Pittsburghers love a good cup of joe. Last year, WalletHub, a personal finance website, ranked our town first in the number of coffee shops and cafés per capita and the sixth-best coffee city overall. While you may be loyal to your favorite café, there are more businesses percolating in 2021. Here are a few newcomers to the city’s caffeine scene.
Gayle Pazerski is a local writer, actor and teaching artist who discovered a love for coffee during a side gig managing La Prima Espresso’s Strip District location. When the pandemic forced her to reevaluate her employment situation, she decided to open her own spot … with a little help from her daughter.
Located on the corner of Chestnut Street and Spring Garden Avenue, The Garden Café is based on a dream the pair envisioned years ago.
“We imagined a place filled with plants and people and activity, and she suggested naming it The Garden Café because everything grows there,” Pazerski says about her daughter. “I kept the dream in my back pocket and hoped someday I could make it happen — and here we are!”
In October 2020, Pazerski started selling coffee through a walk-up window. The cozy space opened for indoor ordering and seating on April 22. Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
The Garden Café features La Prima Espresso’s Spring Garden Blend, a medium-dark roast sold by the pound and used in espresso drinks and drip coffee, and their medium-dark Paulie’s Blend for nitro cold brew. Resident baker Janna Natali provides cookies, savory scones and energy balls made with peanut butter, rolled oats, flax meal, chia seeds, chocolate chips and coconut. There are also treats from 350° Bakery on the South Side.
Head to Tonic Coffee for a caffeine fix or a round of non-alcoholic cocktails. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
When owner Stephanie Nicholaas started pouring at the spot in May she fulfilled a dream.
“I have had an affinity for excellent hospitality and crafted drinks for a long time,” says the Florida native. “I wanted to open a coffee and non-alcoholic bar somewhere in the world. I then fell in love with Pittsburgh and its incredible growth, and here we are!”
The coffee served at Tonic is a light roast from Sey Coffee in Brooklyn. Nicholaas also has an entire recipe book filled with booze-less beverages she’s excited to make for Pittsburghers. Tonic Coffee will offer tasting sessions with a curated selection of four to five mocktail options: The A Trip to Colombia experience runs May 20 through June 24. Tickets are $25 per person.
Over the years, the historic building has housed a detective’s office, a bike shop and a jewelry store. This fall, Nicholaas plans to host events and open a second-floor art gallery space — which is temporarily occupied by a nonalcoholic bottle shop called The Open Road Bar. In the meantime, there’s a projector at the downstairs bar featuring rotating art from around the world.
Christine Rauktis is causing a ruckus in Shaler.
The Shaler Township resident and her business partner are transforming the former Around the Corner Bar & Grill into a diner, café, gallery and event space to add a little culture to Babcock Boulevard. It’s slated to open in mid-June.
More than 17,000 cars pass by the large building each day. Rauktis hopes they’ll stop (the place has a large parking lot!) for espresso, drip coffee, smoothies, frappes, kid-friendly meals and gourmet eats for adults. In a rush? You’ll be able to order through the joe coffee app.
Rauktis, a graphic designer by trade and a bonafide foodie, says Ruckus won’t be a health food joint, but the menu will have a lot of healthy options, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free offerings. They’ll also use compostable packaging because Rauktis is also an environmental steward.
In addition to serving food and beverages, Ruckus will be a place for local artists and makers to showcase and sell their work. There’s also a small stage for live performances and a private room in the back. This summer, Rauktis might set up an outdoor seating area.