For Paulette Kendall, a 68-year-old resident of Wilkinsburg, visiting Superior Motors was like walking down memory lane.
“I worked here and all my friends were here, and I shopped here all the time. It was a great community,” she said.
About 200 people visited the eclectic eatery to celebrate its one year anniversary, with a birthday party featuring food, fun and some of Braddock’s most well-known residents.
The restaurant opened July 15, 2017, three years after it raised more than $300,000 in one month, breaking a Kickstarter record as the site’s most-funded restaurant.
The event also doubled as the unveiling of the refinished Braddock bread oven courtyard, turning what was a large, outside oven into a community space for hanging out, drinking or making pizza. Part of the proceeds from the event benefited the Braddock Free Store, a storefront that receives donated and surplus goods and redistributes them to the community at no cost.
The night began at 6 p.m.; guests could pick up a dinner of wood-roasted clams and mussels, chilled watermelon soup, a Braddock Farms green salad, fresh pagash — a house-made dough stuffed with whipped potatos and Goat Rodeo goat cheese — and tacos from the kitchen, giving the event a behind-the-scenes feel. For dessert, guests were served stonefruit shortcake with white chocolate espuma and lavender.
After chowing down, guests then could venture off into other sections of the restaurant, each with a different feel and theme: the Boyd and Blair infusion bar featured basil and pineapple cocktails, where guests could sip their drinksand view art by local artist Terry M. Boyd. The courtyard allowed guests to step away from the busy dining area, and the Barebones Black Box Theater allowed patrons to enjoy music by Truth & Rights, a local roots-reggae band, Noel Quintana, a jazzy salsa group, and Princess Nostalgia, an ethereal solo artist. DJ Selecta spun tunes throughout the course of the evening.
VIP guests could visit the Ga’hed Cuz Speakeasy and the Ga’hed Cuz smoke lounge. The former turned a Superior Motors office into a dimly lit hideaway, and the latter was an ode to chefs and cooks sitting outside restaurants, sitting on milk crates and smoking during their downtime.
The event also featured a water balloon toss for charity, with visitors paying $10 to throw a balloon at a Superior Motors employee to receive a free bottle of wine if they hit the employee. The activity was inspired by August Fetterman, whose obsession with water balloons sometimes affects employees as he drops them off the deck of the Fetterman home, which is above the restaurant.
Superior Motors chef-owner Kevin Sousa was the first employee up, getting pelted with water balloons from August and other patrons.
Lauren Beachom, a 32-year-old from North Braddock, has seen a lot more cars lining Braddock Ave. since the restaurant opened. She said the restaurant sets an example of neighborhood revitalization that utilizes existing infrastructure. The restaurant is housed inside an old Chevrolet dealership.
“They gave a forecast of, ‘this is what you can do with these old buildings in Braddock,’” she said.
Gisele Fetterman, Free Store founder and co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that brings fresh food to those living in food-insecure areas, said the restaurant reminds her of the past. John Fetterman, Braddock mayor and Gisele’s husband, owns the building.
“It’s almost full circle for me, because when I moved to this country from Brazil I lived above a restaurant. It was a Peruvian restaurant, and they knew that my mom worked nonstop and they really took care of us,” she says. “People would say, ‘Nobody wants to live above a restaurant,’ but for me that’s a really special memory of a time where this restaurant family was so kind to my family.”
Mary Carey, a 49-year-old Braddock resident, noted the restaurant’s devotion to helping the community. According to her, the restaurant’s community initiatives only helps — not harm — the neighborhood.
“As long as we can still use what’s ours from the beginning, change is always good,” she said.
Check out more of John Colombo’s images from the event:
Amanda Reed is a Pittsburgh Current staff writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org