Pittsburgh native and nationally recognized chef Kevin Sousa is looking to make a culinary and community impact, yet again, in the metropolitan area. The owner of four Pittsburgh hotspots including Salt of the Earth, Union Pig and Chicken, Station Street Hot Dogs, and the recently launched Harvard & Highland, his newest restaurant project, Magarac, is unlike anything he’s done before. Along with Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, Sousa is in the midst of a massive urban renewal project for the neighborhood that will include a restaurant and community garden to revitalize the once bustling area of Pittsburgh.
Born and raised in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Sousa has felt a strong connection to Pittsburgh his whole life. In love with the industrial backdrop of the city, Sousa chose Pittsburgh as the location for four of his establishments in hopes of making it a culinary destination for national and international visitors. Now as he works to do the same for Braddock, Pennsylvania, Sousa will move his entire family to the area to fully devote himself to his forthcoming restaurant and the town’s revitalization.
“When I first visited Braddock, I knew it had the potential to harness the spirit and energy of Pittsburgh,” Sousa says. “It’s my hope that this project will show everyone what a great community this is and help to restore the neighborhood back to its original glory.”
What was once a bustling town, Braddock became deserted and crime-ridden after the steel industry slowed in the early 1980’s. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman made tremendous strides in lowering crime and improving the city’s reputation since his appointment in 2005. With no restaurants and a crumbling main street, Fetterman knew he needed something special to change the course of the town. After approaching Sousa in early 2012 with the idea for a possible restaurant in Braddock, financial support came pouring in from many members in the community.
“The most celebrated restaurant, in literally the region’s toughest town-rarely has the phrase 'food can heal' been so apt,” Fetterman says. “Kevin has technical brilliance with a hardcore blue collar sensibility; Michelin star fused with steelworker's union card."
The new restaurant, Magarac, is named after Joe Magarac, the famous steelworker of Pittsburgh folklore. Sousa’s new upscale restaurant will seat 100 to 120 in a restored building on Braddock’s main street. The open plot next to Magarac will transform into a small garden with a larger community garden just two blocks down the street. Both gardens will provide ingredients throughout the year for Sousa’s internationally inspired dishes. The beer list will also feature local options from The Brew Gentlemen, a micro-brewery opening up in the basement of the restaurant.
The restaurant is set to open in the fall of 2013. From the potters across the street creating dishware to the local artists crafting a 23-foot-tall steel and iron tree for Magarac, Sousa looks to engage the entire community with this exciting venture.