Typically, when you think of Bloomfield you imagine Italian food. But Andrea Robinson wants to dispel that thought, with her new Southern-inspired kitchen and bar, Sugar and Smoke.
Robinson, sole proprietor, told the New Pittsburgh Courier she wanted to “bring Southern cuisine and hospitality to Pittsburgh for the people that can’t or don’t travel.”
She had been looking for a place for a few years, but when she walked into 4428 Liberty Ave., she knew it was the perfect space.
“It just felt right,” Robinson told me.
This building, formerly Del’s Bar and Restaurant, has two dining rooms, a VIP room, outdoor patio and a banquet room downstairs.
Robinson is a Mt. Washington native who returned to Pittsburgh after living in Houston, Texas, for many years as a chemical manufacturer. Although she doesn’t have a background in the restaurant industry, she’s always had a love for good food—especially good Southern food.
“The restaurant is inspired by food I’ve tasted in Charleston, S.C., New Orleans and Houston. We will have a little BBQ, plus fresh fish and seafood from Maryland and Virginia,” Robinson said.
There was a lot of buzz in the city about Sugar and Smoke even before the restaurant ever officially opened its doors. With that in mind, she enlisted the help of local chef, Chaz Smith, to bring her Southern vision to life. Chef Chaz has been in the culinary industry for many years and previously had a restaurant of his own, Chaz and Odette’s, which was located on Baum Blvd.
Before the grand opening, I had a chance to taste many of the menu items—one at a private tasting on Aug. 13 and another time at their VIP/media preview party on Aug. 29. One of my favorite dishes was the meatloaf with Creole gravy. It was hearty and comforting, a great dish for you to try and enjoy this fall.
Another great standout at Sugar and Smoke I tasted was their smoked brisket. The brisket is slow smoked for about 13 hours and has a coffee rub on the outside. I really liked it, even though I generally hate coffee. The smoked brisket at Sugar and Smoke is tender, juicy, and flavorful.
September 15 was the official grand opening, reservation only, and each guest got to feel like a VIP, with a red carpet and photos by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Emmai Alaquiva. I wasn’t sure how everyone else felt, but there were a few flaws with the grand opening. Customers experienced very long waits, and the food was not of the highest standard that Robinson wanted the food to be known for, in my opinion. I say this because I ordered shrimp and grits, while my friends ordered chicken and waffles. When the food arrived, the fried chicken strips lacked flavor, the waffle was dense. However, I loved the shrimp and grits serving (it was plentiful), and it had slices of andouille sausage in it. The flavor was OK, not too big a fan for the consistency of the grits.
I expressed my concerns with Robinson and Gary White, the director of sales for the restaurant, about my experience at the grand opening, and they both understood my concerns and thanked me for my feedback.
A few weeks later, Oct. 4 to be exact, I returned to Sugar and Smoke, and White informed me that the restaurant changed the seasoning of the chicken, along with the recipe of the waffle batter. They also changed the ingredients in the grits.
Looking to try some new things, I opted for the She Crab Bisque and the Cajun Salmon. While waiting for my soup, I ordered the Streetcar Named Desire cocktail, a mix of brandy, peach schnapps, lemon and bitters…it really hit the spot!
Shortly after, my crab bisque arrived and it was wonderful. It was rich and creamy with hearty pieces of crab claw. I could literally eat a whole vat of it. When the salmon arrived, I was very pleased with the presentation. It was cooked perfectly, though, in my opinion, it lacked the Cajun flavor it was supposed to have.
Overall, I believe Sugar and Smoke has the potential to be a great restaurant. I believe Robinson has the desire and passion to make Sugar and Smoke one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh, and she’s definitely open to positive feedback from anyone, along with ways people feel as though the business could improve. I recommend you try the She Crab Bisque, Meatloaf and Smoked Brisket. I give Sugar and Smoke 3 out of 5 Breelicious Bites.
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