Today’s post comes from Nicole of Yum Yum Pgh,
and is part of a special day of
shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers.
You can see our post over on Val Brkich's Small-Town Dad,
where we share a loving review of the Thin Man Sandwich Shop
by father-son foodie team, Pittsburgh Pucks and Plates!
Special "thank you!" to Alex of everybody loves you...
for organizing this event!
On a recent supposedly spring but still feeling kind of like winter Saturday, SP & I headed to Squirrel Hill. Our destination: Independent Brewing Co. Friends of ours had dined (and drank beer) there and recommended it. It's located on Shady Avenue, around the corner from How Lee Chinese on Forbes. Since we went after our nephew's birthday party, we arrived around 5 pm, just as dinner service was beginning.
A little bit of history: The Independent Brewing Company of Pittsburgh (IBC) was a conglomerate of breweries formed when 15 Pittsburgh breweries merged in 1905. Unlike the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, which was comprised of 21 breweries and whose breweries were located primarily in the city itself, the IBC's breweries were in towns surrounding the city. In 1920 Prohibition arrived and by the time it ended in 1933, only five branches of IBC remained. The Duquesne Brewery, which had been the foremost IBC branches, was the only to return to the IBC in 1933. It operated under the IBC name but by the end of 1933, the name had changed back to the Duquesne Brewing Company of Pittsburgh. IBC ceased to exist until 2013, when brothers Matthew & Peter Kurzweg revitalized the name, purchasing the space in Squirrel Hill and opening a tavern devoted to the craft beer of western Pennsylvania.
I've read that the IBC space was formerly occupied by a bar called Fanatics that was clouded in smoke and served greasy, fried food, but I've never heard of Fanatics. Maybe because I was never much of a bar person? The space no longer smells like smoke and doesn't serve typical greasy, fried bar food.
On our way through the bar area and down the ramp (or down the 2 steps) to the dining area, we checked out the daily food specials listed on the left chalkboard (above photo) and the beer selection, listed on the right chalkboard (below photo). I read that the beers are from breweries within 100 miles of Pittsburgh.
The dining area is spartan albeit bright from the natural light coming in through the windows. There were not too many people yet, which was nice because it allowed me to take photos and check everything out without feeling like I was invading anyone's privacy.
The tables are light colored wood with small bouquets of flowers, votive candles, and napkins & flatware readily available in mason jars placed on the tables. There are Pittsburgh themed pictures on the walls.
Since I do not drink beer, I opted for the Rick Sebak cocktail: Buffalo Trace bourbon, maple syrup, Angostura bitters, white chocolate mole bitters. There was giant ice cube, generous orange peel, and a wonderful piece of candied bacon on a skewer. For me, strong, but good and warming on a chilly late afternoon.
There are 9 small plates and 6 Bigger Plates on the printed menu plus the daily specials on the chalkboard. We decided to start with Halloumi (Maggie's Farm spiced rum fired halloumi with dried apricots, caramelized onions, herbs, fresh bread).
This was delicious! Halloumi stays quite firm when heated so it was easy to cut off pieces to eat atop the bread. The dried apricots and caramelized onions tasted better together than I expected. In fact, I really liked the combination.
Next up we tried the Brussels Sprouts (house-made porter mustard, Gorgonzola).
These, too, were very good. The mustard flavor was a new flavor on Brussels for me (usually when we order them the flavor is balsamic or lemon) and I liked that the Gorgonzola was a melted mass atop the sprouts instead of crumbled chunks throughout the dish. One, I like melted cheese and two, SP doesn't really like Gorgonzola so he was happy to simply peel off the cheese rather than pick out crumbles.
SP ordered a daily special: Octopus Salad (citrus vinaigrette, arugula, fennel, pickled onion, pineapple). He said the octopus was cooked nicely, not rubbery or hard. He liked this dish the best of everything we ate.
Of course I ordered Mac & Cheese (beer & smoked bechamel, herb cornflake crumble, add hot peppers and/or bacon and/or veal sausage). I chose to get it with bacon. Sadly, my bacon was at first forgotten but after inquiring, a small plate of bacon strips arrived. I took the photos before the bacon arrived.
I liked the smokey flavor of the mac & cheese. The béchamel was a little thinner than I am used to, but that's OK because a thicker sauce can sometimes be too gummy. The cornflake crumble was crunchy and addictive.
We were too full to try the menu's lone dessert, S'mores Tart, but now that I am looking at the menu description again, I wish we had tried it since I really like s'mores.
I wanted to try IBC for the food and I was not disappointed. SP likes beer, he likes the local beers, and he likes tasty bar food that's not typical bar food (greasy wings, fried treats) so he was happy. The atmosphere is friendly and casual. Our server was nice and answered questions. Sadly, I didn't try the Lamb Bake, which our friends suggested, because of garlic, but next time, SP intends to order it. Definitely a place we will again visit.