It’s hard enough to create a cohesive, complementary bar program for one restaurant. But what about building a drink list to stand alongside four completely different menus? For Will Groves, this wasn’t a hypothetical challenge. As the man behind the bar at Smallman Galley, he was charged with doing just that.
Smallman Galley is the latest addition to the Strip District’s food scene, a sort of restaurant incubator/culinary school/food-hall hybrid. It houses four concepts from four different chefs, all of whom are using their tenure at Smallman Galley as a springboard to opening their own restaurants.
To accommodate the unusual setup, Groves put together a food-friendly drink menu that’s both diverse and focused. For each concept, he designed three original cocktails — not pairings, but rather drinks that are “philosophically inspired” by each chef.
For Jessica Lewis’s vegetable-focused Carota Café, for instance, Groves developed cocktails with bright flavors and fresh ingredients, including one that marries carrot juice and ginger with spiced rum from nearby Maggie’s Farm. For Stephen Eldridge’s meatier Provision PGH, Groves went with spirit-forward offerings, including a variation on an old-fashioned featuring bourbon from West Virginia’s Smooth Ambler.
Like the cocktails, Smallman Galley’s beer list is what Groves describes as “local-ish.” Suds from Pennsylvania and Ohio will flow from the 20 taps, including (he thinks) the first Pittsburgh appearance of Philadelphia’s lauded Tired Hands Brewing.
Groves assembled a collection of 25 bottles for the wine list, all of them versatile, value-driven and entirely unexpected. “You look at the list and see these are wines Will just thinks are neat,” says Groves with a grin. Don’t expect pinot grigio here — Groves’ list is filled with interesting grapes and offbeat regions, a menu meant for exploration and conversation.
The beverage selection at Smallman Galley is broad without feeling generic. So no matter what collection of dishes you try, there will be something interesting to sip with it.