Pittsburgh's Sal's chain-like variety meets one-of-a-kind touches
Mike Tarquinio thinks it is a “high compliment” when customers think Sal's City Deli is part of a chain.
While not part of a chain now, if the owner gets his wishes, the Downtown restaurant will be the first link in one.
Tarquinio says many people think Sal's is a chain because of the menu's variety of sandwiches, wraps, burgers, salads, desserts and drinks many multi-site eateries offer.
That was Tarquinio's strategy when he put Sal's menu together just over a year ago. He also says it is part of the talent of chef Ron Herbinko, who once was at the now-closed Pennsylvania Culinary Institute.
In Sal's first year, business has become so steady, Tarquinio wants to add another site in the city's suburbs. But the big goal is to send Sal's south and set up one in Florida, “which has so many expatriates of the East and Midwest who like the kind of food we offer.”
Sal's is geared to the lunch trade, and Tarquinio thinks it has been successful in capturing it.
“We have so many repeat customers, the staff knows some of them by name,” he says.
The restaurant has 70 seats, with 30 more outside when weather warms up. Tarquinio says business has been so good, a bit of a wait is likely at noon, but can be avoided by arriving a little early or waiting until 12:30 p.m.
But he has been surprised at the growth of the dinner business from showgoers who are using it for a light — and inexpensive — stop before a night out. The full bar service is a pre-show attraction.
The restaurant's location at the corner of Liberty Avenue and Seventh Street, next to the Benedum Center, also helps.
Tarquinio is pleased at the developing breakfast trade. Mondays through Fridays, Sal's opens at 7 a.m., serving a bacon-and-eggs lineup of traditional, early-morning favorites. But he is even more surprised at the growth in the catering business, which he says is built around serving business meetings.
But the heart of Sal's is the lunch — and its lunchlike — menu.
Tarquinio is most proud of his Reuben ($8.79), which he says is a winner because of the thinness and leanness of its corned beef. Sal's only has one burger offering, called the “Big” because it is a half-pound behemoth, but it is customizable and cooked to order.
Also bearing the “Big” name is the quarter-pound hotdog.
The variety of sandwiches — called “sangwiches” on the menu — features some of the classics, such as the Pittsburgh-popular fish ($10.79), Italian hoagies ($8.79) and a grilled cheese ($4.99). But it also has some more individual offerings such as an albacore and smoked bacon wrap ($7.99), which is served either on whole wheat or as a panini on Ciabatta.
In the non-sandwich realm, the restaurant offers a hefty steak salad ($11.79), antipasto salad ($10.79) and a potato pancake Reuben, which has the ingredients of the sandwich between two potato pancakes.
After 3 p.m., Sal's moves a little toward dinner with appetizers that include pretzels with a craft beef dipping sauce and Chef Ron's “Almost Famous” Hummus Dip (both $5.99).
The soup of the day is sold by the cup ($2.99), bowl ($4.99) or quart ($6.99).
Sal's City Deli, 245 Seventh Ave., Downtown, is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. It is also open before any show at the Benedum. Details: 412-434-1100.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Miffed Melancon finds success, will stick with his routine
- NFL Draft preview: QB crop thin after top 2
- Penguins president: General manager, coach won’t be fired
- Baylor’s Petty trying to buck stereotype
- Rossi: Crosby, Malkin didn’t sign on for this
- From Hill District to India and Alaska, salon owner’s 107 years full of color
- Hip science: Rock-star physicists make tough concepts easier to understand
- Plum school officials ignoring help, advocacy group’s chief says
- Penguins’ Malkin: ‘We’re not a championship team’
- Development group sees huge potential in North Side
- Comcast covers Western Pa. with volunteers