“$800 dining chairs. You never would have thought of it in Pittsburgh, but it is going to happen. ”
Andrew Garbarino, chef and partner at The Twisted Frenchman, has big plans for the acclaimed restaurant’s new space on Baum Boulevard in East Liberty.
Since opening two years ago, the restaurant (currently still operating out of its original Highland Avenue location) has become a mainstay in East Liberty. And, although the area has been known for its growing food scene in recent years, the Twisted Frenchman brought an entirely different fine dining experience to the neighborhood, using classic techniques like sous vide and pressure cooking.
After a very successful first year, Garbarino decided to move forward with plans to expand the restaurant, and began the search to find it a new home.
He is now in the midst of completely renovating the former Royal York Auction Gallery on Baum Boulevard into a two-story, two-kitchen restaurant. The building was built in 1895, has been both a Hudson car dealership, and the Royal York Auction Gallery in the past 100 years.
Although he’s very excited at the prospect of completely creating his dream restaurant, Garbarino laughs at the scale of the project he has taken on.
“I told my partners, ‘I am designing a dream restaurant, just so you are aware. It is going to be truly unique, and world class.’ I have driven myself nuts picking out every detail,” he says. “I was expecting to purchase a restaurant that was already a restaurant. I never thought I would get involved in something this big. However, we got very lucky with the owners of this space. They wanted to find someone who was going to honor their building.”
When completed, the space will be home to two separate restaurants with two separate kitchens. The downstairs will be Bar Frenchman, a more casual French cocktail bar with a brasserie style menu. Its bar will run the length of the restaurant and seat 20. There will also be a standing rail against the windows to Baum Boulevard, and an exclusive “Bar Frenchman Chef’s Table.” The table faces into the kitchen, and will have no menu, with patrons being served the whim of the kitchen that night.
The upstairs will be the more formal Twisted Frenchman dining room. This space will be tasting menu only, with three, five, eight and 14 course options available at any time.
“There will be still be varied amount of choices within each course,” says Garbarino. “I realize not everyone wants to be told what to eat. There will also be a 21-course dinner for two in front of the windows to the kitchen called the ‘Twisted Frenchman Dinner.’ I have really have viewed this whole space as creating an experience for the guests.”
This experience extends beyond the food, as every detail of the restaurant has been meticulously selected, from the pan ceiling, to the chandeliers, to the dimensions of the subway tile in the kitchen. There will also be a glassed-in wine cellar, accessible only by a spiral staircase, giving the illusion that the cellar is floating.
The new Twisted Frenchman space will also be the first restaurant in Western Pennsylvania to have a kitchen designed by Hestan, a design and kitchen equipment company based in California.
“Hestan just did the French Laundry’s kitchen. I always wanted a really good quality piece of equipment, and I can now offer young cooks the chance to cook on the best piece of equipment available,” Garbarino says. “I want people to feel proud of where they work. I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for them.”
When designing the restaurant, Garbarino was sure that he wanted no doors on the kitchen. Doors can be a nightmare for a busy kitchen, but they also discourage patrons from stopping through to see the process.
“It is very humbling when someone spends a good amount of money in your restaurant and then comes back, shakes your hand, and thanks you for the meal. That truly speaks the world to all of us, so we really wanted to encourage more of that. I want to show the cooks that this is more than food for our visitors. This is an experience. We encourage people to step into our world and say ‘hello’ as you leave,” he says.
The restaurant has several months of work left before opening, and is slated to be finished around June or July. Both levels will be open for dinner only, and serve the modern cuisine that Twisted Frenchman is known for on Highland Avenue. Garbarino has been cooking since he was 16 years old, but when asked if he had one memory from his entire career that stands out, he had answer ready the second the question was posed.
“We were in Paris when I was younger, and we were eating at this beautiful bistro. It was really beautiful, at least one or two Michelin stars. My sisters and I all ordered rabbit. I grew up experimenting with a lot of food, but I had never had rabbit so I wanted to order that. I was 13. The waiter came in with the entrees, looked at my sisters and I and goes, ‘Ah, for ze petit monsieur, and ze petit madams, we have, Bugs Bunny.’ From that moment on I realized food was playful and more than just substance. That memory has stuck with me my whole life. I vaguely remember Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, but I will never forget that moment. It is a little bit twisted.”
Updates on the restaurant’s process can be found on the Twisted Frenchman’s social media pages.
The Twisted Frenchman (5925 Baum Blvd.)