When life gives you lemons, make ... kielbasa?
With apologies to the old Dale Carnegie maxim, that is what Jared Lordon and Kelly Patton are doing in an old shed on the North Side under the banner of the "Allegheny City Smokehouse."
The pair of kitchen veterans from around the region and the country came into their new endeavor when a bit of misfortune turned serendipitous.
Mr. Lordon, of Mount Washington, had worked at popular Downtown restaurant NOLA but quit this spring to be a part of the opening crew at Emilia-Romagna -- a hotly anticipated new destination in the Strip District. But when ER surprisingly and abruptly closed its doors after only five weeks, Mr. Lordon suddenly found himself moving from the cooking line to the bread line.
A chance encounter with an acquaintance a few weeks later proved fortuitous. The friend had just purchased a rental property in the city's Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood. It included an old shed in the backyard that was outfitted for smoking and roasting meats.
"There are 11 spits connected to an electric motor. The previous owner did that for 25 years, roasting lambs on spits for church fairs and the ethnic day picnics at Kennywood," Mr. Lordon said.
An idea blossomed. Mr. Lordon called his buddy Mr. Patton, with whom he worked with at the prestigious Grove Park Inn in the resort town of Asheville, N.C. Mr. Patton, from Acme, Westmoreland County, had been back in the Pittsburgh area for a few years as a sales rep for an Erie-based food supplier.
"I started thinking about the barbecue smokehouses from when we worked down South, but I also thought of kielbasa because we're in Western Pennsylvania. It was like the sun shown down on me, and I thought, 'Let’s go with it.'"
Mr. Patton said Mr. Lordon has pitched him numerous schemes over the years. "This is like the 10th idea he's run at me and for once I thought, 'You aren't crazy -- you might actually have something here for a change.'"
Their first "executive meeting"' came over a few beers and shots at Jack's on the South Side, and the Allegheny City Smokehouse was born.
They're starting with bacon and nitrate-free kielbasa -- $6 a pound for each -- using their own recipe.
Right now the meat comes from a wholesaler in the Strip, but Mr. Patton is ironing out details to get a dedicated source from a pork farm in Washington County.
"We're proud of Pittsburgh and it's cool that we can make this kind of Old World ethnic food – that has a history here -- locally," he said.
"We're just making pork dreams happen every day," Mr. Lordon cracked. "It's pure Horatio Alger."
For more information go to facebook.com/AlleghenyCitySmokehouse or call 1-828-231-9864.
Photos by Dan Gigler