By April Smyth
Pittsburgh area natives and fellow Yinzers keep our local customs alive from shore to shore across this Great Nation when they relocate to other areas. Whether it’s a Steeler themed bar, our unique cuisine, or our ingrained slang and lingo, it is not uncommon to find something, or someone, in another state that carries on the hometown traditions.
Mark Bentz, a former Pittsburgher, took his vast knowledge of Pittsburgh’s food to the next level when he opened Yinzers Brew & Grill earlier this year in Daphne, Alabama, about 1,000 miles from home. But his career in the food industry didn’t begin there.
According to Bentz, “It all started back in Pittsburgh while I was still in high school at Central Catholic, when I got my first job at Tessaro’s American Bar & Grill in the Bloomfield area, also known as ‘Pittsburgh’s Little Italy’. After the first year there, I was running the kitchen, training new employees, and cooking on the grill on a daily basis.” Mark worked for Tessaro’s for 14 years, and watched the business grow and thrive. The restaurant was voted the “Best Burger in Pittsburgh” every year during Mark’s tenure there and was even recognized as one of the top 4 burgers in the nation by Food Network the year he left!
After that, Mark, a family man, worked a little less so he could stay home during the day with his children. He began working at Treesdale Country Club, north of Pittsburgh. Bentz reports, “I considered the couple of years working there as my culinary training, as I worked under Chef Bob Malone and with several other culinary-trained sous chefs.”
In 2004, Mark and his family took an opportunity to relocate to the Gulf Coast. “After coming down to check out the area, I was sold. I really like it here. It’s mostly beautiful weather, and I don’t mind trading some very hot and humid days for no days shoveling snow!”
Mark got a part-time job at a local pizza place and learned the pizza business. “Two years later, I gave business ownership a try and opened a little 1,000 square foot pizza restaurant called Bentz’s Pizza Pub. The local newspaper did a little profile article on me about three months later, and in the following weeks I must’ve met 40 Pittsburgh families that also lived in the area.”
Mark recalls, “By the time football season came, we were busting at the seams, packed busy for Steelers games. So, when the place next door became available, we knocked down the wall and made the restaurant 2,000 square feet and called it ‘Bentz’s Pittsburgh Room’.” He owned the restaurant for eight years before leaving it to his ex-wife and children.
Bentz took a one-year hiatus from the restaurant business, taking a job at a newly opened Firestone Complete Auto Care in Daphne, AL. After that year, he found a business partner and coordinated all aspects of opening and managing another restaurant, a mere five miles away from his first establishment. “I was there for two years, and then I realized that business partnerships are not very easy,” said Bentz, “and I moved on in 2016.” He continued his second career as the Tire Sales Manager for two more years.
On April 20, 2018, Mark, along with his fiancé and managing partner, Kim, opened Yinzers Brew & Grill. “The business name was inspired by Kim because of the Pittsburgh people that I have met in South Alabama over the last 15 years of living there.” The couple reports a wonderful turnout so far, which is a great start to a new business in the area. Yinzers Brew & Grill employs 17 people and plans to grow and add more employees. Mark and Kim find it rewarding to work with such good people in the restaurant business and are happy to be earning a living alongside the restaurant’s employees.
While being a business owner has its challenges, such as keeping up with the required paperwork, it has many rewards. “We enjoy hosting parties for our customers and having fun with them!” Another benefit of being privately owned and operated is getting to know customers on a personal level, so they are more like friends and family. Since Bentz has been involved with his community for the past 15 years as a business owner, he has made many contacts. He has been involved in local school fundraisers and places ads for team support.
Bentz doesn’t consider his restaurant to be in competition with chain restaurants, in part because of the personal interaction with his customers, but also because of the unique menu and authentic Pittsburgh dishes his restaurant offers. “I personally have not seen a steak salad with French fries on it since I’ve been back in the Burgh. I’m proud to be introducing to the area a variety of different food that a lot of locals here haven’t seen before.” Another thing Bentz has learned in his many years in the restaurant business is the difference in having homemade bread, pizza dough, and potato chips, as opposed to items prepared offsite.
Yinzers Brew & Grill offers an outstanding selection of beer, including 16 Drafts, and wine. The menu is suitable for almost any craving, ranging from pizza, burgers, sandwiches, wings, and salads to Kim’s favorite Tuna Steak Appetizer! They provide catering services and utilize two local delivery services for their menu. Not only does the restaurant have an arcade for kids of all ages, it offers the NFL Sunday Ticket to watch all the Steelers Football Games (and those other teams, too).
Bentz’s goals for the restaurant include, “seeing my business at the top of ‘the best of’ categories in local publications, and maybe even higher recognitions. I want to get it running like a well-oiled machine, so I can actually take a vacation.”
After reading the reviews on Yinzers Brew & Grill, I am ready to get in my car and take a road trip!
Tyler Thompson writes, “Most comfortable environment in Daphne. We will be back. Jackie was the best server! She made sure we, and most especially and importantly our kids were happy! The owner was a pleasure to meet, wish him much success! We are so glad to have found our new spot!! Thank you for a great dinner, great server and an unmatched experience. Yinzers is the bomb!! Pub Nachos are the best!”
Yinzers Brew & Grill Hours:
Sunday – Thursday 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Friday & Saturday 11:00 AM – 1:00 AM