Get a handle on it

Pittsburgh restaurateurs add food-themed personality on their front doors to welcome patrons

There are restaurant door handles, and then there are restaurant door handles that exude personality, evoke dishes prepared by the kitchen and start a conversation.

While emphasis is given to decorating the inside of a restaurant, some restaurateurs put in that extra effort by starting with a decorative piece at the door — with the handle. Here are some of the coolest food-themed door handles in Pittsburgh that say welcome with style and flavor.

Tako, 214 Sixth St., Downtown.
Owner, chef and artist Richard DeShantz wanted to bring the inside of his restaurant outside when he designed Tako’s door handles with tentacles. A namesake taco is a staple on the menu, which references street food that’s chef-driven and is anything but traditional. The inside of the restaurant feels industrial and urban with graffiti and bicycle chains, and Mr. DeShantz wanted to convey that hard element in the solid cast-steel door handles, which were made by a pop-up artist. They are 14 inches and 8 inches, with the bigger one weighing 50 pounds. The tentacles are coated with an oil-based sealer. “I wanted an octopus ripping through the door,” he said. Oh BTW, Tako means octopus in Japanese.

Spoon, 136 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty.
When Spoon opened in July 2010, business partners Rick Stern and Brian Pekarcik decided that it was only appropriate to have oversized spoons to be the eponymic door pulls on the oak doors. They had Peter Lambert from Red Star Ironworks fabricate the 3-feet-tall by 7-inches-wide handles out of steel and finish them with a custom patina. “We really don’t do anything to maintain them,” Mr. Stern said. “They tend to weather and patina naturally over time, which gives them their interesting finish.” So when Spoon went through a cosmetic facelift in October, which included new furniture and a paint job, it didn’t affect the two spoon handles. They are just the way they have always been.

Spoonwood Brewery, 5981 Baptist Road, Bethel Park.
Owners Grant and Mary Lou Scorsone got the idea for beer goblet handles for Spoonwood Brewery when they visited Sanitas Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo., which had chalice-shaped handles. “I knew immediately that I wanted to do something like it,” Mary Lou said. But it wasn’t easy to find a steel fabricator in the Steel City to do the job. Chris Salvini of Steel City Custom Fab was the only one who would take on the project, said Mary Lou, adding “he did an outstanding job.” She said they chose the goblet shape because it is easy to pull, distinctly visual and their brewer loves Belgian ales. They don’t have to fuss over maintaining the 3⅛-by-10-inch handles, she said. Fingerprints are simply wiped off with a damp cloth, and weather has not been a factor.

The Abbey on Butler, 4635 Butler St., Lawrenceville.
A 3-foot-tall plastic tube filled with 8 pounds of dry-roasted coffee beans from Commonplace Coffee is the door handle at The Abbey, which is part coffee shop, part restaurant and part bar. Owner Eric Kukura mimicked the idea from a coffee shop he used to own on the North Side, where the restrooms had 10-foot-tall door handles that were each filled with 15 pounds of coffee beans. He said that he thought that the beans would give off an acid that might affect the plastic tubes, but he never had to change them in 15 years. When Mr. Kukura opened The Abbey in April, he considered filling the tube with wine bottle corks and beer bottle lids but settled for the beans to complement his coffeehouse. “The handle gets hit by the sun all morning, and so the beans get really roasted,” he said, laughing.

Emiliano’s Mexican Restaurant & Bar, 2557 E. Carson St., South Side.

(Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)
(Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)

In a subtle way, a bright yellow and green lime slice handle stands out at Emiliano’s. The lime is part of the apostrophe in the name and is hard to ignore on the door at the South Side and Cranberry locations. “The lime handle is a great way to represent our business and make it stand out,” said owner Benny Yulloa. “It’s our attention to details that makes us do that.” The steel handle weighs 1½ pounds and measures 16-by-8 inches. The lime slice has to be repainted once a year, said administrative assistant Laura Mendoza, as it is exposed to the Pittsburgh weather.