You’re in the mood for a burger, but your dining companion wants pasta, or shrimp tempura, or BBQ. What are you going to do? Well, you can solve that dining quandary easily at the Galley Bakery Square.
The Galley Bakery Square is a sleek, new food hall, which opened about a month ago on Penn Avenue in Larimer. It’s a stand-alone building that was built approximately on the former location of Coffee Tree Roasters. No need to worry though, for those with a serious coffee dependency; you can visit the Starbucks in Bakery Square. Galley’s interior is airy with large banks of windows on three sides, one of which borders on Penn Avenue. Flanking the building on each side is patio seating, one enclosed and one open.
There are four restaurants in Galley Bakery Square: Bubba’s (smash Burghers). GG’s Cafe (BBQ and comfort foods), Somi (Japanese), and City Fresh Pasta. In this story we will be exploring Bubba’s and GG’s Cafe.
On my first visit I strolled around checking out each restaurant in the four-stall array and their respective illuminated menu boards. Then I saw Bubba, the host of Star 100.7 FM’s The Bubba Show (Monday through Fridays, 5 to 10 a.m.) and one of Pittsburgh’s top morning drive hosts. I remembered him having a restaurant and wondered if he was doing something at the Galley. I caught up with him as he was going behind the counter at his restaurant—Bubba’s. I had met him once or twice over the years and mentioned that to him while saying hello.
He was very friendly and I told him I was writing a story on the Galley Bakery Square. I said that I would definitely include Bubba’s in the article. I asked if he had a few minutes for a quick interview. Being that it was just after the lunch rush he graciously agreed and we headed outside to talk on the patio.
For Bubba Snider, the opening of his namesake restaurant at the Galley and a new taco restaurant—Lucha Street Tacos on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill (next to Mineo’s)—marks a return to his East End roots. Bubba grew up in the Squirrel Hill/Greenfield area and attended Taylor Allderdice High School. He now resides in South Fayette. Bubba mentioned that he loves doing the radio show, but had always wanted to diversify into the restaurant business. He counts four Bubba’s locations, including Bakery Square, and two Lucha’s restaurants.
I asked Bubba why he chose a food hall for his next restaurant. He replied, “The galley concept is interesting because it’s an incubator. You give people the opportunity to try out new concepts … for me this is the way of taking a big concept and downsizing it. So the incubator for me is, for example, my Burghers are unlike any other burger in the world. It’s New York strip, ribeye, sirloin, and brisket; and all aged 28 days. I could go on and on about our Burgher, but at this location I’ve taken that burger mix and turned it into a smash burger, which is a huge trend right now.
“So even though I am an experienced restaurateur, it allowed me an opportunity to incubate a concept that’s a little different from what I’m doing everywhere else. I hope to stay here [Galley Bakery Square] a very long time and I hope that if they open other locations I hope to move with them.” Bubba knows beef, as his father had owned a meat market in Oakland for many years.
When I asked Bubba what his menu highlights are, he mentioned the Burghers and several of their variations: the signature gourmet smash Burgher, the Fiesta Burgher (smash Burgher with house made guacamole, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and tomato. Other popular choices are smash Burghers with fried bologna, egg, BLT ranch, and a hot one called Fire in the Hole. There’s even a Beyond Burgher. All Burghers are served on a Breadworks bun and a side of fries. A smash burger is a thin beef patty pressed into a hot griddle with a spatula when it’s first placed on the grill and pressed again when flipped. This promotes a tasty caramelization-like effect that puts a delicious crust on the burger.
Bubba also feels that food should be fun: “One of the things that I have is a corn dog. Everyone has a corn dog; this is not just any corn dog. I’ve spent a lot of time researching a good corn [batter] recipe. I have a quarter-pound, certified Angus beef hot dog that is our corn dog and it’s served on a bed of beer cheese.
When asked how everything is going, Bubba replied, “I’ve opened up a lot of restaurants and I’ve had some rocky restaurant openings in my career, and this is the smoothest restaurant opening that I’ve ever had.” He then laughingly continued, “Knock on wood.”
I asked Bubba why this opening was so smooth, he gave credit to his team, saying, “Christina St. Clair, who’s kind of my executive chef here and I have Ashley Rae, who’s my director of training, which allowed me to focus on systems and protocols. So Ashley focused on making sure that the staff was customer-service based. Christina made sure that once I came up with the menu, there were systems in place. So I think we went in with a team-first attitude and we built the menu to be simple, delicious, and fast.”
When asked if there was anything else he wanted people to know, he said, “I want to tell people how proud I am of, you know, I’ve been in this city, born and raised in Pittsburgh, been doing radio since I was 19 years old. The cool part about the restaurant industry that’s very similar to radio, that most people don’t think about is, when I wake up in the morning my goal is to make people happy. My goal is when you turn on the Bubba Show on 100.7 Star, I want people to be happy and the restaurant concept is the same.
“And the way I look at the restaurant business is when people come in and and eat my food I want people to be happy. So even though I’m feeding the soul and feeding the stomach the end result should be the same. My interaction with them through the radio and restaurant should be happiness.”
All this talk about high quality steak Burghers had me ravenously desiring one, so after the interview I walked up to Bubba’s counter and ordered a Basic Burgher ($12 single, $14 double). I didn’t get a Burgher with all the extras on it, because I wanted to get the full flavor of the beef mix. I’m glad I did as the seared Burgher was tender and very flavorful. One of the best burgers I’ve had in a while. The Bubba sauce provided a light amount of seasoning. The double Burgher was over a quarter pound of grilled beef and topped with melted American cheese and came with a large amount of homemade potato chips (you can also choose fries) and a pickle slice. The Burghers are free of steroids, antibiotics, and GMO.
I also had decided to try the Ultimate Corn Dog since Bubba gave it a big buildup. It’s a quarter pound certified Angus beef hot dog, dipped and deep-fried and served with beer cheese ($11). It was a top quality dog with a slightly sweet corn batter on the outside and done to a golden brown hue. It was very good, both with and without the beer cheese dip. (Tip: there are no salt & pepper shakers or packets on the tables, possibly due to Covid restrictions, so ask for a to-go cutlery pack for salt and pepper packets)
Other offerings at Bubba’s include: an open-faced Turkey Devonshire sandwich, The Big Dawg, Turkey Rachel, and chicken and waffles for brunch on the weekends. As we established previously, Bubba likes to make sure people have fun and there are several very fun items on his menu: Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese, Pretzel Burnt Ends, Curds & Pickles, bacon candy, and fried Oreos. Bubba’s at the Galley Bakery Square is also a family affair for Bubba, with his twin daughters Brianna and Michaela working there.
On my second visit I discovered another family business at Galley Bakery Square involving sisters—GG’s Cafe. GG’s is owned by sisters Meredith and Christine Galloway. They both are from the East End and attended Taylor Allderdice High School.
I asked if they had worked in the food service industry prior to GG’s and Meredith replied, ”Never, never even worked at McDonalds, but we came across baking. Our grandmother was a baker for many years at Montefiore Hospital. When she passed we started to make cakes. We always cooked for our family, but our customers who liked our cakes also wanted some of our food, so we started catering.
“And during Covid we did private home deliveries so, you know, people would need Christmas dinner, so we would make Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas brunch, and Christmas dinner, and drop everything off.” “Contactless,” Christine added.
Meredith continued, “We were delivering birthday cakes to kids that were on Pitt’s campus. Their parents would find our information, they’d call, order a birthday cake and we’d drop that right off. So our business really exploded in 2020.”
Prior to starting their baking and catering business they both worked regular jobs: Meredith in sales and customer service and Christine in marketing in Manhattan. Christine said, “We both separately had a dream of running a family restaurant together and this opportunity came about, and we went full throttle for it. And one year later after starting it, we are in a prime location and we are doing really well. We are excited to bring some of our favorite dishes—in terms of comfort food. So that’s what we serve, comfort food.”
Meredith added, “We’re trying to bring back classic comfort foods.” Thus their slogan is “A New Classic.” “We have something for everyone. We want you to feel good when you eat our food.”
GG’s food selections have some local inspirations. For example they don’t have the typical Pittsburgh Salad, instead offering a Pittsburgh Salmon Salad. It’s also their best-selling item. They mentioned that most Pittsburgh baby showers have a linguini salad, so they created the Pgh Party Pasta Salad.
Another best seller is the Jamaican Spiced sandwich with roast chicken and green jerk sauce on fry bread. Others are their mac & cheese and BBQ ribs. They want their offerings to be so you can have a Sunday dinner on a Thursday, or Tuesday, or any night.
GG’s makes all their own sauces and dressings. They pride themselves on being a scratch kitchen. Other menu highlights are: Hawaiian Huli Huli sandwich, jackfruit cakes, and GG’s pork BBQ sandwich. They also offer carrot cake and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
“GG’s rotates items in, we can’t wait for fall. Already, we’re thinking about all our soups, chicken and dumpling, chili and our holiday menu,” Meredith said. Christine added that they were also going to start having chicken pot pies: “What we’re here for is the repeat customer. We want to serve their soul and make them feel whole and full.”
Meredith said, “It’s super authentic. We have customers who [say] this is their favorite restaurant. We’ve only been here three weeks, and this is your favorite restaurant, we love that!”
Before I interviewed Meredith and Christine I tried some of their food and side dishes. I figured that GG’s I’ll Double Up Special ($25) would be a good way to sample several of their top offerings. It was a quarter of a roasted chicken, a quarter slab of ribs, two sides, and a small tossed salad. For my sides I chose mac & cheese and mashed potatoes with kale.
I started in on the ribs first. They serve baby back ribs which are slightly smaller ribs, but with more meat and less fat. The ribs were delicious with their splendid homemade brown sugar-based BBQ sauce. I consumed the three ribs at a high rate of speed. Next I dove into the mac & cheese, which was cheddary, and seasoned properly with a little crust on top. Some damn fine mac & cheese. The chicken was nicely roasted with slightly crispy skin and a pleasing rub. I love my greens, but have never had them mixed with mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes and kale were tasty. And some of the guilt of eating mashed potatoes is dissipated when mixed with kale. I had a wonderful Sunday dinner at GG’s Cafe on a Wednesday afternoon.
And if you’re in the mood for beer, wine, or a cocktail the Galley has a full-service bar with happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with half off all alcoholic beverages.
The Galley Group
Galley Bakery Square is owned by the Galley Group, based in Pittsburgh. The firm had previously owned Smallman Galley in the Strip District, and still owns Federal Galley in Allegheny Center and North Loop Galley in Minneapolis. Galley Bakery Square is the follow-up to Smallman Galley which they closed when its lease ran out.
I spoke with Chad Ellingboe, CEO of the Galley Group. Ellingboe, a native of northwest Wisconsin, near Minneapolis, had this to say when asked about why they love the food galley business, “We like the community aspect of it. We like to be able to provide the community setting that allows people to create their own experience and we also like the opportunity of providing spaces for chefs to operate their own space.
“It’s kind of a low risk environment for them and it provides the ability to give either some up-and-coming chefs an opportunity, but also people like Somi. They’ve been operating with Galley Group and this is their third concept with Galley Group. And there’s Bubba’s; it’s a chance to expand into a market he has some personal connection to. Similarly with City Fresh Pasta, it’s an opportunity for them to expand. They had their food truck which was popular in the neighborhood, that Walnut Capital would have over in their residences which helped name recognition.”
Ellingboe also mentioned that Walnut Capital had been a good partner for them in getting the property ready for Galley Bakery Square.
I asked Ellingboe how they chose the restaurants for Galley Bakery Square and he responded, “So, some were referrals from people that we would work with in the past or different business contacts that we work with, some were applicants through the process where we did tastings and interviews and such, so it was a culmination of a variety of ways to find everyone.”
How many people applied, I asked. “We narrowed it down to about 25, and we reached out to and did a tasting with eight,” Ellingboe replied. I asked him, how long can a restaurant stay? Ellingboe said, “We always start with a one-year agreement and it’s really dependent on the success of the concept and what the operator is looking for, and the relationship with them we’ve created as partners. We do have some kitchens that have been around for, you know, multiple years.”
He points out that Somi and Provision at Federal Galley have been with them for five years and that what they’re looking for in their operators depends on what market they’re trying to fill.
Ellingboe added, “We work off a revenue share. So we provide all of the buildout of the kitchen, all the major equipment, all the repairs and maintenance, all the utilities, the POS [point of sale] systems. We provide a large majority of everything and then that’s what the revenue share covers.”
When asked what’s next for the Galley Group, Ellingboe smiled and said, “We’re trying to maintain operational excellence with Galley Bakery Square, but at some point we will be looking to open a fourth galley.” The Galley Bakery Square space was designed by Pittsburgh based Strada.
The Galley Bakery Square is a beautiful space with delicious food from operators like Bubba’s and GG’s Cafe who are looking not only to feed your stomach, but also your soul. I’m looking forward to trying food from Somi and City Fresh Pasta on my next visits.
Also opening soon at Bakery Square is täkō and big Burrito’s Alta Via pizza restaurant spinoff—AVP.
Galley Bakery Square
145 Bakery Square Blvd.
Tuesday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.*
Friday: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.*
Saturday: Noon – 10 p.m.*
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
*Kitchens close 1 hour before bar.
The Bakery Square parking garage is free for two hours Monday-Friday before 5PM, and free for three hours Monday-Friday after 5PM and on weekends. There are also free timed spots for one hour, and for 15 minutes on Bakery Square Boulevard.
Story and photos by Rick Handler, executive producer of Entertainment Central.