We’re glad to update this story with the news that Pie for Breakfast will open its doors June 4th. This “soft open,” offering breakfast and lunch, will be followed by an official opening on Tuesday, June 12.
You can expect comfort food and all-day breakfast with an even more global spin than originally planned, plus an ambitious craft cocktail menu.
It might be the most anticipated new restaurant in Pittsburgh since Superior Motors — with a similarly interminable wait.
Back in the summer of 2015, the original idea was to do something like a pre-World War II diner, when virtually everything was made from scratch with local ingredients. People got a little hung up on the word “diner,” though. They expect certain things from a diner, which felt a bit confining. Hooper has since found a better description.
“Imagine if a truck stop and a European coffee shop had a baby,” says Hooper. “That would be Pie For Breakfast.”
That name, of course, has certain expectations that come with it. Yes, there will be pie.
Apple pie. Peach pie. Shoofly pie. Pecan pie. Buttermilk pie. Vinegar pie. Chess pie (“It’s like a pecan pie without the pecans,” says Hooper.)
There is also breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, a liquor license. Espresso. A special every day.
“It’s kind of an unfortunate name,” explains Hooper. “We’ll be so much more than pie and breakfast.”
The name just seemed to stick, though.
“There’s a book called ‘Pie for Breakfast’ that a guy wrote a long time ago, a guy who grew up in rural Maine,” says Hooper. “He becomes a professor and spends his adult life in New York — and then comes back to Maine. It’s about him returning to his roots.”
The name conveyed something to Hooper that went beyond literal slices of pie. “It’s like a feeling,” he says. “There’s something down-to-earth and homey about it. I liked the phrase. But it doesn’t describe the fullness of what we’re doing.”
Some of those things include chicken fried steak, meatloaf, stuffed cabbage, ham loaf, and breakfast staples like eggs, omelettes and various hashes.
“We’re going to have really amazing leftovers,” says Hooper. “That’s what hash is, right? Corned beef hash is your leftover corned beef.”
Beyond the name and the menu, Hooper loves the location of the 1700-square-foot space. Having three restaurants on the same block cuts down his commute considerably.
“I’m kind of a homebody as a chef,” says Hooper, who runs Butterjoint, Legume and Pie For Breakfast with his wife, Sarah. “I like going to the same places and seeing the same people. I like the rhythm of one restaurant. Plus, I hate driving. I can come to this spot and check into all three and be a part of it all and help it run together.”
Pie For Breakfast will fit seamlessly into a continuum created by Legume, starting in 2007. Legume was conceived as a fine dining restaurant, where you could get a great meal without the stiff formality that traditionally went with it.
“When Butterjoint came along, you could get a great meal and not spend $100. That’s why we focused on burgers and pierogies. But with Butterjoint, we were never able to be as cheap as we wanted to be,” says Hooper.
“Pie For Breakfast is going to be a lot more informal. We want to see people frequently. Sarah and I want good food quick, that’s not so expensive. The low-end of food in Pittsburgh is often processed, not fresh ingredients.”
So expect fresh, seasonal ingredients at the lowest possible price point, created by a team that’s put in a lot of time working together, and getting to know each other.
“The team has become kind of a homecoming of sorts,” says Hooper. “One of my cooks who started as a dishwasher, Justin Lewis, is coming back. Matt Owen has been cooking for me for over four years and is leading the savory R&D (research & development). Robin Cumpston and long-time pastry chef Emily Bourdon, they’re doing all the R&D for the sweet stuff.”
Legume’s general manager, Alex Osgood, and bar manager Amanda Schaffner, are also a big part of Pie For Breakfast.
“For Legume and Butterjoint, that was mostly me doing the cooking,” says Hooper. “For this, it’s really fun to see these really talented cooks in this environment we’ve created over a decade–see them spread their wings and do their thing. It’s exactly what I want to be doing as a chef. I want to provide this space for the next generation to do awesome things.”