All Matt Christie wants to do is cook. The mind and co-owner behind Streets on Carson has never wanted to do anything else.
Christie set his sights on being a chef as a teenager, picking up his first shift on a line as soon as he was old enough, and eventually attending the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. At 22, he had his first executive position and continued bouncing around small, independently-owned kitchens, until three and a half years ago when he opened Streets on Carson with his wife, Lauren Leon.
Opening a table-service restaurant wasn’t the original plan; the husband and wife team were looking to run a food truck. Because food truck regulations are incredibly strict, the two turned to restaurant ownership instead. After passing a “For Sale” sign in the window of a Carson Street storefront, the duo purchased the space and transformed it into a hub for international food.
“Now,” Christie says, “I’m running 15-20 food trucks in one restaurant.”
On a short menu, Christie travels the world. Right now, there are dishes from Venezuela, Italy, Pakistan, and Turkey on the list (and of course, a few from Pittsburgh). The chef, who has never been as far as California, let alone Europe, spends hours researching dishes and traditions, in hopes of putting out authentic representations of international cuisine.
He picks his dishes from markets around the world, homing in on dishes that are “cool and hot,” or that someone’s grandmother is blogging about. Christie, who used to pride himself on owning just two cookbooks, is now reliant on books, spice websites, and recipes to learn about the flavors of a culture. It’s hard to miss the commitment he gives to understanding the cultural and culinary significance of street food.
Christie, who comes from a fine dining background, never thought he’d be slinging sandwiches all day, especially not in his own restaurant. But it’s clear from the regulars that return two or three times a week that Christie’s wild, 15-restaurants-in-one idea worked. Streets on Carson is what Pittsburgh needed: a place for top-notch, approachable plates that keep the adventure coming.