Fish Sandwich Chronicles: Wall-to-Wall Studios’ Werner at Nied’s Hotel

Patty Tascarella – Pittsburgh Business Times – April 4, 2014

Don’t let Larkin Werner’s collection of photos of people holding fish fool you. Wall-to-Wall Studios’ partner/creative director is more design- than fish-obsessed.

Werner is fond of quirky items, typefaces, non-hipster hangouts, all not unexpected given he is the next generation of a Pittsburgh marketing communications dynasty. His father, Ray Werner, is the legendary Ketchum creative director who set off to launch a boutique agency (now known as Mullen Pittsburgh) and had a hand in some of the region’s most iconic advertising campaigns. His uncle, Larry Werner, is the revered public relations practitioner to whom most in the local industry either claim links or wish they could.

“I used to go to the office with my dad on Saturdays when I was a little kid,” Werner recalled. “He’d be working on some campaign, and I’d have my crayons.”

Wall-to-Wall, where he’s worked for 15 years, started as a graphic design shop, embraced branding and still tends to work cooperatively with ad agencies. Its 35 employees are almost evenly split between its North Side and Honolulu offices.

Werner was raised in the city and lived in various neighborhoods over the years, but now he, his wife and kids make their home in Mt. Lebanon. He grew up in Pittsburgh’s fish sandwich culture and, yes, took it to the next level.

“I actually used to lead a group around to various Friday Lenten fish offerings and we’d rate them,” he said.

But Werner doesn’t consider himself a foodie, and to prove the point, he even waxed nostalgic about McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish.

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “But their fish sandwich has been my favorite fast-food sandwich as long as I can remember — stopping at the McD’s on 65 on the way to visiting my dad’s family in Freedom, Pa. This time of year you also have the benefit of the appearance of the Shamrock Shake. Horrible, but so good.”

For Fish Sandwich Chronicles, we went to Nied’s Hotel in Lawrenceville, not only among Werner’s favorites but one of the top sites cited by readers since the series debuted in 2012. Nied’s calls itself “an imaginary place that actually exists” and lived up to the description. Werner admired the signs on the building including a — what else? — giant fish, the no-frills dining room with walls adorned with St. Patrick’s Day signs and what we came for — a big slab of crisply breaded cod doused with malt vinegar. It cost $6.95, sides not included, protruded from the soft hoagie roll and could have fed two.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my regular place, but it’s a great basic fish sandwich,” Werner said. “A real neighborhood place, always filled with characters.”

Werner’s top catch list is short, succinct and very Pittsburghy:

  • Wholey’s, Strip District. “Get the cod, fried. The best fish-to-bun ratio in the city and the bread’s softness is perfect.”
  • Original Oyster House, Market Square. “Great fish sandwich, among other things. Maybe not the best, but definitely the best atmosphere by far. Sit in the old section.”
  • Armand’s Bar, Bloomfield. “Great sandwich. Big.”
  • Holy Angel Parish, Hays, Pa. “Probably the best church Lenten fish sandwich.”
  • St Bernard’s, Mt. Lebanon. “A close second in the church Lenten fish wars.”

Read the full article here.