April 6, 2016 - Pittsburgh City Paper

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The last place I expected to get good food was in a conference room at the University of Pittsburgh, where I was part of a panel on the use of the word “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. But a fellow panelist, Dena Stanley, a trans woman and LGBT activist, brought along a box of delicious cupcakes. It turned out that Stanley, a pastry chef at the university, also runs a home-based bakery business called MadDezSweetz. The well-received cupcakes offered interpretations on classic flavors. But one had fried chicken on top! Stanley explained that that was her “soul-food cupcake.” It’s a cornbread cupcake, with a sweet-potato topping, mac-and-cheese inside and fried chicken on the top. It seems like a strange cupcake, but the combinations are fantastic — and if arranged on a plate, say, it’s just as “classic” a flavor set-up as strawberries and cream or Black Forest chocolate with coconut icing. “I get ideas, and then I just try to work it out and enhance it,” Stanley says. Stanley grew up in Pittsburgh and became interested in baking through her grandmother. “She made these pound cakes that were so good, it drew me in,” she says. Stanley moved to Georgia after graduating from the Pittsburgh Culinary Institute. She worked for a French chef at a local hotel and for a large bakery chain. (She was also transitioning at the time, which led to discrimination and a lawsuit against the bakery, which was later settled out of court.) Stanley’s dream was to run her own business, and she decided that Pittsburgh was where she wanted to do it. Stanley doesn’t just make cupcakes; she also makes cakes, pastries and specializes in bread. And while she can bake the oldfashioned way, she also produces breads that are vegan, gluten-free and suitable for those with food sensitivities. “A lot of gluten-free breads, I would wonder, ‘Who’s going to eat that?’” Stanley says. “It’s very difficult to make it well. There are so many different components, and you have to really have everything right down to the fraction to make it really delicious.” In time, Stanley hopes to have a retail store, but for now her baked goods are available by contacting her directly (412-618-6564 or maddezsweetz@gmail. com). You can also find her work by searching Facebook for “Maddezsweetz.”


Surf-and-turf and coconut-cream pie



N CASE YOU missed the latest love letter

to Pittsburgh from The New York Times, it focused on the relationship between the city’s burgeoning food scene and its recent influx of young residents. Every month brings a new batch of sustainablysourced restaurants with one-word names and artisanal cocktail programs. They don’t come much older than the Grant Bar and Restaurant in Millvale, itself a town hungry for a food-driven renaissance. Opened by Matthew and Maria Ruzomberka in 1933, the half-timbered tavern still features a Ruzomberka in the kitchen— Matthew and Maria’s boy, Frank, now in his 80s. Late in life, he became a pie-maker, and as a result, Grant Bar has become a mecca for pies. While the front room of the Grant looks like any other local sports bar, don’t be



PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER 04.06/04.13.2016

fooled: What lies beyond is nothing so quotidian. Past the bar, you enter a lobby with walls plastered to resemble … it’s hard to say, exactly. The inspiration seems to have

GRANT BAR AND RESTAURANT 114 Grant Ave., Millvale. 412-821-1541 HOURS: Mon. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Tue.-Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. 4-10 p.m. PRICES: Appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches $3-10; entrees $13-25 LIQUOR: Full bar

CP APPROVED been some form of Central European public house, passed through the imagination of a long-ago craftsman who covered the walls with faux stone and timber, augmented with details like a relief of a log beer barrel,

complete with a carved stein being filled. Truly, this is singular vision, an utterly unique folk-art interior that must be seen to be appreciated. The menu speaks less of “sports bar” and more of an ordinary worker’s version of fine dining, circa 1975. Steak, liver, crab cakes and cod almondine represent a menu arrested in an era before even fettucine alfredo with chicken and broccoli, let alone seared ahi tuna or short-rib macand-cheese. On weekends, you can even get turtle soup. There are also a handful of sandwiches and burgers, but the prevailing standard is, if not event dining, at least a nice night out with family. The crab cake was a patty of seafood and filler breaded and fried to a golden crisp. It sure looked like imitation crab on the inside, but it hardly mattered, because

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