Cooking Class: Jerk Grilled Cheese at The Yard Gastropub & Eatery
When David Ondik and his wife were dining out one night in Shadyside, she spied a sign on Bellefonte Street advertising a space for rent.
“The location was good, and we got a good price. I always had this concept in mind,” says Ondik, 28, of Collier: A gastropub with an industrial atmosphere.
That concept, The Yard Gastropub & Eatery, opened in June as a basement-level bar and restaurant with an array of craft and draft beers along with American comfort food. Partners in the Yard are Ondik’s friends, Michael Allen and Nirav Patel, both 28 and Collier residents. Patel is a former Duquesne University and Boston University classmate of Ondik’s.
Executive chef Adam O’Hara, 29, of Beechview offers two dozen gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches that range from $8 for Simple Jack with cheddar, lettuce and tomato, to $13 for Crabby Patty, with Dragon’s Breath cheese, mozzarella, crabmeat, sriracha mayonnaise, jalapeno peppers and onion straws.
The menu includes snacks, appetizers, soups, sides, salads and flatbreads, along with an array of burgers ranging from $11 to $14. But diners opting for supper also have choices, such as Chicken Carbonara with homemade sauce, bacon, red onion, crimini mushrooms, roasted red peppers and fresh-cracked egg yolk, for $15; or Pierogies & Kielbasa, with sauerkraut, onions and pork belly, for $14.
“I’ve always excelled at comfort foods,” says O’Hara, who prefers to give each dish a boost in taste with interesting ingredients like peach chutney, which he adds to both his Jerk Chicken ($14) and The Jerk Grilled Cheese ($13) with Dragon’s Breath jack cheese, jerk-seasoned pulled pork, sweet honey plantains and coleslaw.
In addition to its afternoon and evening hours during the week, The Yard is open for brunch Saturdays and Sundays, offering bottomless mimosas for $15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days, along with Bananas Foster Pancakes for $9 and Chicken and Waffles with deep-fried chicken, homemade Belgian waffles and either Jack Daniel’s bacon syrup or chicken gravy, for $10. S’More Waffles Please includes Belgian waffles with chocolate ganache, torched marshmallows and graham crackers, for $10.
O’Hara graduated in 2004 from the former Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, in Pittsburgh, which gave him a boost from fast food to fine dining. For his current position, he answered an ad on Craigslist. He says he relished an opportunity to “get in on the ground floor of ownership that intends to be a restaurant group.”
The Yard is “a triple-threat name,” O’Hara says. It implies the yard glasses that offer 36 inches of beer, a garden that evokes the fresh ingredients O’Hara prefers to use and a casual yard party or barbecue.
“Shadyside’s a great location for this,” O’Hara says. “Some people you see in here six or seven times a month. We’re busy all day.”
The savory comfort foods are not the only from-scratch items. Brenton Hargett, 25, a Maryland native living in Beechview, is sous chef and pastry chef, and he creates homemade New York cheesecake ($7), Apple pie a la mode ($5) and white chocolate creme brulee ($7).
“I consider baking a science,” says Hargett, a culinary student at Westmoreland County Community College.
The Yard seats about 200 in the bar area, main dining room and a VIP area akin to a sunken living room. The Yard is down a flight of steps from street level.
“People are taking to it,” Ondik says. “Burgers are hot now, but I see grilled cheese being the next big thing.”
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
The Yard’s Jerk Grilled Cheese
The Jerk Grilled Cheese has its roots in a bull session where Adam O’Hara, executive chef at The Yard Gastropub & Eatery, and one of the restaurant owners, David Ondik, tossed around ideas for grilled-cheese sandwiches.
“It was a collaborative effort,” O’Hara says of the Jerk Grilled Cheese. “We wanted to do a pulled pork grilled cheese,” but the two also wanted to include a peach chutney.
“And, of course, who can go to Pittsburgh without getting coleslaw on a sandwich?” O’Hara says, acknowledging Primanti Bros.’ famous sandwiches with coleslaw and fries.
Using spicy Dragon’s Breath jack cheese, the sweet peach chutney and plantains along with tangy-sweet pulled pork and coleslaw assures a sandwich as packed with flavor as the thick slices of bread are with ingredients. O’Hara calls it “a helluva sandwich.”
O’Hara suggests serving it with sweet potato fries, sweet butter cream and tomato soup.
2 ounces plantains, sliced into 1⁄2-inch discs (preparation below)
Clarified butter and oil, for grilling
2 slices country white bread (O’Hara uses Allegro Hearth bread)
6 slices Dragon’s Breath jack cheese (pepper jack can be substituted)
4 ounces pulled pork
1 1⁄2 tablespoons jerk seasoning
3 ounces peach chutney or peach preserves
3 ounces summertime spicy slaw (regular coleslaw can be substituted)
Fry the plantains in oil for 30 to 45 seconds. Remove them from the heat and soak them in hot water. Blot them dry, then fry them again, seasoning with salt, for 10 to 15 minutes. Blot them on paper towels.
Heat an oven to 300 degrees.
Combine equal amounts of oil and butter and spread the mixture on the outside of the bread slices. (Alternatively, ladle the mixture onto a griddle to heat.) Turn the slices over and place half of the cheese on each bread slice. Place each bread slice on the griddle with cheese sides up. Place the pork beside the bread slices on the griddle to heat. Sprinkle the pork with the jerk seasoning and mix the meat with the seasoning.
When the pork is heated through, the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, place the pork on one bread slice, then top with the prepared plantains. Place the bread slices on an ovenproof pan or cookie sheet and bake them in the oven for 3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven; add the peach chutney atop the plantains, then the coleslaw. Place the other bread slice on top and serve.
Makes 1 serving.