When Andrea Robinson travels below the Mason-Dixon Line, she doesn’t buy souvenirs — she returns to Pittsburgh with only memories of good food and friendly people.
The Mt. Washington native will share that Southern hospitality next month when she opens Sugar and Smoke in Bloomfield.
Located on Liberty Avenue in a building that once housed Del’s Bar & Ristorante, the eatery will feature traditional dishes that define the South, such as slow-smoked brisket, lobster po’ boys, crab cakes, fried green tomato sandwiches and étouffée.
Robinson, whose job in the chemical manufacturing industry sent her around the world, fell in love with Southern cuisine while working in Texas and the Carolinas. She felt that her fellow Pittsburghers would appreciate the warm, comforting and flavorful meals on a cold winter’s day.
Using locally sourced ingredients, chef Charles “Chaz” Smith will prepare modern spins on down-home favorites, including grilled vegetable jambalaya.
“Vegans can come here and leave here full and happy,” Robinson says.
In addition to lunches, dinners and decadent desserts, Sugar and Smoke will serve brunch on Saturdays and offer in-house catering.
There are two main dining rooms, a downstairs banquet hall, a lounge for more intimate gatherings, plus a patio with outdoor seating and a spacious bar that will specialize in Southern-style cocktails. Two additional floors will give Robinson the freedom to eventually expand her business. Gary White, of Savoy Restaurant & Wine Bar in the Strip District, will help her in that endeavor by serving as director of sales.
Among Robinson’s plans: She hopes to open an off-site bakery called Sugar Pie — the nickname given to her six-year-old daughter, Morgan. The pint-sized foodie, whose favorite snack is sushi, is the inspiration behind Sugar and Smoke.
She’ll be helping her mom dish out good eats during Little Italy Days in Bloomfield on Aug. 16-19. The event will give Robinson a chance to meet (and feed) her new neighbors before the restaurant’s grand opening on September 8.
For years, Robinson dreamed of owning a restaurant, but couldn’t find the right space. When a vacant spot popped up in Bloomfield — where her grandmother has lived for many years — she knew it was meant to be. Opening a Southern kitchen in the heart of Little Italy might seem odd to some people, but Robinson believes Sugar and Smoke is the perfect addition to the neighborhood.
“Bloomfield is evolving,” she says. “There’s a Japanese place down the street, a few Thai places. This town is transitioning into a different era and accommodating many different tastes for many different people.”