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Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar has lots about it that’s local, but much about it goes far beyond ordinary | TribLIVE.com
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Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar has lots about it that’s local, but much about it goes far beyond ordinary

ptrtkdining031915
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Patrons in the Eighty Acres Kitchen and Bar dining room in Plum on Friday, March 13, 2015.

Opening your own business can be a tricky, well, business.

One of the hardest parts of getting chef Don Winkie’s restaurant off the ground proved to be settling on a great name. It wasn’t until his wife, and co-owner, Amy said, “Hey, how about Eighty Acres?” that something stuck.

Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar in Plum fits the vibe of this family-owned spot.

“My family owns a farm in Missouri that has 80 acres of land,” Winkie says. “So, it’s a bit of an homage to my father, who was in the military for 25 years, bought a farm and raised goats.”

After a 15-year stint as chef at the Tuscan Inn in the North Hills, Winkle needed a change of pace. He and his wife decided to embark on opening a neighborhood restaurant that would offer something different to the Plum community. With Eighty Acres, they hope locals get a taste of interesting culinary creations right in their own backyard.

“People like to hang out where they live and go to local places,” Winkie says.

The restaurant celebrated its first anniversary March 7, and Winkie is still taking time to “expose the neighborhood to what we are about.” The celebration featured a wine dinner and a chef’s tasting menu — fun experiences for first-time and repeat customers.

The former Vincent’s Pizza Park building has been remodeled over the past year with touches of urban barn accents, such as white-wood paneling and cow-print chandelier lamp covers. All of the elements work together to create a homey-but-contemporary space.

The dinner menu is dubbed contemporary American, but Winkie describes the offerings as “a nice blend of whatever tastes good. Whatever we like to eat, we put on the plate for our customers.”

As such, the dinner menu relies heavily on seasonally fresh items and daily chef specials. Eighty Acres also serves lunch on weekdays and a brunch on Sundays.

The current dinner menu has creative snacks that work well, like the polenta fries with tomato red-onion chutney. Polenta is cut and fried and resemble large steak fries. The chutney provides a nice kick for a dip.

The housemade ricotta gnocchi with a bechemal cheddar cheese sauce is a mild and fluffy starter. The gnocchi is the only pasta made in-house and pops up again in the entrees paired with a wild boar braised with sweet spices. This boar dish is apparently a fan favorite when it makes a menu appearance.

Avoid the shrimp corn-dog appetizer. On a recent outing, I was drawn to the fun thought of shrimp married with corn dogs, but soon realized that some things are better left at the shore. The delicate flavor of the shrimp, the batter, and the accompanying Tabasco red pepper aioli just didn’t jive.

The land-locked nature of the restaurant should not dissuade you, however, from ordering the crab-cake entree. This is one of the better crab cakes in the Pittsburgh area, with real jumbo lump crab meat that melts in your mouth and a refreshing mustard vinaigrette.

Other entrees feature locally sourced ingredients from Fede Pasta in North Huntington for a pappardelle bolognese and lamb from Latrobe’s Jamison Farm for a red wine-braised lamb shank.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the menu is the variety of meats featured on the relatively concise, daily dinner offering. There are 10 entrees, and outside of the one purely vegetarian plate, each dish includes a unique meat or fish: lamb, boar, chicken, salmon, duck, ribeye, crab, pork and veal, and buffalo. It’s a protein safari.

With a nod to local outposts and a clear attempt at expanding the carnivore’s palate, Winkle is staying true to his vision of bringing a new dining experience to this east suburb.

While opening and naming a business may be hard work, becoming a restaurant woven into a community’s fabric is even tougher. It will be interesting to watch the year-old Eighty Acres continue to find its footing and entice the community with surprising fare.

Laura Zorch is one of the food-savvy ladies of eatPGH.com, who contributes a weekly Dining Out column to Trib Total Media.

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