Pittsburgh’s Summer Restaurant Week recently took place and while I would have loved to have eaten at several spots, I made do with one due to my work schedule. Tender is a restaurant we first noticed a night we dined at Lawrenceville’s new Cuban spot, Salud. It’s situated right on Butler Street (the main drag in Lville) but it stood out as you could tell the building had been recently renovated. (There isn’t a lot of “new” from the ground up in Lville but there is a ton of revamping since many of the area’s buildings date back to the 19th century.)
If you go onto its website, you’ll learn that the building was originally the Arsenal Bank of Pittsburgh, constructed between 1883 and 1884. In addition to banking, the building also housed a hall on the third floor which was used by fraternal lodges and Civil War veterans, as well as a barbershop in the basement, a doctor’s office and even the Lville location of the YMCA. I think what I love most about Lville is the history that is present at every turn, in every doorway, right before your eyes. Banking ceased for good in 1943 and its name Tender is an homage to the building’s original purpose-the legal tender that exchanged hands in the building. It’s evident that the owners did a great job in preserving much of the building’s original character (while still adding some of their own). And an incredible six original safes were found in the vault.
Tender Bar + Kitchen models itself as an American cocktail lounge and restaurant that “celebrates a return to the elegant simplicity of a past era.” The menu has been created to feature dishes from all regions of America. Sitting there in the Boardwalk Empire-era room definitely made me appreciate all the more these unique eateries and why I wish the chain restaurant die hards would stop and realize this too. Now, onto the food!
For $25 as part of the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, you received an appetizer, main course and dessert. D ended up going with this option (I ordered a la carte from the menu). He started with the Hot Chicken (spicy fried chicken with white bread and dill pickles). I find sometimes when a menu says spicy it’s not so bad…this was exceptionally spicy although our waiter had warned D about it prior to ordering. He thoroughly enjoyed it.
Next, he selected the Fettuccine for his entree (house pasta, escarole, tomato cream, and ricotta). Not only was he given a generous amount, but it was good pasta. I see fettuccine, I automatically think Alfredo, but even the tomato cream in this wasn’t overly much.
And for his sweet finish, he went with the Vegan Ice Cream Sandwich (sugar cookies, peaches and cream ice cream and a maple bourbon reduction). Although I thought for sure he would have gone with the other choice, Key Lime Pie, he proved me wrong and seemed to really enjoy it, vegan marking and all.
I decided to order the Cheeseburger ($9) as I had been craving one lately. It featured house ground meat, house cured bacon, on a sesame bun and with some type of cheese that tasted like it was of the blue variety. For $3 extra I added tator tots which the menu listed as being from Ontario, Oregon (who knew). The burger was sublime, everything that a fast food burger does not taste like.
Other intriguing sounding small plates included Deviled Eggs, a Pickle Plate, and Pop Corn which the menu notes has daily preparation so I’m guessing different seasoning?
For our spirits, D had a beer on tap from the Great Lakes Brewing Company and later a tumbler of Buffalo Trace bourbon (a distillery we’ll be visiting later week in Kentucky). I went with a coke and Jameson, although the coke was actually a house phosphate soda. It sounds odd but it ended up tasting sweeter than a regular coke.
My only (slight) negative was that it took a while for our entrees to come (a little peculiar since we were the only diners for most of our meal). But other than that, service was top notch with a terrific wait staff.
A meal served up with a side of history is my idea of a good time. I’m anxious to return in the future to try out more of their full menu.