Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurants of 2017
An elegant seafood and chop house known for customer attention. Downtown’s new Distrikt Hotel Pittsburgh is now home to or, The Whale, an ambitious restaurant led by chef Dennis Marron, who’s pulling double duty on the restaurant-opening front as his Merchant Oyster Company also recently opened in Lawrenceville. Housed in what used to be the gym and track area of the historic Salvation Army building, or, The Whale is a beautifully designed gem, with an upstairs bar and lounge, and an impressive dining room that features a butcher room, a private wine cellar, and an open kitchen, featuring a wood-burning hearth and a pastry room.
or, The Whale still getting its sea legs
Seafood is a passion for chef and partner Dennis Marron. The Jersey Shore native landed in Pittsburgh by way of the Kimpton properties, first in Washington, D.C. then to the Hotel Monaco Downtown. There, he opened The Commoner a couple years ago — and met Jessica Lewis, his future life and work partner.
A Tale of Two Openings: Merchant Oyster Co. & Or, The Whale
When we sat down to talk to Chef Dennis Marron in the modern, nautical-themed wine room of his latest restaurant venture, Or, The Whale, about his other latest restaurant venture, Merchant Oyster Co, it was instantly apparent that the seaside is one of the biggest influences in both his cooking and his lifestyle. The New Jersey-born chef spent much of our time together talking passionately about the food-related memories he has of his home state, most of them revolving around seafood plucked fresh from the ocean, and he seemed equally passionate about bringing that type of seafood-centric dining to Pittsburgh’s booming restaurant scene.
Urbanist Interviews or, The Whale's Sommelier, Eric Moorer
Eric Moorer remembers the first great wine he ever tasted.
It was 2011, the Alderdice grad had just moved back to Pittsburgh from Wilmington, North Carolina, where he went to college, and he was working at Sonoma Grill as a means to “figure out the rest of [my] 20s”, as he describes it. “One of our senior servers at the time poured me a glass of Stags Leap Petit Syrah.” Moorer said. “I tasted it and it’s this big, juicy, beautiful, opulent, California red wine, and I was like… ‘Oh my god. What was that?’ And he was like, ‘Well, they’re not all going to be like that.'”
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Downtown detour. Chef Dennis Marron made his mark opening restaurants for the Kimpton Group—his Pittsburgh debut, The Commoner, opened at downtown's Hotel Monaco. Marron left corporate life behind a few years back to pursue other projects; he was on track to open an oyster joint in hip Lawrenceville, last year, was it?
Well, he's definitely going to get around to that, it will be called Merchant Oyster Co., and it's absolutely still happening, but Marron has jumped back into the hotel game, opening or, The Whale (yes, that's the name) at the new Distrikt Hotel, carved out of a historic Salvation Army building. A wood-fired grill, an on-premises butchery, good cocktails, a caviar program and brunch every day—in a town that's coming to expect more from its hotel restaurants, this one's far above average.
or, The Whale is Pittsburgh's Newest Restaurant
Dennis Marron and Jessica Lewis, chefs at Pittsburgh's newest restaurant "Or, the Whale" stop by to talk about their menu and to explain how they got their unique name.
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Brunch was always part of the plan when Chefs Dennis Marron (The Commoner) and Jessica Lewis (Carota Cafe) were creating the menus for Or, the Whale. Brunch is served seven days a week at the newly-opened seafood and chop house, so it’s a cornerstone of their concept.
The Tunisian-inspired shakshuka, eggs poached in a ragout of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions and spices, was a top pick for both chefs. “I loved serving it at Carota Cafe [at the Smallman Galley] and am so happy to serve that dish — so heart-healthy and so flavorful,” says Lewis.
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The newcomer to the Downtown brunch scene has something special up its sleeve – brunch seven days a week. Yes, this means you can dine in their seaside-inspired space and eat dishes like Eggs Chesapeake, Shrimp & Crab Cocktail, Steak + Eggs, and Shakshuka any day of week.
The interior is airy and beautiful, and reminiscent of a Nantucket beach house, which is fitting, as the entire restaurant is themed after Moby Dick. With two cocktail bars (yes, two) and a raw bar with fresh oysters, it is impossible to leave unsatisfied.
or, The Whale Brings Seaside Eats to Downtown Pittsburgh
“I want it to feel like you’re at somebody’s beach house.”
Dennis Marron, chef of or, The Whale, is bringing relaxed, beach vibes to Downtown Pittsburgh with the opening of his new restaurant in the Distrikt Hotel.
Luckily for anyone working the grind in Downtown Pittsburgh, a carefree, beach-inspired experience sounds very, very appealing.
The space is a collaboration between a group of Pittsburgh investors and chefs, spearheaded by Marron, who previously opened the Commoner Downtown, and is currently working on opening the Merchant Oyster Company in Lawrenceville.
Chef Dennis Marron is making waves with modern surf and turf at or, The Whale
Walking down the stairs into the lower dining room of the new downtown seafood and chop house restaurant called or, The Whale feels a little like going below sea level. A giant illustration of Moby Dick greets all who enter. Nautical ropes loom over the heads of diners spanning their way up to the main bar, which is perched in a prime overlook position like the bow of a ship.
The new eatery marks its official launch Wednesday with a private media event after quietly “soft-opening” two weeks ago. The “farm and fisher to table” concept from Chef Dennis Marron (The Commoner) brings fresh seafood and grilled meat creations to the heart of downtown.
Pittsburgh is getting a ‘Moby Dick’-themed surf and turf restaurant
“or, The Whale” opens Downtown next month, with a menu so sustainable it’s “down to knowing the names of the captains of the boats.”
Call it Ishmael.
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Chef Dennis Marron, who hit a home run when he opened the Commoner at the Hotel Monaco in 2015, is currently developing a restaurant in the trendy new Distrikt Hotel, which will open soon in the former Salvation Army Building Downtown. The space, named or, The Whale, will be a seafood and chop house with features like a butcher room with a dry-aging room.
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The soon-to-open Distrikt Hotel downtown is also getting a 150-seat restaurant — Or, The Whale. The menu will focus on humanely-raised meat, sustainable seafood, and locally-farmed veggies, all cooked on a wood-burning grill (are we sensing a theme in new Pittsburgh openings here?). Or, the Whale is being opened by Dennis Marron, who is also the purveyor of Merchant Oyster Co. We’re also excited for the solid wine list that is being touted by Marron, something much-needed in Steel City.
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What are the challenges of opening up a large project Downtown [or, The Whale at the forthcoming The Distrikt Hotel]? Finding people for all of the specialty roles that I need: A food & beverage director, sommelier, lead bartender or even two lead bartenders for both bars, a butcher because I’m going to have a whole butcher department, a chef de cuisine and a sous chef. It’s a lot of moving parts. We have a second space that will be used for a different food project, but we’re not going to do anything with that for at least a year because we want to get this right first.
Dennis Marron Announces New Restaurant Project In Distrikt Hotel
Or, The Whale will be a seafood and chop house that will be located in the soon-to-open Distrikt Hotel downtown, and will focus on serving humanly-raised meat, sustainable seafood and locally-farmed vegetables cooked on a wood-burning grill.
“It’s going to be like a cool, old steakhouse meets a cool, old seafood restaurant.” Marron says. “I grew up in a town where when you wanted to go out to dinner, you had two places to go: a seafood place or a steak place. It’s kind of like that, but I wanted to do it a little better.”