The Steel City has changed radically since it was manufactured, reinventing itself and its restaurant scene to its new identity. Here are 5 must-try restaurants in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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Pittsburgh has a number of great restaurants serving everything from authentic Cambodian to soul food to Italian and of course Eastern European, as almost every local restaurant has pierogis. This is a partial list. It’s not the only five must-try places, nor the chicest, these are just five must-try restaurants when visiting the city.
One of the most recent additions to the Pittsburgh dining scene is Coop DeVille, a chicken restaurant that’s casual, approachable, cool, and utterly delicious.
At the end of the Strip District, Coop is occupying two commercial spaces with divided personalities. The bar and restaurant occupy an end cap with walk-in windows, indoor and outdoor seating, and communal tables and benches. In the adjacent entertainment area, rows of classic arcade games offer the opportunity to bring guests back to what it once was for a family dinner. The team cleverly installed Duck Pin Bowling, which enables social activities in a consolidated space.
The scratch kitchen is semi-open and guests interact with the kitchen staff at the pick-up window and watch the prep kitchen in a pantry with a window.
The simple menu is affordable, quick and there is something for everyone. I ordered their trademark Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich with Spiced Crinkle Fries. In addition to alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, Coop also offers filtered still and sparkling water for self-service – and the cocktails looked impressive.
The food was absolutely perfect, it was cheap and all guests should feel completely welcome. Couples can enjoy a private evening here, we saw a group of office workers bowl until their food arrived, and a family with parents showed the kids how to work large console arcade games.
The restaurant group that Coop DeVille owns also has other Pittsburgh pillars: Meat & Potatoes, (the impressive) Chicken Bleu and Gi-Jin. On Mondays, Coop offers Wing Night with happy hour specials for bowling and beer. La Colombe is served from an outside window and an indoor coffee bar and serves its signature nitro coffees, which are available in cold brew and latte (with optional flavor additives) for a smooth coffee experience. We love La Colombe and were thrilled to see a full range of options.
Arlecchino is one of the best Italian dishes in the area. Located in the South Hills (Canonsburg, McMurray, Upper St. Clair), this family-style dining experience in a converted schoolhouse from the early 20th century is a must. The upscale restaurant is a frequent hangout for nearby executives and wealthy suburban families. It’s expensive, but worth it.
Every starter comes with a house salad and pasta dish, but diners shouldn’t miss the smoked Allegheny mountain propolone with black truffles and rocket on a scorching hot platter. My daughter hates salad (she would consider arugula part of that family) but will eat it off your plate when you look away.
The salad course consists of cranberries, beets, various olives and a combination of a sweet vinegar dressing and cream on top. The pasta course features Arlecchino’s standard vodka sauce and fusilli, optionally served with flavorful pepper house olive oil – but you should switch to the cacio e pepe at the table made from a cheese wheel instead.
Finally, Arlecchino offers a unique take on tiramisu with notes of raspberry and drambuie-soaked ladyfingers. If your looking for small plates look elsewhere. But for an evening where food is the goal, guests won’t be disappointed. The restaurant shares the same property with another local legend, Alla Famiglia.
Pasta for every day
I lost track of the number of times I’ve been to China, but suffice to say I am very familiar with Xiao Long Bao and high quality, authentic Chinese food. Everyday Noodles is perhaps one of the best Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) in the world. The secret of its exquisite execution is all about the dough. A window in the dining room with an open kitchen shows a cook kneading dough by weaving it and then hitting it against the steel preparation table for the first shock and then to the delight of the guests.
Another simple menu wins the day with just a handful of options from each category. What makes this Squirrel Hill restaurant so successful is the ability to keep the food authentic while serving a variety of pallets. For example, pork belly sliders use spongy Chinese buns and thick slices of pork belly that appeal to both enlightened locals and the extensive international community of nearby Pittsburgh University and Carnegie Mellon.
You won’t find sweet and sour pork on the menu or alcohol as the restaurant is BYOB. However, recognizable favorites for the uninitiated such as “potstickers” (fried dumplings) make the transition easier. My family’s perfect meal at Everyday Noodles starts with bok choy with oyster sauce, spicy wonton noodle bowl, two orders of Xiao Long Bao (mix the chili sauce and dumpling sauce with freshly cut ginger to dip) and end with sweet egg yolk steamed pastries.
Other children might choose pizza or burgers for their special day on their birthday – our daughter chooses “dumplings” every time. Maybe yours too. If your looking for excellent Sichuan, How Lee across the street is very good, but the Chengdu Gourmet by James Beard, semi-finalist, Chef Wei Zhu is superb – order the Chengdu cold noodles for the win.
Napa Prime: Chophouse and cigar bar
There are a few fantastic steakhouses in the area, but Napa Prime offers the perfect steakhouse experience. While Gaucho (downtown Pittsburgh) has been a mainstay for its Argentine meat, Napa brings the best of Nebraska beef and Japan’s A5 prefecture.
The restaurant offers an extensive wine list and the very best, although coats and tails are not necessary. From caviar to Wagyu beef cooked on a hot stone at the table to family side dishes, Napa gets it right.
Part of the experience at Napa is the dining experience, including private dining rooms and adjoining rooms that allow small groups to enjoy a more intimate experience. The steaks and side dishes were superb but don’t skip the dessert.
Napa Prime’s colored beef courtesy of the above.
In the chic Lawrenceville neighborhood, Morcilla is a rare Spanish restaurant in Pittsburgh. The Morcilla’s award-winning menu features some of the most unique ingredients for a contemporary Spanish dining experience that would be superb in Madrid or Barcelona, what a gem in western Pennsylvania.
Hokkaido scallops, whipped feta and merguez sausage are just a few of the unique approaches this small-plate restaurant has to offer to Spanish cuisine. But simpler ingredients really underline what Spanish food is all about. Warm artisanal bread with olive oil, fried artichokes and mashed tomatoes and anchovy baguettes bring me back for tapas in Las Ramblas after dark.
These simple approaches give way to foie gras and duck confit to offer complexity for the most demanding palette and plate worth sharing on social media.
Morcilla makes this must-try list because its originality and creativity would be welcome in Spain without the long haul flight and waiting until 10pm for dinner – though I long to return to those tables too. It brings the best of modern Spanish cuisine to a table near you and shouldn’t be missed.
Image courtesy Morcilla
Honorable Mention: Monterey Bay Fish Grotto
An absolutely worthwhile option to spend an evening is the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, which overlooks downtown Pittsburgh, the North Side, the South Side, and the stadiums. The view from this upscale Mount Washington (not actually a mountain) restaurant uses seafood responsibly and, where possible, locally sourced from Lake Erie as well as flown in from the coasts.
The surroundings are excellent and they serve really good food, but the highlight of the experience depends on the view.
Do you have a must see in Pittsburgh that you would add to this list? Are there any that you would remove?