Cool, foodie spots near CMU in Pittsburgh
My foodie son and I will be touring CMU and want to know where the cool, unique spots are. We're hoping to find a Kelley & Ping (NYC) or Two Amy's (DC) type spot. Something special and foodie. We'll have a car. Any suggestions?
First of all, to eat well in the Burgh, you must accept that there is no such thing as "cool" in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is, by definition, uncool. You can find excellent Taiwanese food here, but it will be served on paper plates in a strip mall joint or a semi-ghetto row house; it will not be in the university district. It will be unique but it will not be"up to" NYC-foodie standards, nor DC-foodie standards. The menus will be misspelled and the punctuation even worse than "Two Amy's;" the servers will be slow and somewhat incompetent but always friendly and generous. Restaurants here do not use ampersands in their names.
If you are willing to abandon yourself to the Mysteries of Pittsburgh food, you can eat well and learn something about our fair city at the same time. I would recommend (and one of the great things about Pittsburgh restaurants is that you never need to change out of your comfy blue jeans):
Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill for the aforementioned Taiwanese
Tram's in Lawrenceville/Friendship for Vietnamese
The Bloomfield Bridge Tavern for the Polish Platter (pierogi, halushki, kluski, galumpki)
Cafe Roma for Pittsburgh Italian
The Original Hot Dog Shop (aka the "Dirty O") in Oakland. If your kid ends up at CMU, this may be his first trip to the O, but it won't be his last.
Primanti's in the Strip for the classic Pittsburgh sandwich
I forgot to mention Mineo's in Squirrel Hill for pizza (the super-cheesy kind, not the "artisan" kind; for the woodfired stuff go to Il Pizzialio in Mt. Lebanon or Piccolo Forno down in Lawrenceville).
Knishes and matzo ball soup are to be found at Kazansky's Deli, also in Squirrel Hill.
For an unforgettable dinner go to Josza in Hazelwood for a Hungarian feast. You must call at least 24 hours ahead, you will have to walk through the kitchen to get to the dining room, and you will eat whatever Alex the owner (who escaped from Communist Hungary on foot when he was 13 years old) decides to cook that night, but you will have a true Pittsburgh "foodie" experience. Oh, and it is BYOB, and bring an extra bottle, because Alex will help himself.
This sure brings back memories of my student days at CMU, although it was over twenty years ago. I still remember fondly the Dirty O, Primanti's in the Strip District, Kazansky's Deli, and Mineo's Pizza. I've been living in Michigan since graduation, but those four places and their great food I'll never forget. Highly recommended. I'm glad they're still around.
Josza is Hungarian food. It's an experience to go there! I highly recommend it, for the bread if nothing else.
Piccolo Forno is not my favorite. I thought Roberto's in Bellevue did the same kind of pizza only actually good, but they closed and he moved to NJ.
I also forgot to mention Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks, where you can eat little doughy pillows of goodness outside of an old gas station. Yum!
Pamela's is a great suggestion, and there is one in Oakland not far from CMU on Forbes Ave.
If you are here during Lent, hit up one of the Croation or Byzantine churches for the fish fry on Friday night. For some reason they are always better than the Catholic ones.
Regarding Picollo Forno, my wife and I used to really like the place. Then we went one evening and EVERYTHING, even the bread, was bland. Everything needed salt and just more flavor. We haven't been back since. Ashame because it used to be so very good!
there is new international, vegetarian restaurant named Orchid(s) on Centre Ave in north Oakland in a former Indian restaurant location - near the Chief Bar. Haven't been there yet but read a review indicating it was very good!