Monday, June 27, 2011

There's a new restaurant in town

It feels like over the past 2-3 years Pittsburgh has welcomed a gaggle of exciting new restaurants. Ranging in specialties such as tacos, burgers, "American", and exotic fusions, and with a strong overall trend of using locally-sourced ingredients, there is something to delight every pallet! Pittsburgh has never tasted so good.

Jeff Swensen for The New York Times
Kevin Sousa, chef and owner of Salt of the Earth in Pittsburgh, finishes a plate of local legumes and farm-raised rabbit.
Places like Salt of the Earth and Legume both emphasize the importance of serving local and seasonally appropriate foods in an unpretentious and comfortable atmosphere. 


Getting into the foodie spirit, I've been trying to test all of the new places I can. As an Upper Lawrenceville resident I was super excited that a new restaurant was opening a short walk from my house on the 5100 block of Butler Street. If you’re familiar with Lawrenceville you'll know that while Central L-ville is hopin', there isn't much going on after 47th street. The new restaurant is called Alchemy N'Ale - a name that, I assume, playfully adopts the Pittsburghese "N'at". "Alchemy N’ Ale will bring a rustic, yet modern sensibility to the old world charm and hospitality of classic English-style, countryside pubs," the eatery's Facebook page claims. They had a VIP opening on Thursday, June 24th, which was actually open to anyone - sort of a pre-opening opening. My boyfriend and I walked down to check out the new décor and the food and drink menus. Formerly the location of Geno's Restaurant and Big Belly Deli, the distinctive sign of the previous restaurant still hung on the exterior, repainted in butter yellow with dark lettering spelling out the new name. While I’m all for reuse/recycle, the shape and color of the sign immediately seemed out of place with our expectation of a rustic, yet modern English-style pub. 

Old Geno's sign.

Entering the front door we sidled up to the bar and inquired about the complementary specials for the evening, which included warmish Coors Light bottles (there were lots of other beers available - good beers, we just went with what was free for the event). After we got our drinks we wandered over to the seating area to check out the atmosphere and look over the food menu. Because this was a special event, we didn't order dinner, but partook of several very tasty Hors d'œuvres of muscles and steak tartar that were being served by tattooed waitresses. The menu looks promising with an interesting sounding Lobster Deviled Eggs appetizer and hearty meals in the $10-18 price range, designed by an executive chef formerly of NYC’s Tribeca Grill, which is co-owned by legendary actor Robert De Niro.

While certainly not a pretentious atmosphere, it also isn't a pleasing one. They had exposed the brick in the walls, as well as the dark brown, rough-hewn wooden joists in the central wall that divides the bar from the seating area – both of which were done beautifully and is a style I’m fond of. What wasn’t great was that the beautiful rose-colored brick is dulled by a dusty rose-colored paint on the walls. Without any contrast or complement, the colors run together and make the whole wall look blah - despite strategically placed spotlights on the brick. Further muting the environment is the overly polyurethaned, honey-colored, wooden tables and chairs that, while designed to look rough and practical, looked plastic. Following the legs of the blocky chairs down I was very disappointed to see flecked and polished concrete floors that seemed to be leftover from Geno's. The creamy-brown colors of the floor, mauvish color of the brick and walls, and shiny burlap color of the furniture all come together to create an very bland space whose pallet was reminiscent of my grandmothers house. The only splash of color came from the kitschy fake ivy that was worked into the dividing wall between the tables and the bar, and the wall between the bathrooms. Bright, plastic green vines that made me wonder if the plants hanging from the ceiling we fake as well. A lone shelf on the back wall seemed to hold random knick-knacks, looking much like an after thought. If only the fake ivy were a real indoor, vertical garden I could have ignored the rest of the decor, but it was not. It also appears that they are planning to have DJs on the weekends, which is just another odd and ill-fitting part of this new place. Of course, I will reserve my final judgment until after I go there for a real meal, on a weeknight, but at this time I'm not too optimistic that I can ignore the atmosphere.


  1. what do you think about the interior decor at kaleidoscope cafe in larryville?

  2. I actually have not had the opportunity to go there yet. I'm very curious, though. Do you like it?

  3. kaleidoscope is worth checking out for the food! i'll keep it polite.