Upper Lawrenceville is rimmed by rough hillsides and city steps where it touches Stanton Heights, and its relationship with the Allegheny River is almost completely industrial. Much of its modest, working-class housing stock is in disrepair, but there’s great charm in the stacked feeling of little streets that climb and dog-leg above Butler Street.
I spent the morning roaming around Wickliff, 54th, Natrona, Dresden, Kent, Keystone, Carnegie and McCandless streets before taking a retail walk along Butler.
Years ago, when friends and I would meet at the former Ray’s Marlin Beach Bar & Grill at 5121 Butler, someone always cautioned us to park nearby and get to our cars in a hurry. It was invariably a companion or our own little voices.
Upper Lawrenceville still has a slightly dicey feel at times, but the 21st century has been a very good one for the neighborhood as a whole; the upper part is just the last one to be discovered.
Since Foster’s Meats was always closed on Mondays, I chose today to go in and buy some of the kielbasa it had become famous for only to find that the place is closed until further notice. A nearby business owner said there was a death in the family and that there’s some belief it will reopen at some point. No one answers the phone at the number posted on the shop’s facade.
Foster’s had been there for many decades, and its closure, whether temporary or not, has occurred in interesting juxtaposition to the opening of several new storefronts within the past year.
Wild Purveyors, a locally-sourced, natural food market, opened at 5308 last summer.
Justin, a chef, has practiced charcuterie that supports “ethical farming practices, humane animal husbandry, sustainability and traditional cooking techniques,” according to the website.
Brothers Cavan and Tom Patterson opened Wild Purveyors last August as a retail extension of what had for several years been exclusively a wholesale farm-to-client operation — mostly to restaurants. It remains a wholesale venture. Inside the shop today, staff was in production mode bagging mushrooms for wholesale clients.
It specializes in, according to its web site, “seasonal, locally sourced raw and specialty food products which include: foraged mushrooms and other wild edibles, sustainably farmed natural produce, humanely raised natural meats and poultry, sustainably farmed fresh water fish, as well as farmstead and artisan cheeses.”
It’s the first place in the city where I have seen a goat heart wrapped for sale.
The local-healthy-sustainable synergy of these businesses will make all the more interesting the evolution of the rest of upper Butler Street as its vacant storefronts fill in.
Photos by Diana Nelson jones: Inside Wild Purveyors (top), mushrooms (center) and goat heart (bottom)