Restaurant Echo Opens in Cranberry
Former Hereford & Hops is site of new upscale dining
With snow falling and the threat of more on the way, Ron Hammond admitted it was a lousy day to open his new place, Restaurant Echo. However, the view inside was oh-so-inviting.
"It came out beautifully," Hammond said. "The boys in the kitchen are all excited. The wait staff is all tuned up, and the food is stunning."
After months of renovations and hard work, the restaurant, formerly the site of Hereford & Hops Steakhouse & Brewpub, opened for lunch on Monday -- and it's already a hit. Stew and Phyllis Weimer, of Cranberry, who were among its first diners, both had leek soup. They'll soon be back for more.
"I thought it was very, very delicious," Phyllis Weimer said. 'The atmosphere was very nice."
Hammond said the name for the restaurant came from its designer, who could not get over the size of the drafty building with high ceilings and multiple dining rooms.
"The place is so damn big, I thought Echo was very appropriate," Hammond said. "We took a big ugly building and made it intimate and inviting."
The result is stunning.
Gone are the grills and the brewery that took up space when the building was still a pub. In their place are clean white walls, dark floors and an enormous – and well-stocked – bar. The restaurant also has a refrigerated wine room near the entrance of the restaurant. In a lounge area, an elegant white fireplace that reaches to the ceiling is a showstopper.
Hammond, who lives in Adams Township and owns Triad Metals, calls the whole place sexy.
"That's the word I came up with," he said. "It's a young staff, and these guys are ready to rock and roll."
That staff includes his son, Brian Hammond.
A former chef at the Rick Bayless-owned restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, Brian Hammond -- who has years of experience in fine dining establishments -- is a co-owner of the restaurant and is its executive chef.
A graduate of Seneca Valley Senior High School (Class of '96), Brain said he and his wife, Terri Hammond, already were planning to move back to Pittsburgh when his father approached him about heading the restaurant.
Terri Hammond, another Seneca Valley grad, said she and her husband were happy to return to their hometown.
"It's a community that embraces this kind of thing," she said. "I'm really feeling it this time around – we both are."
Curious diners also have been eager to get to know what Echo is all about. Brian Hammond said people have been circling the parking lot for weeks, trying to discover the restaurant's opening date.
"Once we fired up the signs, people started cruising in," he said.
They can expect a mix of upscale casual dining and fine dining.
Because the restaurant is so large, Brian Hammond said, he was able to split it into two areas. His casual bistro is ready to serve patrons, but he plans to wait a few months before opening the fine-dining side of the restaurant.
Terri Hammond, who is the restaurant's office manager, said the family wanted to take time to train the staff.
"It's definitely a different dining concept for the suburbs," she said. "We really wanted to bring fine dining to this area."
As for the food, Brian Hammond describes it as modern American prepared with western European techniques. For example, he said, chefs will make their own pasta and use European building techniques to create sauces.
All meats and produce for the restaurant will brought in from local western Pennsylvania sources, including Eichner's Farm Market in Wexford. Meats, Brian said, will be butchered in the restaurant.
"Not everything has to come from a truck full of frozen food," he said. "We really believe in supporting local agriculture."
The restaurant also will keep unusual hours.
Restaurant Echo will be open for lunch Monday but closed Monday night. Dinner will be served Tuesday through Saturday, while lunch will be served Monday through Friday only. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
Brian said he set those hours to keep his staff happy and productive -- a tip he learned from celebrity chef Bayless, who also is the host of the public television series "Mexico -- One Plate at a Time," a judge of Bravo TV's "Top Chef" and a winner in 2009 of "Top Chef Masters."
"They have a consistent schedule so they can have a life instead of being at the beck and call of the restaurant all the time," he said.
Choosing the right people was hard, he said, but -- like the rest of his family – his staffers must be foodies at heart.
"We took a lot of time in finding the right people who are as passionate about food as we are," he said.