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Thin Man solves case of high-quality sandwich shop in the Strip

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 8:44 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Il Bastardo sandwich at Thin Man Sandwich shop in the Strip District on Wednesday February 27, 2013.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The Thin Man (right) and the Albacore Tuna sandwiches at Thin Man Sandwich shop in the Strip District on Wednesday February 27, 2013. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

One ingredient in a new sandwich shop's signature item is so popular with guests, patrons are buying it in bulk.

Thin Man Sandwich Shop's namesake selection is comprised of chicken liver mousse, Penn's Corner bacon, frisee and red wine vinaigrette on a baguette. The mousse made such an impression with customers in the shop's first few weeks, chef/owners Dan and Sherri Leiphart opted to sell it by the 8-ounce portion ($8).

“It's got a cult following,” says Sherri Leiphart, 39. “We're really excited.”

The mousse is just one way Thin Man incorporates gourmet elements into on-the-go food. The shop opened in early February on 21st Street in the Strip District. The Leipharts of Carnegie are classically trained, fine-dining chefs who have worked in the kitchens of Isabela On Grandview, Bistro LePommier and Lidia's. The pair wanted a venue where they could showcase more-casual choices prepared with their professional flair.

“We wanted to do something more reflective of who we are,” says Dan Leiphart, 35. “The economy is changing people's general perspectives toward life and food, but we still want to do it at the level at which we like to cook.”

Sherri Leiphart says the couple saw a need for a high-quality sandwich shop.

“It's a slightly different venue,” she says. “There are not a whole lot of places like this Downtown.”

The name stems from the couple's affinity for the 1930s movie series of the same name starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as a former private detective and his wife. Dan Leiphart says the pair's dynamic mirrors his relationship with his wife.

“The way they interact reminds us of the way we interact, with eye rolls across the room or hitting each other with pillows when no one's looking,” he says.

The shop makes good use of its Strip District location by incorporating many of its neighbor's products into its menu selections.

“It's easy because everything is here,” Dan Leiphart says. “We picked the Strip because we love the atmosphere. It is the center of food for the city. If you're looking to buy good food, good, wholesome ingredients, you go to the Strip.”

The menu consists of three signature sandwiches, which will be offered daily, and a rotating selection of seasonal sandwiches, which will change weekly.

Signatures are the aforementioned Thin Man ($6.99); the Il Bastardo ($6.99), with mortadella, runny egg and American cheese on olive focaccia; and the Smash ($8.99), with goat-milk-marinated organic chicken breast, avocado, alfalfa and lemon pickled green onion on a wheat baguette.

Seasonal sandwiches include the Grilled Broccoli with Asian marinated mushrooms and miso mustard on ciabatta ($7.99) and the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with butternut squash-cumin seed marmalade and bib lettuce on baguette ($7.99).

Sides include potato-kale soup with leeks and poached garlic puree ($3.50) and roasted sweet potatoes and beets ($3). The baby spinach salad ($5.50) has orange-poppy seed vinaigrette, hazelnuts, radish and whole-grain croutons.

Even the drinks are held to a higher standard. House infusions using Pittsburgh Seltzer Works include flavors like sweet ginger, local honey and lemon and kiwi lime (all $2.69).

Thin Man's look fits in well with the Euro-industrial feel of Penn Avenue, with its exposed brick and hoods. The second-story seating area includes three black tables with black, red and white chairs. The first floor has seating at a counter along a window overlooking Smallman Street. An old-fashioned soda fridge near the front door is packed with Mexican Coke ($2.29).

“It's old-school,” Dan Leiphart says of the decor. “The Strip is like a well-oiled machine. We wanted to look like we've been here a while.”

Thin Man Sandwich Shop, 50 21st St., Strip District, is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Details: 412-586-7370 or www.thinmansandwichshop.com.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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