Eighteen is the newest chapter in Pittsburgh’s short book of kosher
eateries. Located adjacent to Pinsker’s Judaica Center at 2028 Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill, Eighteen seeks to provide a “new dairy cafe and wine bar that will hopefully service the whole community and neighborhood,” said Brad Perelman, proprietor of both Pinsker’s and Eighteen.
The 1,100-square-foot site, which is adorned by repurposed stained-glass windows from a former synagogue in West Virginia, is a “quite relaxing intimate space in the city,” said Perelman.
“The setting is super unique. It’s a mixture of old and new,” said Molly Butler, who visited Eighteen during its soft opening last week. Butler and her friends were so “impressed” that they even photographed the space, she said.
Apart from its inviting environment, Eighteen offers patrons a fresh dining experience.
“We are using the concept of mezze plates,” said Perelman. Not quite finger foods, mezze is a series of small dishes or appetizers typically served with alcohol.
The concept has been popularized by Michael Solomonov, a Pittsburgh-raised Israeli chef and restaurateur whose book, “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking,” won the 2016 James Beard Book of the Year and Best International Cookbook honors.
With a variety of smaller-sized offerings, mezze fosters a unique social and dining experience. As such, gluttons beware, Eighteen beckons gastronomes.
“Our portions are responsible portions. We’re not trying to get everybody fat. We want them to enjoy the food and try a variety of food,” said Perelman. “I envision people coming in, ordering a variety of plates, breaking open a bottle and sharing with those they are with.”
With its emphasis on mezze and other menu options, Eighteen distances itself from many kosher eateries. Unlike restaurants that boast a smorgasbord of choices, Eighteen grants goers fewer selections.
Apart from New York-style bagels, which Perelman said are not made on-site, the menu includes shakshuka with pita, hummus plates with pita, Reuben on rye (which consists of smoked beets, sauerkraut and cheese), vegetarian sliders and salads.
Eventually, pasta and fish dishes will be added, said Perelman, but for now, a “deliberate process of tasting recipes and getting feedback from customers” is in process.
“We are perfecting what we have now,” he added.
After her recent trip to Eighteen, Butler offered no complaints. She ordered sushi and described it as “delicious and beautifully presented.”
“The younger crowd really likes sushi,” noted Perelman.
Perhaps to rouse that audience’s palate or expand the age of those ordering, Eighteen’s menu includes a smattering of sushi. More than a dozen varieties of maki, nigiri and sashimi and nearly 20 types of rolls are listed. Playing to local eaters is the Pittsburgh roll. Perhaps not as regionally resonant as French fries in a sandwich, the Pittsburgh roll has spicy kani, mango and cucumber topped with avocado spicy mayo and sushi sauce.
Although bagels, hummus and sushi bespeak eclectic culinary traditions, Eighteen’s wines are more regionally selective.
“We will concentrate a great deal on the wines in Israel, which is undergoing an explosion of new wineries,” said Perelman.
Equally sweet, but with less requirement for import, is one of Eighteen’s desserts.
Phil and Bill’s Ice Cream, which is made in Greenfield, is a cholov Yisrael ice cream and available for order at Eighteen.
“We loved that they used a local vendor,” said Butler.
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.