Chef Dan Carlton started cooking out of necessity.
The latchkey kid balked at microwavable meals, opting instead to tackle his mom’s recipes or his own concoctions.
Located on Penn Avenue in Garfield, the new eatery’s name stems from the old Norwegian saying, “Neither fish nor fowl,” which means “hard to classify.”
“It’s not Asian. It’s not Italian. We have free reign to do what we want,” says Carlton, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate who has worked in local hotspots such as Casbah, Nine on Nine, täkō and Butcher and the Rye. “A lot of our menu is based around what local produce is available to us.”
The menu is divided into three sections: Water, Field and Farm, and there are corresponding cocktails whipped up by beverage program manager Michael Anderson to complement each dish.
Patrons who order the grilled halibut collar with summer vegetable succotash — the biggest seller, so far — are invited to pair the meal with a warm drink made with blanc vermouth, vodka, thyme, grapefruit, citrus and herbs.
A gin-based mixture of quinine, pine, tonic water, grapefruit, juniper and lavender goes perfectly with roasted wild mushrooms, pine nut risotto, soft duck egg and tender spruce tips.
If you’re opting for one of the Farm options, such as the beef accentuated with black garlic, onion ash, alliums and flowers, wash it down with a glass of Scotch, amaro, oloroso sherry, demerara and mushroom.
Plates are meant to be shared, allowing each visitor to sample a wide array of textures and flavors. Carlton is a world traveler and packs his mental suitcase with a lot of exotic recipes.
“We’ve established a good fan base,” he says. “People know what we do and that it’s done well. It’s a little more approachable in the way that it’s priced. You can try a lot of things. We’re not trying to be pretentious. The way the restaurant is set up promotes having fun and that’s what we wanted to do.”
The space, which once housed chef Kevin Sousa’s Salt of the Earth, is warm and inviting with a seating capacity of 77. The first floor includes a floor-to-ceiling plant wall, sleek white chairs and wooden tables. The kitchen is open, so guests can watch the chefs in action.
An upstairs bar overlooks the main seating area. Faux fur seating covers, branches jutting from the walls, natural light pouring in through the large windows and furniture crafted by Pittsburgh Urban Tree out of fallen timbers give the place a modern hunting lodge aesthetic.
Two other restaurant concepts, including one with outdoor seating, eventually will occupy a large space in the rear of the building and its adjoining parking lot.
For now, however, Carlton is focused on Fish nor Fowl, which operates from 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays, and from 5 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Why the unique schedule? Carlton says the hours were set so other local chefs and industry professionals — who are often off on Sundays and Mondays — can get a taste of what he’s cooking.