Sick of winter, but too busy to go island-hopping at the moment? Send your tastebuds on vacation at Musa.
The restaurant, which opened last May in Beechview, serves up Caribbean and Cajun dishes in a laid-back environment that’s not unlike a beachfront resort. The vibe is so authentically oceanfront that the Pittsburgh Light Rail T trains passing by almost sound like ocean waves.
“That’s one of our goals: To make you feel like you’re stepping outside of Pittsburgh and into the tropics,” head bartender Rosetta Coco says.
Owner Kenrick Cheong points to a handmade sign on the wall that reads, “Welcome to the Don’t Hurry.” Just like the customers nursing Red Stripes at the bar, Musa’s chefs take their time in the kitchen blending creole and island flavors.
Cheong, a Texas native who came to Pittsburgh a decade ago to attend the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, delivers a small, yet ever-evolving menu that’s big on taste. Musa, a Latin term which refers to bananas and plantains, are featured prominently on the menu at this Broadway Avenue hotspot.
The fried plantain chips, (vegan-friendly and gluten-free) come with a homemade chimichurri sauce and are more addictive than nachos and salsa. Other staples include West Indies Curry, New Orleans-style gumbo, po’ boys and shrimp and grits.
Cheong likes to change up his offerings depending on the season, the availability of fresh ingredients and his mood (which is typically upbeat). The kitchen is filled with bubbling stew pots brimming with spicy, Southern scents.
He smiles broadly delivering a thick-cut, bone-in pork chop to a table. Topped with carmelized onions and served with red beans, rice and kale in cassava sauce, the meal is worthy of a dozen “Wish You Were Here” postcards (and that’s before the bread pudding and house-made ice cream dessert).
Folks who just want a good, strong cocktail can visit Musa’s 16-seat bar, which offers an array of rum-based drinks and is one of the only watering holes in Western Pennsylvania that has Red Stripe beer on tap.
Musa hosts rum tastings on the second Wednesday of each month (country superstar Kenny Chesney’s Blue Chair Bay Rums will be served April 8) and a St. Patrick’s Day bash is planned for this Sunday, featuring fresh fish, corned beef, Guinness stew and more. If it’s warm, Cheong will open the porch to revelers. But if cold weather sets in, it’s always warm and inviting inside.
“I hope that the atmosphere brings comfort and joy to people who navigate out of their homes when it’s three degrees outside,” he says. “I want people to come here to relax and unwind. That’s what we’re all about.”