Inside, Looking Out

An imaginative restaurant brings the world to Pittsburgh

By Courtney Balestier

Published on May 1, 2013

Generally, you don't see much Farsi in Pittsburgh. So the façade that marks the takeout restaurant Conflict Kitchen—candy-colored, kaleidoscopic, emblazoned in foreign script—seems like a portal to another land. And, in a way, it is. Every six months the three-year-old restaurant, located in the city's Oakland neighborhood, regenerates itself to highlight a delicious sandwich or dish from a country with which the United States happens to be in conflict. The current outpost, Kubideh Kitchen, serves a tender Iranian spiced beef sandwich, while previous iterations explored Afghanistan (bolani, turnovers with pumpkin filling) and Cuba (mojo-marinated roast pork). Each reinvention is marked by a new look and food wrappers featuring interviews with citizens and emigres on subjects ranging from Iranian poetry to the treatment of women in Afghanistan. Wanting to promote political discourse, as well as some ethnic cuisines that are difficult to track down in Pittsburgh, co-founders and artists Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, along with chef Robert Sayre, a veteran of some of the city's best restaurants, hope Conflict Kitchen serves as a culinary emissary, and an impetus for conversations like the one about food and prayer Rubin overheard between Buddhist and Muslim customers eating Afghan bolani last year. Such food-fueled dialogue, Rubin says, "is an amazingly simple thing, but it's still rare."

Conflict Kitchen
Schenley Plaza,Schenley Drive and Roberto Clemente Drive
Pittsburgh, PA

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