What’s New and Coming Soon in Pittsburgh Food for March
Gi-Jin sets an opening date, Brothmonger moves to Mayfly Market and more.
Gi-Jin Sets an Opening Date
Nearly four years after the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group announced its intentions to open Gi-Jin in the space adjacent to tako and Butcher and the Rye, its owners have set an opening date: April 6. “It’s such a small space, and we wanted it to be really special. I think we found the key pieces to helping move that vision forward,” says Casey Henderlong, RDRG Director of Events and Public Relations.
Longtime RDRG chef Ryan Hart and Michael Taylor, previously of Umami and Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, helm the kitchen, honing closely to corporate chef/co-owner Richard Deshantz’s original vision of an intimate restaurant with a menu focused on raw fish and a bar program highlighting gin. “Right now, we’re fine-tuning the ingredients. What kind of rice are we using? What kind of soy sauce are we using? What kind of vinegar are we using? We’re tasting a lot of things,” says Taylor.
The duo’s opening menu induces hand rolls, nigiri, sashimi and ceviche, as well as a handful of cooked dishes such as miso soup and spicy rice cakes. Look for their menu to expand as the two chefs settle in. Taylor says he and Hart will always have a core set of fish such as salmon, tuna and hamachi available, but he also plans on bringing in fish that typically are hard to find at Pittsburgh restaurants. “We’ll play a bit with the ingredients and techniques as we go on,” he says.
Gi-Jin will offer three two-hour seating blocks Tuesdays through Saturdays, with a maximum of four people per table. Reservations, via the gi-jin website or on OpenTable, are required for the 20-seat restaurant.
208 6th St., Downtown, gi-jin.com, 412/325-7007
Brothmonger to Mayfly Market
Sarah McAlee founded her soup business, Brothmonger, in 2018. She’s since grown her Instagram following to more than 5,500 ravenous fans (count me among them) craving her diverse repertoire, which includes offerings such as white bean and broccolini, turkey dumpling and black bean soups. When McAlee, a funeral director by day, posted her menu on Instagram, they would sell out in minutes.
“My love for soup was passed down from my mom. But I’ve always been a natural caretaker, so I think that’s why feeding people soup, specifically, has come naturally to me,” she says.
McAlee was producing her soups in her home. She knew she needed a bigger space to keep up with demand and was given the prompt she needed when the Allegheny County Health Department ordered her to stop producing at home — the county’s food inspection laws present a significant amount of hurdles for a small business such as McAlee’s to operate from non-commercial kitchens.
Happily, McAlee had a fan in Ann Gilligan, owner of the terrific Mayfly Market on Arch Street in the North Side, who suggested that McAlee prepare and sell soup at her market. McAlee plans to continue to make two permutations of soup, now twice a week rather than once, and those will be available fresh and frozen at Mayfly. Next up is spring-green minestrone and kielbasa and cabbage. McAlee says she’ll still take special batch orders via Instagram and plans to offer pop-ups from time-to-time as well. “The fact that this opportunity allows me to stay on the North Side is huge. I feel very loyal and proud of this neighborhood,” she says.
Con Alma To Expand“Two months in, we knew we might need to expand,” says Josh Ross, executive chef and co-owner of Con Alma.
Two years later, it’s happening. Ross and partners Aimee Marshall and John Shannon are preparing to open a second Con Alma location Downtown in the former Peter Allen space.
Look for more of what makes Con Alma so exciting — but bigger — when the second location opens this spring. Shannon, the music curator, will continue to book Pittsburgh’s top jazz artists, and, with a larger stage (16 feet by 7 feet), he’ll be able to include combos that won’t fit on the cozy Shadyside stage. As COVID-19 public health mitigation measures dictate, guests can expect live music as late as 2 a.m. on some nights. Ross says that he anticipates adding more global offerings, including a wok station, to his Downtown menu. However, pan-Latin dishes such as ropa vieja, arroz con pollo and ceviche will also be part of the mix. Marshall says the Con Alma classic and seasonal cocktails will be a focus at the bar, and, with a larger restaurant space, “this is an opportunity for people to see us as a destination for great wine, too.”
Camden Leeds of 1412 Design is heading the buildout, which will have the same top-grade acoustic tiling as the Shadyside location. From the day it opened, I’ve been smitten with the speakeasy-style jazz bar and restaurant; it’s one of Pittsburgh’s most vibrant spaces. We named the intimate Shadyside establishment Best New Bar in Pittsburgh Magazine’s most recent Best Bars in Pittsburgh feature.
Ross says the Downtown Con Alma could open as soon as May 1, but that’s pending construction delays and the liquor license transfer.
African CuisineTwo weeks ago, I reported on African Cuisine, the new Squirrel Hill restaurant from Saudat Lawal and her family. Lawal is a native of Ibadan, Nigeria, and, to my knowledge, she’s operating the first restaurant in Pittsburgh to focus on the cuisine of her home country. I’ve had her food twice, and among the dishes I’ve tried, fish pepper soup, jollof rice, bagna and nkwobi are standouts. Please have a read of my first look for more details.
2032 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/307-0295, africaneatscuisine.com
The Night Life Line
Despite some glimmer of hope on the horizon, the financial situation for many of Pittsburgh’s hospitality industry workers remains grim. To that end, Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Mutual Aid and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Independent Venue Association, along with Restaurant Opportunities Center of Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and Pennsylvania State Representative Sara Innamorato have organized The Night Life Line. The fund, administered by The Giving Back Fund, will offer $500 grants to Pittsburgh-area nightlife workers, including servers, hosts, bartenders, cooks, stagehands, performers and more. The nonprofit launched earlier this week, intending to raise $250,000 to help performers — applications for grants open on March 31.