Jaymee Lutes has spent years in the food service industry as a server, manager and food purveyor to restaurants.
This summer, she segued into the position of co-owner/manager of Pickers Pub & Grub on High Street in Brownsville.
Joining forces with life and business partner, Ron White Sr. and his son, Ron Jr., Lutes and company want to bring new life to Brownsville. After an extensive renovation, they gave the historic river town a much-needed place to have lunch or dinner.
“So far our burgers and jumbo wings have been making a big splash,” Lutes said. “We make our burgers with a special blend of ground chuck, brisket and short rib. They’re served on a brioche bun along with fresh cut, skin-on fries or homemade chips.”
The menu lists eight half-pound burger options, including the Pickers Pub Burger, topped with caramelized onion, BBQ sauce, crisp bacon and cheddar. For lighter eaters, quarter pounders are a dollar off the regular price.
When creating the menu, Lutes gave several items Brownsville attributes such as Nemacolin Nachos, the Monongahela Fish Sandwich (made with Atlantic cod), Bowman’s Big Blue Burger, Brownsville Breakfast Burger and Patch Town Fries, a look back at Brownsville’s early days when it was made up of several small patch towns.
Manning the kitchen are two food service veterans - Ed Harper of North Charleroi and Denese Kerik of Brownsville. Harper’s cooking resume includes employment at retired Pittsburgh Penguin goaltender Kenny Wregget’s Bridgeville restaurant, the 31 Sports Bar and Grille. He also worked at Tree House restaurant in North Belle Vernon and in food service at California University of Pennsylvania. As for Kerik, Lutes said she has more than 30 years of experience in the food industry.
One of Harper’s recent collaborations with Lutes resulted in a Thai Peanut Flatbread, one of five served at Pickers. A visual sensation, the flatbread is topped with Thai peanut sauce, shredded chicken, julienned carrots and shredded cheddar and Mozzarella.
Another item that’s proved popular is the Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese. “We roast pork butts at a slow 250-degree oven for 12 to 13 hours,” Lutes said. “After the pork’s pulled, we add caramelized onions and pepper jack cheese to give it a pop, then serve in on thick crust Italian by Breadworks,” Lutes said.
After the owners purchased the property on Nov. 15, 2018, they made close to $60,000 in renovations. Patrons will find a new kitchen and kitchen equipment, ceiling, furniture and refurbished bathrooms in the eatery. On the walls, the owners have decorated the restaurant with close to 150 antique advertising signs White Sr. has collected. Those around in the mid-20th Century should enjoy seeing 50s and older metal originals advertising businesses like Greyhound Lines, Sun Drop pop and Guftone gas.
“All three of us are pickers, hence the name of the restaurant,” Lutes said. “Ron Sr., who operates a heating and cooling business, housed the signs at his shop. Now they’re coming out of hiding for everyone to see.”
The restaurant has been a division of labor among the three partners. Ron Sr. did a lot of the renovation, while Ron Jr. designed the menus and researched purchases. Lutes brought her years of experience into the mix.
While the current Pub seats around 42, an adjacent space will eventually open and seat an additional 45 patrons. “Ron has a lofty goal of opening the next door space before the first snow falls,” Lutes said.
In the meantime, the menu includes daily specials. On Tuesdays, there’s a make your own pasta night where patrons can choose their favorite noodle and sauce. Wednesdays are wing nights and on Thursdays, it’s homemade roasted turkey with mashed potatoes, stuffing, glazed carrots and cranberry sauce.
“In the past, I cooked everything from pizza to fine dining, and the specials here give me a chance to be especially creative,” Harper said.
Mary’s Bakery two doors down provides the proprietary desserts, meaning you won’t find them anywhere else but Pickers. They include Pickers Pie - a Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie served with vanilla bean ice cream, and an Apple Caramel Blondie.
With a full bar that serves cocktails, wine and beer, Pickers features seasonal specialty cocktails colorfully listed and described on a chalk board hanging on the wall. The Sunshine, for instance, is a mix of white rum, French vermouth, pineapple juice, a splash of Grenadine and an orange section garnish.
“I like coming here,” said Phil Thomas of Hiller, who’s patronized Pickers several times since it opened. “It’s something the town really needed.”
Pickers Pub & Grub is located at 101 High Street in Brownsville. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Phone 724-364-7001.