Chef Cort McCurdy spent a year kitchen hopping through Central and South America, sampling the local flavors, learning new tricks and picking up recipes along the way.
The menu at Downtown’s Forbes Tavern is a culinary scrapbook of the 26-year-old’s adventures abroad, filled with Latin-inspired dishes with an American twist.
“I call it comfort food redefined,” says McCurdy, who has worked at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina and The Commoner. “I want to bring people in to share the dining experience and show them flavors from parts of the world they haven’t been to before.”
Located Downtown at 310 Forbes Ave., the restaurant feeds both carnivores and vegans, and includes gluten-free dishes.
The Stuffed Papa appetizer is a crispy potato croquette packed with seasoned ground beef, tomato, onion, scallion and egg on a bed of macerated cabbage and topped with “mayonesa” a Peruvian mayonnaise with a citrusy kick.
Other starters include the grilled veggie kebab, smoked wings available in several house-made sauces and apple-braised beef served with apple butter, fennel and crème fraîche on top of fresh country bread.
Fill up on oversized salads, burgers and sandwiches, including slow-roasted prime rib on a sourdough baguette, and a traditional Cuban stuffed with pulled pork shoulder, ham, pickles, gouda cheese and mustard aioli on a grilled, thin-pressed ciabatta roll.
Main plates, served after 5 p.m., range from seafood pasta and flank steak, to grilled Tuco chicken and pork tenderloin prepared with charred peaches, yogurt, honey and herbs.
Forbes Tavern also has 20 taps and a specialty cocktail menu.
But co-owner David Namestnik warns that this isn’t a shot-and-a-beer bar: “We are a restaurant first,” he says. “All of our focus is on the food.”
Namestnik and his partners, brothers John and Christopher Leventis, have spent decades immersed in the Pittsburgh food and beverage scene and are the team behind Lot 17, a restaurant that has been operating on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield since 2001.
Nearly a year ago, they gutted the Forbes Avenue space — which had previously housed the Courthouse Tavern — and installed a brand new kitchen, restrooms and bar.
The restaurant has an industrial vibe thanks to custom metalwork from Bloomfield-based Iron Eden. An upstairs room seating about 30 people is available for meetings and private parties.
Forbes Tavern already has hosted a dozen events since its grand opening on June 30, and plans to hold wine and food pairings this fall and throughout the holidays to showcase McCurdy’s seasonal offerings.
“If we don’t do something to stand out,” he says, “we’re going to blend in.”