Legume broadens appeal with "ridiculously cheap" lunch specials | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Legume broadens appeal with "ridiculously cheap" lunch specials

"We're trying to feel out how to have a really nice-valued lunch, always."

Lunch crew at Legume
Lunch crew at Legume

If you think Legume is a place to leisurely enjoy a grass-fed flank steak with parsley butter, you're not wrong. However, chef Trevett Hooper also wants you to consider dropping into his North Oakland eatery for a quick burger for lunch. "Moo Madness" — the restaurant's self-described "ridiculously cheap" March lunch special — features three courses for $9. And plans to beef up the restaurant's lunch presence won't end there.

Legume is often a dining destination for Pittsburgh foodies, thanks to a menu that changes daily and centers on seasonality and high-end ingredients. Labor-intensive preparations and quality sourcing, however, sometimes leave Hooper "uneasy" with the cost the restaurant must charge for dinner. (Medium plates frequently start around $20.)

While Hooper spent his younger years "just trying to get people to think [he was] an awesome chef," he says that his goals have shifted. "I just want to help people eat better, and that's hard to do in a fine-dining context," Hooper explains. The question he's now asking himself is, "How can Legume be a part of people's daily lives?"

Offering a more affordable lunch was one answer. Though the restaurant began serving lunch (weekdays 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.) in September, business was "a little sluggish," says Hooper. "We just needed to give people [another] reason to come."  

March brought in the current "Moo Madness" special — and a big bump in business. The special includes a soup or salad appetizer, a choice of four entrees (a burger, pasta special, pierogies and sausage, and another daily veggie special) and dessert. The "Moo" is a play on the variety of cow-based products served: grass-fed beef, house-made beef kielbasa and local cheeses.

If you can't make it to Legume before the end of March, plans are underway for another lunch special through April, with yet another playful theme. Legume also plans to begin offering $5 kids' lunches in the summer months.

"We're trying to feel out how to have a really nice-valued lunch, always," says Hooper. "[It's] about community-building, and really reaching people in the neighborhood."

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