A Taste of Travel looks at the ways food connects us with a culture and each other. Sharing the recipes and restaurants we have encountered along the way…
Smallman Galley: Pittsburgh’s Restaurant Incubator
An unexpectedly delicious way to begin our Visit Pittsburgh food tour of the city was with a delicious lunch at Smallman Galley in the Strip District. I grew up in Pittsburgh, but have not lived there in 20 years. As much as I miss and appreciate the history of the city, I am constantly impressed with the innovative changes taking place in the cultural and culinary landscape of the city. The idea of a food hall showcasing emerging restaurant owners intrigued me.
The renovated industrial building is located on the cusp of downtown Pittsburgh, where wholesale food, culinary diversity, and local and international markets have been the foundation of this neighborhood. Smallman Galley is a food hall. Walk in, order from your favorite menu, and a text will let you know when your food is ready for pick up. Communal and smaller tables are plentiful to eat-in, but carry out is common.
So, this is a restaurant incubator, you say? Several years ago, I learned that Pittsburgh’s downtown Cultural District of theatres and public art is interspersed with galleries serving as “artist incubators”– spaces where artists-in-resident can hone their craft within the public eye. I was impressed with the vision of the Galley owners who conceived a similar idea of rotating aspiring restaurant-owning chefs through a four kitchen space. It is a clever way for experienced chefs to bring their culinary ideas to an audience while learning how to navigate the restaurant industry.
The four lucky chefs chosen for the inaugural year of Smallman Galley were selected through a rigorous application process. Having access to a professional cooking space and steady downtown foot traffic allows them to test culinary concepts and fine tune their menu items according to feedback. This “chef incubator” will allow diners to experience fresh or different ideas in food on an ongoing basis.
An adjacent Smallman Galley Bar was designed as a stand alone watering hole, but the drinks certainly supplement and pair well with the neighboring culinary efforts. Our group sampled several signature cocktails, which were mostly named after the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball scene. The drink menu also carried lots of regional craft beers and local spirits. The combination of gin, green chartreuse, lime, mint, and egg white captured my attention, so I ordered the “Dock LSD” cocktail. It came out looking totlly different than expected. It was a pretty drink that had a nice flavor – and kick.
The four Smallman Galley restaurants from which we sampled fare are:
Carota Café – O.M.G. A most memorable first bite of a food tour. Chef Jessica Lewis’ horseradish gnocchi on a bit of homemade ricotta with arugula was heavenly. Her philosophy is to source local, environmental and animal friendly, non-GMO ingredients. Not always easy to do for a chef, so I tremendously appreciate that aspect of her work. And it’s just delicious.
Aubergine Bistro Phillipines-born, Chef Rafael Vencio brings a global flair to the Galley with his Cajun-Creole-California Baja flavors while incorporating ideas from his home land. The shrimp and squid ink pasta was loosely inspired by a childhood Phillipino dish. I would have been happy just stopping at the sauteed gulf shrimp, english peas, anchoiade, capers, pork rinds, in tomato sauce. Such artful plating.
Josephine Toast Chef Jacqueline Wardle keeps it simple, but delicious. Elevating toast takes falir and hopefully, Grandma Josephine would appreciate the efforts made here. Toasted bread is ac onduit for both sweet and savory, which is what turns up on the menu. We sampled the smashed avacado, flaxseed and cilantro toast– which I’d have every day for breakfast!
Provision Pgh Banh Mi. That. Is. All. Actually, Chef Stephen Eldridge’s traditional Vietnamese sandwich is crazy good! Sweet & sour pork, pickled onion & carrot, cilantro, mint and smoked peanut aioli on baguette. I can’t wait to come back and try the Sunday Drunch menu! Wait for me, “Red Feathered Stepchild” and “Smothered Fries”!