A Newcomers Guide to Pittsburgh Food and Drink | Newcomers Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A Newcomers Guide to Pittsburgh Food and Drink

Local faves and hidden gems, including brunch, sushi, burgers, beer, bakeries, and more

click to enlarge Local Hidden Gem: Co-owner Angel Magwood at Back to the Foodture on the South Side - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Local Hidden Gem: Co-owner Angel Magwood at Back to the Foodture on the South Side
Pittsburgh loves to brag about its favorites. Once you move here, you will hear about them nonstop. There is a lot of local pride in the Steel City, sometimes too much. But many of these local favorites are worth bragging about, and with a growing food and drink scene that has gotten national attention in recent years pre-pandemic, and indoor dining beginning to return, Pittsburgh City Paper wants to provide newcomers with a bit of background on some of the region's favorite drinking and dining spots.

But the popular staples are just one part to enjoying a new city. Discovering the hidden gems is integral to becoming a Pittsburgher, a true Yinzer. To accompany the local faves, City Paper is also highlighting some hidden gems locals love but might not tell you about right away.

Brunch

LF: Square Cafe. 134 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty. square-cafe.com
A hit with everyone thanks to its varied and inventive menu, including lemon-berry ricotta pancakes, this joint recently expanded into larger digs and is keeping hungry weekenders satisfied.


LF: The Abbey on Butler Street. 4635 Butler St., Lawrenceville. theabbeyonbutlerstreet.com
An inviting patio, quaint cafe, happening bar, and popular restaurant are all rolled into one place at this space that was converted from an old funeral home.

HG: Spirit. 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. spiritpgh.com
Served in the basement of a converted Moose Lodge, Spirit’s brunch offers artisan pizzas, sandwiches made from their homemade bagels, salads, cocktails, and more. Enjoy it on their patio.

Pizza

LF: Driftwood Oven. 3615 Butler St., Lawrenceville. driftwoodoven.com
Something about the combination of sourdough crust, melted cheese, and tomato sauce really works at this Lawrenceville pizzeria. Enjoyed by locals, and even celebrities like Chrissy Teigen when she visits Pittsburgh.

LF: Fiori’s Pizzaria. 103 Capital Ave., Brookline. fiorispizzaria.com
Big slices, greasy cheese, crispy, yet foldable crust. Can’t ask for much more in this perennial Pittsburgh favorite in the South Hills.


HG: Police Station Pizza. 1007 Merchant St., Ambridge. Facebook search “Police Station Pizza
Best place in Pittsburgh to try the regional Ohio Valley Pizza style, which is a light and crunchy square crust, covered in sweet tomato sauce, and topped with cheese and toppings after the bake, so they melt just ever so slightly. Worth the 30-minute drive from Downtown.

Sandwich

LF: Primanti Bros. Multiple locations. primantibros.com
The Pittsburgh Sandwich. French fries and coleslaw on top of sliced tomato and choice of meat inside two thick slices of Italian bread.

HG: Spak Brothers. 5107 Penn Ave., Garfield. spakbrothers.com
With both meat and vegan options, this take-out pizza shop in Garfield is a sandwich gem. Try the seitan cheesesteak, one of the best in Pittsburgh, and it doesn’t even use real meat.

Bakery

LF: La Gourmandine. Multiple locations. lagourmandinebakery.com
This French bakery, known for its baguettes and tasty pastries, has been expanding throughout Allegheny County, and for good reason. Their baked goods are also sold at shops and stores throughout Pittsburgh.

HG: Madeleine Bakery & Bistro. 609 S. Trenton Ave., Wilkinsburg. madeleinepgh.com
Tucked away on a side street in a charming public courtyard, this hidden gem also makes some of the best bread and pastries in the city. The egg sandwiches on brioche buns are excellent.
click to enlarge Local Fave: Showcase Barbecue - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Local Fave: Showcase Barbecue

Barbecue

LF: Showcase Barbecue. 6800 Frankstown Ave., Homewood. showcasebbq.net
Strong smoke flavor and ribs, both turkey and pork, that have an incredible char. Cover it all in a unique, sour/sweet homemade barbecue sauce this Black-owned business specializes in.


HG: Z Best BBQ. 2900 Bedford Ave., Hill District. zbestbbq.com
Currently in a temporary relocation after a fire, this Black-owned BBQ joint is still slinging racks of ribs, chicken wings, and gut busting sides. Follow them on Instagram at @zbest_bbq for updates.

Mexican

LF: La Palapa. 2224 E. Carson St., South Side. lapalapapgh.com
In a town with little Mexican influence, La Palapa shines with authentic and slow-cooked dishes that honor those storied culinary traditions. Their Mole Poblano con Pollo stands out.

HG: California Taco Shop. 890 Butler St., Shaler. californiatacoshoppittsburgh.com
Serving up the best Cal-Mex in the Steel City for those missing West Coast flavors. Fried fish tacos, taquitos, carne asada, and even burritos stuffed with guacamole and french fries.

click to enlarge Owner Wei Zhu of Hidden Gem Chengdu Gourmet - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Owner Wei Zhu of Hidden Gem Chengdu Gourmet

Chinese

LF: Everyday Noodles. 5875 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill. everydaynoodles.net
Hand-pulled noodles made through windows that diners can view. Stellar soup dumplings, noodle dishes, and bao buns. Gets busy, so try to dine at odd hours.

HG: Chengdu Gourmet. 5840 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill. chengdugourmetpittsburgh.com
Pittsburgh’s most authentic and best Chinese restaurant, serving spicy Szechuan specialities on a seldom visited street. The lamb cumin is one of the best dishes in the region.
click to enlarge Don Doherty, building superintendent, and Becky Mauro, AM prep cook, tend to the urban garden on the rooftop of Downtown Pittsburgh’s Local Fave Gaucho Parrilla Argentina - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Don Doherty, building superintendent, and Becky Mauro, AM prep cook, tend to the urban garden on the rooftop of Downtown Pittsburgh’s Local Fave Gaucho Parrilla Argentina

Latin American

LF: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina. 146 Sixth St., Downtown. eatgaucho.com
Steak cooked over open flames, dipped in some rich and herby chimichurri, is one of the world’s perfect culinary combos. And Pittsburgh is lucky to have an expert in the heart of Downtown.

HG: The Colombian Spot. 2019 E. Carson St., South Side. thecolombianspot-pgh.com
Get all your South American flavors stuffed into a giant corn dumpling known as an arepa, and wash it down with some fresh tropical juices imported from Colombia.

Cocktails

LF: Hidden Harbor. 1708 Shady Ave., Squirrel Hill. hiddenharborpgh.com
This popular tiki bar gets crowded fast, so arrive early. Enjoy the tropical additions of their cocktails served in barrels, coconuts, and decorative glassware.

LF: Lorelei. 124 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty. loreleipgh.com
Serving up classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds, Gimlets, and Sours with some German and Italian influences. And there is a German-style beer hall in the back, too!

HG: Maggie’s Farm Rum. 3212a Smallman St., Strip District. maggiesfarmrum.com
Tucked away in an industrial warehouse, this craft distillery makes the finest rum in the country and has the awards to prove it. Fittingly, that rum makes some fine cocktails. The Painkiller is addicting.
click to enlarge Local Fave Independent Brewing Company - CP PHOTO: JOIE KNOUSE
CP Photo: Joie Knouse
Local Fave Independent Brewing Company

Beer List

LF: Independent Brewing Company. 1704 Shady Ave., Squirrel Hill. independentpgh.com
If you want to really explore all of Pittsburgh’s best locally made beer, this is the place. Always featuring some of the best, and freshest craft breweries, not to mention some great European varieties that pair well with its excellent food.

HG: Bulldog Pub. 1818 Morningside Ave., Morningside. thebulldogpub.com
Tucked away in the quiet residential neighborhood of Morningside, this haunt features a great outdoor space to go with its truly impressive rotating beer list. Odds are you find a new favorite brew.

Shot and Beer

LF: The Goldmark. 4517 Butler St., Lawrenceville. thegoldmark.com
Perfect bar for watching the Pens or the Pirates while chasing your shot with a refreshing brew. They have multiple shot and beer combos to enjoy. DJs arrive later and the bar converts to a club vibe.

HG: Shadyside Hideaway Bar. 228 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside. Facebook search “Shadyside Hideaway Bar
Tucked away down a secluded walkway, this hidden bar is no frills, no BS. Order and beer and whiskey and mingle with longtime locals.
click to enlarge Local Fave East End Brewing - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Local Fave East End Brewing

Craft Brewery

LF: East End Brewing. 147 Julius St., Larimer. eastendbrewing.com
One of Pittsburgh’s oldest and most beloved craft breweries. Now has a remodeled outdoor patio and regularly hosts local food businesses for tasty provisions.

LF: Grist House Craft Brewery. Multiple locations. gristhouse.com
Extremely popular, especially their Millvale location which is set to open for in-person hours again in June. A wide variety of beers that don’t disappoint.

HG: Old Thunder. 340 Freeport Road, Blawnox. oldthunderbrewing.com
New brewery on the scene and located in seldom-visited suburb Blawnox, Old Thunder is quietly making some of the best beer in Pittsburgh. Worth a trip.

Wine Bar

LF: Allegheny Wine Mixer. 5326 Butler St., Lawrenceville. alleghenywinemixer.com
Named after a joke in the movie Step Brothers, this hip wine bar in a hip neighborhood is great for mingling, tasting fancy cheeses, and glugging wines from around the world.

HG: Market Street Wine Bar. 435 Market St., Downtown. marketstreetgrocery.com
Only accessible by walking through a small market, this hidden wine bar offers seclusion and an amazing list of delicious vinos. Great lighting, too.

Thai

LF: Noodlehead. 242 S. Highland, Shadyside. noodleheadpgh.com
Thai street food in a comfortable and hip sit-down establishment. Noodle dishes are the obvious stars here, but their Thai fried chicken is also great. Cash only.

HG: Thai Cuisine. 4627 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. thaicuisinepgh.com
Staple on Liberty Avenue for years, and a neighborhood favorite. The green curry is outstanding and hard not to order every time.

Indian

LF: Taj Mahal. 7795 McKnight Road, Ross. tajmahalinc.com
A perennial City Paper Best of winner, this North Hills staple has an extremely popular lunch buffet and some killer entrees in the evening.

HG: Udipi Cafe. 4141 Old William Penn Highway, Monroeville. 412-373-5581
Bare-bones establishment (it doesn’t even have a website or social media), but more than makes up for that in flavor and variety. Specializes in meat-free South Indian dishes, including dosas — rice crepes stuffed with spices, chutney, and cooked vegetables.

Soul Food

LF: Carmi Soul Food Restaurant. 1825 E. Carson St., South Side. carmirestaurant.com
All the gut-busting staples you can imagine, not to mention amazing fried catfish and a signature fish stew. Denzel Washington visited the Black-owned restaurant when he was in Pittsburgh filming.

HG: Ribs N Bread. 4704 Centre Ave., Oakland. ribsnbread.weebly.com
Take-out only joint that slowly cooks up some succulent ribs covered in mustard-style barbecue sauce inspired by the owner’s South Caroline upbringing. Don’t miss out on the collard greens, mac and cheese, or the cornbread either.

Halal/Mediterranean

LF: Pitaland. 620 Brookline Blvd., Brookline. pitaland.com
Serving up fresh-baked pita filled with slow roasted meats for decades in Brookline. Also offers delectable Mediterranean desserts and pastries.

HG: Salem’s Market and Grill. 2923 Penn Ave., Strip District. salemsmarketgrill.com
Cafeteria-style joint with an extensive menu where everything satisfies. Try the plethora of Mediterranean dishes, like kabobs, or even grab the burger — some people swear by it.

Burger

LF: Burgh’ers Brewing. Multiple locations. burgherspgh.com
This restaurant specializes in housemade beer and consistently excellent burgers. Can order burgers in the classic style, with grass-fed beef, #TheBlend for a healthier option, or vegan Impossible patty.

HG: Pittsburgh Sandwich Society. 108 43rd St., Lawrenceville. facebook.com/pghsandwichsociety
This food truck and sandwich stand offers Pittsburgh’s version of a West Coast burger, and does it well. Two beef patties, American cheese, onion jam, spring salad mix, tomato, pickles, and Thousand Island dressing.

HG: Back To The Foodture. 2767 E. Carson St., South Side. Facebook search “Back To The Foodture
Home to some of the most deliciously greasy food around, and the first Black-owned business in SouthSide Works. Dozens of unique items, including tons of wings and a cheeseburger that uses donuts for buns. Trust us, it works.

Italian

LF: Piccolo Forno. 3801 Butler St., Lawrenceville. piccolo-forno.com
A longtime favorite on Butler Street that serves rustic Italian fare, and has inviting sidewalk dining.

HG: Alla Famiglia. 804 E. Warrington Ave., Allentown. allafamiglia.com
Old-school Italian-American joint that serves hefty pastas family-style on white tablecloths. You can also purchase their pasta sauces at local grocers.

Eastern European

LF: Apteka. 4606 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. aptekapgh.com
Somehow takes meat-centric traditions of Eastern Europe and transforms them into vegan plates, creating some of the best dining in the city. Great cocktails, too.

HG: Huszar. 627 E. North Ave., North Side. huszarpittsburgh.com
With a chef directly from Hungary, this restaurant might resemble a dive bar, but its goulash is the best you can find in Pittsburgh.

Diner

LF: Pamela’s Diner. Multiple locations. pamelasdiner.com
Obama’s favorite Pittsburgh spot, and arguably the region’s favorite, too. Known for their slightly crispy pancakes and their Lyonnaise potatoes.

LF: Eat’n Park. Multiple locations. eatnpark.com
A place for an inexpensive egg and toast breakfast, or a nice salad bar. Enjoy the delicious pies or order some grilled stickies with ice cream. Grab a Smiley Cookie on your way out the door.

HG: Grandma B’s. 2527 Wylie Ave., Hill District. Facebook search “Grandma B’s
Homestyle cooking with an old-school lunch counter for hungry diners. Burgers, fries, and egg and toast breakfast. All the good stuff at this Black-owned establishment.

Ice Cream

LF: Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream. Multiple locations. millieshomemade.com
Freshly made waffle cones invite just about everyone to try this local ice cream favorite that has been expanding throughout the region and partnering with many Pittsburgh groups.

HG: Antney’s Ice Cream. 1316 Poplar St., West End. facebook.com/antneys
Rotates through dozens of inventive flavors every summer. All of them are good. Located on the edge of strip mall parking, careful or you will miss it.

Sushi

LF: Umami. 202 38th St., Lawrenceville. umamipgh.com
This Japanese-style pub’s lengthy menu offers everything from ramen to taiyaki, fish-shaped pancakes stuffed with sweetened adzuki beans, but the sushi is worth the trip alone. The sashimi is fresh, and a list of sushi plates offer a wide selection.

HG: Andy’s Sushi. Wholey’s Market, 1711 Penn Ave., Strip District. wholeyscurbside.com/andys-sushi
Wholey’s Market is one of the best places in the city for home cooks to buy fresh seafood, and for over 25 years, Chef Andy has been serving up some of the city’s best sushi and conversation from a small counter inside the shop. Grab a roll for lunch as you shop for dinner supplies.

Food Hall

LF: Federal Galley. 200 Children’s Way, North Side. federalgalley.org
This popular locale combines a rotating list of small restaurant businesses underneath a large and inviting venue complete with a marvelous outdoor patio. Not to mention some great cocktails and drinks from the in-house bar.

HG: The Pennsylvania Market. 108 19th St., Strip District. thepamarket.com
Five food vendors, four bars, and three retailers all inside a two-story complex on a side street in the Strip. Wine, charcuterie, tacos, pizza, and craft beer all at your fingertips.

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