I’m the kind of person that never know's how to answer the question, “What’s your favorite food?” I couldn’t even tell you if I preferred sweet, salty, or savory in any order. However, I know what foods I’m always craving: macaroni and cheese 3 times a week at a minimum, smoked spare ribs rubbed generously in a tasty sweet sauce, fried chicken and waffles every Sunday brunch… well, the list could go on. To this day I’ve only found one place that can satisfy all of those cravings with delicious food, and that is the delicious family-owned soul food restaurant on the north side, Carmi. However, living up in Mt. Oliver, I get to thank my lucky stars that this Pittsburgh gem will be rehoming itself less than a mile away right down on East Carson Street in the South Side.
Carmi, pronounced “Car-My” pays homage to the owners, husband and wife duo Carleen and Michael King, is a restaurant once voted Pittsburgh’s best soul food joint by Pittsburgh Magazine in 2015. I can remember coming here years ago for the first time and absolutely falling in love with food. You could almost taste the love with which it was made. When you eat at Carmi, you feel like you are eating a home-cooked meal with a family, and that’s not too far from the truth. Carmi is a restaurant run and employed by Carleen, Michael, and their family and friends. I was so relieved to hear, when I would spread the word about Carmi, that most of my friends already shared my enthusiasm for it.
If the original North Side hole-in-the-wall location is the reason you’ve never heard of or dined at Carmi, fear not, for the new year brings a new start and new home for Carmi on the 18th block of East Carson Street, just a couple blocks down from Fat Head’s Saloon. With the Carmi sign already posted on the building façade, it’s hard to contain excitement for what’s in store. The moment I found out, I made sure to reach out to Carleen to ask her a few questions about the rehoming of her beloved business, stationed on Western Avenue since 2011. Luckily it wasn’t hard to find her, working in her restaurant, welcoming her guests with an warm and excited smile.
According to Carleen, due to the building being sold on the North Side, the move is necessary, however she said with hope that their goals are to capitalize on what they’ve built and to expand. “I kind of want to be the total soul food hub. I want to expand so it can be somewhere you can go on date night,” Carleen explained, and while the breakfast and waffles and loaded omelettes are enough to want to plan a brunch date, the new location will also include a new full bar, complete with specialty house cocktails. Some great soul food paired with the Carmi Punch or the Last Call, made with moonshine, is sure to make for a great night out. “We want a very classy environment, we want the same great food at the same great price point.” So it’s safe to say that despite the fancier location, Carmi will still be keeping their family-style roots.
To bring even more excitement to the table, Carmi will be bringing more live entertainment to the south side. While most Pittsburgh residents are known for searching for the best brunch places in town may have already tried Carmi, they can check out the new live performance brunches, with different live music like gospel, jazz and R&B, and a drag brunch. The opening of Carmi’s new location is going to be a great start to this 2018, bringing so much to Pittsburgh’s South Side. Be sure to stop in, grab a drink and some tasty food that is sure to warm your soul in the chilly months to come this new year.