Saturday Specials: Backyard Lunches at Spirit
The Upper Lawrenceville bar, music venue and pizzeria introduces a new series of popup lunches.
photos by hal b. klein
Spirit, the Upper Lawrenceville bar, music venue and pizzeria, recently introduced a Saturday afternoon “Backyard Lunches” popup series featuring fare from a crew of up-and-coming Pittsburgh chefs.
“This started with our cooks in the [Slice Island] kitchen being interested in trying their own concepts and doing it in a place they were already familiar with,” says Leigh Yock, Spirit’s events manager.
To that end, Spirit’s Brandon Blumenfeld, Ryan Chavara and Becca Hegarty cooked the first few Backyard Lunches, which run from noon to four.
“They worked start to finish on all the nitty gritty details that comes with it. We worked with them on promotions, but it’s their own thing,” says Yock.
Hegarty, who has run the Saturday kitchen for the past few weeks, currently is cooking some my favorite summertime meals in Pittsburgh. She’s working with Who Cooks For You? Farm, Weatherbury Farm, Pasture Maid Creamery and what’s she’s growing in her garden to craft a rotating selection of dishes that highlight whatever crops are in peak season.
“I don’t dictate the menu. What’s going on around me dictates the menu. I just put it together with the least amount of processing I can do. Back off and let the ingredients do the work,” she says.
Menu items such as tomato and grilled eggplant sandwiches on house-baked bread, roasted green beans with bread crumbs, pound cake with blueberry jam and peach cobbler all have been standouts for me.
“I’ve drawn so much inspiration from all the people I worked for,” Hegarty says, crediting Rick Easton of Bread and Salt for instilling in her an unwillingness to compromise on the quality of ingredients that she uses and Sonja Finn of Dinette for teaching her how to coax the best flavors that she can from what she’s working with.
Hegarty’s final Backyard Lunch is on Saturday. She plans on serving cantaloupe salad, cabbage slaw, corn on the cob with butter and herbs, BLT sandwich, grilled eggplant sandwich and peach cobbler with Millie's blueberry goat ice cream.
“This is food that I grew up eating, but with the beliefs that I have as an adult,” she says.
Chavara’s southern-style Pittnick follows Hegarty on Aug. 20 and Easton is scheduled to return to Pittsburgh for lunch on August 27. Yock says that guests can expect to see Pizza Boat and Leena’s in September, and that the series will continue as long as there is interest.
“We want to continue these indefinitely. We’re going to reach out to other chefs who want to do this,” Yock says, adding, “We’d love to hear from other people.”