Jamilka Borges Is Opening a Restaurant in Etna
Wild Child is the first independent venture from the acclaimed Pittsburgh chef.
Over the last decade, Jamilka Borges has earned high praise for her cooking at restaurants such as Legume, Bar Marco, Spoon and Independent Brewing Company. Among the accolades: Borges was Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2018 Chef of the Year, and she’s twice a James Beard Award semifinalist; in 2015 for Rising Star Chef of the Year and 2019 for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.
Now, she’s set to strike out on her own. Later this summer, Borges will open Wild Child in Etna.
“I’ve been cooking in other people’s kitchens for 12 years. This is the first time it’s my restaurant. It’s an opportunity to put everything I believe in into my own little space,” she says.
Borges plans to roll out Wild Child with daytime service beginning in late July or early August. The opening breakfast menu is expected to feature two sandwiches (one with meat, eggs and toppings and one vegan or vegetarian build), housemade pastries and bread and two or three vegetable-forward bowls. She’ll offer bespoke flavors of soft-serve Millie’s for customers who want ice cream for breakfast, as well as coffee and fresh-made juices. The lunch will expand to include more sandwiches, composed salads and dishes such as ceviche.
The restaurant will open with limited seating options. Due to physical distancing measures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Borges will also package food for carryout. “What’s happening right now is that people are adapting to a more casual style of dining. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of months. So the takeout aspect is going to be part of every business. You have to be able to do that and do it well,” she says.
The well-traveled chef isn’t yet sure when she’ll start dinner service. Borges still is honing in on the specifics of what she’ll serve but says the evening menu will tilt more toward formal dining. Overall, Borges says, seafood and vegetables will be a big focus of Wild Child. “It’s eclectic coastal food. The food I’m always drawn to comes from all the coasts of the world,” she says.
At some point down the road, she plans to bring her cadre of culinary colleagues from across the country to Pittsburgh for curated dinners. “I’ve done all these big dinners here for 412 Food Rescue and other organizations, but I’ve always wanted to have a space that I could bring the chefs that I’m friends with to Pittsburgh in a more one-on-one situation,” she says.
Currently, the building, which most recently housed the restaurant Seasons, is under renovation. Borges and her team are sprucing up the dining room, and upgrading the kitchen with a new convection oven and six-burner range, and adding a designated area for pastry and dough work.
“When I think about the space I want to have, it’s inspired by places I traveled to and friends that I worked with,” Borges says.
As for the Etna location, Borges says the approximately 500-acre borough on the Allegheny River is an easy place to visit. “People might think about it as a destination, but it’s not a big-deal detour to get there,” she says.