If you read my February issue cover story about the region’s distinctive pizza styles, you know how much I love pizza and the people who make it; if you haven’t yet, give it a read. Enter Doughbar, which opened in late March. Matt Porco’s latest contribution to Pittsburgh’s restaurant landscape looks to be an outstanding addition to the new wave of Pittsburgh pizza destinations. Porco, co-owner of Sienna Mercado (and, prior to that, Sienna on the Square and Mio), has a track record of combining popular hangout spots with tasty things to eat, and it looks like he’ll continue that run at Doughbar.
The “New York” style pie is impressive and something I’ll certainly find myself craving. It’s not quite what I’d call New York style, instead sitting in the grand tradition of American bar pizza — the kind of medium-weight pie that’s meant to be eaten with pals sharing conversation over a beer or a soda. Bar pizza often is generic in process and just OK-ish to eat, but when it shines, it shines … and Porco’s, cooked in a Cuppone electric oven, has an extra-crisp crust, tangy sauce and ample cheese that hits all the right notes. I haven’t yet tried the other style offering, a 48-hour-fermented pan pizza; considering how much I liked the first one, I’m pretty stoked to come back and dig in.
Porco operates the restaurant with longtime colleagues Chris Clark and Donnie Amman. In addition to the pizzas, you can get a bang-up rotisserie chicken with crispy skin and juicy meat at Doughbar; I’d recommend the house-made hot sauce, sweet and tangy with a warm finish, to accompany it. There’s roomy seating, a high-energy vibe and colorful, on-theme murals by Shane Pilster and Max Gonzales, too. All in all, my first impression of Doughbar is that it’s a space that strikes a balance between appealing to the now-returning South Side fun crowd with a place you’d be comfortable taking anyone who wants an excellent pizza; crispy, juicy chicken; and a good hang.
1831 E Carson St., South Side; 412/910-9100, doughbarpgh.com
Gluten Free Goat Relaunch
Good news for people who need to or choose to eat alternative baked goods — Gluten Free Goat is back. Its original owner, Jeanette Harris, launched Gluten Free Goat as a wholesale business focused on gluten-free baked goods in 2015 and opened a brick-and-mortar cafe in Garfield in 2017. Harris built the brand into Pittsburgh’s foremost option for gluten-free eating but closed the storefront at the end of 2019 to focus on her wholesale business. Earlier this year, Harris sold the remainder of the Gluten Free Goat brand. It now is set to relaunch under new ownership on Friday with Selina Progar, formerly executive pastry chef of Altius, as head baker. “Our initial goal is to produce a line of baked goods that are going to be an artisan baked good for people who have dietary restrictions,” Progar says. “But we really want to produce something so good that anybody will want to eat them, no matter what their diet.”
Progar’s initial menu includes cookies, doughnuts, baguettes, cinnamon buns, muffins, pretzels and focaccia; everything is gluten-, soy- and peanut-free, and many items will be vegan, too. At first, Gluten Free Goat products will be available for purchase at Adda’s three locations, Mediterra Bakehouse and the Speckled Egg, as well as via direct-to-consumer sale via the Gluten Free Goat website; orders can be picked up at Adda Bazaar or delivered locally. Look for regional wholesale accounts to expand following the launch, and the long-term vision is to offer a wide-ranging digital storefront to serve as a hub for eaters with dietary restrictions that will include an expanded line of Gluten Free Goat products as well as a curated list of the best-sourced products from across the country.
The 4600 block of Liberty Avenue has slowly evolved into Bloomfield’s restaurant row, with Bitter Ends Luncheonette, Tessaro’s, Linea Verde Green Market, Lot 17, Thai Cuisine, Caliente Pizza and Draft House, Sausalito, and Merante Gifts all offering good things to eat. (There are a bunch of other restaurants nearby, too). Claussen Cafehaus is the latest food-focused establishment to join the block’s culinary carnival. Connor Claussen, co-owner of Axel’s Pretzels, opened the fast-casual eatery last month, and it’s a nice spot for a midday pick-me-up. Soft pretzels, which are baked daily, are the heart of the menu. Claussen’s have the chewy, malty, salty exterior and fluffy inside that make this pretzel style such a treat to eat. I’m thrilled that Claussen uses organic whole wheat from Frankferd Farms rather than dipping into the industrial supply chain. A small selection of sandwiches rounds out the menu — I enjoyed the layered flavors of curried cauliflower, arugula, homemade hummus, sunflower seeds, pickled onions and plant butter on Veg Out, on my first visit. Claussen Cafehaus also offers an array of coffee and tea drinks.
4615 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/910-0528, claussencafehaus.com
In Other News
Farmer x Baker is now open for the season in Aspinwall Riverfront Park. I visited on Saturday, and thoroughly enjoyed the feel-good, just-a-little spicy breakfast burrito. The line was a little long, so be prepared to wait; owner Jennifer Urich says she’s hired more staff and expects the wait time to dramatically decrease as the crew settles in for the season.
I previewed the long-awaited opening of Gi-Jin last month. Last week, I had my first meal there and thoroughly enjoyed Ryan Hart and Michael Taylor’s opening menu; toro nigiri, beef tataki and tempura avocado open handroll were among the highlights for me, and don’t overlook the dessert menu, especially the silk chocolate torte. The drinks list and the overall energy of the place are on-point, too. Here’s the bad news: Gi-Jin is, at the moment, booked solidly through late June, with scant reservation availability following that.