Photo by Julie Griffith
Hate onions? Put ketchup on your ketchup? We all have unique likes and dislikes, but you don’t always know if a reviewer’s tastes align with your own. Instead of reading a review from one source, take it from four members of our team, along with a list of our personal preferences. Even though we are woefully under-qualified to review a restaurant, at least one of us will likely share some of your distinct tastes.
For this issue, the PressureLife crew visited Ohio City Galley. Unlike the typical restaurants found in these fine reviews, Ohio City Galley boasts four food establishments and a bar in a single location. Ohio City Galley became the third restaurant accelerator opened by Pittsburgh’s Galley Group in late October when it took over the old Massimo da Milano location on the corner of Detroit Avenue and West 25th Street.
As a restaurant accelerator, Ohio City Galley houses four seperate restaurant prototypes from local chefs. The four current concepts—Michael Nowak’s Poca, Anthony Zappola’s The Rice Bowl, Tom and Michael Schoen’s Tinman, and Victor Searcy Jr.’s Sauce the City—all operate rent-free in exchange for 30 percent of revenues, with year-long engagements that can be extended if necessary.
Over time, concepts will move on to hopefully start their own brick-and-mortar location. For now, our crew spent an early afternoon at Ohio City Galley to see if the quality of the grub was as noteworthy as the ambition behind the establishment.
The space itself is a major plus for Ohio City Galley. It was nice to see that the old Massimo da Milano location was going to be put to good use and the incubator-meets-food court concept works well in that building. As Dave said, Ohio City Galley was the nicest food court he’s been to since he moved out of Parma. Instead of sample-hawking employees, impossibly-bright fluorescent lights, and a persistent smell of chain restaurant grease, Ohio City Galley offers up some tasty grub from talented local chefs in a great setting. Also, a rather nice bar. Can’t forget about that.
Poca: I was surprised I’d actually be ordering from Michael Nowak, owner and chef of The Black Pig. The braised beef hash was delicious, but would of been a homerun with a touch of salt to finish. The guacamole was fresh and delicious, but I wasn’t quite sure about the thin chips that came with them. They weren’t bad, but they were so different from typical tortilla chips that they through me for a loop.
The Rice Bowl: The Korean beef with bok choy and cucumbers initially was my least favorite dish we tried, but that kimchi vinaigrette grew on me quick. This became my second-favorite dish we tried after a couple more bites. Saying that to me means they’re testing boundaries and inviting new flavors.
Sauce the City: Unfortunately sweets aren’t my thing. I’ve never been a fan of chicken and waffles. Trust me, I get yelled at every time I say this to anyone. As a result, I’m not a great judge for this dish. However, it seemed everyone else enjoyed it. Syrup can go to hell in my book. I’ll definitely be back to try those hot wings with street corn. (Note: I went back and tried the hot chicken with dressed street corn. It was phenomenal.)
Tinman: A burger with hollandaise/hot sauce potatoes? God damn, my goodness. Just going to leave my review at that.
Poca: The braised beef hash was a nice, comforting dish with a good, smoky mole. As Jim said though, a little salt or acid would have helped brighten it up a bit. If you like super chunky, fresh guac, Poca’s for you. The chips were too fragile to hold up to the guac, but that’s nothing a good spoon can’t fix.
The Rice Bowl: Man, I love kimchi. I also love beef. Ergo, the Korean beef was an easy choice for me to make. If you’re not a fan of those two things, I’d advise against it, but I rather enjoyed my bowl of tasty cow bits, bok choy, and cucumbers slathered in a creamy, vinegary, spicy sauce.
Sauce the City: Chicken and waffles is more than just about providing good chicken and waffles; it’s about creating a cohesive dish where the two work together. I thought Sauce the City did that well. The waffle and syrup gave us a gooey bit of sweetness with being cloying, and the fried chicken was nice and juicy.
Tinman: Holy buns, I enjoyed Tinman’s burger. It’s nothing fancy, but it sure does taste great. I also enjoyed the fried bologna, although not everyone is a bologna fan. This sandwich was closer to the classic lunchmeat-style bologna, which didn’t bother me. However, there’s no way it tops the burger for me.
Poca: The name doesn’t sound appetizing. It kind of sounds like one of those diseases that kids got in the ‘40s, but who cares, really? It was appetizing—delicious even. The braised beef was super tender and flavorful with typical Mexican spices and it fit nicely within the hash. The guacamole was pretty good too. The paper-thin chips that served as a vehicle for the guac is the only thing that I think could have been better.
The Rice Bowl: Awesome sauce—but not in the douchey way. Really, the sauce was great. It was perfectly weighted to accompany the spicy beef. Any more or less of any of the ingredients and the dish would’ve been less enjoyable.
Sauce The City: I ate all the chicken and waffles. Reason? They were fuckin’ great.
Tinman: Fried bologna isn’t normally on a menu. In fact, it wasn’t even on theirs for brunch, but they let me order it anyway, so good on them for being flexible and accommodating. As for the sandwich, it could have been crisped up a bit more and with far less meat. It’s not something you hear people complain about—too much meat—but sometimes less is more when it comes to questionable encased meats. By the way, the bread was all wrong, but what they got all right were the potatoes. They were like a bunch of mini-baked potatoes.
Poca: The dish that Jim got was very rich and gravy heavy and while ‘tis the season, it was also lunch time and a tad heavy for the moment. I have since eaten at Poca, ordering the Oaxacan tamales with chorizo. This too was super dense, but sort of one-note for all the amazing ingredients that go into it. I like what Poca is doing, but they are in a tie for third place for me. The guacamole was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.
The Rice Bowl: I’ve been poor most of my life, so the concept of filling a plate with rice and protein runs in my blood. However, Alex’s dish was flat aside from the sauce. The beef was cooked close to perfection, but was still just a hunk of cow on some white rice. I feel like I’m being a bit harsh on these plates because it’s a competition to get out of the Galley and into a restaurant. I think rice bowl would be best placed on a college campus and I would advise that they stay open very late.
Sauce The City: I know chefs think they are perfect and there isn’t supposed to be condiments on the table, but I was desperately longing for some hot sauce here. The chicken was as good as a chicken finger can be and the waffle wasn’t excessive, but there was nothing to balance the sweetness. Some people like having dessert for breakfast. I’m not one of them. Jim and I went back and ordered the “hot” chicken and street corn which was better, but still a very muted version of southern hot chicken. The elements are there. If Sauce the City makes it out of the Galley, I imagine it will be very successful.
Tinman: Put a sunny-side up egg on pretty much anything and I’m more likely to order it. Naturally, I ordered the AM burger, which was phe-fucking-nomenal. Next time I go back, I’m going to order two. I’ve traveled past many diners to get to my preferred breakfast potato, and Tinman may currently wear that crown. Smashed Yukon gold potatoes with hollandaise and hot sauce accompany this near-perfect burger. I’m obsessed with the whole plate. I dream about it. Hannah got a fried bologna which was semi-sub par, but that all comes down to preference of cut and density. I was too busy making love to my burger to care.