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Charlie Stewart
The Porch at Schenley
Holiday 2011

CSIt’s the greenest grass in all of Oakland— the “Emerald Lawn” of Schenley Plaza. And now there is a new vantage point from which to appreciate it.

The Porch—the latest in dining concepts from Eat’n Park Hospitality Group—was designed specifically for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which maintains the five-acre plaza in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh.

Mark Broadhurst, director of concept development for Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, describes the restaurant as a neighborhood bistro where the food is unpretentious and draws on a variety of influences, including freshly prepared American cuisine. Serving Oakland’s campuses, hospitals, offices, residents, and visitors year-round, the restaurant seats 150 guests inside, while another 40 patrons may be accommodated outside on the terrace, weather-permitting.

When Broadhurst was first approached by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy a few years ago about developing a full-service eatery at Schenley Plaza, he would often drive by the park, thinking it was the perfect location for a restaurant. There are four kiosks for takeout food on the plaza, including an outpost of The Bagel Factory, and copious picnic space, but no other sit-down eateries.

Broadhurst and Andy Dunmire, Eat’n Park Hospitality’s vice president of design and construction, then began to adapt a prototype concept they had already been working on, believing it could serve the diverse population that flows through Oakland. “I spent a lot of time sitting on the grass in the plaza, seeing how people come and go, imagining how the restaurant could best blend in with the environment,” Broadhurst recalls.

To that end, a majority of the windows at The Porch open to the outside, exposing a fresh, white interior. The exterior architecture incorporates the same cedar materials seen in the adjacent kiosks, along with a limestone façade to reflect the character of its historic neighbors like the Cathedral of Learning and the Hillman Library.

A water tower made from reused barn wood collects rain water to irrigate the green roof composed of a vegetable and herb garden, traditional sedum covering, and long wild grasses. Other features include living walls, an outdoor fireplace, and a small amphitheater for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to host children’s programming.

Chef Kevin Hermann, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and previously a chef at Gigi Trattoria in New York’s Hudson Valley, joins The Porch from Parkhurst Dining Services, a division of Eat’n Park Hospitality Group. Beer, wine, and signature cocktails are available, as well as fresh juices and housemade sodas.

In addition to seasonal dishes, salads, and pizza, diners can enjoy delicious menu options from the rotisserie and hearth. Lunch is in the $8 to $12 range, with dinner in the mid-teens. A walk-up, carry-out window will open for breakfast.

As for the origin of the name, Broadhurst recollects a small group in the office brainstorming about what evokes positive emotions in the summertime.

“We imagined ourselves sitting out on the porch, having a drink with some friends, relaxing and being ourselves,” he says. “And we thought ‘The Porch’ works, because we now have the lawn at Schenley Plaza as our backyard.”

For more information, call 412-68-PORCH or visit www.theporchatschenley.com.

With many thanks to SHADY AVE magazine for granting me permission to reprint on my website.


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copyright Charlie Stewart IMS