There was a time when we’d have expressed surprise that a scion of the Eat’n Park family had opened an upscale-casual grocery with attached restaurant and bar. But over the past decade, the Broadhursts’ growing portfolio of concepts, including Six Penn, The Porch and Hello Bistro, has made it clear that the local First Family of family dining is about more than smiley-face cookies and corporate catering.
Working on his own, Brooks Broadhurst has brought something distinctive to the Beverly Road micro-district in Mount Lebanon: a small gourmet grocery with butcher shop adjacent to a full-service restaurant. And when we say “adjacent,” we don’t just mean side by side; the connected interiors are indicative of the closely intertwined goals of procuring and cooking good food. In the shop, we spotted a number of our favorite ingredients from the specialty stores of the Strip District and other local purveyors, while the restaurant makes use of the same stock of carefully sourced meats, including Jamison Farms, sold a few feet away in the butcher shop.
The space, a former service station, provided a blessed respite from barn wood. Instead, rustic notes came from exposed roof joists, offsetting austere white walls and glossy, deep-gray steel. Tufted upholstered banquettes and honey-toned wood signaled that the space was meant to feel warm and comfortable, not formal. Tucked into a back corner, a cozy glass-walled private dining room made us want to crash someone else’s holiday party.
As the tiny grocery is carefully curated, so is the restaurant menu, created by Christian Schulz, formerly of Root 174, among others. The influence of Root’s chef/owner Keith Fuller was apparent in the straightforward, but not simple, seasonal American fare. The menu was brief but broad, with everything from mussels and wings to carbonara and vegan pilaf. For lunch there are a variety of sandwiches, but only the house burger, available in beef or lamb, also pulls the evening shift.
It was pretty close to a perfect burger and worth the slightly steep price. The beef met our high expectations, with a slightly fine grind that was also hearty, cooked to a beautiful color and crust. Topping it was thick yet crisp bacon, arugula, tomato, onion jam and blue cheese. The jam was sweet, exactly enough to balance the savory burger, smoky bacon and intense cheese. The shoestring-style fries alongside were extraordinary as well, as delicious as their fast-food kin but with more color and varied texture.
A roasted-beet salad also included roasted baby carrots. Even though both are sweet root vegetables, they managed to provide pleasing contrast, with the former more frankly sweet and the latter more plainly earthy. Tarragon vinaigrette enlivened and united the vegetables and arugula — a peppery counter to the starchy roots — without drowning the salad in dressing flavor; whipped goat cheese added tang and velvety texture.
Wings were a bit less successful. Although the menu described a dry rub, the roasted wingettes came coated in something rather more like tea: dark, flavorful flakes that were tasty, but frankly a bit much for the mild meat. The accompanying smoked-apple barbecue sauce, on the other hand, was a terrific riff on traditional smoky-sweet barbecue sauce, lending an outdoor, barbecued flavor to meat cooked in a kitchen.
Interestingly, lamb chops weren’t Frenched (the traditional preparation by which the long bone is exposed). Instead, a tapering “tail” of fat with a bit of meat was left intact. At first this seemed an odd choice, but the fat took on multiple textures, from fire-crisped edges to soft, succulent interior. It bathed the meat, already excellent, with richness.
Meanwhile, the accompanying side was wonderful: gnudi — little gnocchi — with fennel, leeks and sage, bacon, lamb sausage and pesto. This could really be an entrée of its own, with the meats serving almost as condiments for the pasta and shredded vegetables. With the chop unadorned, these complex flavors gave our palates something to think about between bites of the delicious lamb.
Skate wing is a unique offering, but Block 292’s preparation made us wonder why it isn’t served more often. Pan-fried, but not battered, the meat had a buttery, browned exterior and moist, succulent center. And as with the lamb chop, the sides almost stole the show: perfectly grilled cauliflower, a short stack of tender sweet-potato slices, and savory crumbles of sausage mornay.
Block 292 is a top-notch destination for sophisticated yet uncomplicated food suitable to a date, a family dinner or a celebration.