Quite a few new restaurants opened in Pittsburgh while I was on the other Coast, but none of them caught my attention so much as Root 174. I first became interested last May when I heard Chef/Owner Kieth Fuller (previously of Six Penn) planned to open his first sole venture in the old Legume spot. After reading initial reviews of the great “cultivated comfort food” from the other side of the country, that interest turned into excitement. I’ve been back in the Pittsburgh area for a few weeks and only now got around to visiting…I’m sorry it took me so long.
I really like what they’ve done with the interior (see here for comparison). Space is still tight but it feels cozy more than cramped, and seems to be fitting for a staff. Speaking of the staff – they’re great. Our friendly waitress Marie knew the menu like the back of her hand, ditto the affable GM Will Groves who made it a point to come by and chat with us throughout the evening.
The menu rotates frequently but will always caters to a variety of diets. I was joined by my favorite veg-head and can say with confidence that the vegetarian options are definitely not an afterthought. We each ordered an appetizer to start.
Pairing the earthy flavor of mushrooms and lentils with the richness of yolk poached egg made this one of the heartiest salads I’ve had. Construction aside, it reminded me more of a stew, and a great one at that.
As great as the scallops were with their sweet crusty sear and rare interior, it was the hash that won me over. Acorn squash is a favorite fall flavor, and combining it with just enough bacon, and the more delicate sauteed shallots really allowed it to come through.
Making the transition to entrees, the “meatloaf” once again showed that vegetarian options are well within the scope of hearty comfort food. A dense mix of black beans and quinoa sat on top of a root vegetable polenta. That polenta was more a blend of mostly parsnip, the flavor was mild on it’s own so it really benefited from the slightly bitter sprouts and savory sweet raisin jam.
The chicken breast had a great crispy skin, and moist interior. Whole black eyed peas could be found throughout the dense waffle pieces, which is now the only way I want to eat peas and greens. The spicy honey (cayenne, paprika, and garlic) gave a great flavor and very mild heat. Everything combined mad for in a fun take on a Southern comfort classic, and easily my favorite dish of the night.
The excitement I had going in had doubled by the time I left. The Pittsburgh dining cene has been on the rise recently, and after only one visit I’m ready to place Root 174 with tops of the list. Don’t worry if that sounds premature, I plan on returning very soon to try more of the menu and make certain that the team at Root 174 have created a new must visit in Pittsburgh.