo Essek’s painting of a pair of steelworkers in front of a mill hangs on an exposed brick wall, under a gorgeous tin ceiling and behind a handsome reclaimed wood bar. Open garage doors let in the fresh air and street commotion. Colorful graffiti art covers the entire stairwell and hallways that lead to the restrooms, as well as the loos themselves. There are no TVs. Excellent music can range from Mos Def to Matisyahu, Gang Starr to Orgone, and the crowd from shirt sleeves to tattoo sleeves. Premium liquors, craft beers and cocktails flow.
“This place,” my boomeranging buddy said, raising a shot of Fernet-Branca, “is going to be a regular stop.”
And when he officially moves back in June, he’ll be even happier when he tries the food.
Two months ago The Summit’s kitchen opened with chef Brandon Davis designing a scratch menu, modest in size but ambitious in taste.
For instance, often the closest local bars will come to offering Asian food are teriyaki wings, but The Summit has multiple items such as the Noodle Bowl ($15), with pork belly, kimchi, soba noodles, lotus root and fresh jalapenos in a mushroom broth, or the Xiao Long Bao ($7), a pork soup dumpling, cabbage and red chili sesame sauce.
I was more than pleased with the Pork Pate Bahn Mi ($12), with a sweet and tangy glaze, pickled Daikon radish and carrots, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeno with a delicious side of an Asian slaw with peanuts and cherry tomatoes.
I can’t recall ever going to a bar and paying for popcorn, as it’s usually free out of one of those old-timey machines, but $3 is a steal for a basket of the brown butter and smoked salt popcorn at The Summit.
The Goat Cheese Fritters ($7) were another favorite, well paired with a particularly good blackberry jalapeno marmalade that could’ve made a good rib glaze. But the Smoked Pork Spare Ribs ($13) mostly held their own, and the side of ramp grit cake was a creative and tasty morsel.
The Panzanella salad ($8) was a refreshing bite of spring with cucumber, red onion, tomato, peas, a white balsamic vinaigrette and a house cheese, and it went well with the Mushroom Goat Cheese Ravioli ($7), a light bite served with a braised leek puree, roasted tomato oil, olive tapenade and Parmesan.
A word to the wise — The Summit packs ’em in to near overflow crowds on weekend nights and Wednesdays for its music trivia promotion, so plan accordingly. And, welcome my buddy back to town while you’re there, because he’ll probably be anchoring a barstool.
The Summit is at 200 Shiloh St., Mount Washington; 412-918-1647 or thesummitpgh.com.
Dan Gigler: email@example.com and on Twitter @gigs412.