Root 174 has an evolving menu, but keeps a personal touch
Keith Fuller gets big pleasure from his small restaurant.
After serving as sous chef and then, executive chef at Six Penn Restaurant, Downtown, Fuller is owner and executive chef at Root 174 in Regent Square.
Freed from the constraints that come with offering a menu that changes infrequently, Fuller enjoys being able to experiment at will.
"What's nice about being small is that I get to play (with the menu). If it doesn't work, I change it," he says.
John Heidelmeier, who serves as sous chef and pastry chef, is an invaluable resource, Fuller says. "I couldn't have done this without him."
Root 174 seats 36 inside. In good weather, tables on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant can seat another 15 patrons.
It opened July 18 in the space previously occupied by Legume Bistro, which relocated to Oakland in September.
Intimate, casual and upscale, Root 174 attracts lots of Regent Square residents, and a lot of vegans and vegetarians who are willing to travel across town in search of imaginative and well-prepared vegetarian entrees.
Fuller works to keep locals happy with a menu that's changed -- or, at least, tweaked -- on an almost daily basis. On Tuesdays through Thursdays, he encourages residents' business with a 10 percent discount for those who can offer proof that they live within the 15218 or 15221 zip codes. There's an additional 5 percent reduction for residents who are seated before 8 p.m.
The result is a dining room that fills quickly with a wide age range of diners who are chatty and sociable, which raises the energy and noise levels.
The waitstaff is enthusiastic and well-informed about selections and how they're prepared. They're also attentive -- filling and refilling water and wine glasses and checking back as the meal progresses. Service is efficient and seamless. With courses arriving in easy succession, you can have a full and relaxed meal -- from appetizers to desserts -- in a little more than an hour.
The personal touch is evident throughout.
In addition to the small but varied menu of six entrees and six starters, additional items are listed on a chalkboard; plus, your waiter might have additional daily choices to offer. Unfortunately, neither the chalkboard nor waiter-recited items have prices attached.
Fuller promises there always will be chicken, steak and vegan choices. But how they're prepared or accessorized can change on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis, as produce gets used and reordered or when inspiration strikes.
Grilled Hanger Steak with blue-cheese croquettes, fingerling-potato fries and a port-wine demi-glaze ($24) has been a staple since the restaurant began.
Vegetables get special attention.
So, the Chicken Breast ($22), juicy on the inside, crispy skin on the outside, was served with a nicely braised portion of shredded collard greens and served with black-eyed pea waffles pleasantly accented with curry.
Fuller loves gnocchi, so it's likely to be available in some form.
The night we were there, the fluffy clouds of Ricotta Gnocchi ($19), an upscale comfort food, were dressed with fresh peas, wild mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, a just-set fried egg and Parmesan cheese.
Delicious though it was, Fuller already was contemplating a new, more fall-like version with butternut squash and cranberries.
Vegans and vegetarians always can be sure of having several choices.
A recent menu offered Vegan Meatloaf ($18) with root-vegetable polenta, Brussels-sprouts leaves and a smoky raisin jam.
One thing unlikely to get erased from the chalkboard any time soon is the Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Black Pepper Jam ($6). "I've taken it off twice and gotten yelled at," Fuller says.
It's easy to see why. If General Tso's mother had been a vegetarian -- and a really good cook -- she might have served him this spicy, crunchy delight.
The crunchy little faux cabbages have a crispy outer coating of thin egg-white batter, then spiced with the black-pepper jam that combines sweetness and a bit of fire.
They've got a sure place for the moment. But even they might disappear.
"Sooner or later, something will come off," Fuller warns. "It creates more buzz and appreciation when it comes back."
To avoid disappointment or heighten anticipation, Fuller advises customers to check Root 174 postings on Facebook, which are updated almost daily.
We started our meal with two tasty appetizers -- a big bowl of Mussels ($12) in a lively green curry broth, served with a thick hunk of grilled cornbread, and Bone Marrow Creme Brulee ($5), a spreadable treat that was extremely rich and savory. It made a nice beginning to the meal, especially when spread on thin rounds of baguette that could be topped with the tiny matchsticks of apple gremolata.
Desserts are made in the kitchen.
But when it comes to desserts, Fuller is happy to let Heidelmeier add pastry chef to his sous chef title.
"I'm slowly evolving. But John is better at it," Fuller says.
After the two desserts we enjoyed, we can't wait to see where their evolution leads.
The Chocolate Espresso Cake was everything you might imagine -- dark and dense, yet slightly sweet and soft. What made it even better was a small twist of butter icing and a puddle of berry sauce that highlighted the taste of fresh fruit over the sugar.
Fuller says his ambition is to offer simple, plain desserts that are evolving into fun.
That certainly was evident in the PBJ Cheesecake ($7) that had a base of Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Crunch Cereal and ribbons of peanut butter and strawberry jam -- sounds gimmicky, tastes great.Additional Information:
Cuisine: Modern international
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Entree price range: $15-$26
Notes: BYOB with $5 per bottle or six-pack corkage fee; reservations recommended for any size party up to 12; accepts most major credit cards
Location: 1113 South Braddock Ave., Regent Square
Details: 412-243-4348 or website
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.
- Steelers are banking on linebackers to improve strength of defense
- Pitt coach Narduzzi goes home for induction into Youngstown coaches hall of fame
- McKeesport’s Renziehausen Park to get water attraction
- Stamp Out Hunger’s haul to assist Western Pennsylvania food banks
- Push to honor coach spurs plans for West Mifflin Area hall of fame
- Jeannette man killed in Hempfield crash
- Kennywood to review park security, following fight
- Pirates suffer 3rd straight walk-off loss in St. Louis in 14 innings
- Santucci repeats as Pittsburgh Marathon winner; Njoroge wins men’s race
- Medical personnel have plenty to do at Pittsburgh Marathon
- Fiscal concerns define Westmoreland County commissioners race