Chef Kevin Sousa is making a lot of bread these days; not the spendable kind, but sourdough.
Superior Motors, Sousa’s fine dining restaurant in Braddock, is closed for now, so he is staying busy baking in his Allentown apartment. A couple of times a week, he distributes dozens of loaves for free to hilltop neighbors in need.
Sousa’s Arlington Bread Club is bolstered by donations from Mediterra Bakehouse, Sysco and RE360. It operates out of Hitchhiker Brewing Co.’s former winter pop-up taproom location on Industry Street.
“This was born organically out of us wanting to do something for the community,” Sousa says. “We knew people were running into food insecurity issues in Braddock and Allentown and all over the place.”
To help the Superior Motors staff (two salaried employees and about 20 hourly workers) stay afloat during the closure, General Manager Christopher Clark organized a GoFundMe campaign. It’s generated a little more than half of its $30,000 goal. Members get regular cash disbursements to supplement their unemployment benefits.
Sousa and his team explored every option to keep the restaurant open during the pandemic, but the menu, which is meant to be part of a multiple-course dining experience, didn’t translate to a takeout model.
He says his other business venture would be better suited for grab-and-go eats. Arlington Beverage Club (ABC) was set to open in Allentown this spring. For decades the building at 1226 Arlington Ave. housed a church social club called St. George Lyceum. While he intended to leave the space largely untouched, Sousa and his team planned to install a full, state-of-the-art kitchen in the basement and offer a comprehensive cocktail program.
Sousa has no idea what the nightlife market will be like in the future, or the date of ABC’s grand opening, but when it does debut, it’ll be a modified version of the original concept, with modest food offerings and more of a shot-and-a-beer bar vibe.
“I think nostalgia will mean a lot more to people when all of this over,” he says. “This is going to feel like the bars we went to when we were coming of age, like Gooski’s or Dee’s.”
Gaucho Parrilla Argentina
Right before the COVID-19 crisis started, the folks at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina were in the process of relocating from the Strip District to a new space 10 blocks away at 146 Sixth Street.
The popular restaurant’s Penn Avenue site closed on March 19, more than a month early.
“Anthony (Falcon), the owner, removed our small sign from the outside of the building and we made our way to Gaucho 3.0 to re-hang it outside of the new location,” General Manager Erica Isaac says. “It was sad to not share the moment with the rest of our crew, but we are all looking forward to our new home.”
The staff went from 33 full- and part-time employees in March, to a current crew of eight. That number will increase in the coming weeks as Gaucho prepares to reopen.
Fans of Gaucho’s wood-fired grill cuisine don’t have to go hungry much longer; Isaac says they’re working to open the company’s food truck, Asado, within the next two weeks. It’ll be parked in the Cultural District, essentially serving as an extension of the restaurant. It will dispense pickup orders and family-style meal boxes.
Once Gaucho is able to operate — even in a pickup and takeout capacity — Asado will travel to different breweries, including its home base at Spring Hill Brewing on the North Side.
Isaac says there’s a lot of uncertainty, but she’s bolstered by the community’s outpouring of love and kindness. Customers are purchasing gift cards directly from Gaucho and through the Gift Card Give Back program created by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Strip District Neighbors.
“We are hopeful that the enthusiasm and excitement we have experienced for the new location will continue as we begin to reopen,” she says. “We are confident that Pittsburgh will take care of our own and support local, small businesses through the current closures and as the industry navigates the future. Everyone at Gaucho is eager to get back to serving our city and showing off our new space.”