Best of Food & Drink | Pittsburgh City Paper

Best of Food & Drink

Best Chef Kevin Sousa serves up one of his many specialties
Photo by Heather Mull
Best Chef Kevin Sousa serves up one of his many specialties.

Best New Restaurant

Butcher and the Rye

212 Sixth St., Downtown

412-391-2752 or

"Downtown dining" was once long on sophistication, but short on innovation. No longer: All three of this year's top new restaurants are based there, with the winner distinguished by the inventive, protein-forward menu of Richard DeShantz. And Butcher's cocktail program, pioneered by Maggie Meskey, has already been honored by the James Beard Foundation.

2nd: Ten Penny, Downtown

3rd: Grit & Grace, Downtown

Best Chef

Kevin Sousa, multiple restaurants

The reigning king of Pittsburgh cuisine, Sousa has been at the top of the game since the local foodie renaissance began. This year's big feat: raising over $300,000 via Kickstarter for Superior Motors, a restaurant complex planned for Braddock.

2nd: Justin Severino, Cure, Lawrenceville

3rd: Keith Fuller, Root 174, Regent Square

Best Indian Restaurant

Taj Mahal

7795 McKnight Road, North Hills

412-364-1760 or

To make sure their Indian cuisine is authentic, the chefs at Taj Mahal make their own yogurt and cheese fresh daily. The best way to sample the best this readers' favorite has to offer is to try the expansive lunch or dinner buffets, replete with dozens of appetizers, entrees and desserts. For less than $9 for lunch and $12 for dinner, you can't go wrong.

2nd: Tamarind, Cranberry and Green Tree

3rd: All India, Oakland

Best Japanese Restaurant

Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar

1611 E. Carson St., South Side

412-381-6000 or

There is no better spot to watch the South Side careen by than from a window seat at Nakama. Add to the experience freshly prepared sushi; an extensive selection of appetizers; steak and fish entrees; and perhaps a signature martini or draft beer, and it's no wonder this spot is popular every night of the week.

2nd: Umi, Shadyside

3rd: Little Tokyo, South Side and Mount Lebanon

Best Italian Restaurant

Piccolo Forno

3801 Butler St, Lawrenceville

412-622-0111 or

Inspired by the bakery — Il Piccolo Forno — that his parents operated for years in the Strip District, Domenic Branduzzi opened Piccolo Forno in 2005. The specialties include wood-fired pizza and an array of Italian classics, such as lasagna and scratch-made pappardelle with braised rabbit. There are also vegetarian options like spinach ravioli and the tagliatelle with a fresh mushroom ragu.

2nd: Girasole, Shadyside

3rd: Dish Osteria and Bar, South Side

Best Thai Restaurant

Nicky's Thai Kitchen

856 Western Ave., North Side (412-321-8424) and 903 Penn Ave., Downtown (412-471-8424)

Nicky's offer two in-town locations to satisfy your craving for freshly prepared Thai food. Set in a house, the Western Avenue spot is cozy and homey; in season, patrons can dine in the leafy back garden. But for lunchtime or pre-theater dining, the Cultural District spot is perfect for pad Thai or spicy curry.

2nd: Thai Me Up, South Side

3rd: Thai Cuisine, Bloomfield

Best Chinese Restaurant

Sesame Inn

Multiple locations

A longtime favorite of City Paper readers, Sesame Inn offers an extensive menu of traditional Chinese cuisine, from General Tso's to Peking duck, as well as a selection of Thai dishes and, at three of their four locations, sushi. A comfortable atmosphere — and copious choices for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike — make this a great spot for family gatherings.

2nd: China Palace, Shadyside

3rd: Tai Pei, Aspinwall

Best Middle-Eastern Restaurant

Ali Baba

404 S. Craig St., Oakland

412-682-2829 or

For more than four decades, Ali Baba has been providing Pittsburghers with a wide variety of Middle Eastern cuisine, right in the heart of Oakland. The economically priced lunches are popular with college students, while the dinner menu offers entrees, including soups, meat kebabs, fish and a vegetarian special. Finish up with a sweet farina cake.

2nd: Kassab's Restaurant, South Side

3rd: Casbah, Shadyside

Best Mexican/Latin American Restaurant

Mad Mex, multiple locations

Mahi mahi taco, chicken mole burrito, whole-wheat tortillas. Call it Mexican fusion if you like, but Mad Mex's spin on tacos, burritos and the like, incorporating Californian, Southwestern and Asian influences, is entering its third decade of popularity locally. And why can't a carnitas enchilada share a table with the Thanksgiving-meal "Gobblerito" burrito?

2nd: Casa Reyna, Strip District

3rd: Round Corner Cantina, Lawrenceville

Best Contemporary American Restaurant

Meat and Potatoes,

649 Penn Ave., Downtown

412-325-7007 or

Here, "meat and potatoes" is no shorthand for ordinary. Not when the meats take the form of pastrami-crusted duck breast, pork pozole, bone marrow or a 34-ounce rib eye for two. This is traditional American fare raised to the tippy-top, presented in a sophisticated but casual space, and well matched with fine craft cocktails.

2nd: Eleven, Strip District

3rd: Ten Penny, Downtown

Best Steakhouse

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse

247 North Shore Drive, North Side

412-222-4014 or

There aren't too many steakhouses where you can walk in wearing jeans and a Pirates T-shirt and enjoy a rib-eye that's been dry-aged for 50 days. And that purposefully versatile vibe isn't this chain's only Pittsburgh touch: Drop in for a "Hines Ward" filet mignon or "Steak Crosby" New York strip.

2nd: The Capital Grille, Downtown

3rd Morton's The Steakhouse, Downtown

Best Seafood

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto

1411 Grandview Ave., Mount Washington (412-481-4414) and 705 Mall Circle Drive, Monroeville (412-374-8530)

Tourists love the Mount Washington location for the view, but both iterations of this upscale restaurant offer the same high-quality seafood, flown in from around the globe. With specialties like Chilean sea bass and mako shark, and daily fresh-fish options, there are always old and new reasons to return to this culinary destination.

2nd: Off The Hook, Warrendale

3rd: Penn Avenue Fish Company, Downtown and Strip District

Best Sushi

Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar

1611 E. Carson St., South Side

412-381-6000 or

This perennial "Best of" honoree grabs diners' attention with the knife-wielding displays of its chefs. But the sushi at this decade-old South Side landmark proves that, beneath the flash and dazzle of its tableside theatrics, there's a commitment to the choice fresh seafood and deliberate preparation sushi requires.

2nd: Umi, Shadyside

3rd: Penn Avenue Fish Company, Downtown and Strip District

Best Burger


Multiple locations

Eating out is a religious experience at this restaurant known for its all-natural, hormone-free beef burgers. But there's more here than just the traditional cheeseburger. Burgatory offers a selection of crab, bison, chicken and elk burgers, all of which can be stacked with a list of toppings too long to mention. Don't miss the sinfully delicious milkshakes.

2nd: Winghart's Whiskey and Burger Bar, multiple locations

3rd: BRGR, East Liberty and Cranberry

Best Pizza

Mineo's Pizza House

2128 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill (412-521-9864) and 713a Washington Road, Mount Lebanon


You may ask: "Why even have a 'best pizza' category when Mineo's always wins?" But you may as well ask the birds why they sing to every sunrise, or ask your Uncle Stan why he always talks about how hot it was working in the mills. Some things are rituals. And a pizza at Mineo's is one of them.

2nd: Fiori's Pizzaria, Beechview and McMurray

3rd: Pizza Sola, East Liberty

Best Wings

Bigham Tavern

321 Bigham St., Mount Washington

412-431-9313 or

Wing night starts early and ends late at this Mount Washington watering hole (whose menu is big and getting bigger). And by the end of every Wednesday, thousands of tender-inside, crispy-outside wings have been devoured by townies and visitors alike.

2nd: Fat Heads Saloon, South Side

3rd: Birmingham Bridge Tavern, South Side

Best Taco

PGH Taco Truck

PGH Taco Truck was born when food blogger James Rich made the potentially crazy decision to buy a food truck on the Internet. And it's lucky for us that he did: With a range of traditional and less-traditional menu options, the truck's offerings make for the perfect quick bite. Follow @PghTacoTruck on Twitter to keep track of its whereabouts.

2nd: Las Palmas, multiple locations

3rd: Mad Mex, multiple locations

Best Coffeehouse

Crazy Mocha

Multiple locations

Since launching in 2000, this locally owned chain holds its own against the nationally known heavies, partly by allowing each of its 30 locations to express an idiosyncratic style. And if you're wondering what's up with the goat logo, it all goes back to a coffee-origin myth involving an Ethiopian's oddly energetic herd of goats.

2nd: Espresso a Mano, Lawrenceville

3rd: Big Dog Coffee, South Side

Best Desserts

Oakmont Bakery

531 Allegheny Ave., Oakmont

412-826-1606 or

Patrons keep coming back for the almond torte, the tiered cakes, the chocolate dipping station and the cupcakes — 30-some kinds, including specialties like Elvis in Oakmont (banana-mousse filling, peanut-butter frosting). But fans speak perhaps most wonderingly of the signature, über-decadent Oakmonter: layers of cheesecake, chocolate cake and chocolate fudge icing, all studded with candy.

2nd: Gaby et Jules, Squirrel Hill

3rd: La Gourmandine Bakery, Lawrenceville and Mount Lebanon

Best Bakery

Oakmont Bakery

531 Allegheny Ave., Oakmont

412-826-1606 or

Oakmont Bakery, founded in 1988, is huge, with expansive showcases displaying: dozens of doughnut possibilities, from Maple Bacon to "doughsants"; full lines of pastries, pies and cookies; danishes; dolces; 24 types of bagel; and breads from baguettes to rolls, sourdough to cinnamon-raisin. Not forgetting the in-house café. But it's so popular that you should expect a line anyway.

2nd: Prantl's Bakery, Shadyside and Downtown

3rd: La Gourmandine Bakery, Lawrenceville and Mount Lebanon

Best Frozen Treats

Dave and Andy's

207 Atwood St., Oakland


Many ice-cream shops boast lots of frills and gimmicks, but not Dave and Andy's. There, a no-nonsense vibe puts all the focus right where it should be: on fresh, homemade ice cream, sorbet and yogurt. The in-house waffle cone is always the way to go; don't miss the tiny M&M at the bottom.

2nd: The Milk Shake Factory, South Side

3rd: Mercurio's, Shadyside

Best Bread

Mancini's Bakery

Multiple locations

The history of Mancini's is a classic American-dream story. Founded in McKees Rocks in 1926 by James Mancini, an Italian immigrant, it now produces thousands of loaves a day, supplying restaurants and stores all over the city. And since the McKees Rocks bakery is open 24/7, no one in the region need ever go without fresh-baked bread.

2nd: Allegro Hearth Bakery, Squirrel Hill

3rd: Breadworks, North Side

Best Sunday Brunch

Grand Concourse

100 W. Station Square Drive, Station Square

412- 261-1717 or

This city has its share of fancy restaurants, but there's something regal, traditional and fancy about having brunch at the Grand Concourse. The buffet tables are full of upscale fare to fit all tastes and appetites. There's an omelet bar with eggs, French toast and pancakes, and the fresh donuts are always a favorite.

2nd: Meat and Potatoes, Downtown

3rd: The Zenith, South Side

Best Downtown Lunch Spot

Ten Penny

960 Penn Ave., Downtown

412-318-8000 or

Convenient to the convention center, the Cultural District and Pittsburgh's business district, Ten Penny is a good pick for lunch fare (or even an early pre-show meal). The expansive menu at this "casual upscale" restaurant is sure to satisfy all. Don't skip the meatballs, which come smothered in tangy marinara, topped with a creamy dollop of whipped ricotta.

2nd: NOLA on the Square, Downtown

3rd: Meat and Potatoes, Downtown

Best BYOB Dining

Piccolo Forno

3801 Butler St, Lawrenceville

412-622-0111 or

While some restaurants may be BYOB simply because they lack a liquor license, at Piccolo Forno it's been part of the concept Domenic Branduzzi envisioned when he opened the doors in 2005. The restaurant concentrates on the food and the atmosphere, and lets customers play the role of sommelier, bringing their own libations to pair with the meal.

2nd: Noodlehead, Shadyside

3rd: e2, Highland Park

Best Outdoor Dining

Harris Grill

5747 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside

412-362-5273 or

Long before outdoor dining became a thing, the front patio at the Harris Grill was the place to be. Perfectly perched just above Ellsworth Avenue for optimum people-watching, how easy to while away the afternoon or evening with craft beer, cocktails and hilariously named food ("The Garden Weasel," "Thanksgiving in Blawnox").

2nd: Round Corner Cantina, Lawrenceville

3rd: Double Wide Grill, South Side and Mars

Best Local Beer

East End Brewing Co.

147 Julius St., Larimer; and Pittsburgh Public Market, 2401 Penn Ave., Strip District

Founded in 2004, East End is still draft-only — available at select bars, its own brewery and Pittsburgh Public Market. But the inventiveness and quality of flagship brews like the hearty Big Hop and flavorful Fat Gary Nut Brown Ale — plus small-batch bottled treats like Gratitude Barleywine — keep fans lined up for growlers and pintfuls.

2nd: Penn Brewery, Troy Hill

3rd: Church Brew Works, Lawrenceville

Best Late-Night Menu

Mad Mex, multiple locations

Late-night dining options have never been extensive here, but in a realm of grab-and-go, Mad Mex is a welcoming sit-down outpost for hearty burritos, tacos, enchiladas, salads and nachos, plus draft beers and margaritas to wash it all down. For you penny-pinching night owls, the original Oakland location offers a selection of half-off items from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

2nd: Primanti Bros., multiple locations

3rd: Meat and Potatoes, Downtown

Best Restaurant Beer List

Sharp Edge

Multiple locations

At the flagship Friendship location alone, there are nearly 70 beers on tap and more than 300 bottles, and a day almost never goes by without a new malted beverage added to the rotation. The specialty here, though, isn't just variety: Sharp Edge boasts one of the largest selections of Belgian beers in the state.

2nd: Fat Heads Saloon, South Side

3rd: The Urban Tap, South Side

Best Restaurant Wine List

Sonoma Grille

947 Penn Ave., Downtown

412-697-1336 or

Wine hasn't had quite the foodie cachet of artisanal cocktails or craft beers in recent years, but a well-curated wine list defies trends — and Sonoma Grille has long been the most celebrated wine bar in town. This list has something for everyone, from $6-a-glass zinfandel to $2,900-a-bottle cabernet.

2nd: Eleven, Strip District

3rd: Allegheny Wine Mixer, Lawrenceville

Best Locally Made Wine or Spirit

Wigle Whiskey

2401 Smallman St. (Strip District) and 1055 Spring Graden Ave. (North Side)

412-224-2827 or

"American whiskey was born in Pittsburgh," boasts this home-grown distillery, which has committed itself to carrying on the tradition. And readers clearly believe Wigle has succeeded, with its selection of organic and white whiskeys. Offerings also include bitters, gins and honey. And if you'd like to make your own spirits, Wigle also sell aging kits.

2nd: Pittsburgh Winery, Strip District

3rd: Maggie's Farm Rum, Strip District

Best Food Truck

PGH Taco Truck

It's hard to screw up a taco, which is what makes finding a really great taco so delightful. Delicious and filling (each one weighs between a third and a half a of a pound), the truck's menu changes slightly from day to day. Recent offerings have included spicy jerk chicken with avocado-lime cream and vegan chorizo with pineapple salsa.

2nd: BRGR,

3rd: Franktuary,

Best Juice/Smoothie Bar

Pittsburgh Juice Company

3418 Penn Ave, Lawrenceville
412-586-5060 or

Siblings Naomi and Zeb Homison launched this juice bar last year, using cold-pressed juices exclusively to preserves nutrients and enzymes. Carrot-apple-ginger, coconut water, cacao blast and a half-dozen others are on offer here. The Juice Company adjoins Zeb Homison's yoga studio, but we figure a bottle of the juice works off enough karma for starters.

2nd: Embody Natural Health, Wexford

3rd: Amazing Café, South Side

Best Food Festival

The Greek Food Festival at Saint Nicholas

419 S. Dithridge St., Oakland

412-682-3866 or

At this popular multi-day festival held every May, attendees will find all the favorite Greek dishes, from traditional salads and moussaka to lamb skewers and grape leaves, plus excellent baklava. Plenty of less-familiar fare such as soutzoukakia (fried kebab-like meatballs) is also worth a try. Take a break from eating and enjoy the music and dancing.

2nd: Rib Festival at Heinz Field, North Side

3rd: Little Italy Days, Bloomfield