Let's Do Lunch (or Breakfast)!

I'm still collecting my thoughts about how the entrepreneurial high technology community in Pittsburgh can move forward, but here's one. We need what Thomas Schelling call focal points. Schelling's famous example came from New York City. When asked where they would expect to meet someone in New York without pre-arranging the place, Schelling's respondents pointed to Grand Center Terminal, the information booth, at noon. The information booth at Grand Central is a focal point.

In short: Focal points, or "Schelling points," are shared expectations that manifest themselves as places and things, helping distributed communities coordinate their efforts. In high tech and other business communities, can restaurants, of all things, be Schelling points? I think that they can.

Where does Pittsburgh's high tech community meet to eat?

If you want to chat over lunch or breakfast, what are the happening, must-use restaurants around Pittsburgh? Where can you wander in at meal time during any day of the week and expect to see high tech investors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and high-level managers doing deals?

My guess -- and you can correct me in the comments -- is that this kind of "A-List" places-to-eat-at-and-be-seen is still waiting to happen.

Some nominees, to start us off:

Starbucks at the Omni William Penn
Coca Cafe, in Lawrenceville
Union Grill, on Craig Street in Oakland
McCormick & Schmick's in the SouthSide Works
There must be someplace in Sewickley. I don't know Sewickley.

Ineligible: Any private club. Even the new ones -- which are very nice -- signal "insiders only." The rest signal old money, old top-down Pittsburgh.

Is there a market opportunity here? For an entrepreneurial restauranteur, is there room to create the Pittsburgh equivalent of Buck's Restaurant or the Il Fornaio in Palo Alto's Garden Court Hotel?


6 Responses to "Let's Do Lunch (or Breakfast)!"

Erik said... 12/09/2005 10:30 AM

>There must be someplace in Sewickley. I don't know Sewickley.

probably the Country Club.

Anonymous said... 12/09/2005 1:56 PM

there are several CCs out here, but none that stand out for this purpose.

Anonymous said... 12/09/2005 2:19 PM

You're right about the William Penn Starbux, especially for scoping out the tech practice lawyers and former 'market makers' handing out resumes.

You'd be right in adding these, too:
- The (Knowledge) Worker Bee Starbux @ The FMKT Building, for obvious reasons
- The Combo The Blue Blood Meets Just-Made-It-So-Check-Out-My-A4 Starbux @ Beaver and Locust in Sewickley.
- Then there's the Curveball Starbux = Oddly enough, many a VC has been spotted over the years at this 1400 E. Carson location. That said, more often than not, it is populated by the illustrious IW "Advocates"

Unfortunately, that's as close as we get to Cupertino's Coffee Society.

Amos_thePokerCat said... 12/09/2005 5:05 PM

According to Om Malik the new “Il Fornaio” is a neo-Vietnamese restaurant, Tamarine. Lots of luck getting an entrepreneurial Vietnamese restauranteur moving to PIT.

Other noteable coffee places in CA, that Om and other have been mentioned, Ritual Roasters, and The Coupa Cafe. Note, all have free wi fi. In PIT, that means Panera, BeeHive, HotDogma, or Mocha Cafe. Here, unlike most places libaries, do not have wi fi, except Cranberry.

jet said... 12/14/2005 1:06 PM

The problem with the Palo Alto il Fornaio is that ther were too many VC showing up, so people were scheduling elsewhere so as to not be seen talking to different VC. Oh, to be so lucky.

It helps if the local venue is non-smoking. A lot of us don't like sitting in a smoky restaurant/bar/diner and smelling like smoke the rest of the work day.

marvel said... 12/20/2005 9:44 PM

most definitely wm. penn starbucks (at least for a constantly networking law student who used to be a hotel manager). Contracts: B2, 2nd row, furthest to your right. Class of 2007.

In fact, I had a nice coversation with SI's Peter King the Sunday before last, while I was studying evidence.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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