The South Side will soon get a welcome shot of soul in the heart of its business district.
Carmi Soul Food Restaurant, a neighborhood favorite in Allegheny West for the past seven years, will cross rivers and move into a long vacant property at 1825 E. Carson St., co-owner Carleen King confirmed.
“What we have planned — it’s exciting,” she said. “What we’ve been given is so much more than we hoped for. I saw the woodwork and exposed brick and thought, ‘I am in love.’
“I’ve been saying this will be my ‘juke joint’ — a place to listen to really good music with good food and have a cocktail if you want,” she said adding that she hopes to have regular gospel and jazz Sunday brunches at the new location.
Mrs. King, who runs the business with her husband Michael (together they put the “Car” and the “Mi” in the name) said that the move was necessary because their current building at 917 Western Ave. is being sold.
The new location will have a full bar — the current spot is BYOB — and a larger kitchen so that the menu can expand to include appetizers and vegetarian items, although Mrs. King said that longtime customers needn’t worry that it will suddenly become a bastion of health food.
“Our staples will remain the same,” she said of a menu that includes soul classics like fried chicken, shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, mac and cheese and pork spare ribs smoked daily.
The building, which has been vacant for four years, has been emblematic of problems over the past decade on the East Carson corridor. Originally opened in 2005 as The Locker Room, it was owned by Steelers great Hines Ward and was a popular destination before closing in 2011 around the time of Mr. Ward’s retirement from the Steelers. It reopened under new ownership as Levelz Sports Lounge, and was a regular site of police activity before being shut down by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office as a nuisance bar after a stabbing occurred there in 2013. It has been empty since.
They hope to have renovations completed and be open by New Year’s Eve at the latest.
“It needs some TLC. We took out a huge bar. We want to make it more of a restaurant and less of a bar,” Mrs. King said.
“Our focus is food. We want to be what we are now to our community — giving soul food to people who are looking for it and introduce it to some new people, and be a place that the South Side can be be proud of,” she said, adding, “I’m just so proud of what we’ve been able to build over the years.”
Dan Gigler: email@example.com; Twitter @gigs412
First Published October 17, 2017 10:41 AM