Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Review: Juniper Grill

Juniper Grill fires up the ‘burbs with its locations in Cranberry and Peters townships.




Photos by Laura Petrilla
 

 

Juniper Grill is on the radar as an emerging suburban hot spot. Having opened its first location in 2011 in Peters Township, the business expanded last spring to Cranberry Township and is aiming to have its Murrysville spot up and running by year’s end.

Business partners Pat McDonnell and Nick Koustis came up with the concept. Joining the Restaurant Holdings CEO and director of concept development, respectively, in this venture are executive chefs Nick Bell (Peters) and Chris Perrin (Cranberry), who have transformed the pair’s ideas into reality.

Restaurant Holdings also owns Atria’s Restaurant and Tavern, which has eight area locations, and is managing partner of the Mike Ditka’s restaurants in Chicago and Robinson Township. Because McDonnell and Koustis each have many years of restaurant experience, they created a specific vision for Juniper.

“We wanted a simpler concept,” says Koustis. “We wanted a smaller restaurant than our previous [endeavors], with a beautiful lodge-like interior where you would walk in and feel you were somewhere else … We also wanted to offer food that you might not make at home.” 



 

The interiors make you feel as if you have escaped the hubbub of the heavily trafficked shopping centers in the surrounding communities. Both places feature dark wood, stacked-stone walls, fireplaces, a large bar and an open kitchen. The space is divided into smaller sections so that diners have an intimate experience no matter where they’re seated.

The extensive bar menu lists several fun features, including the favorite Moscow Mule ($8), served in a chilled copper mug. A selection of margaritas, tequilas and mojitos ($8-$10.50) reflects the cuisine’s Southwestern flair. The wine list spans a range of prices and types, with more than 25 by-the-glass choices.

The food menu is diverse but not too large. “We want to do fewer things well,” says Koustis. “Each item has a very specific preparation to get the best results; for example, our brisket is marinated for 24 hours and then smoked overnight, and our French fries are made from scratch [in] a five-step process.”

I recommend starting with some of the homemade spreads — including the guacamole ($9), with freshly smashed avocado, and the creamy white-bean hummus ($9.50), accented with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes and served with warm pita. 



 

The signature salad is the wood-grilled romaine ($7), comprising whole leaves that are lightly grilled and drizzled with a thick housemade Caesar dressing and topped with housemade cornbread croutons. The house Caesar salad ($5) is much less special. At lunch, you can add your choice of meat — chicken ($4 more), salmon or steak (each $7.50 extra)  — to the wood-grilled romaine to create a satisfying meal.

Juniper’s fish tacos (two for $11; three for $13) are prepared exactly to my liking. Served on white flour tortillas, the generous filets of Cajun-spiced tilapia go well with the “drunken” black beans, rice and a fresh, chunky mango salsa. This must-have dish comes with a side of crisp Southwest cole slaw.

The traditional angus burger ($10) is deeply satisfying and served with all the usual toppings on a perfectly grilled brioche bun. Koustis says the kitchen staff toasts the bun on a special flat-top surface so the bun is dry enough to be paired with the juicy burger meat. The aforementioned hand-cut fries are a tasty accompaniment.



 

The tender slow-roasted boneless short ribs ($19.50) are nicely sauced, accented with a succotash garnish and served with Yukon mashed potatoes or your choice of vegetable. I also enjoyed the chipotle skirt steak ($19.50), a simply prepared generous strip of beef topped with chipotle drizzle; be sure to get it with a side of wood-grilled asparagus ($4).

A disappointing choice is the featured Amish rotisserie chicken ($14) — which oddly was like baked chicken in that it was fatty, and the skin was neither crisp nor dark.

Ask your server about the sustainable fish-of-the-day option; its preparation and price vary based on daily selection.



 

With the exception of the triple chocolate-fudge cake ($7), desserts are made in-house. The three I sampled — key lime pie ($6), traditional crème brûlée ($5) and signature cornbread in a skillet with fresh berry sauce ($6.50) — all are excellent and served with ice cream from Sarris Candies in Canonsburg.

Juniper Grill is satisfying, warm and inviting, and its focus on fresh preparation raises the bar for suburban locales. 



 

Pat McDonnell | CEO and Founder, Restaurant Holdings Inc.
 

You have opened your two existing Juniper sites close to Atria’s, which you also own.  Do you feel like you’re creating your own competition?  
Some people might say we are cannibalizing our own restaurants, but we look at it differently. Because we own those Atria’s, we understand the market there very well, and we understand our customer base.  Juniper is a totally different concept with a different experience. So really, we look at it as giving our customers more choices. 

What trends are you seeing in the restaurant business?  
I definitely see a trend toward healthier eating. Our top-seller is the fish tacos. People love our catch of the day, [along with] food that is cooked on the rotisserie or grilled. I’m also seeing that the big chain restaurants are becoming more and more like each other; they are so focused on offering discounts and Groupons, and their food is becoming more and more unfocused, and the quality is just not there. 

What are the challenges of maintaining consistency between restaurants with identical menus?  
First of all, you have to have good procedures, recipes and ingredients to try to reduce the number of variables and the number of things that can go wrong. Then you need to add talented chefs. The thing about Mother Nature is that she may hand you different kinds of food products, [such as] tomatoes, and you need someone who actually understands how to cook to know how to prepare that product in a way that works. Our chefs do a great job.

You are a managing partner in Mike Ditka’s restaurants here and in Chicago.  How does Pittsburgh compare to Chicago?  
I have always considered Chicago to be like New York and San Francisco in terms of being a breeding ground for chef/owners and food trends. There always is something new in Chicago, and I really enjoy traveling there to eat. Pittsburgh used to be really behind the times, but [in] the last 10 years, we have seen a lot more creativity here.

 

Gallery

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Notes on the busy new bar and restaurant near Grandview Avenue.

The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

It's back! From the dog mom to the working mom, we've got you covered with these locally made must-haves.

Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

James Harrison intimidated opposing players in a way not seen since the days of Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene.

Bruno Sammartino Dies; Wrestling's Longtime Champ Was 82

The Italian-born star died surrounded by family in his adopted home of Pittsburgh.

It’s Road Repaving Season in Pittsburgh. Is Your Street on the List?

The City of Pittsburgh has finalized its street paving plan for 2018. You’re one click away from finding out if your street or route to work is on the list.

Three Rivers Champion: James S. Perry

Perry combined his love for athletics and volunteerism to create a youth athletic association that at its height provided organized softball and baseball to more than 350 boys and girls.

Three Rivers Art Festival Brings Music and New Art For 59th Summer

Point State Park, Gateway Center and sites across the Cultural District will host free, world-class art and events during this year’s 10-day festival.

Sound of Silence: Century III to be Sold at Sheriff's Sale

The nearly 40-year-old mall encounters foreclosure once again. Will this sale be the end of the line?

Pittsburgh Riverlife President & CEO Vivien Li Resigns

Li is returning to Boston to be with family members who are in declining health.

The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

From new decor in the home to donations to charity, check out these ways to repurpose leftover wedding decor.

The 6 Most Common Traffic Jams in Pittsburgh

Bad road layouts coupled with inconsiderate drivers and poorly timed stop lights cause traffic headaches all over the city. We sought an expert's opinion for the worst of the worst.

Watch: Snoop Dogg Schools Viewers about The Stanley Cup

The rapper is appearing in a series of videos in which he explains the rules and traditions of the Stanley Cup. We particularly like his shout out to Sidney Crosby.

Despite The Rock, Rampage Is a Wild Misfire

A review of "Rampage," plus an update on the former Friends of the Hollywood Theater and other local movie news.

Smallman Galley Goes 3D With Its New Cocktail Menu

The bar team at the Strip District restaurant incubator continues its flights of fancy with Flashback Flavors.

Sidney Crosby's Support of Humboldt Broncos is Personal

The Penguins captain took the time to write individual messages to each of the survivors and sent a personalized jersey to the team.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Bruno Sammartino Dies; Wrestling's Longtime Champ Was 82

Bruno Sammartino Dies; Wrestling's Longtime Champ Was 82

The Italian-born star died surrounded by family in his adopted home of Pittsburgh.

Comments

It’s Road Repaving Season in Pittsburgh. Is Your Street on the List?

It’s Road Repaving Season in Pittsburgh. Is Your Street on the List?

The City of Pittsburgh has finalized its street paving plan for 2018. You’re one click away from finding out if your street or route to work is on the list.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
New Chefs Coming to Smallman Galley

New Chefs Coming to Smallman Galley

Smallman Galley will rotate its third class of chef/owners this June … but this time there’s a twist.

Comments

A New Restaurant is Coming from big Burrito Restaurant Group

A New Restaurant is Coming from big Burrito Restaurant Group

The owners of Casbah, Eleven, Soba, Kaya, Umi and Mad Mex will open their first new concept in more than a decade.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

It's back! From the dog mom to the working mom, we've got you covered with these locally made must-haves.

Comments

Vote for the Best! Pittsburgh Magazine's 2018 Readers' Poll

Vote for the Best! Pittsburgh Magazine's 2018 Readers' Poll

The finalists have been selected now you get to vote. Where is Pittsburgh's best breakfast joint? Dive bar? Yoga studio? Who is the best local singer? Meteorologist? It's time to select your local favorites in multiple categories.

Comments


Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Notes on the busy new bar and restaurant near Grandview Avenue.

Comments

Smallman Galley Goes 3D With Its New Cocktail Menu

Smallman Galley Goes 3D With Its New Cocktail Menu

The bar team at the Strip District restaurant incubator continues its flights of fancy with Flashback Flavors.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

James Harrison intimidated opposing players in a way not seen since the days of Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene.

Comments

Penguins Seeking 3-Peat With The Swagger of a Champion

Penguins Seeking 3-Peat With The Swagger of a Champion

The power play, star power and goaltending are among the primary weapons the Penguins have at their disposal in their quest for another championship. But so, too, is an unshakable belief they can hoist Lord Stanley's Cup three times in a row.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Despite The Rock, Rampage Is a Wild Misfire

Despite The Rock, Rampage Is a Wild Misfire

A review of "Rampage," plus an update on the former Friends of the Hollywood Theater and other local movie news.

Comments

Wes Anderson's Act Wears Thin in Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson's Act Wears Thin in Isle of Dogs

Reviews of "Isle of Dogs" and "Blockers," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

From new decor in the home to donations to charity, check out these ways to repurpose leftover wedding decor.

Comments

How Lucky Socks Played a Key Role in Couple’s Wedding

How Lucky Socks Played a Key Role in Couple’s Wedding

A pair of puffin socks played a big role in this Pittsburgh couple’s relationship — and, in a surprise move by their pastor, their wedding.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Toll Gate Revival Gearing Up for New Location, New Experience

Toll Gate Revival Gearing Up for New Location, New Experience

The vintage décor and reclaimed materials business owned by Seth Hunter will open in a larger Lawrenceville warehouse next month.

Comments

Take a Sneak Peek at Our 2018 Ultimate House

Take a Sneak Peek at Our 2018 Ultimate House

Tours of Empire on Liberty, a one-time furniture and carpet warehouse in Bloomfield turned into a mixed-use structure, take place this month. The tour includes a look at the penthouse and two condos.

Comments