Fig & Ash, a new wood-fired concept restaurant, joins the ranks of lifestyle store, Annex, and restaurant, Siempre Algo, as the latest addition to the Northside’s East Ohio Street.

By Nick Eustis

East Ohio Street in Deutschtown is in flux. In the past few years, the historic thoroughfare has seen a wave of new interest in development. Just this year, lifestyle store, Annex, and contemporary American restaurant, Siempre Algo, opened.

This fall will see yet another opening with Fig & Ash, chef and co-owner Cory Hughes’ ode to old fashioned, wood-fired American cuisine.

“I’ve always wanted to open up a restaurant with all of the foods I make for my family on Sunday nights,” Hughes said. “For me, it’s just comfort food… stuff that hits you in that feel-good spot.” A “wood-fired concept,” where most dishes are prepared over open coals, Fig & Ash offers a modern approach to classic home-cooked meals. “Braised short ribs, bone-in pork belly. It’s definitely contemporary American,” Hughes said.

Hughes is familiar with the contemporary restaurant scene. He started in the industry in 1994 in his hometown of Philadelphia, working as an apprentice when he was a high school junior.

“I started off in restaurants and catering, and then I went into the Marine Corps, where I was a cook,” Hughes said. After his stint in the military, Hughes attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. He graduated and has worked in Pittsburgh’s fine dining scene ever since, at locations like Kaya, Cafe at the Frick, and Spoon, which he helped to open.

For Hughes, Fig & Ash came about almost by happenstance, stemming from an idea his brother-in-law and business partner, Alex Feltovich, had.

“My brother-in-law wanted to do a wood-fired pizza shop, and I was like ‘Cool, I’ll help you out with that,’” Hughes said.

The duo brought their plan to Al DePasquale, co-owner of East Ohio Capital LLC, which owns a large share of property on East Ohio Street. DePasquale, however, had a different vision, preferring a full-scale restaurant to a pizza shop.

“That original idea of doing a pizza shop is what stoked all of the creativity,” Hughes said. He then started thinking about a wood-fired concept restaurant. “I went out and started eating at wood-fired concepts around the country,” he said. Hughes was especially inspired by chef Jeremiah Langhorne, the head chef at The Dabney in Washington D.C.: “I love the fact that he doesn’t have any gas in his kitchen, it’s all coals,” he said.

Hughes’ desire to do a wood-fired concept also inspired the name Fig & Ash. It combines his personal catering company, “Tattoo’d Fig,” with ash hardwood, a Western Pennsylvania cooking staple. “It’s an homage to family and an homage to local hardwood we use to cook with,” Hughes said.

It’s the family atmosphere Fig & Ash brings to the restaurant scene that makes it stand out, and Hughes wants to ensure the food is as good as what he would serve his own family.

“There’s no pretentiousness about it. It’s just good, solid food that’s cooked with love.”

Fig & Ash is expected to open the first week of November. It’s located at 514 East Ohio St.