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Best Downtown Lunch Spot Emporio at Sienna Mercato - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • Photo by Heather Mull
  • Best Downtown Lunch Spot Emporio at Sienna Mercato

Best Downtown Lunch Spot

Emporio at Sienna Mercato
942 Penn Ave., Downtown
412-281-2810 or siennapgh.com

Lunchers can tuck into a variety of gourmet meatballs in sauces and gravies, such as pork Bolognese, chicken gravy, "government cheese" and spinach-almond pesto. Sliders, panini and grinder sandwiches can be filled with classic beef, spicy pork, vegetarian or turkey.

2nd: NOLA on the Square
3rd: Bluebird Kitchen

Best New Restaurant
(as of June 2014)

Tako

214 Sixth St., Downtown
412-471-8256 or www.takopgh.com

A funkily decorated space, a lively atmosphere, an inventive cocktail program and tacos! But this is where Latin American and Asian flavors playfully comingle, so these aren't any ordinary tacos. Look for Korean beef, duck confit and mushroom fillings, and don't miss the signature tako taco, featuring a grilled octopus tentacle.

2nd: The Commoner, Downtown
3rd: Mezzo at Sienna Mercato, Downtown

Best Indian Restaurant

Taj Mahal
7795 McKnight Road, North Hills
412-364-1760 or www.tajmahalinc.com

It's worth the drive to McKnight Road to visit Taj Mahal, where a vast menu, representing cuisine from many regions of India, offers something for everyone. If you're the indecisive type, opt for one of the popular dinner or lunch buffets, and bring your appetite. And don't skip the yogurt and cheese, made in-house daily.  

2nd: Tamarind, Cranberry and Green Tree
3rd: People's Indian, Garfield 

Best Japanese Restaurant

Nakama
1611 E. Carson St., South Side, and 10636 Perry Highway, Wexford
www.eatatnakama.com

Popular Nakama is great for a night out, to see and be seen. (Steelers have been spotted dining here.) The restaurant offers both hibachi and sushi, where options range from the most elemental shrimp tempura roll to, for more advanced diners, sea-urchin nigiri. On the go, catch Nakama's cuisine via its food truck.

2nd: Little Tokyo, Mount Lebanon and South Side
3rd: Umi, Shadyside

Best Italian Restaurant

Piccolo Forno
3801 Butler St., Lawrenceville
412-622-0111 or www.piccolo-forno.com

Located in the heart of happening Lawrenceville, this cozy, casual family-run restaurant is always a lively spot. The menu offers wood-fired pizzas (including margherita and quattro formaggio), small plates and antipasti, panini and fresh-made pastas. It's also BYOB, so you can bring your own favorite Italian bottle selection.

2nd: Alla Famiglia, Allentown
3rd: Girasole, Shadyside

Best Thai Restaurant

Nicky's Thai Kitchen
903 Penn Ave., Downtown, and 856 Western Ave., North Side.
www.nickysthaikitchen.com

At this long-time favorite, start with a fresh spring roll and tom yum soup, and move on to the green curry with chicken; for dessert, try custard with sticky rice. At the BYOB North Side location, dine outside on the lovely patio filled with plants and artwork. The Downtown locations features sakes and Thai beer, plus lunch specials.

2nd: Thai Me Up, South Side
3rd: Thai Cuisine, Bloomfield

Best Chinese Restaurant

Sesame Inn
Multiple locations
www.sesameinn.com

Sesame Inn offers something for every palate. Classics such as General Tso's please those seeking comfort, while spicy Hunan and Mongolian dishes await those looking to branch out. (Fussy kids can get chicken fingers.) The restaurant also offers Thai dishes, including stirfrys and curries.

2nd: China Palace, Shadyside
3rd: Wai Wai, Bloomfield

Best Mexican/Latin American Restaurant

Mad Mex
Multiple locations
www.madmex.com

This Mexican restaurant isn't "mad" as in angry, but "mad" as in a crazy, out-of-the-box fusion of Mexican, Southwestern and Asian cuisine. And if that doesn't sound mad to you, you've obviously never had a Gobblerito, featuring turkey, black-bean mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn and gravy rolled in a tortilla and served with a side of cranberry sauce.

2nd: El Campesino, multiple locations
3rd: Steel Cactus, Shadyside and South Side

General manager Shireen Attar and server Sarah Alkayed at Best Middle-Eastern Restaurant Aladdin's Eatery - PHOTO BY THEO SCHWARZ
  • Photo by Theo Schwarz
  • General manager Shireen Attar and server Sarah Alkayed at Best Middle-Eastern Restaurant Aladdin's Eatery

Best Middle-Eastern Restaurant

Aladdin's Eatery
Multiple locations
www.aladdinseatery.com

While this long-running regional chain offers such Lebanese-American favorites as falafel, baba ghanoush and stuffed grape leaves, it's also known for its fresh, tasty pita sandwiches and "pitzas," all on homemade pita bread. Aladdin's is also veg-friendly, with meatless options for everything on the menu.

2nd: Ali Baba, Oakland
3rd: Kassab's, South Side

Best Contemporary American Restaurant

Eleven
1150 Smallman St., Strip District
412-201-5656 or www.elevenck.com

Exactly 11 years after opening, this exponent of contemporary American cuisine remains a huge favorite for Chef Derek Stevens' seasonal menu — from roasted chicken to sea scallops with grits, and from tuna tartare to the celebrated Eleven Burger. Add its elegant yet casual atmosphere and extensive but carefully curated wine list, and Eleven still goes to 11.

2nd: Cure, Lawrenceville
3rd: Meat and Potatoes, Downtown

Best Steakhouse

Hyde Park
247 North Shore Drive, North Side
412-222-4014 or www.hydeparkrestaurants.com

Because this upscale steakhouse is located near the sports arenas, you're just as likely to see Neil Walker jerseys as you are Armani suits. All your traditional cuts of beef are here, but Hyde Park also offers options like imported Japanese Waygu beef, and steaks that have been dry-aged as long as 40 days.

2nd: Morton's The Steakhouse, Downtown
3rd : Eddie Merlot's, Downtown

Best Seafood

Penn Avenue Fish Company
2208 Penn Ave., Strip District, and 308 Forbes Ave., Downtown
www.pennavefishcompany.com

Lunch at the Downtown spot offers a variety of upscale sandwiches, while the dinner menu has more refined entrees like Chilean sea bass and grouper with braised kale and green tomatoes. The sushi and clam chowder are not to be missed, nor are the fish tacos at the Strip's more casual location.

2nd: Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille, Strip District
3rd: Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, Mount Washington

Best Sushi

Nakama
1611 E. Carson St., South Side, and 10636 Perry Highway, Wexford
www.eatatnakama.com

An extensive drink list, entertaining chefs and great views of the South Side passersby on East Carson Street are all pluses, but diners appreciate Nakama for its commitment to high-quality sushi. The red dragon maki and Pittsburgh Penguins roll are customer favorites.

2nd: Umi, Shadyside
3rd: Penn Avenue Fish Company, Strip District and Downtown

Best Burger

Burgatory
Multiple locations
www.burgatorybar.com

Burgatory would be worth the trip just for its selection of traditional and off-the-wall burgers — like the Piggy Butter and Jelly, featuring pickles, bacon, peanut butter and habañero jelly. But add the option of elk, bison, veggie or crab patties, plus the fantastic milkshakes (spiked with alcohol or not), and it's a can't-miss burger joint.

2nd: BRGR, multiple locations
3rd: Tessaro's, Bloomfield

Best Pizza

Mineo's Pizza House
2128 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill, and 713A Washington Road, Mount Lebanon
www.mineospizza.com

Pittsburgh has room for many styles of pizza, and everyone will claim a favorite, but Mineo's continues to make our Best Of list. The pizza house serves hot and greasy, slightly crispy-bottomed slices (as well as doughy Sicilian-style squares) in an unpretentious, old-school parlor. Plus, traditional slices are less than $2.

2nd: Fiori's Pizzaria, Brookline
3rd: Spak Brothers, Garfield

Best Wings

Bigham Tavern
321 Bigham St., Mount Washington
412-431-9313 or bighamtavern.com

With 30 varieties of wing flavors, Bigham Tavern is a must-stop on wing night — or any night. Can you handle the heat? Try the Cluckin' Hot (a dry rub with ranch and cayenne). Or do something different with Thai Spicy Peanut. Get there early on Wednesdays for 44-cent wings.

2nd: Quaker Steak & Lube, multiple locations
3rd: Birmingham Bridge Tavern, South Side

Best Taco Smoke BBQ Taqueria - PHOTO BY THEO SCHWARZ
  • Photo by Theo Schwarz
  • Best Taco Smoke BBQ Taqueria

Best Taco

Smoke BBQ Taqueria
4115 Butler St., Lawrenceville
412-224-2070 or www.smokepgh.com

Formerly in Homestead, Smoke BBQ Taqueria, now in Lawrenceville, still serves up its fan-favorite "chickenapple" and chorizo taco, but has since added more vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The new location has bigger everything — staff, kitchen, meat-smoker and a flour-tortilla-maker that can produce hundreds of tortillas an hour.

2nd: Tako, Downtown
3rd: Las Palmas, Oakland

Best Coffeehouse

Espresso A Mano
3623 Butler St., Lawrenceville
412-918-1864 or www.espressoamano.com

With knowledgeable baristas, quality coffee and superior machinery, this is more than your neighborhood coffee shop. The espresso bar offers elevated takes on favorites like chai lattes and caramel macchiatos, in hot and iced varieties. Much of the coffee is direct-trade and organic, with sustainable staples like Counter Culture Coffee and Fort Weight Coffee.

2nd: Crazy Mocha, multiple locations
3rd: Beehive, South Side

Best Desserts

La Gourmandine
4605 Butler St., Lawrenceville, and 300 Cochran Road, Mount Lebanon
www.lagourmandinebakery.com

La Gourmandine is a passport to a small French street where the heavenly scent of baking bread and buttery pastry hangs in the air. Fabien and Lisanne Moreau moved from France and brought their pastry skills with them, giving Pittsburgh a taste of almond croissants, baguettes and opera cake.

2nd: Oakmont Bakery, Oakmont
3rd: Sinful Sweets Chocolate Company, Downtown

Best Bakery

Oakmont Bakery
531 Allegheny Ave., Oakmont
412-826-1606 or www.oakmontbakery.com

Oakmont Bakery has such a large variety of baked goods that you'll be glad there is a long wait in line: Now, you can take your time to decide what to pick. Options include a variety of bagels, breads, cookies, pies and pastries, as well as regional favorites like gobs, ladylocks and biscotti.

2nd: La Gourmandine, Lawrenceville and Mount Lebanon
3rd: Prantl's Bakery, Shadyside and Downtown

Best Bread

Mancini's Bakery
Multiple locations
www.mancinisbakery.com

Mancini's Bread was founded in 1926, which is exactly how long Pittsburghers have been boasting about great their hometown loaf is. The bread, with that perfectly crusty exterior and soft, pillowy inside, is a staple for sandwiches across the city, and spotted on tables in houses, diners and fancy restaurants across the region.

2nd: BreadWorks, North Side
3rd: Bread and Salt, Bloomfield

Best Sunday Brunch

Grand Concourse
100 W. Station Square Drive, South Side
412-261-1717 or www.grandconcourserestaurant.com

When it comes to picking the city's best Sunday brunch, it's hard to compete with the Grand Concourse. There's the extravagant ambiance offered by dining in the beautiful, historic 114-year-old Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Station, plus the generous selection of hot and cold foods. It makes any Sunday feel like a special occasion.

2nd: e2, Highland Park
3rd: Meat and Potatoes, Downtown

Best Happy Hour

Mad Mex
Multiple locations
www.madmex.com

The "Happy Hora" at this mini-chain of local Tex-Mex restaurants is a weekday favorite, running 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Take the edge of the work day with a budget-priced 22-ounce Big Azz Margarita ($7), or a half-priced draft. Once relaxed, don't be surprised if happy hour slides into a convivial dinner.

2nd: Harris Grill, Shadyside
3rd: Bigham Tavern, Mount Washington

Best Waitstaff

Bigham Tavern
321 Bigham St., Mount Washington
412-431-9313 or www.bighamtavern.com

With this establishment's quirky menu humor, it's only natural that the waitstaff at Bigham Tavern would follow suit with a fun and friendly demeanor that keeps customers returning. But the Bigham crew isn't just fun and games — they're also tops in filling drinks and taking precision orders.

2nd: Harris Grill, Shadyside
3rd: Eleven, Strip Distict

Best Outdoor Dining

Harris Grill
5747 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside
412-362-5273 or www.harrisgrill.com

On warm days and nights, patrons can be found sitting out on the patio, with its ample seating and vine-covered gates. The breezy ambiance makes Harris Grill a great spot for happy-hour drinks and appetizers (Tuesday is Free Bacon Night), as well as the perfect perch for scoping out the street scene.

2nd: Double Wide Grill, South Side and Mars
3rd: Pusadee's Garden, Lawrenceville

Best Late-Night Menu

Eat'n Park
Multiple locations
www.eatnpark.com

Honestly, there's something about crunchy food late at night, and Eat'n Park has diners covered: planks of fried zucchini, baskets of crisp onion rings and piles of fresh-cut potato chips, all offered at a late-night discount. The after-hours menu also includes breakfast dishes for those looking turn their late night into an early morning.

2nd: Mad Mex, multiple locations
3rd: Doce Taqueria, South Side

Best Local Beer

East End Brewing Company
147 Julius St., Larimer
412-537-2337 or www.eastendbrewing.com

You'll likely recognize this brewery's growlers, featuring a sun shining behind a frothy pint. East End Brewing has been making beer for more than a decade, and now offers four year-round brews, six seasonals, and several favorites and "one-offs."  Try a sample at the Pittsburgh Public Market, or check out the brewery for events.

2nd: Rivertowne Brewing, Export
3rd: Penn Brewery, North Side

Best Restaurant Wine List

Sonoma Grille
947 Penn Ave., Downtown
412-697-1336 or www.thesonomagrille.com

Sonoma Grille has one of the most extensive and diverse wine lists in the city, with an emphasis on West Coast wines. Patrons can partake in their favorites from the Napa and Sonoma valleys, or opt for wine flights to try out new varieties and wineries. Nibble on tapas, or book a date for the jazz brunch.

2nd: The Allegheny Wine Mixer, Lawrenceville
3rd: Eleven, Strip District

Best Restaurant Beer List

Sharp Edge
Multiple locations
www.sharpedgebeer.com

Remember that beer you had abroad last year? Sharp Edge probably has it. A lengthy menu offers beers from countries as diverse as Jamaica and the Czech Republic, plus local Pennsylvanian breweries and other craft favorites. And for Belgian-beer selection, Sharp Edge is unparalleled.

2nd: Fat Heads, South Side
3rd: Industry Public House, Lawrenceville

Best Locally Made Wine or Spirit

Wigle Whiskey
2401 Smallman St., Strip District, and 1055 Spring Garden Ave., North Side
412-224-2827 or www.wiglewhiskey.com

Since opening in 2012, Wigle has gone from being the first post-prohibition distillery in the city to the most-awarded craft distillery in the country. The whiskey-maker opened an outdoor garden at its barrel house last year, and continues to create new spirits, including this year's release of Pennsylvania Bourbon.

2nd: Arsenal Cider House, Lawrenceville
3rd: Pittsburgh Winery, Strip District

Best Food Truck

PGH Taco Truck
www.pghtacotruck.com

The fast, fresh and economically priced tacos have made this relatively long-running food truck a favorite around town. Seasoned meats and veggie substitutes are wrapped in corn tortillas and topped with lively accompaniments — opt for ground beef, more exotic Thai chicken or curried potatoes. The truck makes a lot of regular stops: Keep abreast at @PghTacoTruck.

2nd: Mac & Gold Truck
3rd: BRGR Truck

Best Juice/Smoothie Bar

Pittsburgh Juice Company
3418 Penn Ave, Lawrenceville
412-586-5060 or www.pittsburghjuicecompany.com

It's no coincidence that Pittsburgh Juice Company — founded by siblings Naomi and Zeb Homison, the latter a national yoga champion — is attached to a hot-yoga studio. But you don't have to undergo sweaty stretching to treat yourself to PJC's cold-pressed juices, smoothies, juice shots and raw vegan snacks.

2nd: Amazing Café, South Side
3rd: East End Food Co-op, Point Breeze

Best Food Festival

St. Nicholas Greek Food Festival
419 S. Dithridge St., Oakland
www.stnickspgh.org

This is the one worth marking the calendar for — it rolls around every May. Conveniently located in central Oakland, the church-run festival offers a week's worth of Greek food (from baked goods and snacks, to full meals), as well as live music and outdoor seating. You can even order your food online for easy pick-up.

2nd: RibFest, Heinz Field, North Side
3rd: Little Italy Days, Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield


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