But when I broke into my take-out box, there was no pizza in sight. It was more of a slice-inspired sandwich. The burger, topped by a single leaf of basil and melted provolone cheese, was stacked between a focaccia bun smeared with San Marzano tomato sauce. It had all of the expected elements of pizza — sauce, cheese, and crust — just with the added bonus of a perfectly-cooked, medium-rare burger.
It blew my expectations away. The smear of a tomato sauce full of herbs was a welcome change from sugary condiments, replacing my usual need for ketchup. It wasn’t too sweet and cut through the rich beef burger with a slight touch of acid. Provolone lifted the heartier elements of the sandwich with a buttery hint of salt, but wasn’t overbearing. The thin swipe of sauce was still detectable through layers of meat and cheese.
However, it was the divergence from a typical burger bun that made the dish exceptional. The fluffy focaccia added a light, open texture similar to actual pizza dough (I found it reminiscent of Pizza Hut’s signature bubble-filled crust), which sold me on the fusion.
Cannon and Cecil, founders of Mindful Hospitality Group, opened St. Clair Social in the beginning of August, starting with cocktails — which, no surprise coming from two longtime city bartenders, were delicious — and slowly filling out a food menu. Their now-full bill of dishes, created by chef Will Randall, feature creative takes on classic pub fare. Along with the burger, I got two classic pizza pairings, wings and barria tacos.
The wings sported a delicious, spicy ranch dry rub. Their aroma kicked with more spice than the rub itself, which blended a dill-forward ranch with a subtle, pleasant heat. The tacos were another menu surprise, flattened in a similar way to quesadillas or a rolled-out taquito. They were filled with a two-day braised, tender pork shoulder, cheese, onion, and cilantro. A dip into braising juices (like a French dip sandwich) and a spoonful of salsa added a bright, savory end to each bite.
Cannon and Usher designed their new spot to bring an old-school, community feel to a beloved Friendship space (previously home to Sharp Edge), yet the food is anything but outdated. Just take the pizza burger, for example — St. Clair Social is bringing a fun, new life to classic pub food.
St. Clair Social. 302 S. St. Clair St., Friendship/East Liberty. stclairsocialpgh.com