Last Updated on December 17, 2020 by Jeremy
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If you pay attention to restaurant opening news like we do, odds are good you've been anticipating Fig & Ash in the North Side for quite some time. This restaurant was on the books for over 3 1/2 years before finally opening for business in late 2020.
In that time they won Pittsburgh's Sandwich Sampler event not once, but twice (one of which we were fortunate enough to try), received a fair bit of press coverage, and even gutted the entirety of the restaurant space to make way for their indoor fire pit.
Naturally, we went to this one the day it opened for lunch, we liked that so much we went back for lunch again the next week, and when they finally opened for dinner reservations a short time later we returned for a third time to check out that portion of the menu as well.
Fig & Ash Delivers on Their Wood Fired Dishes
Our first two visits to Fig & Ash were to check out their lunch menu, which featured an array of well-priced sandwiches (including a killer Cubano, Philly cheesesteak, etc), barbacoa tacos, and rotating soups which were among the best we've had in the city to name a few. We really could spend a few thousand words talking about these, but as they are not on the menu for the foreseeable future we will skip straight to our visit for dinner.
On the surface, Fig & Ash's dinner menu reads a lot like many modern American restaurants in the city which changes seasonally and features starters of soups, vegetable dishes, and others like risotto or mussels.
The mains here, in our experience with the menu so far at least, is meat-forward- often with a pork chop, steak, lamb, and seafood dish always being present and possibly one vegetable main. As such, while vegetarians may not go hungry here, the options may be much more limited than in other places. If you are a meat lover, on the other hand, you will be quite pleased.
We started out our dinner with an order of roasted pumpkin soup and mussels- both roasted on the hearth prior to serving. The pumpkin was pureed and served with smoked maple and red curry syrup and a toasted pepita crema on top that offered a wealth of rich flavors with some nice nuance from the syrup thrown into the mix. The mussels came with a roasted leek cream, smoked bacon, and a roasted garlic crostini that hits you straight up with its richness.
It is worth noting that we had equally positive comments on the two other soups we had when ordering lunches from here, and as such we will never, ever miss ordering a soup if one is available. They're that good.
For our mains, we opted to split the tomahawk pork chop and slow-roasted lamb shoulder from Jamison Farm.
The pork chop was a double chop served medium rare (perfectly cooked the entire way through) on a bed of mashed roasted yam with maple and chipotle, broccolini, and topped with pickled peaches. We're suckers for a perfectly cooked pork chop at the best of times, but the rich meat was balanced quite well with the tartness of the peaches and the sweetness of the yams- a true fall dish if there ever was one.
For the lamb shoulder, we had a feeling this dish would be on the smaller end based on its price point (nearly $10 less than the chop and from one of the finest producers in the region), and we were correct in that assumption. This was slow-roasted, shredded, and served on a light pasta with stewed greens and feta. If there is any way to do true justice to Jamison Farm's lamb, it is over a wood fire, and the pairing with pasta made this a delectable dish despite its smaller size relative to other dishes here. As such, it paired well with the monster pork chop as a duo.
The meal was finished with a toasted cardamom creme brulee topped with pickled blueberries. It was of fairly generous size, not shy on the cardamom flavor, and had a nice kick of tartness from the berries that somehow worked well together. However, on our next visit we hope to pick up the wood-fired cobbler because, well, we can't get enough of the wood-fired cooked items here!
The only real downside from our meal came from the cocktails- if only because a few that we tried felt slightly out of balance on the flavors (the Smoke in Mirrors specifically was a bit too heavy on the lemon and threw off the flavors from the smokey Laphroig and lapsang tea).
We almost switched to wine to accompany the entrees, but we took another chance on one, C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E, which is made with Carpano bitters, mezcal, sweet vermouth, coffee bitters, milk washed (for a mouthfeel, not flavor), and served in a glass that is smoked table-side. It is one part show, one part on-brand for the wood-fired restaurant, and every bit delicious if you love a nice smokey cocktail.
Overall, we walked away from Fig & Ash in awe at how delicious the menu was. Not just at lunch the first time, or the second time, but dinner as well. The wood-fired cooking style here is most certainly noticeable in every dish, including the limited vegetarian options (and even the glorious soups), and is exactly what is needed to elevate this one above and beyond other modern American restaurants you may be used to.
Consider us fans, and we will be back again for more very, very soon. Fig & Ash was more than worth the wait.
Fig & Ash is located at 514 E Ohio Street in the North Side.
For more restaurants in the North Side, click the previous link to check out our neighborhood guide!