After a successful run in East Liberty, the Conflict Kitchen seeks a new home | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

After a successful run in East Liberty, the Conflict Kitchen seeks a new home

The currently Cuban-inspired take-out closes up Aug. 5

Food with a message, at Conflict Kitchen
Food with a message, at Conflict Kitchen

The mouth waters recalling the lechon asado — pork slow-roasted after sitting in a mojo marinade (fresh orange juice, garlic, oregano and onion are key ingredients) — with a cabbage, carrot, cucumber and tomato salad. Delivered within minutes of ordering through the take-out window at East Liberty's Conflict Kitchen, the Cuban-influenced lunch plate costs just $5. 

But you'll want to hurry. The restaurant, which serves a rotating menu of dishes from countries the U.S. is in conflict with, is open only through Sun., Aug. 5. After two years on Highland Avenue, the kitchen is closing its doors until it can find a new spot Downtown. 

Co-director Jon Rubin says the move was sparked by a $25,000 expansion grant awarded earlier this year by the Sprout Fund. 

A project of the Frank-Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, Conflict Kitchen's mission is to encourage conversations about the featured countries. Previous menus have focused on food from Iran, Afghanistan and Venezuela. Each take-out box or wrapper contains snippets of wisdom garnered from interviews from natives of each country. 

 "Food is a great way of introducing people to a culture," Rubin explains. "Food gets right to your gut, to your senses; it bypasses any prejudices and thoughts you have." 

The new location and the timeline for the move are still to be determined. Rubin says he hopes to at least double the traffic the kitchen now sees on Highland, which ranges from 230 to more than 500 people weekly. 

"I think there is a lot of territory to explore," he says. Unlike the adjacent Waffle Shop, another of his business-slash-art projects that closed Saturday after four years, Rubin says the Conflict Kitchen concept hasn't been played out yet. 

"With the Waffle Shop, I felt it was repeating itself and was not quite as unexpected, " he says. "You want to keep people off-balance when you create a work."  

The Conflict Kitchen "has a lot of opportunities to create a more interesting platform for discourse," he says.