PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – One of the first restaurants to combine food and fun in the Pittsburgh region is celebrating 20 years of being in business.

Twenty years ago, New York native Tom Baron decided to pack up, move to Pittsburgh and start a restaurant.

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Back in 1993, the dining scene in Pittsburgh was quite different.

“Having come from New York City, there are quite a few places that mixed dining and a hopping bar scene and Pittsburgh seemed to be deprived of a place that did both,” Baron said.

Baron’s vision was simple.

He wanted to create a spot where people could enjoy quality American-Mexican food, drink interesting drinks and have fun.

From that, Mad Mex was born.

“We came up with some fun Mexican cuisine, put together a lively bar, good music and we brought a lot of microbrews to town,” Baron said.

This year, Mad Mex celebrates 20 years of being in business. It started at a small location in Oakland and expanding to seven locations throughout the Pittsburgh region.

Baron’s business, the Big Burrito Restaurant Group, also has a catering company and five other concept eateries.

Each has its own unique flavor and style.

Umi, Casbah and Soba are located in Shadyside.

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Umi has authentic Japanese food complete with tatami seating.

Soba has a Pan-Asian inspired menu with a modern Zen ambiance that’s two stories tall.

There’s also Eleven, a contemporary American kitchen, and Kaya an island cuisine restaurant. Both are located in the Strip District.

But, it all started with Mad Mex.

The place is cool, funky and interestingly decorated with pictures and pieces from local artists.

Even 20 years ago, the restaurant valued quality and freshness over quantity and embraced the farm to table concept years before it became popular to do so.

“I was very impressed by the town when I first moved here,” Baron said. “I think we brought a unique product to the market and I think we’re very committed and dedicated to quality food and quality service.”

In case you were wondering, Baron is not a chef.

He’s a history major who’s worked in restaurants since he was 14.

He is looking to expand the business into the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. areas and ultimately make the restaurant into a national chain.


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