Bar Botanico's menu might be vague and unconventional, but it's helping to fight food waste | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Bar Botanico's menu might be vague and unconventional, but it's helping to fight food waste

click to enlarge PHOTO: BAR BOTANICO
Photo: Bar Botanico
There are no descriptions on the menu at Bar Botanico, the latest restaurant to land on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. Instead, it lists vague outlines of that day's dishes, such as "veggie pizza," then diners provide the server with preferences, aversions, and allergies, before sending the order back to the head chef, Rafael Vencio.

"At Bar Botanico, we specialize in chef-curated meals based on local and seasonal ingredients," the menu reads. "Our kitchen will work around your preferences to create a unique family-style dining experience."

The menu is broken down by sets. For those wishing for a quick snack, there’s a set of three small plates. Hungrier guests can opt for the pizza set (a pie with two small plates) or the dinner set, two small plates and a more traditional entree. (Vegetarian, vegan, and meat-friendly options are available for all.)

Kelsie Sinagra, who owns the eatery with her husband Jeff Walter, says that Vencio’s approach here is similar to the global fusion he’s known for at the popular Filipino-American pop-up, Kanto Kitchen.

During the soft-openings, Vencio was wowing guests with mussels in a coconut curry, with or without pasta depending on the eater’s preferences, and squash soup. A weeknight small-plate featured fried avocado with a spicy aioli, mushroom taquitos, and a delicious sweet potato hand pie.

The unconventional menu is more than just a way to stick out in an already crowded Lawrenceville restaurant scene; it's also a way to fight food waste.

“There’s so much waste in the food industry, which is a huge problem because at the end of the day, chefs just throw away what isn’t sold,” Sinagra says. “[Vencio] came up with a concept to eliminate the amount of waste that’s coming out of the kitchen.”

The bar’s effort to reduce waste doesn’t end with the kitchen; Sinagra and the team behind the bar use a few ingredients from the kitchen to boost cocktails. And just like Vencio’s menu, the bill of drinks reflects the bartender's choice.

During one visit, the bartender’s choice — after asking for spirit preference — was a personal French press of a hot toddy-like cocktail (sipped from a Batman mug). Another was pink with a vodka base, using one of the bar’s many international spirits for a berry boost.

Right now, the cocktail list has only eight drinks. Eventually, Sinagra’s vision for the bar is to feature somewhere between 20 and 25 longstanding drinks, along with a few beers and wines by the glass. The list will offer a mix of classic and original drinks made interesting by their shelves of international spirits; similar to Vencio’s cuisine, Sinagra’s bar has a global influence.

The 45-seat eatery is located on Butler St. in the former home of Taylor’s Custom Cuts. Bar Botanico is open six days a week with a late-night menu (available until the bar closes) and offers brunch on the weekends.

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