Since it opened, Smallman Galley has been all about experimentation. Their latest cocktail menu, launched last week, is a liquid ode to childhood comfort foods, including ones you probably never imagined finding at the bottom of a cocktail glass. Think Froot Loops, your grandma’s oatmeal and those so-bad-they’re-good frozen Pizza Rolls we loved to microwave.
But even before you delve into the unexpected recipes and discover some of their house-made ingredients, there’s a creative experience to be had.
Guests who belly up to the bar can peruse the selections by looking into a RetroViewer (remember your old View-Master?), a stereoscope that holds a thin, cardboard reel with pictures and descriptions of the beverages on it. Made by the Oregon-based company Image3D, Smallman Galley boasts 30 of these new spins on old-school toys, along with 50 other copies of the menu that resemble Twister boards.
“Over the years our packaging and presentation have become more elaborate,” says Tim Garso, Galley Group’s beverage program manager. “We get the whole team together to dream up this stuff.”
Past drink lists have taken the form of a VHS clamshell, vinyl album and pulp comic book.
The new Flashback Flavors menu boasts eight new drinks all priced at $12 each, including LAN Party, an oddly delicious mixture of tequila, Cool Ranch Doritos, Pizza Roll syrup, Mountain Dew Code Red bitters and lime. (We know how it sounds. But it really does work.)
“I love all the junk foods,” says Bar Manager Matt Zelinksy. “Combining all of these guilty pleasures into one tasty beverage is just the best!”
The Galley crew went through months of trial and error in order to perfect the cocktail, which is a tribute to snack-filled nights spent playing video games.
“Ultimately, while there are drinks we’ve done that have a gimmicky spin on them, it still needs to be a cocktail we’re proud to serve,” Garso explains, adding that the bar menus change about every four months.
So far, the top seller — and Garso’s personal favorite — is Saturday Morning ‘Toons. Served in a flute glass and garnished with Froot Loops, the baby pink brew contains Boxer gin, Momokawa coconut lemongrass sake and Peychaud’s bitters.
Silly and yet serious
While their drinks are renowned for being fun and flirty, the bar staff at Smallman Galley also gets serious when it comes to alcohol. Each month the bar features a charity cocktail. April’s altruistic liquor blend is One Tough Cookie made with Singani 63, Maggie’s Farm spiced rum, Tremontis mirto, Pierre Ferrand dry curacao and Woodford Reserve chocolate bitters. A dollar from every “cookie” sold will go to Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.
Garso and Zelinsky are already brainstorming ideas for another round of themed cocktails (and the corresponding pomp and circumstance), which will debut in June when Smallman Galley welcomes two new chefs into the restaurant incubator: Joey Hilty, owner of The Vandal in Lawrenceville, who wants to bring the flair of a European café to Pittsburgh; and Phill Milton, whose offerings will, like the bar menu, stir up nostalgia with spinoffs such as TV Dinner of the Week.
Current Smallman Galley chefs Pete Tolman of Iron Born Pizza will continue his stay at the food hall for another year while Hoa Le of Banhmilicious will remain for six more months.
According to Garso, the ever-changing face of Smallman Galley is what brings new customers in and keeps regulars coming back.
“Once we do something, we have to keep improving and maintaining our momentum,” he says.