Last Updated on by Angie
Federal Galley follows in its sister restaurant's (Smallman Galley's) footsteps in that it is a restaurant incubator that features four chefs in a food hall format.
Each chef receives a small stall in which to prepare their meals and has a contract for a variable length of time that will allow the galley to rotate new chefs in and out over the years. If you are a fan of Smallman Galley in the Strip District (what we consider to be one of Pittsburgh's best restaurants), then this one is for you.
Much like our review for its sister restaurant, we visited Federal Galley no fewer than five times after opening and in this review will be breaking down our meals from each chef individually!
If the name sounds familiar, you're right – Chef Stephen Eldridge started the Provision PGH concept at Smallman Galley when he had a stall there a few years back. We're happy to see him return with his menu of creative American cuisine that includes the likes of burgers, sandwiches, and small plates.
On our visit we tried a special, the chicken liver mousse. A huge mound of creamy, rich mousse was served with several slices of buttery grilled bread. A dollop of whole grain mustard and bread and butter pickles helped balance the richness and fattiness of the mousse. This dish was certainly decadent but delicious!
We've had the burger before at Smallman Galley (which was delicious), so we thought we'd branch out and try the Korean fried chicken sandwich. The fried chicken was covered in a sweet barbecue sauce and topped with kimchi, pickles, and remoulade. The fried chicken had soaked up a lot of the sauce and could have been a litter crispier, but the barbecue sauce was so delicious that we didn't really mind. We would have loved a little more spiciness to balance the overall sweet and creamy flavors, but we still really enjoyed the sandwich.
We also had to get an order of fries – these things are legendary. They're triple-fried, addicting, and some of the crispiest you'll ever have anywhere.
Michigan & Trumbull
This stall focuses on Detroit-style pizza which has a thicker crust that's baked in a square or rectangle pan so that the edges and bottom get really crispy. The cheese is generally right on top of the dough, with the other toppings and sauce on top of that.
We loved the flavor of the dough here. It was also thick without being too dense and heavy, in fact it was rather light for such a thick crust. The edges were quite crispy while we would have loved if the bottom was even crispier for a nice solid crunch the whole way through.
On Detroit-style pizzas, cheese is definitely the star, and the pies at Michigan & Trumbull are spot on in this regard. The cheese on these pies was salty, rich, and buttery and was beautifully browned in a few spots. We got the St. Aubin Sausage pizza which had broccoli and little crumbles of fennel sausage that had a little spice kick. A scoop of thick, well-seasoned tomato sauce was in the center of each piece.
If you like your pizzas extra saucy, Detroit style may not be for you. But if you appreciate delicious crust and really great cheese, you definitely need to check this place out.
Pricing note: Michigan & Trumbull's pizzas run from $13-$17 each which is a bit of a premium for an 8″x10″ pizza. That being said, in our first five visits to Federal Galley we ate at Michigan & Trumbull three times- so we very clearly can get beyond this detail.
Guapo opened at Federal Galley in mid-2019 with a focus on New Mexican style dishes inspired by the chef's former home- meaning this concept has heavy use of stewed or braised meats and chilis to name a few.
The menu here offers an array of dishes like made-to-order guac, loaded nachos, and the burro- a monstrous burrito filled with your choice of meat, paitas fritas (fried potatoes), and covered with red or green chile. Naturally, I had to order the burro.
I opted for a smothered version of the burro with carne adovada (pork cooked with New Mexican chilies and spices) and covered with their X-MAS sauce (red and green chile split 50/50) to try a bit of it all. For a burrito, the $15 price tag was a bit steep, but the order was large enough for two meals leftover which I can always appreciate even if the size is the definition of excessive. (During my first visit, two separate people came by and their jaws dropped when they saw how big it was. I think this will be a common occurrence.)
As the two main ingredients of this gigantic burrito are pork and potatoes, you can imagine that a burrito the size of your head is loaded up with the ingredients, and it most certainly was. In fact, my burro was quite heavy in the meat such that when it was all broken down it almost felt like a carne adovada dish on its own with the remaining tortilla, potatoes, chile, and sour cream as a side. Naturally, this lets the delicious flavors of the meat shine through to highlight the chef's skill with the meats.
Will I get the gigantic burrito again? Probably not unless going with a big group. But I am looking forward to sampling more of the chef's meats all the same. Just hopefully in a bit small of an entree next time around!
Which Came First
Which Came First is the first of the second class of concepts to call Federal Galley home, and is all about chicken and egg dishes!
The meals here are build-your-own style which include a selection of Which Came First (chicken or egg), a Nest (potato bun, wrap, salad), and a style ranging from The General (General Tso's) to Nashville Hot- lending to a number of combination choices to try.
During our first visit we got to try a Nashville hot with fried chicken tenders on a potato bun, which was a classic iteration to a hot chicken sandwich. This one relies purely on the dry rub to provide the heat, and while it doesn't look spicy on the surface, the sandwich offered up a surprising amount of heat. Couple that with generous chicken tender sizes and you have the makings of a really good meal.
We opted to pair the sandwich with a side of onion rings which were tempura battered and offered up a rather thick, doughy crust- almost like you'd expect for a funnel cake over an onion ring.
With a number of combinations to try, we are looking forward to sampling our way through this menu very soon!
Go for a Drink at the Bar at Federal Galley
In addition to the four chefs at Federal Galley, the restaurant is home to a standalone bar that features 30 draft beers (a majority from Pennsylvania), craft cocktails, a rotating country-based cocktail menu, and wine on draft.
The bar is in a unique space that was previously a bank vault that was opened up to allow patrons to order drinks on both sides. This is a novel feature you don't see at too many restaurants and is a really beautiful design.
After opening week kinks the restaurant added set lines on either side of the bar for patrons to get drinks in an orderly fashion (needed during their 4:30 to 6:30 happy hour that is 50% off everything), so be sure to look through the bar to judge the line on the other side- it very much could be a faster option!
As far as the cocktails are concerned, we sampled all of the ones from their special menu which at the time of opening featured ingredients from the Philippines. If you want mixers such as ube (purple yam), lychee, pandan, or jackfruit these ones are must-tries.
Our personal favorite from the first batch was the Luya, featuring Maggie's Farm white rum, coconut rum, Aperol, ginger, lychee, and lime as it had a nice balance of flavors without being too sweet like some of the others. We really could drink this one all the time!
Overall, aside from the opening kinks of getting drinks in a relatively fast period of time, Federal Galley has a fine bar that lives up to the standard set by their sister restaurant Smallman Galley- just the way we like it.
The Incubators are Taking Over
Up until this point we've resisted the urge to compare any of the chefs to those at Smallman Galley.
It isn't a stretch for us to say that Smallman Galley is one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh. In fact, we are considering making it our #1 restaurant after the second class of chefs maintained the high quality we loved about the first class.
The concept of the incubator restaurant is unique, thrilling, and something we're proud to have originate in Pittsburgh. (Our stack of receipts from our many visits for this review reflects this sentiment.)
Federal Galley takes this concept, runs with it, and knocks it out of the park with a bigger and more inviting space in the North Side that we look forward to frequenting many times in the future.
Federal Galley is located at 200 Children's Way in the North Side, within the Nova Place building on the west side of Commons Square. There are a few metered parking spots on Children's Way and significantly more along the Commons Square that we park in when visiting.