Smallman is Anything but Small
Walking into a giant warehouse is not what you might expect when you hear you’ll be eating at a restaurant with some of the city’s most up and coming chefs. However, in the case of Smallman Galley, a local restaurant and culinary incubator located on Smallman Street in the Strip District, this is exactly what we found. The concept is truly unique: the entire space contains 2 bars and 4 restaurants, each led by a chef who gets to practice cooking, doing business, and providing customer service over the course of 18 months. This means diners get some of the best cuisine in the city and the chefs receive direct feedback from us before they go on to open their own rock star establishment! Since the combination of business and culinary talent is already extremely fascinating to me, I didn’t need much convincing to join a few of my best friends down in the Strip for a great meal, and to highlight Amber Smith, the featured reviewer!
The atmosphere of Smallman is a little chaotic if you don’t know what’s going on. Essentially, customers will find their table, then order from one (or all) of any 4 restaurants located in the warehouse, then take a number back to their table to where the runner brings the customers’ food. For those unaccustomed to this procedure it can be a lot to handle, and I certainly was a little confused at first. However, after the business of ordering is done, one simply grabs a drink and waits to be served, all the while admiring the gritty architecture and soaking in the sounds of 200 individual conversations all mixing together.
The service is hard to judge at Smallman since there is no direct table service. However, I will note that due to the unique setup of the establishment, in that there are 4 separate restaurants and therefore potentially 4 different places to place your order and pay, the process of ordering everything you want to eat can be quite slow. Moreover, some chefs are more popular than others, meaning the lines for some of tastiest restaurants can get quite long.
Overall, I was highly impressed with the quality of every dish I had. Although the restaurants and chefs have since changed out, if the food I had is any indication of the kind of chefs chosen for Smallman Galley, then the 4 new restaurants will be just as good. As for my meal (not that you will have the same items when you go) I do want to note the poutine, mussels, and escargot I had. For whatever reason, I was feeling particularly French that evening and all three dishes were superb. The escargot was buttery and each bite melted in my mouth. The mussels, while a little soupy, had great flavor and the whole dish was quite a game fishing them all out. The poutine was phenomenal, with the crispy fries holding up well to the dense beans and cheese, perfectly paired with the red onion topping.
The value will certainly change depending on which restaurant you go to. However, a decent meal won’t set you back more than $20-25, and there isn’t even any tipping!
If anything, the restaurant concept is what I am most impressed with. The ability to help aspiring chefs while also enjoying great food and drink is something one will not come by too often. However, the food definitely speaks for itself, in that it is saying “I’m incredibly delicious!”
The best part of the experience for me definitely had to be the variety. I really appreciated how there were four restaurants each with their own distinct feel. I didn’t just have to choose one place at which to eat, I could choose four different places all specializing in something different. I thought that was a really cool concept.
If anything, I think the concept could be explained a bit more upon guests entering the gallery. Yes, many people there are already familiar with the chef incubator concept, but for someone who’s trying it for the first time it can be a bit confusing to figure out how to go about selecting your dish and ordering.
This restaurant definitely gave me hipster vibes, but I liked it! It’s just professional enough for you to bring you colleagues after work, and simple enough for a night out with friends or a date. I would definitely not bring a large party here as I think the restaurant is more conducive to smaller groups.
I ate two different things. First, I had the smashed avocado toast with a fried egg on top from Josephine’s and it was amazing! The chef dressed up such a simple dish by adding toasted flax seeds, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. It not only tasted great but also made me feel super healthy! Secondly, I got the chef’s special burger from Provision PGH. This beef burger, just like the toast, tasted so good! In my opinion, what made the burger amazing was the tender pork belly added on top of the beef patty.
Amber is a recent college graduate from the University of Pittsburgh, originally from the best state in the Midwest, Kansas. When she is not attempting to get into medical school, she loves trying new restaurants, being outdoors in nature and drinking hard cider.
Smallman Galley is a chef incubator concept in the heart of the Strip District created by two former Navy officers. Smallman provides space for the chefs to work, in addition to providing training in classes on marketing, restaurant operations, and branding, to help the restaurants get off the ground in the 18 months spent in the warehouse. You can check out what is currently being served up on their website: http://www.smallmangalley.org/