Pittsburgh’s Hemlock House is Serving up a Punk Rock Fine Dining Experience

On July 11, an open sign quietly clicked on in Regent Square. With the lights illuminated, Rockaway Pizzeria owner Joshua Sickels’s second restaurant, Hemlock House, officially debuted.

Initially, Sickels planned to move his pizza shop from White Oak into the former Map Room space. But after checking out the kitchen, he realized it was much too small for what he needed to make his pizza. Thus, the idea for something completely distinctive was born.

Sickles and his team set to work on Hemlock House last fall, with the plan to open in March. However, permitting and liquor license delays put a hold on the launch. Hemlock House still doesn’t have its liquor license, but Sickles felt they couldn’t wait around for it to open the restaurant. For now, in lieu of the license, Hemlock House is partnering with local beer and liquor places for extended pop-ups inside the establishment.

Even with the soft opening, Hemlock House has been receiving a steady flow of clientele. Sickles believes this is for two reasons: Regent Square residents are excited to have somewhere new to dine — “For a long time, the neighborhood has only had a few places that people have been frequenting,” Sickles tells TABLE Magazine. And, because Hemlock House is different from anything else in the area, “maybe even, I’d argue, Pittsburgh in general,” he says.

Half of the small space is taken up by the vintage-looking bar area, with music and pop culture photos and memorabilia donning the walls. In fact, music has a strong presence in Hemlock House — Sickles is a musician when not in the kitchen — and guests may find the speakers playing tunes that are a bit more obscure, with the volume a bit louder than the average restaurant.

“[Hemlock House] is not just a restaurant,” Sickles explains. “We’re trying to cultivate an atmosphere where if you have a friend coming into town and you want to hang out somewhere that’s a bit dark and fun, a dimly lit room to have some drinks in; you could spend 2-3 hours here and not even realize it’s been that long.”

The food, however, is more elevated than the dive-ish atmosphere would suggest. The menu, featuring the tagline “Irreverent Food & Cocktails,” is home to Farrotto alongside steaks and kielbasa corn dogs. Sickles and his head chef, Michael Allison, crafted the menu the way an album would be created without being “weird for the sake of being weird.”

“At first we wanted to do fun and creative bar food, but when you take a look at the menu, it’s much deeper than that,” Sickles said. “Pittsburgh doesn’t need another sports bar or beer and french fry joint, although there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Instead, Hemlock House is serving the city of Bridges a punk rock fine dining experience.

Story by Jordan Snowden

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