Image courtesy of Eliza restaurant.

A new restaurant is making the former J&L Steel Mill site an even hotter spot.

Eliza, a new eatery on Technology Drive in South Oakland, opened this week on the site of the historic Eliza Furnaces.

The American bistro is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, featuring a menu filled with Western Pennsylvania staples. Come hungry for favorites such as kielbasa, grilled cheese, fried chicken livers, pork belly, steak and burgers.

Executive chef Tom Lonardo puts a contemporary spin on the classics and prepares them using fresh, local ingredients and pickling fruits and vegetables in-house. In addition to hearty entrees and small plates, there are playful snacks including Sweet and Salty Popcorn with miso and togarashi, and blistered Padron Peppers with sea salt, goat cheese and morita aioli.

“We’re creating everyday food for people, but with exceptional ingredients,” says Lonardo, formerly of Legume Bistro. “Nothing is unfamiliar. Yet you might find a new take on your favorite dish or amped up flavors you’ve never experienced, because everything we do is house-made and from the freshest available ingredients. That’s where Eliza becomes a trusted friend where you can always find quality food and drink.”

The restaurant has been three years in the making, says Kyle Szulborski, who owns the restaurant with chef Brian Mogan of FCC Restaurant Group and First Class Caterers.

The bistro is housed inside Hotel Indigo in the Pittsburgh Technology Center, which is slated to begin operation next week. Neighbors include the Pittsburgh Technology Council and CMU Labs.

The lobby of the new Hotel Indigo on Second Avenue. Photo by TH Carlisle.

“The hotel was the driving force behind the idea of Eliza,” says Szulborski, who began working with property owners Charles and Laura Aftosmis in 2015. “Hotel Indigo is focused on the neighborhood story. When the site was picked for the hotel, the concept fit perfectly considering the location and the history of the location. Once we understood the direction of the hotel, we assisted in continuing the concept throughout the restaurant.”

Co-designer Jean Reitz, of Jean Reitz Design, included nods to Pittsburgh’s manufacturing past throughout the space. Like a museum that serves gourmet food, Eliza features a blast furnace door sourced from the U.S. Steel Mill in Johnstown, steel ladle stands in the hotel lobby and a nine-foot sculpture of steel molds constructed by artist Joe Hensel. Weathered wood, corrugated tin ceilings, aged brick and exposed pipes add to the restaurant’s industrial charm.

One of many steel artifacts in the new Hotel Indigo.

There is seating for 100 diners, with communal tables and booths for 64 in the main dining area and 36 at the bar. The ground-floor patio has room for 40 people, who can relax on couches or around fire pits. Guests also are welcome to enjoy the Eliza Hot Metal Terrace, a rooftop bar with views of the South Side Slopes, Hot Metal Bridge and Mon River. The rooftop can accommodate 125 people who can imbibe seasonal cocktails, wine and a wide selection of local and craft beers.

“We really were intrigued by the location and the idea of Hotel Indigo’s brand focusing on the neighborhood story,” Szulborski says. “Our companies thrive on local sourcing for ingredients and products, so having the support from the hotel and knowing the direction of the brand, we felt it was a great fit.”

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.