A longtime fixture, Mohan's in Penn Hills adapts with the times
Who knew you could get chicken and ribs from ice cream?
To hear Charles Mohan Jr. tell the story, that's exactly how one of Penn Hill's iconic restaurants came to be.
Framed black-and-white pictures of a tree-lined Route 22 in Monroeville, the Plum Creek Viaduct and a railroad roundhouse in North Bessemer hang from the walls of Mohan's Restaurant.
And a row of beer steins, one mug for each of the 46 Super Bowl winners, stretch over the bar, setting up an instant make-yourself-at-home atmosphere.
But let's face it — you don't go to a place that describes itself as the “Home of Universal Fried Chicken and Ribs” for the wall fixtures.
Here, taste matters.
“We've been here a long time. We're part of this community,” says Mohan, who owns the friendly restaurant on Saltsburg Road. “People need to know we're in Penn Hills to stay.”
It might be hard for some to believe that a menu of hearty golden fried chicken ($8.95), creamy fettucini alfredo ($8.50) and hickory-smoked ribs ($16.99 whole rack, $11.50 half rack) can evolve from ice cream.
But that's just what happened.
It was Mohan's father, Charles Mohan Sr., who started it.
Better known as “Moe,” the elder Mohan worked as a salesman for Meyers and Powers Ice Cream Co., trading drums of tasty ice creams, sherbets and other frozen delicacies for a day's pay. Often, he would sell his wares at Shires Drug Store in the Universal Shopping Center, next to what was then the Heritage Lounge.
But while ice cream paid the bills, Moe had always had a dream of starting his own eatery.
So when the Heritage Lounge went out of business, he bought it in 1963 and opened Mohan's. At that time, it was a 1,600-square-foot bar with a small dining area.
Expansions would follow over the years as other neighboring businesses pulled out. Today, it spans 6,400 square feet and has a full-service restaurant, bar and take-out store with more than 300 beer brands.
Besides chicken and ribs, the restaurant offers a wide variety of appetizers, such as mini burgers ($6.89) and Buffalo chicken dip ($7.59), and sandwiches, from egg salad ($3.69) to an open-face gyro ($6.25) and prime rib ($9.35). Entrees range from beef liver ($8.79) to Surf & Turf ($12.59), with fried chicken and breaded butterfly shrimp. There also are salads, pizza and wings.
“Too often, we find restaurants who don't keep up with the times. The concept gets stale,” Mohan says. “We're able to survive because we've adapted. We give people what they want.
“We've always done that, and we always will.”
Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5682.
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