Graham Foster and Lauren Zanardelli spent years serving gourmet eats out of a food truck.
Now, the husband-and-wife team hopes customers will hit the road to visit Fairlane, their stationary restaurant named after a classic Ford sedan.
Located in a former service station on Beverly Road in Mt. Lebanon, the space most recently housed Block 292, a café-butcher shop-specialty store hybrid developed by Brooks Broadhurst of the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group.
Zanardelli, a Bethel Park native, worked in Block 292’s kitchen until it closed in August 2017. Broadhurst saw a lot of potential in the young chef and has helped her and Foster make the building their own with a kitchen update, new paint and tattoo-themed décor.
When Fairlane opens in mid-December, the couple will serve new American cuisine, with an emphasis on small plates, allowing patrons to try a variety of flavors, many of them inspired by Foster’s South Carolina roots.
Fried chicken will be a regular item on the constantly evolving menu. Upscale snack options will be available at the bar and adjoining bottle shop. Industry veteran Christina Harbour will head the restaurant’s beverage program.
“Our food is drinking food,” Foster says with a laugh.
Foster and Zanardelli met at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C. Both of them had other careers before embarking on their culinary calling in their late 20s. Zanardelli was an elementary school teacher with a passion for cooking.
“My entire life I would watch PBS shows like ‘The Frugal Gourmet’ and Julia Child,” she says. “I was obsessed. I guess I didn’t feel confident before I went to culinary school. It was just kind of a hobby. My parents were the ones who encouraged me and said, ‘It’s okay, try it.’”
After graduation, they interned in Michelin star restaurants in New York City and traveled the world trying exotic foods to add to their recipe collection. They moved to Greenville, S.C., and opened up Neue Southern Food Truck, which served locally sourced, but globally influenced southern fare.
At the time, Neue Southern was one of only two mobile restaurants in town. After a few years below the Mason-Dixon line, Foster and Zanardelli took the food truck across the country to Portland, Ore. All the while, Zanardelli’s Pittsburgh-based parents would send her articles about the Steel City’s burgeoning foodie scene.
“Pittsburgh has changed by leaps and bounds since I moved out in 2006,” she says. “When I would visit, I’d see there was so much new food to try. I felt pride in my city for being this awesome place. It was a natural road home.”
The couple, who now live in Brookline, want Fairlane to be a regular gathering spot for South Hills residents and a destination for folks on the other side of the river.