The Scratch & Co. team collaborating to bring the new concept to life. Photo by Rose Colored Creative.

Allergen-friendly fish fry

Throughout the Lenten season, Gluten Free Goat is organizing a fish fry for people with gluten intolerance.

Every Friday through April 8 from 4 to 7 p.m, the bakery at 4905 Penn Ave. in Garfield will whip up takeout and delivery meals that include a fresh piece of fried fish served on a brioche bun, homemade coleslaw, french fries and a chocolate chip cookie. All items are free of gluten, soy, peanuts and tree nuts.

Orders can be placed online and walk-up orders are also welcome.

Scratch & Co. reopens with a new menu

After being closed for six weeks to reimagine its business model and offerings, Scratch & Co. is reopening on Friday, March 11 at 1720 Lowrie St. in Troy Hill. The new menu consists of small and mezze plates, rotating entrée specials and a collaborative Kitchen Tasting Menu. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Reservations are recommended.

Scratch & Co. has also overhauled its business to train every member of its salaried team to have core operational responsibilities versus a traditional top-down management structure. The restaurant is believed to be the first in Pittsburgh to adopt this model.

The addition of Operations Partner Pim Suwanawongse, who is coming to Scratch & Co. from Cleveland’s renowned Spice Hospitality Group and Hogsalt Hospitality Group in Chicago, has provided a fresh perspective on the new and sustainable business.

“The team at Scratch & Co. knows how to do everything from mix the perfect cocktail to balance the budget, participate in inventory and ordering, and serve our customers,” says owner Don Mahaney. “Every single one of them can operate this business, and will.”

Justin Johnson (otherwise known as Uncle Sleepy) holds a pork belly. The chef will hold a Jamaican food pop-up at Soju. Photo courtesy of Soju.

Uncle Sleepy’s Jamaican food pop-up at Soju

Justin Johnson isn’t resting on his laurels.

The chef, who’s known as Uncle Sleepy, hosts Jamaican food pop-up events throughout the city and works at Soju. The Korean restaurant and bar at 4923 Penn Ave. in Garfield is hosting the next Uncle Sleepy Jamaican Kitchen feast on Monday, March 14, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Johnson’s menu will include traditional island dishes such as oxtail stew, jerk chicken, salmon sausage, shrimp fritters, grilled watermelon and Jamaican beef patties. Food will be available for dine-in and takeout.

Raised by a single mom in Monroeville, Johnson started cooking out of necessity. The chore soon turned into a passion that he’s nurtured at various local eateries, from Eat’n Park and Poros to The Wooden Nickel and Kimpton Hotel Monaco.

During the pandemic downtime, Johnson worked as a day trader and perfected recipes in his home, which is equipped with a smoker. His easygoing attitude in the kitchen earned him his nickname, but he never gets tired of creating bright, flavorful Jamaican meals.

When Johnson came to Soju last October, owner Simon Chough encouraged him to display his talents through pop-up events and offered him the restaurant as a starting point.

“He just likes to showcase other people’s cuisines,” Johnson says. “I really wanted a change of pace and to start doing my own thing. He gave me the opportunity to do that.”

After a successful pop-up at Soju in January, Johnson held another event at nearby Two Frays Brewery, serving pork belly sliders with homemade banana chips, sesame noodles with garlic shrimp, and apple dumplings with ginger honey and Bavarian pretzels. He’ll be slinging grub there again on April 3.

Uncle Sleepy’s Jamaican Kitchen will set up at different spots around town throughout the summer and will be adding his culinary touch at Farmer x Baker on April 1, when the shipping container-turned-window-service-café opens for the season in Aspinwall’s Allegheny RiverTrail Park.

Goat Rodeo wins gold in global cheese contest

Goat Rodeo Farm & Dairy, based in Allison Park, received first place accolades during the biennial World Championship Cheese Contest held last week in Madison, Wisconsin. Hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1957, it is the largest technical cheese, butter, yogurt and dry dairy ingredient competition on the planet.

Goat Rodeo’s winning entry, Bamboozle, is created from a blend of goat and cow’s milk, aged for at least two months and washed with Tracks Again, an unfiltered pilsner from Cinderlands Beer Co. With notes of prosciutto and peanuts, the supple, semi-soft textured cheese beat 109 other entries in the Surface Ripened Mixed Milk Cheese Class. In January, Bamboozle also took home Best in Show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Goat Rodeo products are available at area groceries and specialty shops.

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.