What do you get when you combine the food hall concept found in East Asia with executive chefs and Pittsburgh's Strip District?
The answer is Smallman Galley, and this addition into Pittsburgh's food scene is going to change the way you look at new restaurants.
The reason? This one features not just one chef, but four.
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The Concept of Smallman Galley
Described as an incubator restaurant, Smallman Galley is focused on helping four chefs take the leap from being executive chefs at local restaurants to becoming business owners- which is accomplished through a number of ways.
The first is the food hall concept. The design of the restaurant is such that each chef works in a micro kitchen out in the open for all to see. Rather than ordering at your table with the chefs hidden in the back kitchen, at Smallman Galley you go up to each stall, check out the menu, and even talk to the chef who is preparing your food.
The second is the training that is involved. The galley is closed on Mondays which is a training day where the chefs learn concepts useful to business owners and to meet with potential investors.
The third is the timeline. Most chefs at Smallman Galley receive a 12-month contract. At the end of the 12 months new chefs will come in, while these chefs head out (hopefully in Pittsburgh) to launch their very own restaurant (however recently a few concepts received extensions so the replacement schedule is more staggered now).
Smallman Galley doesn't end there, as they also feature an incredible bar- with one of the best draft lists for local beer in the city, a coffee corner, and a beautiful restaurant design worthy of the Strip District's rich history.
Naturally, to truly give Smallman Galley a fair shake we had to eat at all four micro restaurants with four large meals and several trips to the restaurant's amazing bar. But rather than separating our reviews out into four articles, we're featuring micro reviews of each here in this not so micro post.
If food could give you a hug, the food at Home would definitely do just that. It's straight up comfort food with a few modern twists thrown in.
The menu has hints of southern influences like the chicken and buttermilk biscuits with pimento cheese grits and pepper jelly, and the fried green tomatoes on top of the pulled pork sandwich.
We opted for the meat and potatoes, which was a saucy short rib ragu that was super tender combined with creamy parmesan gnocchi. Blistered cherry tomatoes provided an acidic counterpoint, and dots of a whipped basil sauce brought the freshness.
Desserts are served in cannning jars and the flavors change daily – on our visit it was their take on a strawberry pretzel salad with a buttery pretzel crust layer topped with a strawberry jello layer, a cheesecake layer, and whipped cream. This dessert is huge, so definitely share it with others!
Before visiting this stall we had heard they were doing Detroit-style pizza- but they are definitely more than just that. Their menu is quite extensive and ranges from pizza to pasta to burgers and wings.
On our visit we went with the pizza and it definitely exceeded our expectations. The style here involves a thick crust that manages to still be light and spongy, with a crispy and buttery coating on the bottom. The dough is par-baked so that you don't have to wait an hour for your pizza – in fact, it came out within minutes on our visit.
We tried the Red Pie which is topped with a tomato sauce that is thick and tends toward more of a tomato paste flavor, along with brick cheese and parmesan cheese that lend a nutty flavor and when melted were reminiscent of cheddar. And as if that wasn't mouthwatering enough, crispy slices of Parma pepperoni topped it all off.
The concept at Banhmilicious is that you pick your protein (pork, beef, tofu, meatballs, chicken) and then whether you want it on a banh mi sandwich, in tacos, over rice, or over noodles.
On our visit we tried the lemongrass pork banh mi with ginger salad, and an order of spring rolls. The banh mi suffered from a severe lack of meat and toppings on the sandwich. The pieces of pork that I did find were tender with hints of sweet lemongrass (with really good flavor) – we just wish there was a lot more for the price.
The spring rolls were a better choice filled with lots of crunchy veggies, fresh mint leaves, pork, and noodles. A sweet, creamy peanut sauce was served on the side for dipping.
The drinks were also hit or miss. The lychee fresca was basically a lemon lime soda with a few pieces of lychee dropped in the bottom, meaning the lychee flavor really wasn't there. We did love the Vietnamese coffee, though, as it was rich, creamy, and sweet- perfect on a hot day.
We're hoping that our visit was an outlier and will head back to try the banh mi again as well as some of the other options.
Ba-Co opened at Smallman Galley in early 2019 and focuses on artisan tacos that are one-part street food and one-part barbecue.
This means you can get gems like Not Your Grandma's (topped with southern hot chicken, honey and garlic slaw, pimento cheese, and red onions) and the Trail Blazer (smoked pork belly, street corn, chili lime aioli, onion, queso fresco, and creme frech) on a single plate.
The portions are large (overflowing with toppings, really) and, to be quite honest, rather delicious with well-balanced flavors that you can tell have been thought out and tested many times over. On our first visit the only slight complaints we had was that the southern hot chicken was labeled as spicy, but had virtually no heat, and at $12 for two you are indeed paying a premium compared to conventional tacos- but are compensated for their generous sizes and unique flavor profiles.
Looking forward to trying more from this one soon!
An Incredible Addition to Pittsburgh's Restaurant Scene
After this recent round of visits, we have to say that Smallman Galley is quickly making its way onto our list of all-around favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh.
An awesome happy hour (half off all drinks), a fantastic local draft beer list, creative and delicious food, lots of variety so that there's something for everyone, and a buzzing atmosphere make this spot one of our go-to's for a fun night out, weekend brunch, or entertaining out of town guests.
It should be yours, too.