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Summer Nights: Murray Avenue’s Squirrel Hill Night Market

Jasmine Cho owns Yummyholic, a bakery she runs from her Squirrel Hill home.  Stephen Caruso | Contributing Editor

Jasmine Cho owns Yummyholic, a bakery she runs from her Squirrel Hill home. Stephen Caruso | Contributing Editor

Jasmine Cho owns Yummyholic, a bakery she runs from her Squirrel Hill home. Stephen Caruso | Contributing Editor

By Stephen Caruso / Contributing Editor

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There was a time when most people knew Squirrel Hill simply as Pittsburgh’s Jewish neighborhood. While the occasional yamaka and kosher deli still remind visitors of that legacy, Saturday’s Squirrel Hill Night Market showed off the neighborhood’s new variety.

Held on Murray Avenue from Forbes Avenue to Bartlett Street, the market was organized by Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition and is in its second year. Vendors selling everything from cigars to DJ lessons to Korean fried chicken cupcakes kept the two blocks vibrant with happy pedestrians instead of jammed with traffic.

Jasmine Cho, the brain behind the chicken cupcakes, is a Squirrel Hill resident. A Korean American, she is culinarily self-taught and runs Yummyholic, a bakery specializing in sweet treats that look to her combined heritage for inspiration.

“I’m inspired to bring different flavors to Pittsburgh,” Cho said.

Her fried fowl dessert places a small nugget on top of a golden baked cake. A small spread of soju — a Korean rice wine — glaze adds a touch of gooey sweetness. Her favorite of her inventions, though, is her chocolate chili cookie, which she describes as “super chocolatey and fudgy, but [it] leaves a little heat at the end.”

While Cho has run her bakery from home since its relaunch in October 2015, she hopes to one day have a storefront in Squirrel Hill. But George Mowod, who runs USA Professional Karate at 2345 Murray Ave, knows that is a tough task.

“It’s pretty hard to keep your business in the same place,” Mowod says, who has been in business on Murray for 35 years, although his exact location has changed.

As two of his students sparred on a mat, Mowod fielded the piqued interest of market attendees.

“It’s always an amazing thing to see how far they come with their skills,” Mowod said, gesturing towards his pupils.

Josh Kipiller, 14, spars with his sister, Victoria, 16, at the Squirrel Hill Night Market. Stephen Caruso | Contributing Editor

Mowod participated in the last market as well and thought it helped his business draw interest. To fellow Squirrel Hill entrepreneur Cathy Willis, owner of Aiello’s Pizza and participant in last year’s Night Market, this year’s turnout won’t mean disappointment for any of the vendors.

“It definitely seems busier this year,” Willis said as she sliced pizza for hungry market-goers. Willis inherited the pizza shop, a Squirrel Hill staple for 38 years, from her father Joe Aiello when he passed away.

Perched in the middle of the market at the intersection of Murray Avenue and Darlington Road, Willis’ tent was one of many food options in the shadow of Manor Theatre’s marquee. Nearby, other stands sold lemonade and chicken on a stick, while more varied fare — such as crepes, burritos and wok — flowed from the food trucks lining Darlington Road. Reminding attendees that they were still in Pittsburgh, one truck proudly sold pierogies.

Over the dull roar of hundreds going to and fro was the twang of an acoustic guitar coming from The Squirrel Hillbillies — a group made up of Squirrel Hill residents Jenny Wolsk Bain and Gary Crouth.

The duo played classic American folk music, harmonizing over each other with ease. But there was still the occasional cosmopolitan twist — one song featured Wolsk Bain singing a Buddhist prayer. The crowd clapped as the song ended. Wolsk Bain looked up at the gathered crowd and summed up the general sentiment of the evening.

“One of the great pleasures of living in Squirrel Hill is all the diversity here,” she said.

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Summer Nights: Murray Avenue’s Squirrel Hill Night Market