A crane lowers a shipping container restaurant into Southside Works.
MODLOGIQ kiosk lifted into SouthSide Works. Photo by Mike Machosky.

Two new SouthSide Works restaurants have just dropped. Literally. Two steel modules were lowered by crane onto the plaza in front of the Cheesecake Factory this week. But that is just the beginning.

Slice on Broadway and Smokin Ghosts BBQ will occupy the two Town Center modules. Tasty Taquitos will operate out of a vintage airstream to be permanently parked in the Town Center. Levity Brewing will operate out of a kiosk next to the new dog park on the other side of the development. All of the new food purveyors are expected to be operational in the next two to three weeks.

Rendering of SouthSide Works Town Center courtesy of SomeraRoad.

The modules were built by MODLOGIQ at its factory in New Holland, outside of Lancaster. The structures are 95% finished and self-contained, and can be trucked in, lifted up by a crane and dropped into place in a few hours — and ready for business in a few weeks.

“This is Pittsburgh’s version of the American dream — the grandson of a South Side steel mill worker has a company that’s playing an important role in the renewal and rejuvenation of Pittsburgh’s South Side,” says Jim Gabriel, president and CEO of MODLOGIQ, who grew up in Pittsburgh.

“I’m especially proud that MODLOGIQ is doing this in a way that’s innovative, that’s efficient and that respects my South Side neighbors. Plus, it’s pretty cool to see a crane in my old neighborhood swinging these 10-ton, fully-built kitchens into place in just a few hours.”

Modular restaurant moving into place at SouthSide Works. Photo by Mike Machosky.

SomeraRoad is spending millions to reinvent SouthSide Works, which has had success as a residential and office (with tenants like Amazon and American Eagle) complex, but the retail component has struggled in recent years. Many large retail chains that started in SouthSide Works have shut down or moved out.

For Don Garrett of Smokin’ Ghosts BBQ — which operates a semi-permanent truck on the North Shore and another mobile one — this was too good an opportunity to pass up.

“They recruited us,” says Garrett. “It sounded like a great idea, with everything coming in — the new apartments, new offices.”

Garrett specializes in North Carolina-style BBQ — mustard and vinegar — which isn’t common around here. He’s working on doing whole-hog BBQ and has strong opinions about Texas-style brisket.

“Salt and pepper — that’s all a brisket needs,” Garrett claims.

He’s also part of the 3 Taxi Guys barbecue team that competes in Memphis every year against the best pork BBQ wizards in the world. Run by a Pittsburgh taxi company owner, the trio uses a smoker made out of a yellow checker 1957 taxicab.

Restaurant module being fabricated at the MODLOGIQ factory. Photo courtesy of SomeraRoad.

Alondre Quintanar runs Tasty Taquitos, which will be joining Smokin’ Ghosts BBQ on the square. “It’s nice to have neighbors. We’re excited to feed everybody. You know, the sun comes out for everybody, so it’s not competition.”

Quintanar already has a food truck and makes Mexican food at the Evergreen Cafe in Point Breeze.

The changes are part of the plan to transform the Town Center, which is the heart of SouthSide Works, from just being a place with a fountain to something that is more active, says Chris McCune, vice president of development at SomeraRoad. “The way to do this was to preserve some elements — like the stage for public events — and create things you can use year-round, like food.”

Diners will be able to eat under a large pergola that is being built in the middle of the Town Center to offer shade from the sun and seating.

“We’re really creating this as an amenity for the greater South Side, but also for the office tenants here,” says McCune.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.