The building that once housed the trendy Garfield eatery Salt of the Earth has found a new owner.
Chef and restaurateur Richard DeShantz and his business partner, Tolga Sevdik, recently agreed to purchase the 5523 Penn Avenue location from Doug and Liza Cruze of Cruze Architects. DeShantz and his company the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group are known for the popular Downtown spots Meat & Potatoes, Butcher & the Rye and täkō, as well as the upcoming barbeque venture Pork & Beans.
Opened in 2010, Salt of the Earth was the first restaurant from local celebrity chef Kevin Sousa. It closed last August, 18 months after Sousa relinquished control of the business to focus on his Braddock project, Superior Motors.
The buy marks a significant move for DeShantz, who currently rents the spaces where his other restaurants are located. “It was the next step for me as an entrepreneur to start owning property,” says DeShantz. “I’ve looked at places before, but I am attracted to this because it has a good foundation to build upon. It would be very easy for me to come in and do something creative and funky.”
DeShantz plans on working with the Cruzes to transform the two-story space, which includes an adjacent parking lot and a large studio behind the main building, into two restaurants. In terms of design, DeShantz says he envisions a Scandanavian look with “clean lines and whitewashed walls,” but has yet to decide on a definitive concept.
Dave Racicot, chef de cuisine at täkō, will act as chef and owner of the new space. He and DeShantz will work with Butcher & the Rye chef Dan Carlton to create a menu. While DeShantz hesitates labeling the future restaurant’s culinary focus, he says they foresee serving reasonably priced, farm-to-table offerings with a “heavy cocktail influence.”
“We’re going to have fun with it,” says DeShantz. “It will probably keep to the format that all my restaurants are known for. But it’s going to take some time to find its true identity and decide which direction I want to go.”
As the process moves forward, DeShantz will look to the surrounding neighborhood for inspiration. He believes the area, with its laid-back, artsy vibe, will present a new audience for him and his colleagues, who are used to the Downtown theater crowds. He also hopes to gain some knowledge from observing the Ace Hotel, which has seen immediate success since it opened last December in nearby East Liberty.
“I’ll spend time walking the streets, seeing what’s going on in Ace, and trying to feel what I think will be a successful restaurant,” Says DeShantz. “It’s not all about what I want to do, it’s more what I think that area needs.”
DeShantz says they plan on opening the Garfield restaurant sometime next year.