Review: Grit & Grace

Brian Pekarcik and company deliver high-quality food in a stylish downtown atmosphere.




Photos by Laura Petrilla

 

Grit & Grace is a debonair downtown spot where you can share food of every variety while trying inventive cocktails. The menu of creative, modern fare mixes street food and high cuisine with finesse. 

Experienced local chef Brian Pekarcik and restaurateur Rick Stern developed the business concept as they collaborate for a third time; Spoon and BRGR are their first two projects.

Grit & Grace occupies the space that once housed now-defunct Taste of Dahntahn. Felix Fukui of Fukui Architects completely renovated the restaurant, which now sports sleek lines with futuristic curved accents, subtle lighting and finishes of bronze, copper and dark wood.

Although Grit & Grace can accommodate 85 diners, it feels intimate because of its long, narrow shape. Each of the two long copper tables at the front of the restaurant can seat eight people. Both tables are set aside for walk-in customers — which is great at a restaurant where it’s generally tough to get a reservation on short notice, especially on weekends.



 

The food playfully borrows from all sorts of cuisines, such as Indian (goat and curry), Chinese (steamed buns and hoisin), Korean (kimchi), Japanese (ramen and miso) and American (short ribs and biscuits). Pekarcik says he believes this food represents 2014 because it exhibits the diversity and sophistication of today’s diners. Even the trio of housemade condiments found at each table — soy and black vinegar sauce, chile sauce and fennel-onion compote — reflects three cuisines.   

Pekarcik and his team created the menu with sharing in mind. For the dim sum, a server will present a tray containing four or five items ($5 apiece); you may choose as many as you like. Offerings change daily but may include tender pork belly, or shrimp or squid salad. Some choices were superb, while others were slightly bland. Overall, though, starting with dim sum is a fun way to set the tone for your meal. 

The menu continues with “salads, sandwiches and noodles, etc.” Although everything is good, a few items are standouts. For example, the pig-face roulade ($9) is a perfect reinterpretation of breakfast; the tender pork is served with an egg prepared over easy, miso apple butter, chicharrones (fried pig rinds) and egg-yolk hot sauce. Also wonderful is the corned duck breast ($14) — a riff on the Reuben that features tender duck-leg confit, rye noodles, an egg, pickled mustard seeds and cabbage. The roasted squash and farro salad ($7) in a mild green curry sauce, accented with apples, frisée and creamy goat-milk yogurt, is a fine vegetarian option.



 

The next section, “for sharing, small and large,” also lists food of various sizes, flavors and price points ($6-$20). Top picks include the tender tilefish with crispy skin ($20), plated with a multigrain salad, citrus accents and brown-butter sauce, and short ribs ($6) served on homemade cream-cheese biscuits.

The bar menu — spearheaded by Spoon Wine Director John Wabeck and Grit & Grace General Manager Heather Perkins — has been conceived with the intent of matching the food. The team aims for it to be “very lighthearted and multifaceted,” says Pekarcik. Two great cocktails are the Duck Sauce ($12), a light blend of Canadian whiskey, white rum, ginger liqueur, dark rum and housemade plum sauce accented with a tiny spoonful of duck-liver mousse; and the tangy G & G Club Cocktail ($10), consisting of bourbon, amaro, crème de cassis and orange bitters. Some local beers are available, but there also are imports. 



 

Generally, I enjoy offbeat constructed desserts, but the two I ate had undesirable flavors or textures. For example, the previously offered apple tart ($5) was mushy like applesauce and garnished with heavily smoked, crushed Cheez-Its that taste burnt; the dish was accompanied by an unremarkable cheese crisp, along with Cheez-It ice cream and caramel. The other dessert ($5) consists of coffee and chocolate truffles towered between squares of chewy cardamom mochi (rice cake) in a lemongrass anglaise and liberally sprinkled with crushed Fruity Pebbles cereal. This treat shows imagination, but the flavors and textures don’t work together.



 

Grit & Grace’s apron-clad staff members get top marks for conscientious, attentive service. They are excited about the food, and they welcome questions.

Going forward, Grit & Grace’s biggest challenge will be to continue offering a wide breadth of interesting flavors without feeling unfocused. A few diners told me they thought each plate had too many competing tastes. To me, though, that is the magic of Grit & Grace — it experiments and isn’t wed to authenticity or tradition. Combine this imaginative cuisine, alluring space and spot-on service, and it is clear that the restaurant is headed for success. 
 

Watch This



 

Brian Pekarcik
Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Grit & Grace

 

How long were you planning Grit & Grace?
[Business partner] Rick [Stern] and I have been thinking about it for several years. We’ve traveled to eat together in New York, Chicago and San Francisco to develop our concept. We knew we wanted something with a very urban feel — fun, hip and happening. We definitely wanted it to be social, where people share food, “breaking bread” with friends and family. We also wanted it to be what’s happening now, not last year.

What do you think is “now” in restaurants?
Dining has become much more casual. There has also been a really interesting trend of blending street food and upscale cuisine. In addition, there’s been a movement toward a more global cuisine, where you can mix and match different influences.

Are you attracting the crowd you anticipated?
Honestly, the crowd is much more diverse than we expected. We assumed we would get a lot of young people, but actually we are getting people of all ages. We are drawing a lot of the theater crowd.

How have Pittsburgh’s population changes affected you?
This restaurant might not have made it 10 years ago. Pittsburghers have become so savvy with regard to food — and have a lot more experience with food in other cities and countries — so they understand all the references we are making to different cuisines, from Indian to Chinese to Korean. They understand what we are trying to do, whereas they may not have 10 years ago.

How many restaurants do you now own?
We now have two BRGRs, Spoon and Grit & Grace [and a BRGR food truck]. [Because] we now have four restaurants, we decided we should brand our restaurant group. It’s called S + P, “a seasoned group,” which we thought was funny. But [it] also makes sense because Rick’s last name starts with an S and mine starts with a P.

Do you have plans to expand Grit & Grace?
No. Right now we have as much as we can handle. We need to continue to focus on refining Grit & Grace to get it as close to perfect as possible.


Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.
Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

The four are semifinalists for James Beard Foundation Awards, considered the most prestigious of the nation's culinary honors.
Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

No offense to the motor city, but auto companies are eyeing the steel city to develop the next generation of driverless vehicles.
Even the Penguins Helped to ‘Shear Da Beard’ This Year

Even the Penguins Helped to ‘Shear Da Beard’ This Year

A who’s-who of Pittsburgh legends were on hand Monday night to help shave what may be Pittsburgh’s most famous beard.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

The highly anticipated restaurant from Derek Stevens opens is located in the Union Trust building Downtown.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

While it's not among Downtown's best, Social House 7 is a fine place for a drink and a bite — but we're stuck on a bizarre element of the décor.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Where else but Pittsburgh would a football player, two years removed from his playing days, be able to raise about $85,000 in one night for the staging of an event that involves the gathering of a crowd to watch a man shave?

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Reviews of "The Great Wall" and "Fist Fight," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments