Threadbare Cider House in the North Side is the brainchild of the folks at Wigle Whiskey, arguably Pittsburgh's most famous local distiller.
When wanting to branch out into a new venture, the owners stumbled upon the history of Johnny Appleseed (or John Chapman by his real name)- a rather eccentric fellow who, in the late-1700s/early-1800s, wandered around the region, preached conservation and planted nurseries to be tended to by locals (giving rise to the modern legend), and spreading the gospel far and wide.
Some stories of his travels had him based near Pittsburgh for a while (possibly even during the famous Whiskey Rebellion that Wigle proudly promotes), and when the owners realized this the idea for Threadbare came to life. Fast forward a few years, and they are now ramping up production of fine ciders made with locally sourced apples and are serving them at their North Side production facility along with stellar artisan pizzas.
Shortly before opening, our friends at Wigle gave us a call and invited us down to try out their menu- and sample the menu we did. Between three separate visits we had just about everything they offer!
Threadbare Cider Offers Stellar Products
At the time of opening, Threadbare had three ciders available that were all strikingly different from each other.
The dry was more wine-like in its character, and offered relatively crisp apple flavors with minimal sweetness.
The farmhouse was the most traditional with a moderate sweetness (Threadbare describes it as off-dry) and is the kind of cider you could drink all day. If you've had any hard cider before, this is probably the closest match despite being far less sugary (allowing the apple flavor to come out more- a good thing).
Finally, you go a bit further down the rabbit hole with the Wild, a limited release. This one is spontaneously fermented and more like something you'd find at Strange Roots Experimental Ales (formerly Draai Laag) rather than a conventional cider house.
This is what makes Threadbare a bit different in the cider scene as they are focusing on all kinds of experimentation- be it for the right yeast with the right apple varietal, adding hops to add subtle nuances, aging cider in bourbon barrels, to letting things happen spontaneously with the Wild.
Suffice it to say, this means that their menu will change often, which gives you a number of reasons to return as the weeks and months go by.
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Going further, if straight cider is not your thing Threadbare has a cocktail menu that mixes their delicious creations with Wigle's spirits, producing combinations unlike anything we've had before. They also have a great local beer list that showcases some of the wonderful breweries found all over Pennsylvania.
If it is on the menu, go for the Johnny's Flannel cocktail. It is made with their farmhouse cider, Wigle's wheat whiskey, chai tea, lemon, brown sugar, and bitters. It is quite possibly the best cocktail we've had with Wigle's products to date- and we drink their creations often.
The Artisan Pizza is Worth the Visit Alone
If the cider was not enough to get you down to Threadbare, their pizzas are sure to do the trick.
The pizzas here are personal sized (12″ round) and focus on seasonal toppings loaded up on perfectly cooked crust. In fact, if we ignore the toppings for a minute we would eat these pizzas for the crust alone which is about as high praise as we can give as far as Pittsburgh pizza menus are concerned.
In the fall their topping combinations included a pie with charred fennel, peach, preserved lemon, mozzarella, and brie, while another was topped with roasted apple, bacon, grilled red onion, mozzarella, and sage cream.
Yeah, they're kind of like that.
These artisan pies do come at a premium when compared to other similarly sized counterparts in the region, but when you have flavor combinations like these we think it's worth it. And as much as we want to try one of their “pick your own” creations, it's hard to say no the specialty pies on the chef-curated menu.
If you're not hungry for a whole pizza, there are a few other things to nibble on like meat and cheese platters. The meat platter comes with a pate, coppa secca, and genovetta, along with a grainy mustard and a delicious spicy chili jam. A mix of local and international cheeses can be found on the cheese plate which on our visit showcased a barrel-aged Bulgarian feta, truffled pecorino, Goat Rodeo's Chickabiddy, and Clover Creek's Pirate Blue.
Both the meat and cheese platters come with homemade crackers which are the star of the tray (and yes, we're calling the crackers the star of meat and cheese platters). They are brilliantly made using spent grain from the whiskey making process from Wigle and are thin, crispy, flaky, and very addicting!
You won't find that anywhere else!
Brunch is Worth a Return Visit
Another surprising and delicious feature at Threadbare is Sunday brunch. At first we wondered if it would be weird to eat pizza for brunch, but a few bites in and we realized it was ingenious.
The pizza menu at brunch still had the spicy tomato pizza found on their dinner menu, but it swaps out the other pizzas for more brunch themed ones- a potato scramble pizza and a roasted apple pizza. We absolutely loved the roasted apple pizza with impossibly thin slices of sweet-tart apples, gooey mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, creamy scrambled eggs, and a sprinkle of fresh thyme.
If you're not in the mood for pizza at brunch, the meat and cheese platters also appear on the brunch menu, as well as a sweet Dutch baby pancake that's eggy and rich with a dollop of whipped cream and nutmeg- a perfect breakfast treat if there ever was one. We'd order this one more, but the pizzas are just too good to resist.
There are a few special brunch drinks as well, including Threadbare's take on a mimosa and a Bloody Mary (containing cider, of course) in addition to their standard menu items that are available at all hours.
For those who have read our reviews you'll already know that we aren't the biggest Bloody Mary fans out there, but we can certainly appreciate this one for being different.
We'll stick to a morning cider cocktail, thanks!
The Plans for the Future Have Us Intrigued
We would be remiss if we talked about Threadbare and did not make a note about some of the plans they have for the future, as this new spot is not settling for traditional ciders alone!
In 2018 Threadbare is planning to roll out a vast mead menu as well as more barrel aged ciders (to name a few). So while their menu may seem to be a bit small right after opening, it is going to expand significantly very, very soon!
You can be assured we'll be the regulars when that happens.
Threadbare Cider House is located at 1291 Spring Garden Avenue in the North Side, just a few blocks further down from Wigle's Barrelhouse. We were invited to Threadbare Cider House by our friends at Wigle Whiskey for a veritable feast. As always, all opinions are our own.