Blue Sky is preparing to open its doors in East Liberty by the end of June. The new restaurant is a venture of Matt Turbiner, operating partner of Shady Grove in Shadyside, and his partners Gregg Caliguiri, Kirk Vogel, and Marc Hourvitz. With more than 20 years of history working together—from the former Pittsburgh Deli Co. in Shadyside to Social in Bakery Square—the group is ready to bring a new “elevated casual” concept to the first floor of the 211 Tower.
In a story for the Pittsburgh Business Times, Turbiner explained, “Blue Sky is going to be the culmination of a lot of the things we’ve done together.”
The restaurant features a large outdoor patio and an American menu with a range of influences, spanning Peru to Jamaica.
To get the full scoop, we spoke with Turbiner about the concept, his history in the restaurant industry, and what he hopes to add to the community.
How did you get your start in the restaurant industry?
People and food have always been my thing. Like many, my start was delivering pizza and doing dishes in high school. From there, I worked part-time in kitchens until graduating from Penn State with a degree in psychology and business. After graduating, I worked at Gateway as a drug and alcohol counselor until I got my master’s in counseling at Chatham. In the meantime, I started working at the PGH Deli Co. in Shadyside. That is where I met my future partners and had to decide what path I would take: either food or counseling. In the end, I realized that the restaurant industry would allow me to enjoy both. We opened up the first Walnut Grill on Walnut Street. Shortly after, we had the opportunity to take over the first floor below the Grill, and I opened the Shady Grove. Fast forward 20 years, and many restaurants later, and I still love the staff, customers, and food.
How did the idea for opening Blue Sky come about? (Bonus question: how did you come up with the name?)
Blue Sky was born out of always looking for restaurant opportunities that provided small interior square footage (keeps the energy high) and large outside spaces, which this location does. Covid only reinforced the value of offering guests outdoor space. The name came about for two reasons: I named Shady Grove after a Jerry Garcia song and Blue Sky after an Allman Brothers song, and once you come to Blue Sky on a sunny day and get to enjoy all of the uninterrupted views of the sky, even located in the center of Penn Circle, you will get it.
What makes this restaurant different from the others you’ve opened?
With this restaurant, I have tried to keep the menu small, at least in comparison to Shady Grove (with some success). Also, with my new chef Jonathan Homer, I will be offering more traditionally center plate entrees that change seasonally, including 1/2 roast chicken, steak, pasta, and seafood.
What has been the biggest challenge in launching Blue Sky?
This project literally started over two years ago. Covid and all of the associated effects have fought us every step of the way. My group has been incredibly fortunate to support and be supported by our customers and communities throughout this ordeal. But, like most industries, we now struggle with staffing shortages. I believe that will continue for the foreseeable future…so if you know anybody: eatbluesky.com to apply.
You described Blue Sky’s menu as “globally inspired American cuisine, with Peruvian, Korean, Thai, and Jamaican flavors sprinkled in”. How did you land on such an eclectic menu?
I like globally-influenced flavors, and I like introducing them to my customers in ways they feel comfortable trying. So, the more I can utilize aji amarillo, gochujang, chimichurri, and plantains in dishes you are familiar with, the better.