2011 Delicious Design: Salt of the Earth

What became one of the most highly anticipated openings the Pittsburgh region has seen in years, Salt of the Earth—which looks and feels as if it were plopped onto Penn Avenue straight from a NYC side street—turned out to be well worth the wait.

salt of the earth

Casual-upscale Salt of the Earth is a transparent
space without hidden prep rooms or blocking walls
so that guests can see the chefs and staff at all
times.

Photo by Laura Petrilla   

In the months leading up to the Salt of the Earth’s opening, chef and co-owner Kevin Sousa’s dedicated following became encompassed by his blog (saltpgh.com/blog) and Twitter feed (@saltpgh) of constant updates as he memorably revealed first glimpses of the restaurant’s hand-crafted wooden furnishings, stainless-steel kitchen appliances and Ikea dishware.

When entering the space today, it’s not difficult to imagine the Penn Avenue location as the city’s first Harley Davidson dealership during the 1920s. The building’s original integrity is present in its sweeping window arches and brick texture that are present throughout the restaurant—and that Harley vibe is somewhat present in the ink-covered arms of the staff.

Most recently, the space was a home interiors store before Doug and Liza Cruze, of Cruze Architects in the East End and now also the restaurant’s co-owners, purchased it in 2007.

“I met Doug and Liza Cruze at an event, and they approached me and said, ‘We want to do a restaurant … something cool … and we want to be involved in the build-out,” Sousa says. “They said [to me], ‘Tell us your vision.’”

The trio designed and built casual-upscale Salt of the Earth as a transparent space without hidden prep rooms or blocking walls so that guests can see the chefs and staff at all times. Sousa’s wish list—which eventually was granted—consisted of three basic items: communal tables, an open kitchen and a chalkboard menu.

The downstairs dining area features six rows of communal wooden tables—sectioned together by the pair—that are flanked by stools that easily combine to form benches. The sleek, minimalistic designs were created and crafted by Jim Ladner, of Pittsburgh, and are lit by modern, hanging spotlights. Other lively seating options include a laid-back, six-seater bar and an eight-seater bar overlooking the open kitchen.

The interior furnishings blend a range of earthy elements, hues and textures: wood, granite, glass, aluminum and chalk. One of the most functional design elements is the floor-to-ceiling wall chalkboard that displays the day’s starters, mains and desserts, as well as the wine and beer selection.

Upstairs, mezzanine seating wraps one-half of the perimeter of the main dining area and provides quieter, more intimate seating that overlooks the action on the floor below. But perhaps the most stunning features are the restaurant’s massive front-facing windows that make the space feel as if it spills onto bustling Penn Avenue.

“[The Cruzes] channeled everything I had in mind and created the most beautiful restaurant I could ever imagine,” Sousa says.
 


Salt of the Earth, chef/owner Kevin Sousa; architects/owners Doug and Liza Cruze; 5523 Penn Ave., Garfield. Info: 412/441-7258, saltpgh.com.
 

Hot Reads

From Field to Fork

From Field to Fork

We put together this dynamic guide to help you find and engage with the region’s sustainable producers of meat, honey, alcohol, fruits and vegetables.
Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

PittGirl wonders if it's still possible to raise kids to be big-hearted people in an age of self-obsession.
Review: Café Zinho

Review: Café Zinho

Seasoned chef and entrepreneur Toni Pais continues to impress folks who dine at his longstanding Mediterranean establishment, Café Zinho.
City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

We explore every inch of Allegheny County (and beyond) for a look at the communities where we live, work and play.

The 412

AC Milan Will Hold a Free Public Practice Tomorrow at Heinz Field

AC Milan Will Hold a Free Public Practice Tomorrow at Heinz Field

Get an up-close look at Balotelli, El Shaarawy and company.
The Thunderbolt Now Is a Certified Landmark

The Thunderbolt Now Is a Certified Landmark

Kennywood’s classic all-wood roller coaster is recognized by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.
Underrated Stuff We Love: Pittsburgh’s Porch Culture

Underrated Stuff We Love: Pittsburgh’s Porch Culture

You never know who you’ll meet right outside your door.
Oi, Who’s Ready for Manchester City vs. AC Milan at Heinz Field?

Oi, Who’s Ready for Manchester City vs. AC Milan at Heinz Field?

The English Premier League champions will face off against the Italian giants this Sunday.

Hot Reads

From Field to Fork

From Field to Fork

We put together this dynamic guide to help you find and engage with the region’s sustainable producers of meat, honey, alcohol, fruits and vegetables.
Review: Café Zinho

Review: Café Zinho

Seasoned chef and entrepreneur Toni Pais continues to impress folks who dine at his longstanding Mediterranean establishment, Café Zinho.
Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

PittGirl wonders if it's still possible to raise kids to be big-hearted people in an age of self-obsession.
City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

We explore every inch of Allegheny County (and beyond) for a look at the communities where we live, work and play.
6 More Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh

6 More Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh

PittGirl's at it again — this time with a list of a half-dozen fun facts you'll want to mention at your next cocktail party.
'Which Neighborhood Should I Live In?'

'Which Neighborhood Should I Live In?'

We pick the perfect neighborhood for six breeds of ’Burgher.