Craig Street’s newest addition comes in the form of a unique eatery that fills a gap in the street’s already diverse offerings. Maggie’s Mercantile, an organic, vegan, and raw food restaurant, moved into 300 South Craig St. adjacent to Quizno’s in early March, and despite some initial setbacks, Maggie’s is seeing its fan base grow.
The original Maggie’s Mercantile is an hour and a half outside the city in Stahlstown, Pa., where all of the food for the Oakland location is prepared and shipped to the city daily. Maggie Raphael, who owns and operates the two eateries, also owns a farm 50 miles outside the city in Greensburg, which provides some of the organic produce for her restaurants.
Maggie’s serves organic, vegan, and raw entrees and sides, offering both hot and cold options. Among the hot options, favorites include wraps, spinach pies, and “buffalo chicken”-style tofu. Cold offerings include microgreens, Waldorf salad, various pasta and grain salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, and uncooked breads. Maggie’s also has a decent selection of coconut milk smoothies, juices, and vegan ice creams.
Because Maggie’s uses predominantly seasonal organic produce, the menu changes frequently. According to manager Mike Miller, offerings change once or twice a week depending on what produce the cooks in Stahlstown have access to.
The food is served by weight in a buffet style, very much in the same way you might buy from the hot and cold bars at Whole Foods or Evgefstos!, Carnegie Mellon’s vegetarian and vegan option. The dining room is classy and refined — something like a cross between Dozen’s new bake shop in Lawrenceville and Entropy+. The plates are made from recycled plastic, and straws and cups, like some others at Carnegie Mellon, are corn-based and compostable.
In addition to meals, Maggie’s also boasts a small organic grocery case and a decent array of merchandise, including vegan chocolates, teas, and cookbooks.
Because Maggie’s is the only strictly vegan place in Pittsburgh, it was hard for the management to predict what its customer base would look like, which has posed some setbacks for the restaurant in its first few weeks. According to Miller, Maggie’s anticipated a groundswell of support from a younger audience, but the diners have varied widely in age. Maggie’s expected to be serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the crowd is predominantly a lunch crowd with a small contingent of customers for dinner. The restaurant is holding off on breakfast until there is more demand.
It seems that Maggie’s also expected that diners would be willing to pay a little more for their food than these first few weeks have shown. The hot and cold bars both currently sell food at $9 per pound, which, when combined with a drink and a baked goodie on the side, puts the average meal between $8 and $12, a price that is noticeably higher than neighboring lunch places that offer vegetarian options such as Kiva Han, Eat Unique, Little Asia, and Ali Baba.
Maggie’s, however, has been active in adjusting to the realities of its location and later this month will be discussing price changes that might attract more customers, especially students who can only afford an inexpensive lunch.