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Visit to Pittsburgh - how's this list?

A lot to say here...I'm in NYC and headed to Pittsburgh at the end of Sept for a long weekend (Fri - Tues). We're going to a Pirates game and checking out the Warhol museum but mostly hanging out, eating and drinking. Last year we decided that we'd visit a new US city each year so Pittsburgh is the choice for '07. We're staying at the Westin and right now don't have plans to rent a car but if it's necessary from a chow-perspective, let me know. Being from NYC we have a tendency to assume the ability to get around by foot, taxi or bus in places better traveled by car. Case in point - last year in Kansas City we were the only ones on the bus or on the street.

After doing some searching on the board, I've come up with the following (in no particular order):

Six Penn (this looked really fantastic)
Red Room Cafe
Bigelow Grille
Nine on Nine (want one special dinner, is this the place?)
Harry's Pizza (I'm a CT transplant and love the one in West Hartford)

In general, looking for places where 2 can have breakfast/lunch for about $30 or less and most dinners in the $75-100 range (all in) and one splurge dinner ($150-175).

I saw all the Big Burrito restaurants but honestly wasn't sure of how good they would be. Am I judging too early? Also their prices look pretty high, even though I've been brainwashed by NYC prices.

We also plan to take full advantage of what appears to be a great selection of beer bars - Fat Head's, Church Brew Works and Sharper Edge. And will make sure to spend time in the Strip District walking around and checking out the shops. Also will the North Six Farmer's Market be open at end of Sept?

Welcome any other recs - only types of food we wouldn't want to have is Indian and Asian (not that we don't like it, it's just we live very close to Jackson Heights and Flushing in Queens so we are all set here) and not sure we need to do the Primanti's sandwich thing!


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  1. Tis a long time to be here with no car, but that's more how I think as a native, not as a visitor who could end up visiting a narrow area that might be covered okay by bus. Cab is fine when you walk out of the hotel where cabs are waiting, but you'll never get *back* that way. Well, not never, but you'll have difficulty I would think, without calling for one by phone.

    With 3 full days (plus whatever bits of Friday and Tuesday), you may or may not run out of things to do without driving. I guess you wouldn't "run out" per se, it just depends upon what you like and what you might want to see while you're in the wider area. The game and Warhol will only take up one day at most. You might want to put this on your list, which at least for now you have to schedule in advance: http://www.phipps.conservatory.org/ch... I think it might be nice to get a few places in your own car, but of course staying in the downtown hotel complicates matters because the car will cost twice as much if you pay to park it there.

    You might want a Mt Washington restaurant on your list, or, because the food doesn't really live up to the view in most of them, maybe just go up and see the view and eat somewhere else. I'm kinda ambivalent on this. Best bet would be Monterey Bay I suppose, based on others' reports, but I can't personally vouch for it. Isabela seems to get middling remarks. Everything else up there is not worth mentioning far as I know. It's a fantastic view to get with your dinner, which does add to the experience.

    Big Burrito restaurants: I really think Kaya is worth it, and you can walk there from the Westin. Of course, since I haven't been to all of the others on that list, I can't compare them all and suggest you should go to one vs another. I'm not as in love with Six Penn as some others, but you may like it. I'm thinking of going back for dinner; I've only been for lunch. I still think Kaya holds its own, even if it's part of a company that owns several places. Six Penn, after all, has Eat 'n Park for a parent company! http://www.eatnpark.com/

    For the best Strip experience, Saturday morning is the day to wander around there, but of course that makes it crowded for everything. If you go earlier to DeLuca's or Pamela's that day you'll beat some of the crowd. BTW, for breakfast you'll likely be closer to $20 I would think, so maybe you can put some of that "savings" towards other meals.

    I should probably stop because I tend to ramble on and not always sure its helpful. There are definitely some others who will chime in with stuff I'm sure.

    3 Replies
    1. re: CrazyOne

      There are plenty of things to do in Pittsburgh, but you really do need a car to get around the city (which is pretty confusing because of the rivers and hills). I would add Dish to your restaurant list. Fabulous really authentic Sicilian. And you should do the Primanti's sandwich thing. It's a hoot.

      1. re: profjmm

        For a New Yorker you'll find "Downtown" Pittsburgh to be quaint. That is by no means a slight - Pittsburgh is a great city!!! You'll for sure want to explore the
        Southside which has Carson St. as it's spine. It is a long street with many interesting stores, restaurants and bars. Take a look at Cafe Du Jour. As well you may enjoy these neighborhoods: Squirrel Hill (Forbes & Murray Avenues), Shadyside (home of Girasole). Grab a Pittsburgh Magazine and a City Paper upon arrival. The Strip on Saturday AM is a must. For caffeine fix La Prima Espresso, great atmosphere. DeLucca's or Pamela's are good options. While in Sq Hill grab a slice at Mineo's. It may not be your favorite, for whatever reason, but it is a steady, long-time favorite! Close by is good take-out Asian at Zaw's.
        Take the incline to Mt Washington even if just for a drink but you should enjoy Monterrey Bay. I haven't been but people seem to like Sonoma on Penn easy access from Westin prior to Pirate Game. My feeling is the Primanti thing is a unique Pgh thing but it's just italian bread with meat and cheese made sloppy and unhealthy with smashed cole slaw and fries!!! Enjoy PNC Park it's as amazing a park as Bucs suck as a team... Check out all public transit options before renting a car and know that there are finally the zip car types in the Burgh. For sure there is one near the parking garage at Ninth and Penn!!!

        1. re: profjmm

          I lived in Pittsburgh for 4 years (college) without a car and I never had any troubles getting around. And yes, this was recently ('03 grad).
          It's very possible to get around - just try to keep schedules with you so you dont end up waiting for buses when you could be doing something else.

      2. Is the Harry's Pizza here in the Pittsburgh area at all related to the one in Hartford? I can't seem to find anything to suggest that on the website, but I'm hoping there *is* a link (& some good pizza).

        1 Reply
        1. re: cewe424

          For Beer also check out Dee's Six Pack, they have a huge bottle selection.

          Wholey's isn't all that great IMO. If you're after fried seafood Benkovitz (also in the Strip District) does a much better job.

          Big Burrito is good, but I wouldn't say they're an absolute must try. If I were to recommend one Big Burrito restaurant it'd be Kaya in the Strip District. We personally go to Mad Mex a lot, but it's certainly not a place you must try.

          For you splurge dinner try Alla Famiglia in the Allentown section of Pittsburgh. The neighborhood is a bit sketchy, but don't fret, the place is great inside and the food is even better.

          Harry's Pizza is our favorite pizza in the area. You'll absolutely need a car for Harry's pizza though, can't imagine how expensive a cab would be.

          Really, Pittsburgh is more of a car city than it is a public transport/taxi city. Outside of a downtown hotel, you're best shot at getting a cab is to call for one.

          42duffy brought up a new option I forgot about, FlexCar. Look into that, it may prove your best option.

        2. First things first since we speak the same language (grew up at the Colony, drove often to Wooster St.) - Harry's is related to the West Hartford location, but more tangentially than directly. The crust is there and they're using fresh ingredients. White clam, however, does not translate, so don't think about ordering that one. The location is in Waterdam Plaza, probably a good 20 minutes south of the Liberty Tubes on Rte. 19 (straight shot from Liberty Bridge).

          Agree with the comments on going up the incline for a drink on Mt. Washington. Georgetown Saloon would be a good call. Monterrey Bay Grotto is actually pretty decent for fish, so that might be one of your dinners.

          Strip District.... treat yourself to some cheese at PennMac. It's probably the largest cheesemonger between NY and Chicago. Then get some salumi at Parma Sausage. Great Genoa and Coppa Seca, but the amazing treat is the Pancetta (lots of nutmeg eaten 'cold' that disappears when fried up), which is cured long enough that you don't need to cook it. You can snack salumi and cheese all week - and while the depth of choices isn't what you'd find in NY, both PennMac and Parma deliver the goods. If you're lucky you might see some local color, the old guy in the black string bikini and silver platform shoes comes to mind... and although you're not big on Asian, there is a cart with pretty good $2 pad thai right there.

          Far as beer goes, I'm partial to Sharp Edge (we go to the one in Crafton) because they've got the appropriate glassware and will allow for tastings of if you show them you understand how to taste. Don't expect to find many lagers and virtually no pils.

          Kaya is OK, but it wouldn't be more than a neighborhood Caribbean joint in Metro NY, not the destination place it is here. You're right near Eleven, which is a better choice in the Big Burrito empire, but a bit more upscale than Kaya.

          I don't know if I'd do the splurge dinner on anything Italian in Pittsburgh. But if I did, it would be Vivo, although while they've got Italian roots, they are usually more eclectic. It's BYO but the owner is a terrific host and generally talks to everyone at some point during the evening.

          If I was going to do Italian, I'd probably opt for the Enotera wine bar behind Il Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebanon, or have dinner in their courtyard. It's simple, but good and I think the best value of the better Italian places in town. Plus the Enotera list is almost all So. Italy, so it's unique to the area.

          Primantis.... gotta do it once, just like NY tourists have to visit McSorleys for a couple of darks and a cheese plate. But if you go, then go all the way - the kielbasa with the fried egg.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Panini Guy

            Yes yes, I forget in terms of NY nothing in the restaurant world measures up. So skip Kaya. In fact, just don't eat at all when you're here. You'll be happier. ;-) Seriously, is there anything that would be a destination place here compared to NY? I doubt it. So why term it this way?

            BTW, I think you mean Grandview Saloon? Georgetowne Inn is one of those unmentionable restaurants on Mt Washington. (Unfortunately, it's the only one I've been to over my years here, twice! Heh. But it was my boss inviting and paying, whaddya gonna do? ;-) Grandview Saloon in fact is refashioning itself thus http://www.coalhillsteakhouse.com/ but I imagine you can still go in and have a drink. Or, don't even bother having a drink and just go up and see the view. Ride up one incline, walk over, then down the other, perhaps.

            1. re: CrazyOne

              Yep, second the idea of going to Mt.Washington on the incline, up one side and down the other. The view of the city from there really shouldn't be missed.
              If you want to stop, make it for a "pop", beer or other alcoholic bev, but don't think you'll be happy if you spend the money at Monterey Bay. Lived on the Mountain, back to visit all the time, but that's just not the place for a great meal, IMO.

              1. re: CrazyOne

                IMO, three or four places on the OPs original list would be just as packed in NY as they are here. Other than pizza and Chinese, I think Pittsburgh can hold its own with most small cities foodwise and does now finally has the depth and breadth that should qualify it for Zagats consideration and more exposure in food mags. My comment on Kaya is simply because while it's unique here, there is a ton of Caribbean in the NYC area, so it's not particularly unique or special coming from that perspective. I actually thought Paradise in Castle Shannon was a better example of the genre, but that closed, so maybe I'm the one out of sync. A Dish or Vivo on the other hand, would still be special, even to a jaded NYer.

                Regarding the Georgetowne Inn, I was only suggesting drinks, not food.

                1. re: Panini Guy

                  Interesting. I didn't think even places like Dish and Vivo would hold up. But I don't really know as I don't, indeed can't, compare them like that. But I will keep that in mind as it would be interesting to try them some day (and/or impress the GF's sister+husband who live in NY should they ever deign to visit, hehe).

                  I do understand you meant only drinks on Mt Washington. I was trying to ferret out which place you meant, because you wrote "Georgetown Saloon" which was an amalgamation of the two places' names. ;-) It's been long enough that I was in the Georgetowne that I don't remember if it even had a bar to only get drinks. I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that you had meant the Grandview Saloon. Either way, very few if any would recommend you eat in either of these places. ;-)

            2. I live right down the street from the Westin so let's see if I can help here...

              Are you into tapas? Seviche is a new South Beach-inspired tapas bar. It's right by the Westin so you wouldn't have to go far. They're known for their mojitos. Across the street is Sonoma Grille. Great wine selection and good food. I've never eaten at Nine on Nine. I heard the food is good but not really worth the price.

              Pamela's is the place to go for breakfast, located in the Strip. If you like a greasy spoon, I would recommend Cherries just off of Market Square. The food is good, the service is quick (although not overly friendly), and my fiance and I usually get out of there with stuffed bellies and a $14 bill.

              I highly recommend La Tavola on Mt. Washington for some fine, authentic Italian food. I'm a bit biased because my friend is the chef but I can safely say this is some of the best Italian food I've ever had. You must get the limoncello tiramisu if it's on the menu that night. The restaurant is not on Grandview but you can head to Mt. Washington, take in the sites, and then enjoy a great meal all the same.

              Big Burrito restaurants are good. Kaya is one of the best. Umi is also a nice place to go. You can comfortably sit on the floor and get some darn good sushi from people who really know the menu.

              Doublewide on the Southside is an interesting establishment. They're set up in an old service station and serve what I would call high-end American cuisine. Burgers (with your choice of beef, lentil, portabello, or chicken patties), ribs, vegetarian chili, wings (vegetarian and meat), cornbread, and on and on... My friend just got the Section 8 entree on Sunday and he was quite pleased.

              If I can recommend one thing it's that you do not eat at Primanti's. Especially if you've already indicated that it's not a must-do for you, I would just avoid it all together. I've had it once and I was not impressed.

              If you want to see more about how to get around, what to eat, and what to do Downtown, visit www.downtownpittsburgh.com.

              1. Wow, thanks everyone. All this info is really helpful and very detailed - need to read through it a few times to digest it properly - no pun intended. I really think we'll have more a problem of having to choose only a few restaurants (since we're only there for a few days) rather than running out of choices which is a great dilemma to have. And even for a NYer, I've had great meals in my city and some pretty bad ones. I'm excited to have the best of what Pittsburgh has to offer even if the cuisine or style can easily be found here.

                And appreciate that having a car is probably a smart idea. As I was reading through these posts I was reminded (how could I have forgotten) that when we were in KC we went to a Chiefs game and arrived in a taxi!! Needless to say we were heckled like crazy - everyone tailgating thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen.

                One other question - I noticed quite a few places are BYO but I also read some stuff on the liquor laws - wine only from state run places? Is that right?

                Panini Guy - you suggested not splurging on Italian; what would you suggest instead?

                4 Replies
                1. re: pellegrino31

                  Yes, you can only buy wine from a PA State Liquor Store. Beer is only available from beer distributors, not in the grocery stores.

                  1. re: Rick

                    Bring your own wine from NY, packed carefully in checked luggage. ;-) Okay, this might be more hassle than it's worth, but clearly the selection is lame compared to what you're used to. Plus, I suppose technically state law frowns upon this, but a bottle or two for personal consumption isn't going to arouse any attention. If you get wine here, the best stocked state store convenient for you is at One Oxford Center, downtown. Just several blocks from your hotel, 320 Smithfield St. (This is in the rear of One Oxford Centre, so ask for the state store if you need directions not the building which fronts on Grant. And don't let them send you to the one on Liberty Ave, not worth it.)

                    Beer for off-premises consumption is also available by the 6-pack at most bars at fairly rip-off prices. (Many pizza places double as bars too and can sell beer, though not usually much variety.) If you go to the beer distributor, you have to buy a whole case! There are also a few "bottle shops" which operate on a modified tavern license. They line the beer up on shelves. You still have to buy a whole 6-pack, but you can mix and match and they pride on having a wide selection. Someone mentioned D's Six Packs and Dogz above which is an example of the bottle shop format. None of these are really close to downtown, though, unfortunately. (Seems like that's ripe to change, but the way people get liquor licenses here is just as crazy as all these restrictions on what is sold when, where and in what quantities. Ugh.)

                    1. re: CrazyOne

                      If you are consdering out as far as Shadyside (Umi, Red Room Cafe, Girasole) then on the other side of the river (Allegheny) and aboiut the same distance from "dahntawn" is Bona Terra. Small, BYOB and very well prepared menu which changes based on local availability.

                      Bona Terra Restaurant
                      908 Main St, Pittsburgh, PA 15215

                      1. re: CrazyOne

                        Thanks for the advice! I thought NY state laws were strict - stores can't sell beer and wine in the same place but seems like not that big of a deal in comparison. At any rate I know we'll have a great visit next month.

                  2. As a Pittsburgh transplant living in NYC - these are the places that I miss the most (no particular order):

                    1. Mallorca on the South Side - Spanish - I always get the garlic soup, garlic chicken and flan. Their paella is good too. Their lunch menu looks pretty reasonable. www.mallorcarestaurant.com
                    2. Max's Allegheny Tavern on the North Side - German - decent beer list, really good food, definitely eat in the bar area. Just over the bridge from the Warhol.
                    www.maxsalleghenytavern.com - Penn Brewery is nearby for more beer. (also German) www.pennbrew.com
                    3. Fat Heads - South Side - the best wings, my favorite Headwich - South Shore Blues, lots o'beer www.fatheads.com Smokin' Joes is nearby and also has lots of different beers. Both on Carson St. - nice street to walk along.
                    4. Church Brew Works - I always get the 7 onion soup, the pierogie of the day and bread pudding. And of course beer! www.churchbrew.com
                    5. Wholey's - Lobster Bisque - the best.
                    6. Roland's - Strip District - Lobster roll and clam chowder are fantastic. www.rolandsseafoodgrill.com
                    The best of the rest-
                    Bigelow Grille as an awesome burger - you can get pierogies as a side - and a good beer/wine list. It's good for lunch or bar-type dinner -but skip dinner entrees.
                    Sunseri Bros in strip district has a great meatball sub - deli counter style.
                    Mike & Tonys - Southside - best gyro
                    The BeeHive -South Side - funky coffee joint, very east village - Not Starbucks!

                    Skip Big Burrito restos - they're ok but nothing special. Skip Monterey- great view, great crabcakes but kinda dated and boring. Skip Primanti's - unless it's after 2am (there's one off Carson on the South Side and in the Strip if that's the case).
                    Do go to Station Square area and take the incline up to Mt.Washington and have a drink at Grandview Saloon. Also at Station Square - Just Ducky tours www.justduckytours.com - a great way to see the downtown area on an amphibious vehicle. Have Fun!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: steeltowngrl

                      I think if you have a car you might want to venture out and get some of Pittsburgh's "specialties." I suggest a lunch of pierogies, haluski, and golompki at Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks (only open weekdays, though), a traditional and unpredictably interesting Hungarian feast at Jozsa in Hazelwood (call ahead and ask for Alex the owner-- he will decide what and when he will allow you to eat-- he's a real character and a great cook), some Bulgarian-Macedonian-Ukranian soup specialties from Soup Sega in Homestead, a Polish platter at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern (especially if you miss Pierogies Plus), wursts at Max's Allegheny Tavern on the North Side, and a burnt almond torte from Prantl's bakery in Shadyside.

                      I think Kaya is definitely the jewel in the Big Burrito crown-- in fact, it is our go-to restaurant
                      whenever we can't decide where else to go.

                      Vivo in Bellevue is wonderful, as is Bona Terra in Sharpsburg.

                      I know the Primanti's sandwich gets bashed here all the time, but every single person I have brought there has loved it. It's kinda dive-y, a little provincial, but that's part of its charm-- kinda like Pittsburgh as a whole, I guess! The Burgh isn't NYC, and it never will be, but I personally don't want it to.

                      1. re: Greyhoundgrrl

                        Roland's also has an excellent fish sandwich. I haven't had a fried fish sandwich in such a long time that I forgot about them. Scratch my Benkovits rec for fried seafood and go to Roland's instead. Roland's is also in the Strip District!

                        Max's Allegheny Tavern also has a nice Brunch Buffet for $10,99 on Sundays. They have potato pancakes* and sausages on the buffet and the best omelet station I've had in the city. *No potato pancakes on Steeler Sundays! I don't know why, but that's the way it is.

                    2. You must go to Pamela's. My favorites are the strawberry pancakes (crepe style strawberry filled pancakes with brown sugar and sour cream and topped with whipped cream) and the mexican omlette (it has Chorizo, salsa, guacomole, cheese and salsa) The potatoes that come with the potatoes are great too. While you are at the strip check out Enrico's biscotti company as well as Penn Mac and mon ami chocolate shop (depending on the weather they have great hot chocolate (italian style) and gelatto. You can try the Primanti's sandwich at the game too. There are limited options there, but they have the most popular. Monterey Bay is also great. I also really like Atria's food.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: travelingtastes

                        Agree with everything above except Atria's. A mediocre local chain at best IMO.

                      2. Thanks again everyone. This is all exactly what I was looking for. May post again as the trip gets closer for last minute advice. And I'll be sure to post after my trip.

                        1. We visited Pittsburgh for a weekend earlier in August and did much of what you propose, plus the Carnegie and the Phipps museums. Pamela's is great for breakfast, Lidia's brunch is a steal at $20, and we liked the DoubleWide grill and the 17th Street Cafe on the South Side. We (wife and I) maneuvered around the city very well on bicycles so if you can find somewhere to rent or borrow them, the city is full of paths and bikeways and that also gets you some exercise to handle the Italian and other heavy--duty food that you'll want to eat in this gloriously upgraded city. The 21st Street Coffee in the Strip is the best in town, though there are many good coffee choices besides Starbucks.

                          1. You have a great list but I just wanted to add my two cents. Other recommendations:

                            Cafe Zinho: Cute BYOB in Shadyside
                            Tessaros: The best hamburger anywhere! It was featured on the Food Channel - best neighborhood eats.
                            Umi: Really good sushi
                            Soba: The bar is very nice
                            Typhoon: Delicious thai food, try the pumpkin curry
                            Point Brugge: Great mussels
                            Mexico City: Authentic mexical within walking distance of Westin

                            Also agree that you should see the Chihuly Exhibit at the Phipps - it is wonderful.

                            1. Hey there and welcome to Pittsburgh.
                              Just two recommendations:
                              For your "big night out" go to ELEVEN. It is by far the best restaurant in Pittsburgh.
                              Secondly, try Beto's Pizza on Banksville Road. It will be a treat for you compared
                              to the NY Pizza that you are used to.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: mrmojo2000

                                Beto's isn't so much pizza as it is a toppings delivery device. And cold toppings at that.

                                Sorry, every time I think of Beto's I can't help but think of Steve Martin telling Bernadette Peters, "This guy is incredible. He ran the last Cup O'Pizza guy right out of town."

                                1. re: mrmojo2000

                                  I miss Betos so much!! I live in Hilton Head SC now and nothing compares ever. Yes, it is a little strange getting it with cold toppings. I guess you just have to grow up on it to appreciate that. We always got it to go and the toppings melted nicley into the crust and sauce by the time we got home to good ol' McMurray.

                                2. Also, I neglected to mention - yes you want to rent a car. There are very few cabs and no
                                  subways. Parking at the Westin is very easy.

                                  Lastly - the absolute best tourist stop in Pittsburgh is the Phipps Conservatory. It is a beautiful Victorian Era Botanical Garden. Absolutely beatuiful and it takes only 1 hour to see the entire thing. A MUST SEE.


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mrmojo2000

                                    Check with the Westin, they may have shuttle service for guests. Downtown, The Strip, North Shore and South Side are easily walkable - especially for a NY'er. If you find you absolutely need a car, there are a few major rental chains downtown. 412-344-8294 Yellow Cab Pburgh, they ask for your cell# and call when they're outside, they usually take about 30min to show up; I've never had a problem.

                                  2. I have one word... 'Dish'. I have eaten at Dish several times. It is run by the owners and they are very friendly and welcoming. It turns out they are from New York and moved to Pittsburgh several years ago to open a New York style Bistro. I am from New York myself originally so I have been spoiled as far as food goes... Dish is one of the few restaurants that whet my New York appetite! The food rocks! The service is friendly, hip and efficient.

                                    1. I have to say, you guys have all done a great job at getting me ready for this trip - wish it was coming faster than a month. Looks like we'll end up doing a few days on foot/cab and renting a car to see more on another day. We saw the Chihuly exhibit when it was here at the Botanical Garden but liked it so much we would definitely try to see it there.

                                      Just remembered one other place that looked good to us - Quiet Storm. We're not vegetarians but liked their menu and drink list. Any thoughts on this place?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: pellegrino31

                                        I'd advise you not to go to the Quiet Storm, at least not when you're just visiting for a short time. The food is okay, but not excellent, and the service is usually bad -- lots of waiters and waitresses who seem to spend more time socializing behind the bar than remembering to attend to you.

                                      2. As a transplant from LA (and NYC before that), I concur with much of the commentary above. From my perspective, the best special restaurant in Pittsburgh is Eleven. Nine on Nine has very good food but the service is questionable. Bona Terra is excellent (and BYOB as someone noted). Typhoon is also good. I also like Kaya & Soba. Mexican and Asian food are generally mediocre here and not worth it for a visitor from NYC. Don't bother eating on Mt. Washington. There is a pretty good Ethiopian restaurant--Abay--which is right next door to The Red Room. Sharp Edge has a great beer selection and a respectable menu including a variety of interesting burgers. A new restaurant in a quirky Southside neighborhood that is getting some attention is UUBU6. In sum, Pittsburgh is not even close to being a restaurant city in the class of cities like NY, LA, SF, etc., but it has gotten a lot better in the few years I have lived here and there are some good choices. You probably will want a car, but you could eat very well for a long weekend within walking distance.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: rosened

                                          I thought Nine on Nine was very good. Better than Eleven and any of the other Big Burrito places. I agree that Abay and Bona Terra are excellent. I think the best restaurant on Mt Washington is Isabela's on Grandview. It's small and a well kept secret (at least I don't know of many poeple who have been there). Much better than the crap known as Monterey Bay. Laforet is also good and out of the way. Umi has great sushi but horribly overpriced. I ate more at Sushi Yasuda in NY City (a better place in a better venue in a much better city) for frankly the same amount of money.

                                          Pamela's is the only breakfast place in the entire city worth going to.

                                          If you're drunk, get a Primanti's sandwich at night. they aren't that great sober. And even less great if you have to do some walking afterwards. you'll regret it.

                                        2. Try Classy Cabs for taxi service. They promise to pick you if they drop you off. A bit more expensive than yellow taxis but worth it if you are leaving downtown, the Strip or South Side. Go to Dish in the South Side for drinks one night, tiny but cool, kind of trendy without the attitude. Try Tusca in the South Side if you like Tapas. Not too expensive and pretty good with an affordable wine list. You could then walk down Carson Street and hceck out the shops and atmorphere. Casbah in Shadyside has a great Sunday brunch, $22 per person and really nice.

                                          1. Which of these restaurants are in the Carson Ave. area? We're looking for a place for Saturday night. Preferred is something casual, no reservations necessary.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: johnbycz

                                                Here are four that are good, casual, good, you won't need a reservation. They are not chains and are in the original part of the South Side, not the part that has been re-built with upscale and chains. Of course, for really casual there's Fatheads on Carson Street at 18th.

                                                Abruzzi's Restaurant
                                                20 S. 10th St. (412) 431-4511

                                                1831 E. Carson St. (412) 431-3535

                                                Café Allegro
                                                51 S. 12th St. (412) 481-7788

                                                Le Pommier
                                                2104 E. Carson St.
                                                www.lepommier.com (412) 431-1901

                                              2. In the Southside, go to Dish. You need reservations but it is pretty casual. Also heard good things about Cafe du Jour which is located right on Carson St.

                                                Someone mentioned Laforet - it closed in July.

                                                1. What a useful and timely thread - we're going to Pittsburgh on one of the Sep weekends, mostly to see Chihuly again, as well as visit other glass related exhibitions.
                                                  We'll be driving from NJ, and the current plan is to get to Chihuly Night on Fri, spend the whole Sat exploring the city, and driving back on Sun with a stop at Fallingwater.

                                                  In this regard i have a question: what can be a late night dining option on Fri (after Chihuly) provided we stay in one of the hotels downtown, some nice beer pub with good food would be ideal...

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: VegaCarpio

                                                    Sharp edge has the lead in Belgian beer selection, and Fat Head's has Headwiches. Basically, they both have good beer and beer pub food. Besides, if you go to one of them on Friday night, you still have to eat on Saturday.



                                                    You might look into the need for advance tickets for both Chihuly and Fallingwater.

                                                    And check the Steeler's schedule for the week-end you choose. If they are playing at home, you may want to secure your room early.

                                                    1. re: VegaCarpio

                                                      And also be aware that there is major construction and major delays on 376, known in Pittsburgh as Parkway East, on the weekends. So, whatever route you plan in Pittsburgh, plan not to use Parkway East. Should we believe the authorities that they're not planning any work on Labor Day weekend?

                                                    2. Wow - Lots of responses. Here is my list:
                                                      Dish - Fabulous - Southside
                                                      Nine on Nine - Possibly the best food in Downtown Pittsburgh - service is not so great - Make a reservation
                                                      Eleven - My favorite of the Big Burrito - nice cocktails, excellent oysters - strip district
                                                      Red Room - I think this is the best restaurant in Pittsburgh - East Liberty
                                                      Bigelow Grille - They do an alchemy meal if you are into that - you must make reservation in advance. $100 per person - $50 wine pairing. Definately your splurge if you like the science of food. bigelowgrille.com
                                                      Zenith Tea Room for Brunch - Vegan - kind of strange looking but amazing food. - Southside
                                                      Fatheads - great for lunch/dinner/beer - always crowded - Southside
                                                      Cafe Richard for breakfast - Strip District - skip Deluca's and Pamela's unless you like grease (which I have nothing against myself...Cafe Richard is just a bit nicer)
                                                      Do not eat at any restaurant on Grandview. Go for the view. Have a glass of wine in the sunken bar at Monteray Bay (overpriced and not as good as it used to be)
                                                      There is really no great pizza in Pittsburgh either. Sorry - I just can't stand it.
                                                      You need a car - and a good map. Have fun!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: chinacat1969

                                                        Cafe Richard is excellent but they no longer serve breakfast. I'm a Strip District regular and sorely miss their excellent scones. They now open at 11am and are closed on Mondays (not sure about Sunday).

                                                      2. Must agree with all those who promote Dish. Excellent food, particularly if you like mushrooms. Good-sized portions without excess, reasonable prices, attentive service. Make your reservations NOW!

                                                        Pamela's for breakfast. Extensive menu. We like the spinach & feta omelet and the California French Toast.

                                                        1. If you want to do a "Pittsburgh" place for lunch, I suggest that you go to Fatheads on Carson street in the south side. It's menu has a little more class than the Primanti Bro's menu; the sandwiches and salads are huge and they have a great beer selection. I also highly recommend the Church Brew Works--the setting is awesome and they food is pretty good for what otherwise is a brew pub.

                                                          1. I think you have done some good research, here are some additional suggestions that I hope you find to be helpful:
                                                            For a fun greasy diner-breakfast: go with Pamela's Diner (the Strip District is their best location)
                                                            For a nice lunch: Girasole or Cafe at the Frick
                                                            For an urban-hip scene and great cocktails/apps/dinner: Soba or Red Room (definitely one of these two)
                                                            For your most $$$$ pricey dinner: Nine on Nine or Eleven (definitely one of these two)
                                                            ****Six Penn has a nice vibe and is centrally located but I think you will find the food to be seriously, seriously overrated and the rooftop deck is cocktails only.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: PittsburghGirl

                                                              I agree with your choices, except for Six Penn....it is owned by Eatn Park and when they first opened the food was not too bad, but we were there at the end of August while dropping our son off at Duquesne, and food was nothing special at all

                                                              1. re: nyfoodjoe

                                                                That's exactly what I was saying about SixPenn...I think it is totally overrated! :)

                                                                1. re: PittsburghGirl

                                                                  agreed on all accounts, except for the cupcakes, have any of you had them??

                                                                  1. re: SaraMiller

                                                                    Another OK reaction here regarding Six Penn. It was good, but we've only been there once and haven't returned, I think that says it all.

                                                            2. we just came back - thanks for all recommendations: we followed them diligently and as a result drank and ate quite well.

                                                              Primanti and Pamela's for breakfasts: both quite good. Liked strawberry hotcake. Pamela's on Strip was only half full on Sun morning.
                                                              Bigelow Grill for dinner - nice but honestly nothing special (they had an outstanding Dogfish Head 90 mins IPA on draft), the restaurant was practically empty on Fri night.
                                                              Church Brew Works - not a fan of their beer styles but the food was quite good especially pierogi and chicken pie.
                                                              We also had some oysters at the bar of Original Fish Market restaurant (it was right in our hotel): very decent selection and oysters were good. decent beer list as well.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: VegaCarpio

                                                                I agree with your review of Bigelow Grill--they have a nice menu for lunch (salads). You're a brave soul drinking that 90 minute, way too hoppy for me to handle!!!!

                                                              2. As a CT 'hound who grew up in the New Haven area and also loves Harry's in West Hartford, let me give you my take as someone who has taken numerous 2-3 day trips to Pittsburgh in the past year on business. Like all true hounds, I have sought out many of the "must go" places mentioned here. conversely, as my trips to Pittsburgh have been business-related, I have also eaten at many of the finer places as well. Not a local, I hold no favorites or allegences. All that said, my "Special Night Out" dinner would be at Nine On Nine. I found the food there (two visits) to be a full step above any other high end place. The only service issue I encountered was the wait staff trying to be too friendly, and trying to have a two-way conversation while I ate. Awkward. Though not a BYO, they charge a $20 corkage fee, so feel free to bring a nice bottle and save a little dough. I wasn't terribly impressed with the wine list. My runner up in this category would be ELEVEN. I have had two terrific meals there. They too have a corkage fee, so you can bring a bottle should you choose.

                                                                I took the cab ride out to Alla Famiglia and enjoyed it immensely. But by no means would I consider this a "special night out" place. Very informal. Food was great and we left stuffed like pigs. It's strictly BYO, and I have to warn you, if you go (and I suggest you do), you will also want to bring your own stems. The ones they have are a joke, especially given the quality of the food they serve. They should expect that people will bring in "big gun" reds, yet the glasses are suitable only for wicker basket Chianti. You can find seviceable stems at a downtown store, such as Macy's.

                                                                The Original Fish House in the Westin is better than decent, so if you find yourself in need of a meal and are just too tired to travel, don't overlook it.

                                                                Right around the corner from the Westin is the Sonoma Grill. You can go 'small plate' or 'large plate' and the food was very good.

                                                                Finally, as for Primanti's, I have to say this with all due cando, and I speak as someone who always has to try the "you have to go there" place everywhere I go. I would skip it. Not only did I not enjoy the whole "french fries on the sandwich" thing. I found it disgusting and impossible to eat. If you must go, let it be noted that you have been warned.

                                                                Good luck.

                                                                16 Replies
                                                                1. re: FoodieJim

                                                                  Interesting take on Pittsburgh dining choices. You might take another cab ride out to Bistro 19. I'd be interested in how that turns out. I'm thinkin' it would be there with Eleven or, maybe, Nine on Nine.

                                                                  What I've been saying to the point of annoying people, "Fathead's is the new Primanti's."

                                                                  1. re: yayadave

                                                                    Isn't that like saying the Penguins are the new Steelers? It just doesn't work. One can't possibly replace the other in this way, although they can both coexist and have their fans, both separate fan bases and those who like both.

                                                                    I say this not having had a Primanti's in years and never having been to Fat Heads. Not really what I normally choose to eat right now. But I see the web site. I can see how they might be compared, but I can't see that one replaces the other. They coexist.

                                                                    1. re: CrazyOne

                                                                      Well, as a "go to" place, Fathead's is and Primanti's isn't. IMHO Of course, some out of towners do like the Primanti thing.

                                                                      1. re: yayadave

                                                                        Buncha in towners apparently like it too, else it wouldn't keep sticking around forever and expanding. Of course, we all know how set in their ways many Pittsburghers get. ;-)

                                                                        I don't think I'd send an out of towner either place. But it's hard to see how sending people to Fat Heads as an alternative to Primanti's makes any sense. It isn't about the type of food or some measure of which is a better example of the type of food. In that scenario, the fact that Primanti's is the institution is all that matters.

                                                                    2. re: yayadave

                                                                      YYD... but that's a pretty low goal ;-p

                                                                      I don't know if I'd put Bistro 19 up with Eleven quite yet. Food is good, but I think the service at Eleven is less obtrusive and more confident overall - prolly has to do with BB training. Also, last trip there the tips of my duck breast were overdone - otherwise succulent, but the kind of distraction that takes an experience from a nine to an eight.

                                                                      Still, it's the best resto in the South Hills, edge over Iovino's (the Mt. Lebo blog has a long emotional discussion over Iovino's $4 per stem BYO instead of a single corkage fee.)

                                                                      1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                        When you call your sandwiches "Headwiches", you're obviously not aiming to reach the heights of, say for example, Cheesecake Factory.

                                                                        On the other hand, Bistro 19 is offering duck. This might be the first year I've noticed it anywhere around town. Of course, now a number of places offer duck in some fashion.

                                                                        1. re: yayadave


                                                                          I have to ask, given your encyclopaedic knowledge of dining this side of the Mon - where abouts are you?

                                                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                            On the Carnegie side of Collier Twp.

                                                                            1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                              Wait a munute!!! I think I just got smoked, here. There's no "encyclopaedic knowledge" in this brain pan! You're the guy who knows about places like Classroom Restaurant and Bado's Cucina and the pizza joint in Waterdam Plaza. I never even heard of these places.

                                                                              By the way, have you been to Big Jim's Roadhouse, Cecil-Hendersonville Rd, Hendersonville? Surprising food and it's quite safe in the afternoon. I don't know what happens after dark. But it's called a roadhouse. Up over the hill on Rt 50 in Cecil is Market Cafe. Nice little Sunday breakfast - open 'till 1300 on Sunday.
                                                                              I forgot to mention - MarketCafe - BYOB and no corkage charged.

                                                                              Oh, I have had nice meals at Cafe Georgio's on Donati Road.

                                                                              1. re: yayadave

                                                                                The only smoking around here is on Banksville (good, but $$$ BBQ) ;-)

                                                                                My staff told me about Bados Cucina & Harry's because they know I'll give them a raise if they lead me to good thin crust pizza or flatbreads. The Classroom... we drove by that sign dozens of times and just figured it was probably sort of sedate and quiet place, which is so rare around here. And except for the two jerks near us, it was.

                                                                                We will have to try this Roadhouse... have been to very upscale places in CT calling themselves "Roadhouse" before, so wouldn't be that surprising. Although none went by "Big Jim's".

                                                                                1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                  Uh, I didn't exactly say "upscale." TeeHee

                                                                                2. re: yayadave

                                                                                  We were driving out to Construction Junction and my wife (the Pgh native) wanted to cut through Glenrock (?). So we're over in that area and she asks if I've ever been to Big Jim's. I say no, but a guy on CH was talking about it.

                                                                                  I come back to find the post where you mentioned it and the Big Jim's I was at is a good 25 miles from Cecil! But I had the best eggplant parm hoagie I've yet to taste in Pgh and my wife had a Reuben that was all of NY-perfection. The place is a dive, not a roadhouse, but it is called Big Jim's. And I couldn't find it again on my own if I tried.

                                                                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                    Oh, man! That's in Greenfield. I'll have to try it. I thought the best sandwiches around were at Fat Head's.

                                                                                    Dive - Roadhouse All the same.

                                                                                    Thanks for the hint about Crate and cheese and wine and "Dear Heart." If the class is not full, you may have helped me solve a couple of Christmas presents.

                                                                                    1. re: yayadave

                                                                                      I will add that they had the best fries I've had in Pgh. Including the O. I had a hard time not eating the entire basket on my own.

                                                                                      1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                        Fries! That's amazing. Last year my wife took a couple of 16 year olds to Paris. So what did the sixteen year olds remember? They ate frites from one end of Paris to the other! So I started to pay closer attention to fries. With just a little effort, by double cooking them, I found I could turn out some pretty good fries, myself. It makes you wonder why so many places put out such lousy fries. It ain't that hard.

                                                                                    2. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                      Panini, I know that I'm responding to a pretty old post but I just read this, and think I can clear up something for you (that you may not realize needs cleared up!!!).
                                                                                      The Big Jims in Greenfield (kind of under a bridge of the parkway east) that you visited is called Big Jims in the Run. Great food there, and huge portions. Big Jims Roadhouse is in Cecil...somewhere between Southpointe and Bridgeville. Also great food and huge portions. It's not much easier to find, but from your posts, I get the impression that you may know that area better. Anyway, Big Jim's Roadhouse is worth a visit too.

                                                                                      I think that I heard that there is some type of ownership link between the two.

                                                                        2. Lidia's in the Strip for Sunday dinner!!

                                                                          1. Pittsburgh PA! I spent several weeks here and was VERY impressed.
                                                                            This city had passion for the food they were serving. Some of my favorites
                                                                            Prantl's Bakery - Shadyside
                                                                            China Palace - Shadyside - Great Chinese
                                                                            LuLu's Noodles - Oakland - Great Noodles
                                                                            Frick Cafe - Amazing Lunch
                                                                            Edward Marc Chocolates
                                                                            Church Brew Works
                                                                            Girasole - Shadyside Amazing
                                                                            Green Mango - Thai - Wonderful Summer Roll Sushi and Spicy Tofu
                                                                            Gullifty's - Squirrel Hill - Great Desserts
                                                                            La Feria - Shadyside - Wonderful Peruvian
                                                                            Oh Yeah - Shadyside How can not love a place that sells ice cream for breakfast
                                                                            Perogies Plus - McKees Rock - WOW
                                                                            UMI Sushi - Shadyside

                                                                            Yes Lidia's was a great meal too!

                                                                            Can't wait to go back!