Come for the art, stay for the food at The Cafe at the Frick
Seth Bailey, executive chef of The Cafe at the Frick in Point Breeze, discovered Spanish mackerel while fishing off the coast of Florida and immediately wondered how it would taste.
“They were amazing to catch,” says Bailey, who, upon returning to Pittsburgh, found Spanish mackerel at Penn Avenue Fish Co. in the Strip District, and developed a recipe that sometimes appears as the fish of the day at the Frick Art & Historical Center's cottage-style cafe.
“I buy what looks good at market. That determines a lot what we prepare,” he says, “but I like offering the more eccentric fishes, like the mackerel. We've also done hog snapper and braised octopus.”
Bailey has curated a selective menu for daily luncheons, weekend tea service, and Friday evening dinners. Items can be ordered a la carte, or as fixed-price meals that include soup or salad, entrée and dessert.
He uses vegetables and herbs grown in the Frick's greenhouse in partnership with Grow Pittsburgh and receives other produce, as well as eggs, weekly from John Miller of Miller Farms in Mercer County. “I base a lot of the menu on what John brings me,” Bailey says.
Seasonally inspired items — several of which change daily — include entrees such as Chicken Piccata and Mushroom Cobbler; sandwiches like Shaved Rib-Eye, Broccoli and Cheese Panino; Clam Tacos; and salads that feature pears and kale or nuts and berries. A mainstay is the cafe's signature quiche of the day, which is wildly popular, Bailey says.
“We took it off the menu at one time and our customers rebelled. I think it's our unique crust, which I make with cornmeal, heavy cream, eggs, flour and butter.”
On par in popularity is tea service, which is offered from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and features an array of savory finger foods, scones, pastries and chocolates with freshly brewed tea by Harney & Sons from upstate New York.
The 22 varieties include Frick Specialty Blend, Japanese Sencha Green, French Super Blue Lavender, Ginger Liquorice, Chocolate Mint and an Earl Grey tea named for Helen Clay Frick. The Royal Tea includes house wine or champagne.
Cocktails and martinis also are on the menu, along with premium spirits, bottled craft beers and a variety of wines.
Part of the allure of the cafe, which was built in 1910 in the American Craftsman and Arts and Crafts styles, is its cozy ambience and view of the Frick's gardens through floor to ceiling windows and French doors. With seating for 32 — and double that in summer when the patio is open — reservations are encouraged.
With an art museum, antique car museum and historic mansion on the grounds, a full day of cultural enjoyment can be built around a meal.
The cafe occasionally offers special dinners tied to holidays or exhibits, such as Valentine's Day meals on Feb. 10 and 14, and a Tastes of Home series March 15, April 19 and May 10 that will feature cuisines from around the world.
These are fixed-price, advance-paid dinners.
Deborah Weisberg is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
Grilled Spanish Mackerel with Marinated Tomatoes and Charred Broccoli
2 Spanish mackerel filets (pin bones removed)
1 tablespoon Cajun style seasoning
2 cups quartered assorted cherry tomatoes
1 crown of broccoli (charred lightly on the grill and cut into small pieces)
Zest of one lemon
2 cloves of fine chopped garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup roasted garlic oil *
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped basil
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons honey
Prepare grill to medium to medium-high heat. Season mackerel with Cajun seasoning and grill roughly 5 minutes per side. In a bowl, combine lemon zest, garlic, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle roasted garlic oil in while constantly whisking. Add to the tomato, charred broccoli, parsley and basil. Toss to incorporate and allow to rest to let the flavors marry. *In a small pot, place a cup of garlic cloves and just enough oil to cover and steep over low heat until the garlic is soft and tan, but not brown. Allow to cool.