Bistro heeds the call of the city's past
The phone rang at Tim Sailor's new business. Of course it did. That's what you expect to happen at a place called the Alexander Graham Bell Cafe.
"Excuse me, I'll be right back," said Sailor, 45, of Munhall, an asphalt and paving contractor two weeks into an experiment as exciting for him as it is financially risky: opening an upscale restaurant and bar in the downscale heart of Homestead.
You would never know from traveling along East Eighth Avenue that the main drag of this Monongahela Valley community sits but a block and some railroad tracks away from The Waterfront. Since the Waterfront's 1999 opening, the popularity of this sprawling retail-restaurant development has been largely self-contained.
Hence the collection of boarded-up buildings along East Eighth, buildings whose commercial viability ceased during the mid-1980s. That's when the USX Homestead Works, now home to The Waterfront, belched its last black smoke.
This wouldn't seem to be an ideal locale in which to open a trendy bistro that would be a perfect fit in the Strip District, Shadyside or the South Side. But when Sailor returned from his phone call, he assured me that he, his wife, Sonja, and their business partner, Sheran Sullivan, believe nothing could be further from the truth.
"This is the best move we could have made. The location is great," he said. "We're centrally located, and we're already starting to get people coming in from The Waterfront."
They are drawing them in not with the promise of what might be expected from a traditional Homestead bar -- a shot, a beer and perhaps a hard-boiled egg plucked from a jar behind the bar. They have, however, borrowed a page from Pittsburgh's past.
Back in the late 1970s, a place called Alexander's Graham Bell in Market Square was all the rage. The Bell was packed in part for employing a gimmick popular throughout the country -- an antique phone at each table allowing customers to contact people at other tables.
In addition to appropriating the name, Sullivan and the Sailors also appropriated the gimmick.
"If you're bold, you pick up the phone and call someone. If you're shy, you sit at the table and wait for someone to call you," Tim Sailor said. "It's a great way to meet people. You can't go wrong."
That's not necessarily true for the married people who might amble in. They probably should leave the phones on the hooks.
The attached still can enjoy the functional player piano, the ornate paintings on the wall, the leopard carpeting on the steps leading to the second level and the Victorian furniture around the fireplace once they get up there.
"We've got a little something for everybody," Sailor said, welcoming three people standing in the entranceway waiting for a table. The place appears to be doing good business.
In a neighborhood too long in decline, the owners of the Alexander Graham Bell Cafe hope such busy signals continue.
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.
- Blue Jays’ Martin has ‘nothing but praise’ for former Pirates teammates
- ‘Time for bold change,’ Wolf says in outlining $30B state budget
- Pittsburgh police make command staff promotions, changes
- Speeds restricted as PA Turnpike under weather emergency
- Spring training breakdown: Pirates 8, Blue Jays 7
- Spirit Airlines to add daily flights from Arnold Palmer airport to Chicago
- No tag for Worilds; Steelers cut Moore
- Starkey: Penguins not mortgaging future
- Surgeon to examine Pirates’ Cumpton after pitcher experienced elbow discomfort
- Cal U fraternity president cited after police arrest 7 in weekend brawl
- Penguins GM Rutherford not counting on Dupuis’ return