Photo courtesy of Choolaah.

Pittsburgh-based Choolaah Indian BBQ is opening a second hometown eatery in Robinson Township on June 9.

Located in a former Starbucks at 227 Summit Park Dr., the 21st-century, fast-casual concept was inspired by 4,000-year-old cooking techniques. The eatery’s huge, gas-fired clay ovens called tandoors heat up to 600 degrees, giving meats a perfect char that locks in flavors and juices.

Choolaah, which means oven, prides itself on using fresh, wholesome ingredients and caters to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans — as well as to patrons who adhere to dairy-free, grain-free, gluten-free and egg-free diets.

Diners can enjoy naan wraps and streets snacks such as samosas topped with chickpea masala, non-GMO yogurt and sweet and tangy sauces. You can also build your own Choolaah bowl by selecting a responsibly sourced protein (chicken, lamb, salmon, paneer cheese, veggie croquette, tofu or roasted veggies), white or brown rice and choice of Masala (tikka, chickpea, black lentil daal or yellow lentil daal).

Photo courtesy of Choolaah.

The new 3,000-square-foot restaurant, which includes limited outdoor seating, arrives two years after the first Pittsburgh location opened in East Liberty. Other locations include Beachwood, Ohio, Sterling, Va., Fairfax, Va., and King of Prussia, Pa. Chief Creative Officer Jay Nesbitt says the company intends to open more establishments in the Pittsburgh region.

In mid-March, right before the shutdown, Choolaah began to onboard a new technology platform across its restaurants that included a new point-of-sale system, Kiosk ordering, state-of-the-art curbside and delivery technology, a Choolaah app for ordering and the first branded reward/loyalty program for all app and online orders.

“We believe challenges often spawn opportunities. Over the previous 18 months to COVID, we saw a shift in how people interact with our brand,” Nesbitt says. “The percentage of take out and delivery increased significantly. This allowed us to rethink how we approach our technology and ways to reduce the actual physical footprint of our restaurants. COVID actually afforded us the opportunity to test technology and processes that we had in the planning phase. Admittedly, it was an extreme and difficult test, but we always look at adversity as an opportunity to innovate.”

The timely upgrades allowed the company to more easily adapt to a COVID-19 world.

Choolaah in East Liberty. Photo by TH Carlisle.

Precautionary measures instituted at the new Robinson site include comprehensive staff training, plexi-shields, clear social distancing indicators, rigorous cleaning protocols and an automated hand sanitizing machine for guests more commonly found in pharmaceutical, health care and food processing industries.

The Robinson eatery, which offers a full catering menu and family meals for online ordering and delivery, will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Like its sister stores, the new Choolaah will support local non-profit organizations.

Another local restaurant, Pizzeria Davide, is opening its second location in Robinson on June 16.

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.