The Northside is getting two new restaurants this summer, Siempre Algo in Historic Deustchtown and Leo. in Allegheny West
By: Nick Eustis
Restaurants are often synonymous with relaxation and reconnecting. Whether that’s a big dinner with family or just a nightcap with friends, great restaurants have become pillars in neighborhoods for such moments.
This is good news for Northsiders, as two new eateries will open to the public this summer. The first will be Siempre Algo, a contemporary American bar and restaurant opening in Deutschtown.
Spanish for “always something,” Siempre Algo was inspired by chef and owner Brian Hammond’s early career experiences working in restaurants in San Diego.
“I was out in Southern California, working with a lot of Latin American guys. When things were getting tough and something crazy was happening, [they’d say] “siempre algo,” Hammond said. “There is always something hard in our business, but there’s always something exciting and new too. It was all about tying the tough with the sublime, which is really what our business is all about.”
Hammond is moving Siempre Algo into a historic, late 19th century building on East Ohio Street.
Hammond bought the space from Frank Schrim, who had owned Schrim’s Garden Cafe for decades prior. Hammond was sold by the building’s “good bones”, as well as its historical quirks, including a pressed tin ceiling in the main room.
“I had lived [in the Northside] about four or five months, and I knew this was where I wanted to be, so I talked to Cody Walters from the Northside Leadership Conference, and he took me on a walking tour,” Hammond said. “He had heard a rumor that Frank Schrim… might be looking to sell, so we came in and had a conversation. I fell in love with it pretty quickly.”
Hammond is planning a rotating, seasonal menu for Siempre Algo. The menu will feature light, refreshing fare for the summer with an emphasis on comfort foods in the fall.
“I don’t come from a specific cultural heritage when it comes to cuisine, so I’m going to use all the ingredients and techniques in my arsenal, and come out with something fresh and delicious,” Hammond said. “In the beginning you’ll see a lot of bright, herbaceous flavors, both for cocktails and for food.” Ceviches and gazpacho will feature prominently in the spring and summer months.
Siempre Algo is far from Hammond’s first foray in the Pittsburgh food scene. He opened his first restaurant with his father, a farm-to-table establishment called Restaurant Echo in Cranberry Township.
“Restaurant Echo was giant. We had three acres that we farmed. We had beehives, baked our own bread, butchered our own meats, made everything from scratch,” Hammond said. “It was fun, it was really challenging. But we were…near a bunch of other chains, we weren’t in the right market for farm-to-table. It wasn’t really in demand.”
After Echo’s closure, Hammond worked for a number of restaurants around Pittsburgh in the front-of-house, including bartending and serving at Acacia and Stagioni in the South Side. But Hammond knew that he would be opening his second restaurant before long.
“The main thing for me is I enjoy the business so much, that there was no question for me … that I was gonna be back in it before long,” Hammond said. “For me, it’s a passion project, something I love to do.”
Also opening a second restaurant this summer is chef Michael Barnhouse, whose contemporary bistro Lola is already an established presence in Allegheny West.
Barnhouse opened Lola in 2008, intent on bringing the culinary skills he gained while working in New York City and Seattle to Pittsburgh. Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, but raised in Ohio, Barnhouse always felt a connection with Pittsburgh and Western Appalachia.
It was through Lola that Barnhouse found the opportunity to open a new restaurant, which he is naming “Leo.”, after his grandfather.
“The owners of the building approached me and wanted to know if I wanted to expand. And we’ve been working on it, coming to an agreement over the past two years,” Barnhouse said.
“They really wanted someone who had a solid background in the industry, so that’s why they approached me.”
While finding the space for Leo., was relatively simple, Barnhouse found it provided him with a number of challenges to tackle, most notably the size of its kitchen.
“It’s a really small kitchen, my space is limited,” Barnhouse said. “In a lot of ways, I like that my hand has been forced this way because it’s gonna be bar food, but on the healthier more artisan, interesting side.”
Leo. will be a modern twist on a public house, according to Barnhouse.
“On the culinary side, it’s going to be primarily sandwiches: vegan tamales, pulled pork tacos — I’m going to be making my own lox on rye,” Barnhouse said. “For the bar, my intention is to have a very nice selection of unique, old-world European beers in bottles and cans. Of course, I’ll have your usual suspects and microbrews. I’ll have a draft system, but I want to keep that as local as possible.”
Barnhouse also intends to add an outdoor deck to the structure to increase seating capacity, and hopes that Leo. will add a new town square to the Northside.
“I really just wanna be a part of the development and improvement of the Northside. I want to bring a friendly, welcoming public house to the Northside,” Barnhouse said. “I want it to be a gathering place for friends and family.”
Siempre Algo will be located at 414 East Ohio Street, and is projected to open in late June or early July. Leo. will be located at 1207 Allegheny Avenue, and is slated for an August 1 opening.