Con Alma, the popular Shadyside jazz lounge and restaurant, has changed its menu, going entirely vegetarian at the Ellsworth Avenue location.
After opening in 2019 with menu items like ceviche, Ropa Vieja (braised and shredded short rib served with rice and black beans), and the Cuban chicken dish, Arroz Con Pollo, the decision to go completely vegetarian at this location comes as a surprise, but one that isn’t unwelcome.
“Con Alma means ‘with soul’, so I develop recipes based on traditional dishes found predominantly in Latin America, incorporating other influences from around the world- not fine dining food, but food that grandmas would cook, homey and community, but elevated,” says Con Alma chef Josh Ross.
The restaurant is known for spotlighting South American, Mexican, and Caribbean cuisines. Dishes like pulpos al ajillo (octopus cooked in a deep red garlic sauce) were standouts on the old menu.
Con Alma’s Downtown location, which opened in July, will continue to serve meat and seafood dishes.
A press release from Con Alma points out that many jazz greats stuck to a vegetarian diet for most or part of their lives, including Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, and Sonny Rollins.
“As a vegetarian myself, being an owner of a vegetarian establishment has always been a goal, and to have a jazz venue that is also vegetarian is pretty special and something I’m very proud of,” says Con Alma general manager Aimee Marshall. “Combining my love of jazz, vegetarian lifestyle, and love of wine and cocktails has all come together into something I’m very excited to be a part of.”
Menu offerings will change frequently. Currently, the new menu features vegetarian versions of carnivorous favorites, like the Hearts of Palm Ceviche or the Tomato, Wasabi, and Avocado Tartar in the small plates section. Large plates include a West Indian Chickpea Curry, a Peruvian Bolognese made with seitan, and a Potato Gnocchi.
This change would see Con Alma transform into what they believe is the only vegetarian jazz bar in the city of Pittsburgh, and maybe even in the country. It adds to its distinction in the local food and music scene, and nationally. In May, it was named one of 27 Best Bars in America by Esquire, who said of the Shadyside spot, “If you want to immediately and inexplicably become the star of your very own film noir, walk within ten feet of Con Alma.”
Con Alma staff say they “relish the opportunity to offer food with soul from all over the world for an herbivore’s palate, reinventing beloved existing dishes, and creating brand spanking new ones.”
For updates and to view the full menu, visit conalmapgh.com.