It won’t be long now before Pittsburgh can enjoy a slice of comfort from the much-anticipated Pie for Breakfast, the most recent project from the Good Faith Restaurant Group. Trevett and Sarah Hooper, of Legume and Butterjoint, have been patiently and mostly quietly working away at the new venue for a couple of years, and the space has the drywall to prove it.
“The food is ultra American, but the style of service might be more ‘European coffee shop,’” says Trevett Hooper, gesturing to the bones of the bar. The space is beginning to take shape; there are booths, a couple of window tables and a small kitchen with an open pass that will keep the restaurant cozy, yet lively. “Our first location was really small and cozy, too. It’s a feel that I really like,” says Hooper.
That vibrant, welcoming atmosphere is something Hooper and his team are working to cultivate in both the space and the food. Of all Hooper’s years in the industry, his favorite job as a cook was working breakfast. “I remember there was one guy who came in [while I was working breakfast] who was really far along in his cancer treatment, and he used to come in every day with his Périgord truffles. I would shave a whole truffle into his scrambled eggs. That was a really cool thing,” says Hooper. “There’s something cool about breakfast. You don’t get that in a fine-dining situation; there’s a distance. The more I do food, the more I cook, I kind of realize that that’s what I care about the most — connecting, nourishing people.”
The menu for Pie isn’t just breakfast: It will encompass traditional American home cooking, with service all day. “I think the name ‘Pie for Breakfast’ is a little misleading. I think a lot of people are thinking just breakfast joint. But really, it’s full service,” says Hooper.
In order to handle the demands of menu development and production, while also honoring the ethos of whole-animal butchery, Hooper recently hired a new in-house butcher, Jason Wilcox, to work with long-time sous chef and in-house butcher Mary Weber.
“Opening Pie for Breakfast gives us an opportunity to use more of our farmers’ products — things we didn’t really have use for in the past,” says Weber. “Like pig’s legs — we can use for ham. It frees us up to help them out, and [it] also lowers our costs, so we can offer something that’s more affordable for the neighborhood folks.”
Having Wilcox butchering for Legume, Butterjoint and Pie for Breakfast will also allow Weber more time for other culinary projects that diners can expect to try, like tempeh. “I never thought I’d be developing recipes with mold,” she says. “Having Jason is awesome. It frees me up to let me resume my sous chef role. He brings a lot to the table.”
Wilcox, formerly of Avedano’s Meats in San Francisco, trained in Western Massachusetts and has spent six years as a butcher, moving up the ranks from production to head butcher. He met Hooper through a former employee who was training at Avedano’s, and when Hooper and his wife moved to Pittsburgh, he decided to join the team. “Coming from a whole-butchery background, it was important to me to continue whole-animal usage,” says Wilcox.
He and Weber will be sitting down weekly to discuss Pie’s menu and are already testing recipes for scrapple, ham loaf and chipped ham. “It’s going to be interesting for me personally doing the product development, because [the Pittsburgh area] is a region I’m not familiar with. I’d never heard of chipped ham before,” Wilcox says. “We’re working on new breakfast-sausage recipes and cottage bacon, which is something that’s sort of fallen by the wayside in the U.S.”
He is interested in “recipes and flavors that have been forgotten in the industrialization of food.” Cottage bacon, for instance, comes from the shoulder instead of the belly of the pig, and scrapple, a loaf-like sausage, uses pork scraps and trimmings. In-house butchering means Pie can make more from their meats, while also providing traditional Pennsylvania foods.
In keeping with the cozy American feeling, Pie’s beverage menu will be focused on craft beer and coffee and espresso. Hooper is excited to let Butterjoint bar manager Amanda Schaffner and soon-to-be Pie bar manager Ben Blackmore, whom he calls “total beer nerds,” run a fun beer program that will include six packs.
With an enthusiastic staff, recipes in development and Legume and Butterjoint regulars anxious with anticipation, the question of an opening date is pressing. When asked, Hooper playfully yells to his contractor, “Dan, when are we opening?” Both seemed confident for the end of March.