The first stage of our renovation and expansion is ready for you to explore. Soba has a new Lounge!
When we learned that the corner of College and Ellsworth—the old College Inn next door that has been vacant for a decade—was finally available, we leapt at it. For years we had fantasized about that space; the room’s interesting shape, inherent appeal, and awesome corner exposure. Moving the Lounge there made perfect sense. And we saw an opportunity to re-interpret the Soba feel. We wanted more light and vibrancy, brighter wood, subtle colors, clean lines. A fresh Soba Lounge.
We approached Yvette Kovats, designer of Umi and longtime friend of the Burrito, to help us realize the vision. A former Pittsburgher and current New Yorker, Yvette’s elegant, urban approach to design brought our ambitions to life. Hickory lattice softens the birch and stone of the century-old building. Tans and grays create a warm light, gentle and comforting. The granite and river rock bar exudes solidity and strength without overwhelming the room. Above the bartenders, hundreds of spirits populate glass shelves, backlit warmly by bamboo-striped panels. Silently present, a hypnotically complex, crystalline ellipsoid chandelier hovers, the ethereal centerpiece of the room.
A recent use of the Inn was as a pop-up gallery, and that carries over as local artists populate the room. Jonathan Shapiro supplied two beautiful carved wooden pieces, their rugged wood fantasy juxtaposing well with surrounding clean lines (see more of his sculpture across the street at the Mendelson Gallery through June). Laurie Mancuso, long-time big Burrito muralist (including the monumental Umi stairwell) and awesome friend, delivers another mural for us behind the bar. And some of the most venerable and transient art in the big Burrito collection—mixed media linoleum landscapes by Bill Miller—finally find an ideal home.
Large, folding windows remove the barrier between the street and the Lounge. Street sounds, music, and conversation mingle on the corner as passers by greet friends inside. Groups linger on low divans, dining at clean, square hickory tables. Cocktails and appetizers, celebration and relaxation are the theme of the Lounge. Soon, we’ll embrace the street scene further with café seating along College Avenue.
Over the next few months we’ll complete our transformation. The previous bar becomes a large dining room, a new entry way and water wall rooms will follow, bringing more seats and new comfort to our first floor.
Behind the scenes, Rob and the bar team got their own brand new cooler with room for more beer, adding two draft lines. Chef Danielle gains a “new” walk-in cooler as well, taking over the old bar cooler giving her much-needed space to keep up with her ever-growing menu. In the kitchen, we added new coolers, giving a thorough overhaul to the maki/appetizer area as well as more space and firepower to Julie Martin and her dessert program.
Most exciting for the kitchen, however, will be the vastly improved dish room. Having survived for over seventeen years on the same modest cubby for warewashing, we will double the size of the room (not hard to do, as you’d know if you ever saw it) giving our team a great opportunity to clean and store the great new plates Chef Danielle has been accumulating over the last few months.
Come give it a look. Some of our guests have entered the new lounge and asked “Where are we?!? Is this Soba?”. It really is.