Bloomfield’s Sugar and Smoke offers Southern cuisine in old Del’s building
With jazz playing overhead and several customers ordering lunch, owner Andrea Robinson served a sample of Sugar and Smoke’s barbecue brisket that was so tender it was hard to scoop up with a fork.
“It’s slow-smoked for 19 hours,” Robinson said. “All of our wood is local hickory wood, we try to source locally as much as possible.”
Just a few days before, Robinson had hosted the grand opening of the restaurant at 4428 Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield . The Sept. 15 opening featured a live band and DJ on the patio. The mural from its former occupant with a 65-year tenure, Del’s Bar and Ristorante DelPizzo, greeted patrons.
Passersby no doubt can smell the flavors of the smoker from Liberty Avenue.
Robinson, a Mt. Washington native, said she had searched for the last few years for the right space, including some spots in downtown Pittsburgh, the South Side and Allentown. But the 6,500-square foot building in Bloomfield spoke to her.
Her time spent living in Texas and South Carolina, as well as traveling with her job in the chemical manufacturing industry, connected her with Southern cuisine.
Robinson and restaurant broker Specialty Group announced Sugar and Smoke in August .
“I walked in an it felt right, there was a connection,” Robinson said as she walked through the main dining room and second dining room, which both seat about 30 people and feature silver, beige, brick and whitewashed wood accents. The walls are lined black-and-white portraits curated by photographer Emmai Alaquiva.
“A really diverse community, that’s what we wanted to portray here: unity, diversity,” she said.
One portrait in the main dining room that seats about 30 people features Robinson’s six-year-old daughter Morgan, whose nickname inspired the moniker for the restaurant.
“I call her my sugar pie, so it evolved from there,” Robinson said.
Morgan has enjoyed the restaurant so far and likes helping out.
“She’s into it all,” Robinson said. “She likes serving, she likes hosting, following everybody around. She’s very involved in the business, she’s here every day.”
In the back of Sugar and Smoke, a lounge with plush banquettes lining the walls bathed in blue light can hold 50 standing or 20-24 seated and includes a separate bar. A downstairs banquet room that will seat up to 100 people is still under construction.
“We just added our special touches” creating a rustic yet modern atmosphere, Robinson said.
“One of the things that I was able to do was take a building that was here in the community for a long time and preserve it,” she said. “I love that Pittsburgh has a lot of old architecture and we’re preserving a lot of that, just making it modernized on the interior.”
Back in the main dining room, a table of four diners had come from nearby UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh during their lunch hour to try the new Southern fare.
Neal Smalley of Wilkinsburg said he liked the fried green tomato sandwich, and looks forward to even more vegetarian options in the future.
Seated next to him, Squirrel Hill resident Maria Ceclia Dancisin enjoyed the crab bisque, and said she wished they weren’t so rushed to get back to work.
“With more time, I would come back,” she said.
Jacqueline Yasky of Highland Park dug into her own order of fried green tomatoes and split the smoked meatballs with roasted garlic cream sauce and farro with Dancisin. Her tablemate Nardine Tawfik of Highland Park had the lobster po’ boy.
Chef Charles “Chaz” Smith”, a West Virginia native, worked with Robinson to develop the Southern-centric menu.
“He was very open-minded, very receptive to some of the items that I suggested, very receptive to the Southern-style cuisine,” Robinson said.
From the response during the grand opening, and the po’ boys the staff served up during Little Italy Days, Robinson said she is happy to be a part of Bloomfield.
“We wanted a place where we could really get in touch with the local people, the local community,” she said. “At the end of the day, the area is becoming very transient and very diverse. You have Italian, you have Thai food, Japanese. We don’t have Southern, and I think we’re right with the movement here in Bloomfield.”
Stacey Federoff is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.