Kaya, Big Burrito Group's Caribbean-inspired restaurant, turns 20 this year and is celebrating in style with one hell of a street party.
And did we say food? There will be lots of it, with an island-themed menu from Big Burrito executive chef Bill Fuller and Kaya executive chef Ben Sloan that features a little of something for everyone, so long as you like things spicy.
The menu includes jerked chicken with a spicy mango sauce; grilled veggie, steak or chicken tacos on Reyna Foods' hand-made flour tortillas; slow-cooked pork served with braised greens and beans; and the hautest hot dog in town, the Kaya Dog. The all-beef dog comes piled high with avocado, pico de gallo, crumbled cotija cheese and fresh cilantro.
Also, corn on the cob, because the annual event at the corner of Smallman and 20th streets is once again being held on Memorial Day weekend.
Dancing makes you very, very thirsty so there also will be plenty of adult beverages. Tropical-style drinks include mojitos and attendees also can choose between Troegs Perpetual IPA and Sunshine Pils on draft or Bell's Oberon, Corona and Corona Light in cans.
The second in Big Burrito's group of six restaurants to open, in 1996 (the first Mad Mex opened on Atwood St. in Oakland in 1993), Kaya has always been popular with Pittsburghers. Though its first chef, Gary Terner, wasn't so sure the concept would fly in what was then a pretty traditional restaurant scene.
"My wife, Kathy, she'd come home from work every day to a new bunch of test food to try," says Mr. Terner, who now heads up the group's catering division. "With all the coming and going at my house, my neighbors thought that I had lost my job and was selling drugs."
Equally difficult was trying to hire a kitchen staff of 25 from a "pretty thin" labor pool. Until they opened, that is. Then "every cook in the city wanted to work there."
To that end, some of Pittsburgh's most recognized names have manned Kaya's kitchen, including Kevin Sousa of Superior Motors, Sean Ehland (now at Aster Restaurant in San Francisco), Jason Watts of Sienna Sulla and Mike Hendricks, who is a team leader at Whole Foods.
And some of Hollywood's biggest stars have eaten there, too. Along with Bill Murray, Randy Quaid, Franco Harris and David Byrne of the Talking Heads, Kaya's staff has fed Woody Harrelson and Sharon Stone, who requested that staff not be allowed to look at her.
Here's the schedule for Sunday's fest, which runs from 3 to 11 p.m. :
11 a.m - 12:30 p.m. -- A yoga practice lead by The Yoga Hive on Smallman St. in front of the restaurant. A $15 suggested donation does to Pittsburgh Food Bank, and all attendees will receive a voucher for a KayaFest drink.
2 p.m. -- DJ Grooving Jillian mixes it up with techno, disco and hip hop.
3:45 p.m. -- The Byron Nash and Evan Thorsen Project
5:15 p.m. -- Working Breed
6:45 p.m. -- The Pressure
8 p.m. -- Timbeleza and Pittsburgh Samba Group
9:30 p.m. -- Truth and Rites
Big Burrito photos