10 amazing sauces and dressings in Pittsburgh that will have you licking your plate | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

10 amazing sauces and dressings in Pittsburgh that will have you licking your plate

click to enlarge 10 amazing sauces and dressings in Pittsburgh that will have you licking your plate
Photo: staci backauskas
Cilantro Sauce from Cilantro & Ajo
Whether it's a burger, a dumpling, a sub, or a salad, fabulous food just doesn't happen without an amazing sauce. Kind of like icing on the cake, but savory, a really great, well-crafted sauce is what takes a dish from just enjoyable to truly memorable. It's the thing that keeps you coming back, and ordering extra on the side. So, let's dive into some of the best sauces and salad dressings (it's really just sauce for lettuce, right?) that Pittsburgh has to offer.

(NOTE: There are no wing, barbeque, or spaghetti sauces since these are categories of their own.)

Best Sauces

Cilantro Sauce Cilantro & Ajo
901 East Carson Street, South Side

Who knew liquid gold could be green? Bright from lime, tangy from garlic, and herbaceous from cilantro, this piquant sauce adds zest to everything from roasted meats and arepas to yucca and black beans with rice. Developed here in Pittsburgh from the traditional Venezuelan recipe, this version includes a few extra ingredients that make it so good it renders cardboard edible. Take a bottle home for $10.

click to enlarge 10 amazing sauces and dressings in Pittsburgh that will have you licking your plate
Photo: Courtesy of Taj Mahal
Garden Raita at Taj Mahal

Garden Raita Taj Mahal
7795 McKnight Road, North Hills

Using homemade yogurt created from a culture brought from India 26 years ago, this thick and savory sauce is truly a nectar of the gods. The addition of cilantro, onion, tomato, and celery to the standard cucumber makes it more substantial than thinner versions served at other restaurants. Layered on a crisp, chewy piece of naan with their onion chutney, it’s a flavor bomb of epic proportions.

Garlic Sauce WaiWai
4717 Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield

A spicy aromatic sauce with the perfect thickness to coat veggies and chicken, the rich mahogany is flecked with garlic and ginger and has the perfect level of sweetness. To really amp up, try it on pan-fried wontons and life will never be the same. The crispy dough filled with savory pork and smothered in this flavorful ambrosia is the stuff of culinary wet dreams.

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce Bistro 19
711 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon

This luscious sauce that rests atop their juicy pork tenderloin is heavenly. First, the meat is crusted with a smoky rub and topped with a reduction of raspberry and chipotle. A few ingredients are added to the fruity sweetness and smoked jalapeño of the glaze to create a sauce that explodes with flavor. You’ve got to try it to believe it.
click to enlarge 10 amazing sauces and dressings in Pittsburgh that will have you licking your plate
Photo: Courtesy of Union Grill
Turkey Devonshire from Union Grill

Devonshire Sauce
Union Grill
413 S. Craig Street, Oakland

Turkey Devonshire, a recipe that originated in Pittsburgh in 1934, is a simple yet magical dish, especially here. Turkey, bacon, and diced tomatoes are stacked on white toast, then crowned with a luxurious sauce blended from a mix of cheeses. Sharp, yet nutty, this sauce is smooth and decadent. For those not afraid of a small cholesterol spike, this Devonshire is the perfect comfort food.

Best Salad Dressings

Red Wine Vinaigrette
 Big Jim’s in the Run
201 Saline Street, Greenfield

Nothing pops the freshness of a salad like a vinaigrette with the right balance of wine and oil loaded with zesty spices. The original recipe created by Big Jim himself, this superior dressing has been served at the restaurant since 1977. It’s tempting to use this dark pink delight beyond its intended purpose, drizzling it on a hoagie or using it as a dip for garlic toast — and we’re not saying you can’t —but it really shines on a crisp bed of lettuce and veggies.

Coleslaw Dressing Stinky’s Bar & Grill
4901 Hatfield, Lawrenceville

Finding a coleslaw that combines the ideal dressing consistency with that perfect blend of sweet and tang is like hunting snipe, but Pittsburgh came through. This delectable dressing originated at Cigna’s in Lawrenceville. When that restaurant became Stinky’s 17 years ago, they kept the recipe. Crunchy cabbage coated in this lush dressing made from just a few simple ingredients (it’s all about the ratios) is the perfect side dish.

click to enlarge 10 amazing sauces and dressings in Pittsburgh that will have you licking your plate
Photo: Robert Trakofler
Peanut Noodle Salad from The Zenith

Peanut Dressing
The Zenith
86 S. 26th Street, South Side

The nutty, spicy dressing that coats the chewy noodles of the Peanut Noodle Salad makes me want to eat it in private. Smooth with toasty notes and a bite from fresh scallion, it has a delightful kick that makes your tongue and lips tingle just the right amount. Originally available only on the famous Sunday Brunch buffet, fans demanded more access, and now this vegan staple is always available. It’s best served at room temperature to allow for maximum noodle coverage.

Chickpea Salad Dressing Salim’s Middle Eastern Food
4705 Centre Avenue, Oakland

Vegetables without dressing are just vegetables, and why eat them plain when they can be bathed in a high-quality olive oil vinaigrette that makes them sing? A hint of lemon brightens the combination of vegetables and herbs that elevate the humble chickpea to new heights. This dressing proves selecting ingredients because of how they make food taste instead of what they cost is the difference between good and great.

Ranch Dressing Spak Brothers Pizza
5107 Penn Avenue, Garfield

A great house ranch is a badge of honor for local restaurants. Many succeed in combining ingredients in a way that satisfies, but this pint-sized pizza joint honors the iconic dressing in a bold way. Thick enough to be a dip, their version is infused with garlic and secret spices, then sprinkled with enough dill to maintain the authenticity of the original without overpowering. Slather it on their steak salad (or seitan if you prefer). Either way, the only appropriate word is divine. (Editor’s note: The vegan ranch dressing also slaps.)

Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest
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Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest

By Pam Smith