Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pittsburgh Chef Celebrates Rust Belt Chic

Rust Belt Chic neighborhoods are hot right now. Talent is attracted to these landscapes. For example, consider North Shores Collinwood in Cleveland:

Rather than open one new restaurant in the underperforming neighborhood, Glazen is working with multiple parties to simultaneously launch five — instantly turning the area into a destination.

"I'm calling it Project Light Switch," says the 62-year-old owner of ABC Tavern, XYX the Tavern, and Viaduct Lounge. "I'm so excited about the idea of the best people in the city combining to go turn on a neighborhood."

While far from a sure thing — Glazen puts the odds at around 30 percent — the obstacles continue to melt away. Glazen has spoken to all of the city's best chefs and operators, many of whom have expressed a desire to be a part of the project. Those chefs include Michael Symon, Jonathon Sawyer, Steve Schimoler, and others. Real estate deals are all but done on five separate spaces in the immediate area.

Regarding superstar chefs, Cleveland has a big edge over Pittsburgh. Concerning Rust Belt Chic, Pittsburgh gets the nod. Renown chef Kevin Sousa is opening up a restaurant in underperforming (to put it mildly) Braddock:

It will be called Magarac. The name -- Croatian for donkey -- honors the imaginary Croatian steel worker who is the Paul Bunyan of steelmaking, and is embodied in a statue at the hulking Edgar Thomson Steel Works in North Braddock.

The ironic location of the new eatery is only half the story. Sousa is moving his entire family from Polish Hill to Braddock:

"Braddock gives me the vibe," Mr. Sousa said. "It's on the cusp of something. It's where Lawrenceville was 15 years ago."

Sousa is beating Whole Foods to the punch. Go ahead and call it ruin porn or exploitative gentrification. Then get out of our way. We've got work to do.

1 comment:

J Scott Hamilton said...

Magarac's opening is stirring a fair bit of discussion in the Burgh among folks who know Braddock first hand, and not just by reputation.

On the one hand, it will have no adjacent competition, as there are zero sit down (inside) eateries in Braddock proper, not even a coffee shop. You can buy sandwiches at a few convenient stores along Braddock Ave., but you would be obliged to step outside to eat them. On the other hand, there are formidable eating venues in nearby Waterfront and 8th St. in Homestead.

Some locals are grumbling that they would benefit more from a Subway sandwich shop than a restaurant in which few of Magarac's neighbors could afford to eat. The topic begs the question, "whom will Magarac be serving?"

J. Scott