Archive for January, 2013

Verde Restaurant: A Pittsburgh Hit

January 28, 2013 | Posted by Ken Eisner | No Comments

Approximately 2 years ago, I was introduced to a gentleman from Chicago, Jeff Catalina. He advised me that he wanted to start a verde-tequila-wallnew business. It was apparent within the first three minutes of our initial lunch meeting that Jeff, who had been in the finance world, was engaging and extremely intelligent.

I did, however, immediately question his apparent intelligence when he advised me that he was planning to open up a restaurant with absolutely no prior experience. We all know of the horror stories of opening restaurants. As lunch continued, he shared with me his belief that there was a great opportunity to start a high-end Mexican restaurant and that he had already found a perfect location in East Liberty. While I, like probably virtually everyone he spoke with, attempted to discourage him from entering into such a difficult industry, he was determined.


Credit: Jeff Swensen for The New York Times

Approximately 1 year ago, he opened his restaurant, Verde, which is exactly as he described it – an upscale Mexican restaurant that has become a hot spot because of its cool atmosphere and great food. The restaurant is now considered one of the favorites throughout Pittsburgh and was also even recently featured in the New York Times.

Now that he has hit a homerun with Verde, he is planning to open up his second restaurant, Tender Kitchen in the former Arsenal Bank Building on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. Given Jeff’s intelligence and apparent great instincts, Pittsburgh can look forward to another hugely successful restaurant.



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Watching A Business Grow: BW Wholesale Florists

January 21, 2013 | Posted by Ken Eisner | No Comments

Approximately 15 years ago, a family friend, Jules Kruman, who at the time was in his 70s suggested that I reach out to a friend of his, Mike Ulrich, because he thought it would be a good personal and business relationship. Candidly, while I have always admired Jules, who is soft spoken, extremely intelligent, and very successful, I doubted that this connection would ultimately result in a lifetime friendship and business relationship.

That could not have been further from the truth. I had lunch with Mike shortly thereafter, who is similarly to Jules, extremely understated, showing up with an unshaven face and baggy jeans. We immediately hit it off. Mike is genuine, kind, and extremely intelligent.

Mike had recently moved to Pittsburgh from Jamestown, Pennsylvania to expand his family’s wholesale flower business, BW Wholesale Florists. He had purchased a warehouse on Penn Avenue, approximately six blocks from where Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh now sits.

BW-Wholesale-PittsburghOver time, so many trucks were pulling into the Penn Avenue warehouse that the business growth exceeded zoning limitations,  forcing Mike to move the business. He therefore purchased another building in the Strip District. Since that time, he purchased several other commercial properties in the Strip District as well as purchased Keystone Ribbon Company, a floral accessory company and purchased that building as well on Penn Avenue in the Strip District.

BW Wholesale went from being a bit player in the wholesale floral market to being the #2 wholesale flower business in the area. Despite the success of the business and the numerous commercial properties that Mike now owns, Mike remains as modest as ever.

As a lawyer, there are few greater feelings that than watching clients successfully grow their businesses. In this case, BW Wholesale has grown beyond anyone’s reasonable expectations. Mike is a pleasure to have as a business associate, but more importantly, as a true friend.

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The Best Burgh’er

January 14, 2013 | Posted by Ken Eisner | No Comments

I am always looking for a good hamburger. I grew up loving Tessaro’s, a burger so good that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette used to have a category entitled “Best Burger other than Tessaro’s.”  So, when I received a Groupon offer for Burgh’ers Restaurant in Zelienople, Pennsylvania with a promotion indicating that it was the best burger in Pittsburgh, I could not resist.

Literally hours later on the same day, I received a call from Fiore Moletz, the owner of Burgh’ers. Fiore is an excellent chef, having acquired a significant amount of his experience working directly under the executive chef at Lidia’s, an excellent Italian restaurant. Fiore asked me to handle a small legal matter for him. After laughing about the fact that I had just purchased a Groupon to his restaurant hours earlier, I challenged him on the representation that his burger was the best in Pittsburgh. He shared that his burger recently was in a competition with all of the top burger restaurants in Pittsburgh and had won the competition. Of course within a week, my family and I ventured to Burgh’ers.

Burger-Burghers-ZelienopleBurgh’ers is located just north of the town of Zelienople, in a strip mall on the left side of Route 19. The burger is amazing. IT IS THE BEST BURGER IN PITTSBURGH!  Better than BRGR, Burgatory, and yes, Tessaro’s. While the appearance of the restaurant was initially not too impressive, the restaurant has since been refurbished, and now also has a cool atmosphere.

I know, I know. You are probably thinking that you don’t want to drive to Zelienople. For this burger, it’s worth it. However, if you are still not convinced, be patient. If all goes well with negotiations, Burgh’ers will be opening in Cranberry Township within the year.

The burger is so good that I predict that it will work its way into Pittsburgh and we will eventually see a Burgh’ers restaurant somewhere in the heart of the City of Pittsburgh.

So, if you are up north, make the trip to Burgh’ers. You won’t be disappointed.


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The Day that the Steelers and I Grew Up

January 3, 2013 | Posted by Ken Eisner | No Comments

Where were you when the Immaculate Reception happened?

I, like many Jewish boys celebrated my Bar Mitzvah slightly more than 40 years ago. I spent years preparing for this momentous event in my life.

Franco Harris Immaculate ReceptionOn the Friday before my Bar Mitzvah, my Dad went to the airport to pick up some relatives that were arriving from Philadelphia. Also picking up his family was Franco Harris, a relatively new Steelers running back. My Dad got Franco’s autograph!

During the service the next morning, when my brother David came up to do his part, he shook hands with me. When he released from the handshake, there was a card in my hand, that being Franco’s autograph. Services were beautiful and ended at noon.

My Dad had obtained several tickets to the Steelers playoff game that day and was taking my brother and a few relatives from Philadelphia. We had earlier made a deal that I would go to the next playoff game, but my brother got to go to this one. Therefore, my Dad rushed people through the reception line at noon and off they went to the Steelers game.

And me?  Well, I went to have lunch with the ‘ladies’ at an old time deli called Weinstein’s. There, I sat bored at lunch with a radio to my ear listening to the Steelers game.

My Bar Mitzvah was on December 23, 1972, the Day of Franco’s Immaculate Reception. While many will proclaim that they were at the game, I listened to it while sitting with the ‘ladies.’  While it may not have been the greatest way to have celebrated the Immaculate Reception, it was certainly unique. Last week, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception and my Bar Mitzvah as well. A Bar Mitzvah is a day in which a boy is recognized under Jewish law as becoming a man. Similarly, that day has become known as the day the Pittsburgh Steelers became the legacy football team that they are today.

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