When Lola Bistro chef and owner Michael Barnhouse was seeking a name for his latest North Side venture, he drew inspiration from Pittsburgh’s drinking history and from his own family.
The tavern’s name – Leo. – is in honor of his grandfather, Leo “Bull” Handler, an engineer on the USS Ulysses during World War II. To pay homage, Barnhouse not only named the bar after him but also created a logo with his picture.
“The space kind of chose the name for me,” Barnhouse says. “It has this old-world charm and it used to be an old man’s shot-and-a-beer bar … and that was kind of my grandfather.”
Opening today on Allegheny Ave., Leo. offers drinks and a pub fare menu of “interesting twists on classics,” including Nordic Caesar Salad and a Bahn Mi sandwich made with Tasso ham wrapped in dried seaweed. Other small plates include green chili tamales and house-made bresaola with olives. Keeping with the family theme, Barnhouse will even offer a garlic snack mix at the bar — a recipe his mom used to make during the holidays.
“It’s amazing and it pairs perfectly with beer,” he says.
Customers can choose from wines and a range of beers (including a rotation from nearby Allegheny City Brewing Co.), plus a cocktail menu including house-infused vodka concoctions Barnhouse created himself. (The Bloody Margaret is made with porcini vodka and house-made jerky, and the Manchester’s Tea is a mix of rosemary lemon-infused vodka, ginger syrup and tea.)
The space seats roughly 40, with tables placed close together intentionally: “I kind of chose it to be a little tighter,” Barnhouse says. “I really want people to interact more with their neighbors.”
Barnhouse, who serves customers with the mantra, “Community, Service, Humanity,” hopes that Leo. will be a welcome addition to Manchester.
“I really don’t want to gentrify this area at all,” he says. “But having nice amenities is a positive for everyone.”
Leo. doesn’t have a website or social media yet, opting to slowly build an audience by word of mouth. Find them about three blocks up from Heinz Field at the corner of Sheffield St. and Allegheny Ave.