New restaurant brings jazz back to James Street


Above: James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy is a restaurant, full bar and live music venue.

Inside of 422 Foreland St. in Historic Deutschtown, there are old photos of The Boilermaker Jazz Band, Bo Diddley Jr. and Kenny Blake hanging on the wall.

The black and white photos, found in an upstairs room of the historic building, commemorate Pittsburgh Jazz artists who played there there over the years when the building was the home of the James Street Tavern, a center of Pittsburgh’s Jazz community.

Though James Street Tavern closed several years ago, and several other restaurants have since opened and closed, the venue’s new owners are looking to recreate the vibe and culture of James Street Tavern with the brand new James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, which opened last month. 

“The James Street Tavern use to be a haven for jazz,” said Tony Mowod of the Pittsburgh Jazz Society. “It’ll be an advantage to draw people back to James Street.”

The new owners, Lisa Saftner and Adam Johnston, left their jobs last year with the intention of staring their own restaurant, but the idea of a jazz venue only came when they saw the James Street venue in the Northside.

“It’s almost what the buildings beckons us to have,” said Johnston. “This is such a rich, rich area for jazz. It’s unbelievable.”

Saftner and Johnston said they researched neighborhoods carefully before choosing the James Street location, and have been welcomed warmly by their neighbors, who they say are “almost as excited for us to be here as we are.”

“We want to be a part of the neighborhood,” said Saftner.

There will be live jazz music every Friday and Saturday, and the Pittsburgh Jazz Society will play at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy every Sunday night from 6 to 9 p.m.

Saftner and Johnston said that though it’s a music venue, it’s primarily a restaurant. They offer a large menu with traditional pub food and several special items ranging in price between $8 and $30.

The restaurant officially opened in late December, and live music will begin the second weekend in January. The final project the owners are working on is a banquet space that will accommodate 120-150 people, which they anticipate will be finished in summer of 2012.

“We want to do right by this building,” said Saftner.
Northside Chronicle Town Hall Subscription