Ribeye at Acorn Restaurant Shadyside
Ribeye at Acorn. Photo by Duane Rieder, Rieder Photography

In the kitchen, chef Scott Walton isn’t looking to commit.

The Chicago transplant says he doesn’t like to label his style of cooking, but “rustic new American,” for him, feels like the closest fit. He describes the menu he and his team are working on as “honest and simple.”

That menu will show up at Acorn, a new eatery featuring modern American cuisine from the celebrated chef. It’s set to open in Shadyside in mid-August.

Walton’s history of opening well-regarded restaurants like Howells & Hood and Markethouse in Chicago earned him a reputation for meticulous sourcing and straightforward preparation.

“With any luck, people will appreciate our simple approach and be a little surprised at how the right mix of the right things, served in the right way, will make them feel.”

Acorn seems like an appropriate name since it represents a new start for the chef. It’s his first restaurant project since moving to Pittsburgh with his family three years ago when his wife accepted a job offer. Most recently, Walton has been the executive chef at Heinz Field overseeing the culinary program.

The Walnut street location in the heart of Shadyside will have a full bar emphasizing local spirits and brews, and will accommodate 60 diners. The menu will include entrees like wild salmon served with cauliflower Panna cotta and romanesco; trout with puffed sorghum, chickpeas and pickled okra; and rib eye served with peas and carrots, a marrow popover, borscht and red wine sauce, just to name a few.

Chef Scott Walton of the soon to open restaurant, Acorn. Duane Rieder, Rieder Photography.

While “new American” covers a lot of styles, Chef Walton sites his appreciation for other chefs who fall into that category, like Dan Barber at Blue Hill Farm and Sean Brock at Husk.

“Their culinary influence will be felt on some of the menus we produce on Walnut Street.”

Acorn’s bar program aims to mirror the philosophy in the kitchen. A central theme in designing the bar menu has been looking for elements that offer “something for everyone served with an attention to detail.”

“We want to satisfy the expectations of the serious connoisseur as well as the casual fan,” says Walton.

So far, Shadyside is shaping up to be a welcoming fit for Walton. “Shadyside has such good people, and the residents and business owners represent so much of what is great about Pittsburgh,” he says. “There’s an energy in the neighborhood that you can feel when you walk down the street.”

Walton also describes the Pittsburgh restaurant scene as very welcoming. “The thing I like best about it is the variety. Each chef has their own style and creative platform where no two experiences are ever really the same. The access that Pittsburgh affords its chefs is truly unique for a city its size. Guests dine all over town and seek out those special experiences that in other cities are sometimes limited by address.”

The chef and his team are looking forward to sharing their culinary ideas in Shadyside. “I like the challenge of being able to both engage the food-centric guest with something that they not have seen before, as well as satisfy the skepticism of diners who may not always be comfortable in a chef-driven environment,” he notes. “It’s a very special time to be in the restaurant business in Pittsburgh.”

Tom O'Connor

Tom O'Connor is a photographer and writer currently based in Pittsburgh.