Grin And Bear It: A New Bakery And Eatery In Mount Oliver Will Make Your Stomach Growl
Brown Bear Bread Cafe hopes to find success in the historical storefront with pastries and parties.
“These will change your life,” Kate Clemons says as she hands me a bag of sourdough English muffins.
As co-owner of Brown Bear Bread Cafe in Mt. Oliver, she knows a thing or two about baked goods.
Unless I’m out searching for the ultimate breakfast sandwich (I’m taking recommendations. Please email me yours.). I start each morning expertly using my toaster and filling nooks and crannies with peanut butter. I know a thing or two about English muffins.
After one bite of Brown Bear’s all I can say is Thomas is dead to me.
The cafe at 225 Brownsville Road is bustling daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Customers can purchase brioche buns, focaccia, ciabatta, multigrain and specialty loaves made by Dan Galusha, Clemons’ boyfriend.
There’s also a small menu of cold sandwiches and hot plates such as the Bread + Butter Breakfast, four pieces of bacon, two dippy eggs, home fries and your choice of bread and butter. Kaylie Carini, Pittsburgh-born pastry chef whose resume includes stints at Hyeholde Restaurant and Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, is using her culinary prowess at the griddle and filling custom cake and cookie orders.
Clemons claims the home fries coming out of this kitchen are the best she’s ever had. Are they life-changing? Expect a full report soon. I’m still digesting the English muffins, people!
You can take your chosen carbohydrates to go or pair them with a cup of Commonplace Coffee and devour them on site. I recommend staying. It’s a nice, relaxing environment.
If you’re a foodie or a regular Pittsburgh Magazine reader, I’m sure the space looks familiar. The former Kullman’s Bakery building has housed several businesses over the last five years.
It served as the headquarters for The Bakery Society Pittsburgh, an incubator for aspiring bakers, a boutique wine shop and restaurant run by Chef Kevin Sousa and, most recently, as The Finer Diner.
The team at Brown Bread Bread Cafe are here to break the cycle. They got the keys from RE360 on May 9 and opened for business on June 3.
They’d love to have a six-decade run like Kullman’s, which closed in 2014, but they know it’s a dog-eat-dog world.
That’s why Clemons and Galusha adopted two rescue pups. Luke, aka the brown bear, and the newest family member, Tippy, a young pit bull with arthritic front legs.
The couple met at a restaurant in upstate New York, and soon a fairytale waitress-chef romance blossomed. Food united them. During the pandemic, bread bonded them.
Like a lot of people during quarantine, Galusha began experimenting with sourdough and other ingredients at home. The restaurant industry veteran, who went from dishwasher to executive chef, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in New Hampshire.
Clemons, who is also a trained opera singer and real estate agent, is happy to sing her humble guy’s praises. The acoustics inside the cafe are great.
“There’s something really special about how Dan bakes,” she says. “Everything he touches turns to magic.”
After moving to Pittsburgh together, they found a commissary kitchen inside a church in their neighborhood and began selling products at local farmers markets. When the baking site closed, they prayed for another one.
That’s when RE360’s Joe Calloway and Deanna Seruga, who own the liquor license, reached out to discuss a new business plan for the old Brownsville Road bakery that has an enormous, sun-drenched third-floor kitchen anchored by an 80-year-old rotating baker’s oven named Big Rhonda. A mezzanine level with a bar that will soon host customers for late-night cocktails and ticketed events.
RE360, which also gave an assist to Bottlerocket Social Hall in neighboring Allentown, and other folks on the Hilltop, is helping the fledgling company. Megan McGinnis, owner of The Cheese Queen, a few blocks away, uses their bread in her charcuterie boards and sandwiches.
What does the future hold for Brown Bear Bread Cafe?
Clemons says they’d like to sell more locally made items (from artwork and jewelry to honey and condiments), pop-up at more farmers markets, offer more breakfast and brunch specials, connect with more Hilltop neighbors and, of course, bake more “life-changing” bread.