After leaving Acorn, chef Scott Walton opens Gussy’s Bagels & Deli in Oakland
Chef Scott Walton started making bagels to keep Acorn, his fine-dining restaurant in Shadyside, afloat during the pandemic. But what started out as a necessity has become a calling.
After a long stint in the Chicago food scene, Walton opened Glans on Walnut St. in 2017. But the restaurant’s beautifully prepared food wasn’t working with a pandemic takeout model, so the chef turned to bagels. Walton would bake 1,200 to 1,400 bagels over the course of a weekend to keep up with demand.
Seeing an opportunity to try something new and ditch his grueling 70-hour-a-week work schedule, Walton decided to quit Acorn and focus on bagels.
In September it opens Gussy’s Bagels and Delicatessen in Oakland. (Gussy’s is named after Walton’s friend and former NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte.) In the process, Walton traded night shifts for early hours, driving to the store before 5 a.m. to heat the oven, a holdover from the pizzeria that used to occupy the Oakland space.
The fast-casual restaurant at 3606 Fifth Ave. specializes in traditional bagel flavors – plain, sesame, poppyseed, onion, cinnamon raisins, egg and sea salt, pumpernickel and all – the traditional way. Hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. On a recent Monday, Walton sold 400 bagels at 11 a.m.
Walton’s offerings have even impressed some Big Apple natives, which Walton considers the ultimate compliment.
“It’s hard to find a good bagel outside of New York,” he says. “It is special.”
The dough is freshly prepared daily and rises by natural fermentation. It is devoid of sugar or corn syrup but Gussy’s adds honey for a touch of sweetness. The dense rings are boiled before going into the 75 year old Italian oven, which gives them a nice chewy texture.
In addition to bagels — which can come with lox and a variety of schmear varieties — the shop serves soups, sides, and sandwiches. Served on three-layer Old World rye bread, the Big Gussy sandwich includes pastrami, corned beef, American cottage cheese, horseradish, red onion, pickle and the famous Gussy.
With a variety of fresh deli meats available, customers can create their own sandwich or take home deli meats by the pound.
Walton, who has hosted 10,000-seat parties and led kitchens at Michelin-starred restaurants, is happy to still be on the local scene cooking up simple but delicious dishes. He hopes to open more locations across Pittsburgh.
“I always wanted to cook like I cook but bring my food to more people,” he says. “The bagel is the vehicle.”