Part affordable breakfast spot, part high-end destination eatery. Chef David Bulman’s new dual-concept space, The Finer Diner and Seasons Restaurant, is a mix of passion project and practical eatery.
It could also be another cornerstone in the ongoing revitalization of Mount Oliver. The independent borough that straddles Brownsville Road has started to see a redevelopment spark in the last two years with a number of new businesses. RE360, which owns the property housing Bulman’s restaurant, plans to bring a brewery to another open commercial space down the street.
One thing is for sure: Bulman’s restaurants won’t have a $40 pizza, a signature of the building’s previous tenant — chef Kevin Sousa’s extremely short-lived Mount Oliver Bodega.
Once a windowless black storefront that looked more like a New York City club, the diner now brings a more welcoming light into the modern breakfast space with new street-level windows.
The downstairs Finer Diner portion of the space — which opened in mid-March — features what Bulman calls “elevated diner food.” But don’t let the name fool you, higher prices don’t have to come along with higher end.
“I feel like we have something for everyone,” says Bulman. “There’s nothing on the menu over $15.”
What you will find are “finer” ingredients. Bulman’s focus stays away from the deep fryer and leans toward other breakfast and lunch staples.
“We have a lot of the standard diner options for both breakfast and lunch,” Bulman says. “We use a lot of fresh herbs and fresh ingredients. It’s diner food done right.”
The other half of Bulman’s concept will be located upstairs. Seasons Restaurant is a reboot of a concept Bulman started in Etna under the same name prior to the pandemic. Set to host a grand opening on May 16 — during an event co-presented with 412 Food Rescue — the restaurant will be more of a fine dining experience with an ever-changing menu based around seasonal and locally-sourced food items.
“It’s all local. We really focus on the season,” says Bulman. “Whatever comes in the doors from the farmers is what you’ll see. It’s highly reflective of what’s available that certain time of year.”
The menu will feature four- to 10-course options with prices ranging from $40 to $110. The upstairs space also includes a bar area where Bulman says he will offer appetizer-style snacks based on the day’s menu.
“We’ll redo the menu almost every day,” Bulman says. “We use what we have and then when it’s gone it’s gone.”
Bulman started the concept out of his apartment as a catering and mobile in-home chef business before opening his first brick-and-mortar location in Etna. He says that he closed the Etna location in 2020 because of the sale of the building, and he already had plans to relocate.
The dual concept came about as a way to support both businesses, with the scalable higher volume diner helping to fill in the gaps for the fine dining upstairs. Bulman says he can see the diner eventually having multiple locations in the city.
For Mount Oliver, it’s another step toward redevelopment.
“All the locals are coming in and really enjoying it, which is a big contrast to Mount Oliver Bodega,” says RE360 owner Joe Calloway.
“I think it’s great,” borough manager Rick Hopkinson adds, “The food is really good and I like the atmosphere.”
In the last few years, Mount Oliver has seen a number of new businesses popping up including Echt Coffee House — which plans to add a distillery in the future — the Flavor of Puerto Rico restaurant, Momma Gayle’s Soul Food Cafe and The Cheese Queen catering and charcuterie shop. With these new establishments, plus the borough’s summer music series and a host of seasonal events, Hopkinson hopes Mount Oliver can continue its upward trend.
“It’s growing,” Hopkinson says. “I want to see more people walking down the street. There’s a vibrancy that’s starting to return.”
Surrounded by the city of Pittsburgh, the borough is also in the early stages of planning for the redevelopment of its clock tower plaza, a site Hopkinson hopes will continue to attract new business.