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Snacks N'At: Black Forge Coffee, Allentown

| Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, 9:01 p.m.
Black Forge coffee shop in Allentown Tuesday October 20, 2015.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Black Forge coffee shop in Allentown Tuesday October 20, 2015.
Black Forge coffee shop in Allentown Tuesday October 20, 2015.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Black Forge coffee shop in Allentown Tuesday October 20, 2015.

Ashley Corts says she and business partner Nick Miller want Black Forge Coffee to be about more than beans.

“We want the neighborhood to know they have a place they can go,” she says of the roaster that has been open since August in the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

To be sure, it is a coffee shop with espressos, lattes and coffees of the day. But more than that, it is a nightspot with comedy, open-mic evenings and performances by bands.

Corts says it also has become a gathering spot for weekday meetings for local business groups and a place neighborhood residents use to hang out.

Those roles all are part of the mission she and Miller have for the place.

Corts is from New York state and Miller from Michigan, but she says they both have fallen in love with Pittsburgh and, particularly, their neighborhood. That attraction led them to start a business that could be beneficial for Allentown.

“We said, ‘We're young, so this is the time to do it,' ” she says of their efforts that began more than a year ago.

She says the neighborhood responded well to their fundraising efforts.

“Seventy-five percent of the people in our Indiegogo effort were people we didn't know,” she says.

The result has been a hip-looking site in an Arlington Avenue storefront. The dim interior is made up of dark wood, with the tables and counters coming from recycled shipping palettes.

A small, raised area at the front holds tables in the daytime, but serves as the stage space at night.

A list of offerings is on a nicely designed chalkboard in the back of the store, above coffee cookers and an espresso machine.

Black Forge's drinks go from an 8-ounce coffee for $1 to some of the specialties at $4.

Those top items are special, indeed.

For instance, the Ginger Espresso mixes those two flavors in a cocktail shaker and is served with ice in a martini glass. Hellhounds is espresso strained over a variety of spices, mixed with chocolate and served with ice in a cocktail glass.

Baked goods from cookies to hefty peanut butter brownies are about $2.50. The site also has some gluten-free, vegan-aimed items.

Sandwiches and wraps are $6 to $7.

Corts says the aim of the shop also is reflected in its dealing with local firms. Coffee comes from Zeke's in East Liberty. Baked goods are from 350 Bakery on the South Side and Onion Maiden, which pops up at various sites often in Bloomfield and Lawrenceville. Sandwiches are from Sweet Peaches right in the neighborhood.

While Corts considers the past three months a total success, she says she and Miller are trying to stay aware of the needs and desires of the customers.

“It is all about the learning experience,” she says.

Black Forge Coffee, 1206 Arlington Ave., Pittsburgh, is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Details: 412-291-8994 or

Bob Karlovits is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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