Too often, when new Pittsburgh meets old Pittsburgh, the former displaces the latter.
Don Mahaney says it needn’t be so. In November, Mahaney’s restaurant, Scratch Food & Beverage, opened in the building that Troy Hill knew for three decades as neighborhood spot Billy’s. Troy Hill has lots of younger newcomers; Mahaney, a Pittsburgh native who had left for college, himself arrived in 2009. But the former Six Penn general manager also has family roots there, and he wants to retain Billy’s regulars while updating the menu and décor for a fresh crowd.
Mahaney’s desire to serve food that’s seasonal and locally sourced might suggest priciness. But he says his carefully budgeted makeover of the roomy space — “We did a lot of the work ourselves” — kept debt service low enough that, for instance, Scratch’s cheeseburger and fries costs about the same as Billy’s did.
The still-small menu, moreover, is big on contemporized comfort food like chef Chris Biondo’s reuben, succulent with smoked beef tongue, pickled beet kraut, aioli and bone-marrow-infused butter. And Scratch’s separate dining room — with its tabletop terrariums — and bar serve craft brews alongside PBR. Scratch’s staff even includes two long-time Billy’s employees.
Scratch just added Sunday brunch. Karaoke and trivia nights are planned. As Mahaney says, “It’s going to take us quite some time before we can say who we are with any confidence.”