Pittsburgh Restaurant News: B52 Cafe is Closing

The Lawrenceville eatery ends its six-year run this week.
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Another beloved Pittsburgh restaurant is closing: B52, one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best Vegan and Vegetarian Eateries, will shutter on Sunday.

“It’s always been a big challenge to operate both of these spaces,” says chef/owner Omar Abuhejleh, who also owns Allegro Hearth Bakery in Squirrel Hill. “Honestly, it’s been a struggle from the beginning with a bunch of high points and low points in between. It’s hard to say exactly when this began or when the decision was made but for the last six months, I’ve been reevaluating things.”

Abuhejleh wrote in an Instagram post announcing the closure of the Lawrenceville restaurant and cafe that the unexpected passing of his mother six months ago, combined with his turning 50 last year, prompted the reevaluation.

“I learned how to cook from my Mom, and a lot of her made it into the flavors and ideas that formed B52, the most basic of which was that food should always be cooked from scratch using fresh ingredients. Now more than ever, I feel the passing of time, and I’m living with the sense of its preciousness and uncertainty,” he writes in the post.

His announcement follows the closing of Viridis on the South Side (another one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 12 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Eateries) on March 27 and the news of the forthcoming departure of Bitter Ends Food on April 20.

Abuhejleh opened B52 in January 2016. With a 100% vegan menu, the restaurant was a foray into Abuhejleh’s native Palestinian cuisine that folded in elements of a plant-based diner and coffee shop informed by his concern for the environment and commitment to animal welfare.

Highlights of the menu included a mezze platter with outstanding versions of hummus, baba ghanouj, fried cauliflower and labneh, and savory sandwiches and wraps such as falafel, kofta burger and seitan shawarma. B52’s red lentil soup was my favorite version of the soup in town, resonant with earthly pulses uplifted by preserved lemon. Breakfast brought power-packed, long-fermented multigrain pancakes, cashew-based yogurt topped with oats and fruit and aromatic sourdough toast (baked at Allegro Hearth) topped with raspberry jam. It was one of those establishments that left you feeling more energetic for having visited.

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“Things were going really well. We’ve been really busy at both locations. During the pandemic, we created a really incredible takeout business at B52 and before we reopened for dine-in we were almost as busy as we were pre-pandemic,” Abuhejleh says. “I just ran out of gas. I have enough metal space for one place, but back and forth there never was a break.”

Allegro Hearth, which Abuhejleh launched in 2004 and converted to 100% vegan in 2020, will remain open. In addition to its terrific bread lineup, you’ll find remarkable plant-based versions of typically dairy-rich pastries such as croissants. Abuhejleh says that B52 favorites such as the breakfast sandwich, seitan melt and kufta melt will be available, too. He says that other items such as hummus, baba ghanouj and cashew cheese might eventually be added to the offerings, but he’s going to take a break before he makes any decisions.

“When I have just one job, I’ll figure out how to make that stuff happen at Allegro,” he says.

There are no immediate plans as to what’s next for the Upper Lawrenceville space.

5202 Butler St., Lawrenceville, 412/408-3988, b52pgh.com

Categories: PGHeats