In the online food magazine, Eater, writer Amy McKeever profiles chef Kevin Sousa’s ambitious plans to open Superior Motors in a 3000-square-foot former car dealership in the heart of Braddock.
McKeever’s in-depth feature, If You Build It, Will They Come?, provides updates on the restaurant’s highly anticipated opening and profiles Sousa and his background. It also highlights concurrent community initiatives occurring in Braddock and provides context for Superior Motors in terms of other community developments taking place in nearby neighborhoods such as Garfield, Homestead and Lawrenceville.
In January 2014, Superior Motors made Kickstarter history when it successfully raised $300,000—an amount of restaurant seed money unprecedented in the history of the popular online crowdfunding site.
Envisioned as a “community restaurant & farm ecosystem” that will include a community discount, free lodging for employees and a culinary job training program for Braddock residents, the high-concept, multi-component Superior Motors is located at the end of Braddock Ave. and designed to provide a panoramic view of the town’s operational Edgar Thomson steel mill.
Winner of a James Beard Foundation Award in the Mid-Atlantic category, Sousa has been celebrated locally and nationally for spearheading Salt of the Earth along Penn Ave., where he partnered with the Garfield Community Farm, agreeing to buy all the farm’s produce and helping the struggling organization become self-sustaining.
The McKees Rocks native plans to apply a similar community-based approach to Superior Motors. Most of the restaurant’s produce and meat will be sourced locally. There will be a greenhouse on the roof and a plot of land run by Grow Pittsburgh will provide about 75 percent of the produce. Sousa will use honey from an apiary located behind the former convent next door, which is now a hostel run by the nonprofit Braddock Redux.
“When I saw the mill coming off the bridge, I fell in love immediately,” Sousa recalled of his first visit to Braddock. Within a few hours of arriving, he told Mayor John Fetterman that he wanted to open a restaurant there. Struck by the vibrancy of the local community center, and the spirit of the Free Store which provides food and clothing to Braddock residents, Sousa also knew that if he did open a restaurant, it would have to be a socially responsible one whose ambitions went far beyond the kind of community involvement he’d incorporated into his earlier projects in Pittsburgh. Under Fetterman’s leadership, Braddock has seen the opening of urban farms, art galleries and a brewery; crime has gone down, and nonprofits are teaching work and life skills to Braddock’s students and youth.
The long-term goal is for 75 to 80 percent of the Superior Motors staff to be from the Braddock area, but Sousa knows that won’t be possible at first. That’s where the culinary job training program comes in. There will be six spots available in the program to start and interest is high: 100 applications already and offers from chefs around the country to help with training. For employees or students who need housing, the convent hostel next door is providing free rooms, while Braddock Redux recently bought up another property where employees can stay for free.
Though Superior Motors is aiming to become a destination for food obsessives from Pittsburgh — and perhaps beyond — Sousa is also hoping to draw diners closer to home. He promises that income should never be a factor in a Braddock resident’s ability to dine there and that Superior Motors will offer a discount of some kind to every resident of the town — at least 50 percent off or maybe a pay-what-you-can scheme. Either way, Sousa’s goal for Superior Motors isn’t just for it to employ the people of Braddock but to serve them, too.
“I don’t think one restaurant can save a town,” Sousa said. “But I think that it can be the start of something that can help a town save itself.”