As rents rise in Pittsburgh proper, restaurant owners are crossing the river to Millvale and Sharpsburg for their walkable Main Streets, reasonable rates and potential.
Millvale in particular is stirring from the Lawrenceville spillover just across the bridge. Who can resist the art of Millvale? The Maxo Vanka murals at St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church should be a pilgrimage for any art aficionado while Mr. Small’s shows are a Pittsburgh rite of passage. And come spring, there’s the food truck park destined for Millvale’s Riverfront Park that once was Mr. Small’s Skatepark beneath the 40th Street Bridge.
Longtime businesses and new ones are enjoying the bustle. Take Jean-Marc Chatellier French Bakery (213 North Ave.), named for the baker from Brittany who set up shop in Millvale over years ago. He’s been a neighborhood anchor, so much so that when his shop flooded in 2004 following Hurricane Ivan, he was overwhelmed by the flood of support that followed. Today, it’s a destination for croissants, brioche, Breton cake and macarons as well as danishes and kouign amann on the weekends.
A few doors down, Bar 3 (217 North Ave.) debuted in May. Mark Franitti has created a neighborhood spot for a brew, a bite or a family visit, with everything from catfish tacos to meatloaf. The TK seat-spot also serves weekend brunch and the portions are ginormous. Come early to beat the crowd.
Having opened in the fall, Tazza d’Oro (524 Grant Ave.) has become a neighborhood go-to, a vast shop with plate-glass windows on the corner of Grant and North avenues. Super skilled baristas show off terrific specialty coffee drinks — espresso in particular, with owner Amy Enrico upping the neighborhood coffee game. She’s also serving a solid menu for breakfast and lunch, from pastries courtesy of Five Points Bakery to quiche and sandwiches for under $10.
And don’t forget the two diners: Pamela’s P&G Diner (232 North Ave.), attached to a pharmacy, is a sibling of the original in the Strip District known for its crepe-style pancakes -— and long lines. Millvale Diner at 301 North Ave. offers straightforward diner fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Sidelines (621 Evergreen Ave.) in Millvale is beloved for its dive status and crave-worthy wings. Owner Robert Miller, who also has a Sidelines in Sewickley and the Fireside Pub in East Liberty, offers a menu listing heat from 1 to the hottest ranked 13, and dozens of flavors from dry ranch to honey cajun to traditional Buffalo-style.
Then there’s Grant Bar (114 Grant Ave.). Owner Frank Ruzomberka’s coconut cream and apple pies were featured on Rick Sebak’s “A Few Good Pie Places” on WQED. He is the son of Matthew and Maria Ruzomberka, who opened the restaurant in the 1930s. Grant is also known for its pork cutlets, crab cakes, liver and strip steaks.
A new pair of craft breweries, Hitchhiker Brewing and Dancing Gnome, points to the growth of nearby Sharpsburg, along with the relocation of entrepreneurial Deeplocal from its origins in the Strip.
Gran Canal Caffe (1021 N. Canal St.) is a long-timer from Michael and Antoinette Bonaventura and a favorite of folks who want a nice meal that won’t break the bank. Expect a charmingly throwback environment with warm service and full pours of wines. Order the handmade veal cannelloni ($19) or the chicken marsala, but don’t skip starters like the artichokes alla Romana or Italian-style escargot.
Nestled in an old house since 1995, CC’s Cafe (2218 Main St.) is another Sharpsburg staple from Anita Schaming and Cyndy Charmo. Look for starters shrimp cocktail, squash ravioli and baked brie ($9 to $10), and follow with pastas swimming in clam sauce or carbonara. Entrees include old-school options like veal piccatta and parmesan ($28).
Cafe on Main (914 Main St.) is a go-to breakfast spot with lemon poppyseed Belgian waffles and the spicy meat-lovers’ omelet for less than $10. It’s an inviting, well-lit spot with lots of families and solo diners alike. Note that there’s walk-up ordering as well as sit-down dining.
Sharpsburg has its own nice-weather venue on the water: Silky’s Crow’s Nest (19th Street and River Road) is a reminder of summer -— though it’s open year-round — with great views of the Allegheny River, plenty of patio seating and an expansive bar. Order sandwiches and snacks along with standard drafts and straightforward cocktails. This is exactly what you’d expect, and that’s a good thing.
Melissa McCart: mmccart@post-gazette