Braddock, Pennsylvania

Photo: Superior Motors

It’s soft-shell crab season. Tonight they’re served with thin buckwheat noodles, salty seaweed, and fresh-from-the-garden scallions. A citrusy yuzu sauce sits at the bottom of the plate. The dish tastes like summer. The rest of the meal will, as well. Ocean trout will be served with everything panzanella, a salad in which stale bread is revived by bright tomatoes. Crisp asparagus and curled fiddlehead ferns will be paired with tender veal and creamy ricotta. Eventually, juicy mulberries, white chocolate, floral elderflower, and a touch of balsamic atop a crunchy pretzel salad. Summer ingredients are on full display at Superior Motors.

The most surprising thing about this farm-to-table restaurant isn’t the seasonal food; the menu changes regularly based on what’s fresh and available. It isn’t that much of its produce comes from a rooftop greenhouse down the street. Nor is it the just-as-fresh cocktails, which might include sweet watermelon or honey from their own apiary. Nope. The most surprising thing about Superior Motors is its location.

Superior Motors is in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Like much of the Pittsburgh area, the small suburb was once a thriving steel-mill town. Andrew Carnegie even built his first of more than 1,600 libraries here. But the steel industry collapsed in the 1970s. Almost 90 percent of the population left. Two decades of decline followed. Then Kevin Sousa came along.

The chef from Pittsburgh was already a James Beard Award semifinalist (Salt of the Earth) when he set his sights on Braddock. He found an old Chevy dealership, started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds, promised to train local workers, and even moved his family farther east. The fine-dining restaurant kept getting delayed, though. It took five years and a lot more money to finally open. It was worth the wait. Superior Motors was named a Food & Wine Restaurant of the Year 2018.

But you aren’t thinking about awards at the moment. You’re focused on bursting tomatoes, young asparagus, nutty fiddleheads, and, of course, the soft-shell crabs that won’t be available much longer. Your taste buds are being revitalized at the same time as Braddock.

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