Aspinwall’s Farmer x Baker gives different meaning to ‘food from a box’
A unique waterside dining option is open inside Aspinwall Riverfront Park.
Farmer x Baker, a repurposed shipping container-turned-café nestled along the Allegheny River in the scenic 10-acre park, is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh.
All 160 square feet of it.
The eco-friendly creation of owner Jennifer Urich, Farmer x Baker offers window-service al fresco breakfast and lunch dining in a casual setting.
For avid farmer and lifelong baker Urich, it’s the culmination of her desire to provide more waterfront dining options in Pittsburgh.
“I’m from Michigan and I love the water,” says Urich, owner of Root and Heart Farm in West Deer. “My great-grandmothers were wonderful bakers and I’ve always loved baking.
“I made my first pie when I was 7.”
She says she had a “light bulb” moment when she visited Aspinwall Riverfront Park, realizing it provided a perfect permanent location for her container café.
The menu is hand-written on two large chalkboards mounted on the container.
All foods are served on environmentally friendly paper products, using local, organic and seasonal ingredients from Root and Heart Farm, Freedom Farms, Tiny Seed Farm, Dillner Farm, Goat Rodeo Farm, Santa Farm, Doe Run Farm and Paul Family Farms.
Customers quickly embraced Chef Jesse Barlass and Urich’s culinary offerings, with Urich’s hand-rolled and homemade bagels often selling out.
“People come for the bagels. It’s our most popular item,” says Urich, who bakes all of her breads and baked goods from scratch.
Chef Barlass brings more than 20 years of culinary experience to a tiny kitchen space.
“I like it a lot,” says Barlass, on cooking inside the container. “It’s restrictive, but it’s hard to beat this view.”
Urich says one of her 40th birthday gifts was personal and inward — the confidence to pursue her shipping container café and make it a reality.
“I just never had the confidence until I turned 40 to go on my own and I decided to quit my other job [landscaping] and just go for it,” Urich says.
She located a steel shipping container for sale online in Ellwood City that was “in good shape” and purchased it for $4,800.
Farm x Baker was completed for less than $100,000 — a bargain for prime Allegheny waterfront real estate, says Urich.
“I decided to open up a shipping container restaurant because it’s eco-friendly and it’s a way to upcycle and build a commercial kitchen on a small budget,” Urich says.
The concept is farm-to-table, with locally sourced organic ingredients.
The breakfast and lunch menu changes weekly, but customers can count on staples like biscuits, grits, bagels, waffles, salads, sandwiches and a variety of gluten-free options.
Order to-go or relax in a seating area shaded under several large umbrellas, overlooking the marina and Allegheny River.
Limited days of operation for breakfast and lunch are Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a Sunday dinner served from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Farmer x Baker is BYOB and will remain open until December, when Urich plans to winterize the permanent café until spring.
A grand opening celebration event was held Aug. 25 to officially introduce Farmer x Baker to the Aspinwall community.
Michael Goldberg recently visited for breakfast after hearing all of the Farmer x Baker buzz.
“I heard lots about it and it was my first time coming here. I love being by the water and I wish Pittsburgh would take more advantage of that, so I was really excited to try it.”
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.