Smallman Galley, an incubator for restaurant start-ups, is welcoming two new chefs to the table.
crumb., Abbigail Hansel’s all-vegan pop-up, made its debut at the Strip District spot on Dec. 1. It will remain one of the food hall’s four on-site eateries for the next month.
Hansel describes the concept as accessible, vegan comfort food, but Pittsburgh’s burgeoning vegan community isn’t her core demographic.
“I’m targeting more people who want to step out of their comfort zone and try new things,” says the 28-year-old chef.
The menu features meatless burgers, such as the Garden Burger with seasonal, pickled veggies, greens, tomato and roasted garlic aioli on a fresh-baked bun. Herbed focaccia-crusted seitan wings are available with a variety of house-made sauces that are spice-filled and flavorful.
Folks with shellfish allergies or who are lactose intolerant can still find something good to eat at crumb. The Shrimp Po’Boy is made with vegan shrimp, lettuce, tomato, pickle and spicy aioli on a baguette.
For dessert, there’s a dairy-free ice cream sandwich on a donut. This tasty selection is a throwback to Relish Co., Hansel’s vegan pastry pop-up, which is on hiatus.
Hansel, who grew up in a transient military family, has been in the food and beverage industry since her high school days, working every job from bartender to barista.
She’s been vegan for more than a decade, but still craves the taste of a cheeseburger. Her kitchen wizardry allows her, and other meat-free ‘burghers, to enjoy the taste without the beef.
The Smallman Galley concept was created in December 2015 by Ben Mantica and Tyler Benson, U.S. Navy lieutenants whose travels abroad allowed them to enjoy different cuisines. They liked the idea of offering customers high-quality food and drink while giving creative chefs a chance to hone their skills.
Fellow military man Tim Dominick is seizing the opportunity.
The marine and master scuba instructor has explored deep, dark ocean caves, but admits that opening a restaurant is more daunting.
Ba-Co, his Southern barbecue-inspired taco joint, will do a yearlong stint at Smallman Galley starting Jan. 8.
“I do a lot of Latin and Mexican-style cooking. I love the flavor combinations,” says Dominick, of Moon Township. “I think it really rounds out the flavor profile of the barbecue. I want people to take a bite and say, ‘This is different. This is special.’”
Ba-Co’s staple menu will feature five tacos, which use house-smoked meats and other locally sourced ingredients. The Texan is a tortilla filled with brisket, Ba-Co barbecue sauce, slaw, yellow peppers and grilled pineapple.
The Trail Blazer boasts pork belly, stress corn with chili lime aioli, pickled red onion, cilantro, mojo, queso fresco and crème fraiche.
All items can be made gluten-free and there is a vegetarian option called Veggin’ Out made with rubbed and roasted cauliflower, sweet beetroot pepper sauce, sultanas, cured red cabbage, honey and confit garlic aioli.
Other dishes include tater tots tossed in Ba-Co’s signature rub and barbecue sauce, caramelized onions and cheese sauce. For brunch lovers, there’s Chicken and Pancakes with hot chicken, apple butter, honey and crème fraiche, all on a fluffy Eastern-style pancake.
Dominick’s grandmother taught him how to get creative in the kitchen. Her guidance led him to bypass a career in marine biology to attend Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh. He went on to work at Ditka’s, the Duquesne Club and the Kimpton Hotel’s The Commoner. He is a member of the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants program and will work to create a zero waste kitchen.
The chef, who hopes to one day become a children’s book illustrator, is excited to give his artistic side free-range at Smallman Galley, where he will be joined by sous chef Carly Allen and pastry chef Robert McGowan.
“Obviously, the best aspect of opening a restaurant is creating something,” he says, “but I’m excited about the team. Without them, I’m absolutely nothing.”