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Pittsburgh Eats 2008

I'm here from LA for 4 months, January through April and am determined to make it a food safari. So far, after 10 days I love this place. Really, I've read the "moving to PGH with dread" posts and I gotta say, turn that frown upside down.
Here's the deal: yeah, it's provincial BUT it's trying, yeah it doesn't stand up to NY, LA or SF standards but it has it's own and finally, there's good stuff here and if you want, you can always cook or hop on a plane.

Notes to date-
Whole Foods- rocks as always, buffet has saved my life a few nights when I don't want to go exploring
Giant Eagle near Whole Foods in Shadyside is like ghetto nightmare mutant Whole Foods. What a bad idea. Lots of stuff, really weird layout, looks and feels dirty, the staff is beyond coarse. Just goes to show that presentation is about 99% of the job. WF gets it, stick with that.
Strip district stores, especially Macaroni, just flat out inspires. Soooo good, you want to eat, purge, repeat. Especially for the short term resident, there's little containers of spices, bulk oil and vinegar, gads of cured animal products like meat, olives and cheese forever. If only they made sandwiches.
Ate at Lidia's and was underwhelmed despite the local raves. Admittedly, I had a bowl of pureed minestrone (I think they called it something else) and arugula salad (it's winter, the leaves are woody, that's NOBODY's fault) and both, though simple, were pretty uninspired. I've heard that the pasta special is ALWAYS good but it looks like a plate FULL of food and not what I typically search for. I'm happy for the locals that they love it and will leave them with their sense of accomplishment, enjoy!
Tessaro's- as promised, GREAT, handmade burger. Even had steamed broccoli. Yum! Too bad no fried products but just as well, my colon will thank me 20 years from now (1 meal likely won't make a difference though).
Harp and Fiddle- delightful place though go for the music, smiles, Ceili dancing and 2nd hand smoke. The food is only worth it if you, like me, want to walk no further than 2 blocks from home on a 20 degree night while enjoying 20mph winds. I love the place but the food needs some major love. Then again, it's a pub, Irish at that and what should I expect!
I had likely the BEST, really, the BEST Thai meal of my life last night on the side of the road, next to laundromat in Edgewood. It's called Thai TYK (Tom Yum Kung) 4 tables, tiny, pictures of the king and queen (a good sign that Koreans or Chinese have not just propped up a Thai food sign to gain market share...), some cool Bhudda statues and mom, dad and son working and serving the hot gritty. I ordered (only) panang with brown rice and tofu. Before it arrived the cook, the mom, came out and asked if I wanted the tofu steamed or fried. She agreed with me that the fried texture would be best (it was). The panang was amazing. Wilted lettuce, kaffir limes, a really delicate, homemade curry, fresh veggies and the rice wasn't some pablum brown glop but had almost a wild/unrefined look about it. I ordered tofu figuring I wouldn't want chicken or beef from a strange little place in the (seemingly) middle of nowhere, a good call since tofu is hard to screw up. In any case it was so good, I'm going back for pad thai, green papaya salad and will ask the chef to make something special.
Our offices at at Station Square and as you can imagine, it's so far, the Death Valley of food. A lunch at the Sheraton, took about an hour to cook and was horrible. Chicken caesar from the Hard Rock (yeah I know, but the office assistant thought it was a good idea) caused 2 of us GREAT gastric distress though we did lose weight spontaneously.
Kaya- Fine, OK, would do it again if for nothing else than flavors. Good flavors, amateur workers, walking distance from my place.
21st coffee- The owner, Luke seems cool though a bit cautious. The coffee, especially the Clover, single cup varietals, are great but what's with the horrible looking pastries? Are there no artisanal bakeries here? They might be fresh but they look like they came from Costco. The Choc Chip cookies look Otis Spunkmeyerean, the muffins bland and doughy. I'm glad it's there but think it could be so much more.
had breakfast at Pamela's and yes, if you're after greasy nostalgia it's for you but I thought it just didn't have to be so, so lubricated. It was literally a corned beef and hash, plus dry scrambled egg dish just oozing oil, really, oozing, like puddles. Unnecessary and I'm a dirty, greasy food lover!
Oh Yeah Ice Cream- good idea but they seem like they've overreached their real estate obligations. Soups, waffles, etc feel like a "we need more revenue" play. The basic ice creams are dry, not enough cream, likely a lot of air. I'm a North Shore Boston ice cream freak (Bentsons, White Farms) so my expectations are high but rural/local. When you know it can be done, done well and for not a lot of money, you gotta wonder why it's so hard to replicate? It's ice cream, people like it, serve it BIG and they'll keep coming back.
I'm going to keep eating and will report back.
Love this PGH town, 3.5 more months to go.

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  1. Nice reee-port. Some times you have to consider where people were and which direction they're moving. If you're at Station Square, you can explore down Carson Street all the way to the Hot Metal Bridge. The range is from Fat Heads to Cafe Allegro and Le Pommier - before you hit the chains at the other end. Then there's places like Bloomfield and Sharpsburg. It's nice that you were surprised that the town did not live up to it's advanced billing.

    I'm no Thai food expert at all, but I enjoy the Silk Elephant on Murray. I just order a lot of stuff that I don't know what is and it comes out and is very attractive and tastes good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: yayadave

      Welcome to the Burgh. With a little imagination, and help from the locals (they'll take you to where you want to go, not just show you) you ought to find just about everything imaginable. Our family has been in the food business for as long as I can remember, and the Strip is a treat. Don't miss Parma Sausage. The Sunseri Brothers are worth the trip even if you don't buy anything! I don't want to shamelessly plug the family, but for groceries, DeLallo's out on Route 30 east near Jeanette is a must, and for a nice meal with arguably the finest wedding soup, DeLallo's Fort Couch Cafe near South Hills Village is a long time favorite. If your forte is getting stuffed to the gills (what I like to call 'next stop electric chair'), Pasta Too at the entrance to South Park has good food, and way too much of it. Plan on a long wait, especially on weekends.
      Mangia por bene

    2. Before we even get to the food, welcome and if you like a good bar with plenty of 2nd hand smoke and excellent music selection you HAVE to find Gooski's. Not everyone's taste, but certainly seems up your alley.

      Nice report - helps to see things from an outsider's perspective. Having been here going on six years, I'm feeling more "insider" now. There are some terrific places on Carson, just not in Station Square. YYD named a few, and notably omitted Dish, which is probably the best Sicilian seafood you'll find in the region. New places keep popping up all the time.

      Next time you're in the Strip, I'd recommend a visit to Parma Sausage for some pancetta and other salumi to go with the cheese you're getting from Penn Mac. All of Parma's sausages and meats are good, but we especially love their nutmeggy pancetta. Prosciutto is mouthwatering buttery, but maybe a tad salty depending on what part of the leg is being sliced.

      There's plenty within city boundaries to try in Shadyside, Bloomfield, Sq. Hill, L'ville, North Side and some other isolated gems. Just wanted to make note that from where you are, it's a short hop through the Liberty tubes to Dormont/Mt. Lebanon, which also has some good eats to offer and is actually more accessible to you via public trans (the "T") than some other options. Lebo is (IMO) the most culinarily advanced 'burb: Bistro 19 and Iovinos (both voted best new restaurant in various media), Il Pizzaiolo (considered among best pizza/wine bar in various media), Little Tokyo (voted best sushi in various media), not to mention Irish, Turkish, Szechuan/Hunan, Cantonese/Shanghai, and a couple of top coffeehouses.

      While I'm at 21st Street for coffee fairly often, rarely get anything else (not that I wouldn't, just usually not hungry when visiting there). If I recall correctly, the pastries mostly came from the Priory Bakery on the North Side, which has a good rep. Anyway, looks aren't everything and you can't argue with the coffee quality. Luke used to be on CH but haven't seen him here for a bit. Maybe he'll chime in.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Panini Guy

        I remembered hearing about Dish but I've not been there yet, so I just couldn't come up with that name when I was posting. Maybe it's covered in that wide area between Fat Heads and Le Pommier that I spoke of. I thought Alla Famiglia (haven't gotten around to that one, either) was supposed to be the place for Sicilian.

        I have to say that I'm not a fan of Enrico Biscotti either on the Strip or in Shadyside.

        Another place that I found very comfortable because of it's "in the neighborhood" atmosphere is La Tavola. BYOB Nobody ever mentions it on these boards. Maybe I should leave it a little secret and not take a chance on ruining it.

        But it sounds like just pointing BR in the right direction is enough. He seems to know what's up.

        1. re: yayadave

          La Tavola, eh? Never heard of it and have no idea where Boggs St. even is. But took a look at their site. Wondering what is it about the food you like as the menu seems pretty standard (not that that's a bad thing - I used to enjoy DeBlasio's in Scott Twp. when I lived around the corner.) But, if you can sell me on either the eggplant parm or the linguini and clams - two dishes I've yet to find to my liking in Pgh - then they might well have another customer soon.

          1. re: Panini Guy

            There's a red light where Warrington comes into rt 51 next to the Liberty tubes. The way to go is start up Warrington then cut a quick left and traipse all the way to the top of Boggs.

            If you clicked on the pictures (Gallery) you know it's not about the thick carpet and chandeliers. It must be the food. Hey! "Joe and Carmela, the owners and managers of La Tavola Italiana, wish you the finest and most enjoyable in dining experience with your visit."

      2. Ben, enjoyed reading this. I went to graduate school in Pittsburgh 30 years ago and ave made a few odd trips back since; fmy wife and I sepent 2 weekends there this year, the most time we've spent in the 'Burgh in a while. It's a really cool city and I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay. Too bad it's winter because it's really fun to bike all around and eat and drink your way around town.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jkosnett

          Dish is one of my very favorite restaurants in SS, definately check it out. In Shadyside, check out Cafe Zinho on Spahr and ellsworth (i lik ethe duck and the osso buco), Casbah on S.highland, Typhoon (upscale Thai with the best Lamb Curry) on S. Highland.

        2. Glad to hear you are enjoying Pittsburgh and the Strip District. Have you tried Kaya on Smallman Street? Check the Neighbors in the Strip website (www.neighborsinthestrip.com) for more information about the area...there is lots to see and do. La Prima Espresso is also great for coffee or try Leaf and Bean (coffee and cigars with a touch of Key West). Definitely go to La Prima and try the Basil Pesto bread at Mancini's...there are lots of little hidden opportunities for yummy treats, so enjoy exploring. If Neighbors in the Strip can help you with anything during your stay, please give us a call.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cindy at NITS

            I'd try Enrico's in the Strip for pastries and the little place next to La Prima has really good sfogliatelle. You might also want to check out The French Tart in Shadyside for pastries (731 Filbert Street, Pgh PA 15232). I haven't been there for 6 months or so but had some really good pastries. My sister was just recently there and didn't like what she had. Not sure if they're going downhill or if she just chose poorly. Either way worth a shot. Across the street from the Frenth Tart is Crepe Parisiennes, 732 Filber Street. I really enjoy their crepes, the brown sugar and bannana being my favorite. They have savory crepes as well.

            I agree about 21st street pastry case could look better, but they now serve fresh made waffles. They don't advertise them very well but they are pretty good.

            For Italian please try Alla Famiglia, I really think you'll enjoy it. The neighborhood is a bit sketchy but the food is excellent.
            http://www.allafamiglia.biz/

            I'd also recommend Girasole in Shadyside for good italina. Their website is a bit confusing, click in the lower left corner for the "navigation" button.
            http://www.733copeland.com

          2. Welcome to Pittsburgh, the town of big portions. Where a good meal used to be measured by poundage consumed not quality of cuisine. Thankfully that measure is changing to a more open if not downright sophisticated view of food. With respect, I will make one additional suggestion to the many excellent comments made so far, and that would be.. UMI in Shadyside. One of the best if not THE best sushi restaurants I’ve ever been to in any city. The food and service is wonderful. The simple and comfortable setting belies the intricate and complex yet unpretentious flavors of every dish. I think all “the bigburrito group” restaurants, of which UMI is one, (and with the exception of Mad Mex) are worth a try.

            1. PGH Eats Redux/Update- I've had a few more weeks to eat and think about eating in PGH. I still REALLY like this place, the people, the sights and the food. I wouldn't at all say the food is superlative (except for that Thai, I've been back 2X times including a stop at 915PM when they were closed, opened up for us, cooked food to go and we ate it in the car in the light of the laundromat, YUMMMM).
              The food here is just good, plain and simple and there's a LOT to be said for that.
              STRIP-
              I love better, the 21st St Coffee, that Clover machine is 2nd to none. Enrico's rules, Penn Mac to live for (hint, take a number, go down the street and shop, come back in 30 minutes, VOILA!). Primanti's is great/fine/whatever. I take some of the fries off the 'wich and feel MUCH better later.
              I don't know who writes the reviews for the Communist Paper (CP) but I gotta warn everyone about STEEL CITY RIBS! I read a review, they loved the place, blah blah. So we went. The people couldn't have been nicer, warmer or more hospitable. I don't know what kind of ribs they were, have never had a sauce like that (I swear, I think it was a coca-cola/ketsup reduction, I'm NOT kidding), another sauce was "mustard." The greens were all watery served in paper cups, the green beans worse. The air was clouded with atomized fryer oil, it was beyond a simple "haze." The bottom of the evening was the "shredded" beef. Bad, ground, dead animal covered in the coca-cola sauce. GI distress soon ensued. Lovely people, horrible ribs. Sorry...
              Didn't try Double Wide because I asked about greens and they offered me salad OR suggested the vegetarian dished (tofu kabobs, etc). No greens? Bring on the pork.
              Heard about the Sushi Bar at the Fish Market. What a let down. No Japanese greeting upon seating (Ohio Gozymas or whatever they say), no hot towel, no dish for soy & wasabi and the WORST, thick rice tuna hand roll I've encountered, coast to coast. I didn't think a tuna roll could be poorly done! No meat/tuna, bad rice, stupid service. I knew better, and still do. No sushi 1000 miles from an ocean. Duh! This Hawai'ian boy knows.
              I'm going to keep eating and eating...

              3 Replies
              1. re: benright

                Thanks for the report back, be sure to check in before you leave!

                1. re: benright

                  I second your opinion on the Double Wide. They have been mentioned in numerous posts on this site as a great spot for vegetarians. I am not a vegetarian, but do enjoy places that do vegetarian items well. But I have never really got what people are talking about in regards to Double Wide when I look at their menu. I think people just like when people slap a V logo next to an item that could be considered vegetarian. They have 2 vegetarian items and then a couple salads... can someone who is a fan explain what you like about it?

                  1. re: benright

                    Don't believe the CP reviews...i love that you called it the Communist Paper! Those reviewer give everyone the same reviews. Double Wide blows. For sushi, try Sushi Kim in the strip. It is fresh and delicious... better yet, head to The Penn Avenue Fish Company for sushi grade tuna and make your own.

                  2. You really have to try Penn Avenue Fish Company. Have had excellent sushi and a fantastic -- if not unconventional -- fish taco from the prepared menu, and all of the seafood we have picked up to cook at home has been very fresh, including a whole-roasted branzino that was probably the best fish dish I've ever made.

                    The espresso at La Prima is fantastic, and the pizza, if you catch it coming right out of the oven on Saturday, is quite good. And, I'm not sure about your significant other situation, but Enrico does these Saturday night dinners, once a month, I believe, in the little cafe in the back. My wife and I did it just once, BYOB, with another couple, and it was very nice. The food was not necessarily outstanding, but it was quite good and just an enjoyable evening.

                    I now have to search out that Thai restaurant, 'cause if I have to eat one more mediocre thing from the only Thai restaurant out by me in the northern 'burbs, I'm going to lose it!

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Whigsboy

                      Whigsboy,

                      I found the address for Penn Ave. Fish Company, but what are they located near? I've never recognized them.

                      1. re: Rick

                        Penn Avenue Fish Company is down by the Firehouse Lounge, a little out of the main drag of the Strip -- I've found there fish to be top notch as well, the store is clean and inviting.

                        1. re: pescgrrl

                          Yes, it's around 21st or 22nd, I believe. Next to a Verizon store or something. Unlike Wholey's, they don't have a huge selection, but I think they sacrifice volume for quality. Lots of whole fish and they carve it up for you right in front of you: whole, filets, etc.

                          Our usual Strip routine always includes Penn Mac, Enrico, La Prima, Farmers @ Firehouse in the spring, and Penn Ave. Fish Company. LOVE IT.

                          1. re: Whigsboy

                            Thanks Whigs, I've been buying my fish at Whole Foods as it's the best quality I've found so far. Wholey's just smells too fishy for me and Benkovitz usually has pretty boring selections.

                            1. re: Rick

                              i'll have to check out penn fish. Personally, i find sashimi in pittsburgh completely underwhelming. I think umi has good quality fish, but the portions are waaaay too small and expensive. Chaya is okay. I travel a lot to NYC and LA so maybe i am super spoiled on the sashimi (i don't eat it with rice) front. This is probably because there is practically no japanese population here and almost all of the sushi restaurants are owned by chinese or korean people (sushi kim, little tokyo, sushi too, sakura) except i think maybe Chaya?

                              Oh and i live in shadyside close to the Market District giant eagle and you're right, it's awful. I think they want to be a Wegmans...but it is a poor poor imitation

                              1. re: yammers

                                The sashimi we've had at Nakama has been pretty good. Not always on par with what I used to get in D.C., but some reliably good stuff. That said, after the recent NY Times reports on tuna and high mercury levels, and the massive overfishing of bluefin and other common fish used for sushi, these days I'm taking a much closer look at what sashimi I order.

                                1. re: Whigsboy

                                  Don't care if the owners of Little Tokyo are technically Chinese - try finding a better piece of salmon within 300 miles of here.

                                  Much of what goes into sashimi/sushi is the sourcing and storage of the fish/seafood. IMO, Little Tokyo has that part down. Granted, it ain't Masa, but what is?

                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                    Panini guy, agreed..that's why I drive 200+ miles to visit my husband in columbus! Columbus has a huge japanese population and i've been enjoying some super delicious sashimi at great prices

                    2. I recommend Thai Me Up in Southside for the best Pad Thai I've ever had, and funny t-shirts to boot. The Bloomfield tavern for pirogies and Halushki, the only polish restaurant in little italy.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: NickTaylor

                        I've always wanted to try the Bloomfield tavern. Thanks Nick for the heads up on that. I like Thai me up's lunch menu.

                        Ben, have you been to Lulu's noodles in oakland on N.Craig? this was a fav noodle haunt for my friends and I in college. Some people like it, some dont..but there are lots of different noodle dishes there at super reasonable prices ($5.50 for a large noodle dish). I like their pad thai, wonton braised noodle plate and their basil thai noodles.

                        1. re: yammers

                          My brother in law often cooks at the BBT on Saturday nights; my sister waits tables. Get the Polish platter and the duck's blood soup if they have it.

                      2. Welcome, and glad you're enjoying the 'Burgh. Just a note on Thai TYK. That space used to be occupied by Green Mango, before GM moved a few blocks to Regent Square and renamed itself the GM Noodle Hut. So Thai TYK is trying to capitalize on location. I've eaten at Thai TYK just once. I wish them well, but to me, GM seems like the yummier option.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jacktanner

                          Great review of the Pittsburgh food scene. Thanks. Your comments about Giant Eagle in Shadyside made me laugh. I was afraid I was the only snob who hated it.

                          If you haven't tried it, I'd recommend Point Brugge for great mussels and pommes frites.

                        2. Great write up!

                          Here are some of restaurants I've been to recently:

                          Nine on Nine: Best restaurant in Pittsburgh. Sort of a French-American combination. Good food, good service.
                          Ibiza Tapas: Fun to eat at if you have a number of people. Good service, good atmosphere. The quality of cooking isn't the greatest, although they use good ingredients (such as lamb from Jameson's farm).
                          Original Fish Market: Worst restaurant I've been to. Lousy service, overcooked food, high prices. I'd rather go to Red Lobster. When we went, we each ordered 3 courses. The first two courses took about 40 minutes and arrived at the same time (before we received the bread). They never knew who ordered what, then cleaned all my silverware off the table (but not everybodys), thinking we were done. Another 45 min wait for the main course. You might think a fish restaurant wouldn't overcook fish by that much. Not to mention they have some sort of 'keep it simple' style which doesn't work when you're not using good ingredients. I've heard they have good sushi, but as a wiser diner than I said "Too bad I'll never know".
                          Lidia's: I like the Osso bucco, but could pass on everything else.
                          Jorza's Hungarian Restaurant: Super friendly guy, good family style cooking, BYOB. And cheap. He does dinner by reservation if you have 4 or more. Chicken paprikash, homemade bread, fire bread, haluski, and always way more than you can eat. Don't be turned off by the location or decor(?).
                          Tram's Vietnamese: Good food, poor service, great prices. I recommend ordering ahead unless you want to sit for a long time. They have the excellent Vietnamese spring rolls made from rice (or is it tapioca?) flour.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: johnnytang24

                            I'm still trying to figure out why so many people dislike Lidia's. I've never had a bad meal there.

                            1. re: johnnytang24

                              Do you have more info on Jorza's? This is the second or third time I've heard it referenced, but a Google search on that spelling turns up nothing. Any info appreciated.

                              I take it back: a simpler search just using "hungarian food pittsburgh" got me what I needed. For others interested:

                              Jozsa Corner Hungarian Restaurant
                              4800 2nd Ave
                              Pittsburgh, PA 15207
                              (412) 422-1886

                              Is this place dinner only? Any more details would be appreciated.

                              1. re: Whigsboy

                                You need to call ahead-- some days he has lunch, some days not. Some days he decides to open, some days not. Sometimes you get to choose from a menu, sometimes you just eat what Alex cooks. It's a real experience though, and the food is very good.

                                1. re: Greyhoundgrrl

                                  Just to add to that, you need 4 or more for dinner. The days he is open for lunch are pretty much random, but no reservation is necessary.

                            2. I ate at LuLu's Noodles/Yum Wok a year or so ago... I ordered scallion pancakes and they brought me a stale, store bought tortilla with dried out scallions sprinkled on top... The lo mein was greasy, the pad thai tasteless, and the chicken of dubious origin. Never again. Maybe the quality has gone down since it changed from LuLu's to LuLu's/YumWok? Orient Express around the corner is a significant improvement.

                              re: Green Mango... I've been there a few times and wish I could like it more as I live in Regent Square...I've had the fresh and crispy spring rolls, satay, pad thai, drunken noodles, and green curry...the chicken was gristly and fatty dark meat, the shrimp were so mushy I couldn't eat them... My husband and I both prefer Bangkok Balcony in Sq. Hill, but the Thai places in Shadyside are good too.

                              I second the rec. for Point Brugge Cafe, my favorite place for mussels in PGH! Girasole is also enjoyable. I've heard good things about Legume on Braddock....anyone have an opinion? Like many, the bridges and tunnels encourage me to find great places within 20min of my house...:)

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: QSheba

                                Point Brugge also does a really nice sit down brunch.

                                1. re: QSheba

                                  I'm not a big Lulu's or Green Mango fan either, but in Asia, the dark meat is considered better than the white meat. More tasty, less dry.

                                  I like the Thai places in Bloomfield.

                                2. I'd like to second another poster here and recommend Girasole. Although small, it is quite charming and consistently busy throughout the day. From their Winter menu, I love the whole wheat papardelle with tomatoes, criminis and mascarpone.

                                  1. Glad to hear that you are actively searching out the best of Pittsburgh during your stay here. That usually leads folks who haven't previously experienced Pittsburgh to the same conclusion you are coming to, that the city is full of pleasant surprises in culture, cuisine, architecture, topography and overall liveability. What we Pittsburghers have to learn is that we don't even have to try to be NYC, San Fran, LA or anyplace else but what we are. And this comes from someone who has lived elsewhere, traveled a lot and took a long time (too long) to finally acknowledge to himself that Pittsburgh is truly unique, beautiful in its own earthy, early 20th century way, full of down-to-earth friendly people, and well beyond the old stereotype of a dirty, unsophisticated backwater. Friends visiting from out of town are consistently smitten with what they see and experience here. I've been fortunate enough to have dined in all the cities I mentioned above as well as many, many others, including Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, London, Rome, Paris (not bragging - just a fact, and I feel blessed to have been able to do this). In my view, we are beginning to see more of what I would consider to be top flight dining opportunities here in Pittsburgh that are competitive with anything offered in the traditional haute cuisine venues, as this and similar Pittsburgh-related topics on this board bear out. To name a few - Bistro 19 in Mount Lebanon; Iovino's,also in ML on Beverly Road; Isabela on Grandview; Dish and UUBU 6 on the South Side; Casbah, Eleven, Soba and Kaya from the Big Burrito group; Sonoma Grill and Seviche (downtown). And old favorites such as Le Pommier, Bruschetta and Cafe Allegro (all on the South Side) and The Carlton (downtown) only get better as they get older. For neighborhood ambience and lower prices, there's Il Pizzaiolo in ML, the numerous Carson Street offerings including 17th Street Cafe just a 1/2 block off Carson, what used to be the Pointe Brugge in Point Breeze (I hope someone reading this can remind me of its new name - it makes for a really comfortable lunch experience), and the Blue____ Restaurant on 43rd or 44th in Lawrenceville (again, someone help me here - Blue River?? ). For hearty breakfasts - Pamela's, Ritter's on Baum Blvd. (get the fried green tomatoes), DeLuca's in the Strip and Tom's Diner in Dormont and South Side. If you're a beer afficionado, don't miss Sharper Edge in Bloomfield and Fathead's on the SS.
                                    But to me, the one place in Pittsburgh that offers a truly unique and consistently memorable dining experience is Alla Famiglia in the Allentown section of the city. Its cuisine is Sicilian, the service is Pittsburgh-friendly and attentive, the menu changes regularly and the chef/owner is creative and enthusiastic about his work. It's unapologetically expensive and worth every penny. It was formerly BYO which meant considerable savings on the wine. Interestingly, when we last went there, just before Christmas, I hadn't heard that it was no longer BYO and we brought along our red and white wines and a bottle of limoncello, and the wait staff had no problem with serving them anyway. Moreover, the wines that they now have available seemed to be only modestly marked up and the selection was diverse. Desserts are incredible. In your last three months here, try to go at least once (and go hungry, because the bread, appetizers, pasta and salad will get you pretty filled even before your main course arrives). Continue to enjoy your culinary voyage, but also try to see the neighborhoods, old churches, the inclines, the city steps (up the South Side Slopes and up Troy Hill on the N. Side) and the riverside bike trails, which offer nice ground-level views of the city.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: dangigler

                                      I'm glad to hear someone besides myself finally recommend Alla Famiglia. Just like you said, very expensive but worth every penny. Last time there though I do have some concern about Jonathan's expansion of the restaurant and how it relates to quality. A year or two ago it was just the two servers and a very intimate experience. Now with more servers and more tables I hope he's able to hold on to the high quality that makes his food worth every penny. Last time there we had a very good rather than excellent dinner. Bigger isn't always better in my eyes.

                                      1. re: dangigler

                                        I am glad that Pittsburgh is getting more restaurants. No more just fries on a sandwich! As far as the best of the best dining in Pittsburgh, I think Pittsburgh is missing a couple of things: a truly 3 star restaurant like Jean Georges or Le Bernadin (ok, I don't think Le Bernadin is that great), and good ethnic restaurants other than Italian and Eastern European (ie Japanese, Dim Sum, Cuban). I think Pittsburgh is ready for it.

                                        Le Pommier: Nice cozy atmosphere. Good service. Food was a bit plain.
                                        Bruschetta: Haven't been there in years, but last I went the food plain boring.
                                        Monterey Bay Fish Grotto: The appetizers were good, but the snobbiness far exceeds any possibile quality of food.
                                        D's Six Pack and Dogs: If you like to have a beer and relax, it's easy to spend a day here. Home of the 5,000 calorie hot dog.

                                        In reality, I like the small, family run, more personal restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. Places like Winners (now closed), Lance's Port & Pub (good soup), even the Oyster House.

                                        1. re: johnnytang24

                                          I would love to see a good Dim Sum place open up. There is a place on West Liberty Ave. (can't remember the name) that serves Dim Sum one Sunday a month and while it was good, I certainly think someone else could do better. The service was horrendous too.

                                          1. re: Rick

                                            The place in Dormont, Hong Kong? The only reason I thought it was good was because I haven't had Dim Sum for so long. I hear Pacific Rim does Dim Sum, and some place in Robinson even has carts on weekends. I'll probably try one today.

                                            1. re: johnnytang24

                                              Yes it was Hong Kong. The first time I had Dim Sum was in San Francisco, the second time in Dormont at Hong Kong, so maybe I was jaded.

                                              Didn't know about the place in Robinson,just found it on CH.
                                              http://chinatownpgh.com/menu/goldenpa...

                                              Think it'd be OK to do dim sum for one? My wife doesn't like it much and she won't be home tonight so dinner is on me.

                                              1. re: Rick

                                                I just got back from there, it was excellent! Much better than Hong Kong in Dormont. Plus, they use carts. The service was much better than any Chinese restaurant I've been to (especially the ones in NY and HK/China).

                                                Dim Sum is better with more people, but there's nothing weird about going alone.

                                                1. re: johnnytang24

                                                  Thanks Johnny, that'll be dinner tonight.

                                        2. re: dangigler

                                          It's called Point Brugge Cafe - it used to be called The Point Restaurant, and that's what the sign still says. It's fantastic.

                                        3. Great food and nice atmosphere at Piccolo al Forno at 38th & Butler, in Lawrenceville. We love their fresh salads, brick oven pizzas and homemade bread. And the pasta dishes are really wonderful. I think it's reasonably priced for the quality of the ingredients. Also BYOB. My husband is a huge fan of the homemade gnocchi -- among the best I have ever tasted...they are light and airy and practically melt in your mouth...not the leaden bombs we've had at some places. I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we do.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: chow1136

                                            My husband hates lulu's as well, so it might just be a person to person thing. I love two dishes: wonton braised noodle plate and the spicy basil noodles. so perhaps everything else is crap?

                                            Bangkok balcony is my favorite thai (Typhoon is my favorite upscale). They have sticky rice with charcoal grilled beef which is very delicious

                                            Have you been to Casbah or Eleven? they are part of the big burrito chain. I am in love with Casbah's pork chop. I get it every single time with their arugula/goat cheese/panchetta salad. mmm

                                            ABAY is on S. highland (by oh yeah) and it's ethiopian. I went once and it was pretty fun.

                                            I really wish we had better vietnamese. what i wouldn't do for a delicious banh mi here.

                                            1. re: yammers

                                              There's a great little banh mi stand in the Strip on Saturday mornings, just up the street from the Farmers@Firehouse market.

                                              Have you been to Tram's for Vietnamese?

                                              1. re: Greyhoundgrrl

                                                I can second the banh mi in the Strip -- even gave it my own tribute: http://lustybit.blogspot.com/2007/09/...

                                                The stand doesn't appear to be out when the weather's too cold, at least it wasn't a few weeks ago.

                                              2. re: yammers

                                                My husband is addicted to that salad at Casbah. Every time we go he says he'll try something else, and when the server gets there he caves and orders it. It's fantastic.

                                                There's also a new Ethiopian restaurant in the same neighborhood, called Tana. It's on Baum.

                                                1. re: addiegirl

                                                  I went to trams once about 5 yrs ago and was underwhelmed. I should definately give it another shot...I will look for the banh mi stand at the strip! thank you!

                                                  1. re: yammers

                                                    I haven't seen the banh mi lady in quite some time. Her banh mi are excellent though!

                                              3. re: chow1136

                                                Piccolo Forno has long been the only Italian restaurant worth eating at in Pittsburgh, though Lidia's has improved significantly in the past year.

                                                Try the lasagne, or really any baked pasta, at PF. Their primi piatti are all wonderful. I love the grilled veg, or the polenta.

                                                Try Lidia's for brunch on Sunday, and try the pasta sampling. That's gotten a lot more consistent under the new chef.

                                              4. I'm trying to find a place that I haven't eaten at before. I've read on the net some bad things about UUBU6, although the official reviews in magazines have been good. I try not to trust internet reviews by people that I don't know, but I don't know anybody who has actually been there.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: navinr75

                                                  I've been there, our party of four truly hated everything we had. It was honestly one of the worts meals I've had. None of us like our entree, one person ordered a steak and it was extremely chewy, and I forget what else we had but it was bad, bad service too. There is a coupon in the Enjoy book for it though and I may give it another shot. We went there shortly after they opened so maybe that was the problem.

                                                  1. re: Rick

                                                    did you already review this restaurant somewhere on the net? Because what you said sounds very familiar! (unless somebody else also thought it was crap)

                                                    Anybody try the new place on Bryant - Joseph Tambellini? (something like that). It's a shame Laforet is gone.

                                                    1. re: navinr75

                                                      My experience at UUBU6 was similar to Rick's. I will not go back and anyone I have known who has gone has said similar things. Interesting looking place, but that is about it.

                                                      1. re: navinr75

                                                        I have been to Joseph Tambellini's twice and have enjoyed both meals. I must say that it has a bit of an identity crisis. It is an Italian restaurant but bounces back and forth between nouveau Italian and a traditional red sauce joint. That being said, it is a lovely environment with a broad menu and has taken on a bit of la foret's continental flair as opposed to the old tambellini's on 51 style. I believe the chef/owner came from Franco's in Dormont.

                                                  2. I think I'll give Bistro 19 a shot then. Never been there.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: navinr75

                                                      That's a step in the right direction.

                                                      1. re: yayadave

                                                        actually will be going to Hyeholde instead. Know nothing about it, but at least the atmosphere will be good.

                                                        Is Bistro 19 open for lunch. Because according to their website they are, but I called twice this afternoon to make a reservation, and it just rang and rang. It's hard to go someplace for dinner if they can't even get an answering machine or have somebody answer the phone.

                                                        1. re: navinr75

                                                          I have eaten a couple of lunches at Bistro 19, but it was last year. OTOH, there's not a lot wrong with Hyeholde, either.

                                                          1. re: navinr75

                                                            Yes, had lunch there a couple of weeks ago. I'm a block away. They're open and they're busy. Odd they wouldn't have an answering machine though.

                                                            1. re: Panini Guy

                                                              Thanks! I'll probably go there sometime soon. One question - their brunch menu looks good. Is it a type of place I could take an infant to for lunch or brunch (10 months old)?

                                                              1. re: navinr75

                                                                You could. But to be honest, it's the type of place and clientele that might not appreciate a 10-month old if the baby wasn't perfectly quiet. It's generally perceived as a bit more special and "grown-up" than any other resto in the immediate area.

                                                      2. Take a drive to Trafford on a Friday night and ask "Where can I find the best fish sandwich ever made?".

                                                        1. Now into my 3rd month I'm still loving PGH! Burgers at Tessaro's have NOT been beat, Thai Me Up doesn't shine next to my spot in Edgewood.
                                                          Piccolo Forno and the lovely manager, Jenny, are worth a visit. Good food, good peeps, good vibes and the kind of local business worth supporting.
                                                          The Dozen shop on Butler is inspired, especially those macaroons! Yum yum yum.
                                                          Cafe Allegro on the SS was NOT worth my time. Obsequious service, strange atmosphere, burned piece of fish (I think it was called "grilled?"), the moving walkway is coming to an end, KEEP MOVING...
                                                          Thank God there's a Chipotle here! Lunch Sat and Sundays on the same weekend just makes me smile inside and out. Groovy college Oakland kids serving it up, even put the burrito back under the panini press for that grilled, crunchy, SoCal effect. Bueno.
                                                          Tried Qdoba for the first time. Better than nothing and almost tastes good. Chipotle wins hands down anytime.
                                                          Sesame Inn at Station Square just serves the yuck. I don't get why Chinese can't be simply tasty?
                                                          I want to find pirogies, next on my list!
                                                          BTW, Bob Evans in Breezewood had an OK grilled cheese sandwich (got it w/ Monterey Jack and fries).
                                                          PGH is still home to the nicest people in the US.

                                                          10 Replies
                                                          1. re: benright

                                                            I suggest (and others will back me up) Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks... fresh pierogies made by an army of eastern European women in a converted gas station. It's out of this world. They're only open Monday through Friday, though.

                                                            I've heard that their pierogies are also sold at Whole Foods, but I can't confirm. Regardless, it's worth a trip out there.

                                                            http://www.pierogiesplus.com/index.html

                                                            The Dozen shop blew me away. I've been a fan of their cupcakes for a while now, and opening the shop in Lawrenceville was a stroke of marketing genius.

                                                            Hooray Pittsburgh!

                                                            1. re: addiegirl

                                                              While Dozen is good, Vanilla Pastry Studio in the West End is much better. The cupcakes have a lighter cake and the icing is less sweet. Carrot cake with cream cheese icing is delicious!!

                                                              1. re: addiegirl

                                                                Although I do like Perogi's Plus (I remember buying cheap gas there when it was a Red Head gas station), the real deal on perogis in the Pittsburgh area is to find an Eastern church that sells them every Friday. Just look for a little sign that says "Perogis Fri." or "Perogis Today."

                                                                I think for Mexican you want to try Azul in Leetsdale.

                                                                Glad you're enjoying our town. Have you hit Fathead's yet?

                                                              2. re: benright

                                                                I haven't been there in almost a decade, but for Chinese you might want to try Oriental Kitchen. They have two different menus and if you're not Chinese, you'll get the standard menu with takeout fare; you have to ask for the other menu.

                                                                1. re: benright

                                                                  I tried a sample from Gosia's at the Market Square Farmer's Market last summer and have been hooked ever since! Unfortunately, my freezer stash is gone and the only place I have seen them for retail sale is at McGinnis Sisters in Brentwood - but they were of the prune variety which I do not care for. If any hounds out there know where else I might find Gosia's pierogies, please advise. I am SOOO looking forward to CSA and Farmer's Market season!

                                                                  1. re: benright

                                                                    Try Coco's Cupcake's in Shadyside, on Ellsworth- same street as Umi and Soba- I prefer her cupcakes over Dozen- the frosting is great on its own..and I'm the one that usually scrapes frosting off. Delicious REAL buttercream frosting. The chocolate buttercream...I haven't been there for awhile since I've been trying to get in shape for beach season...

                                                                    1. re: QSheba

                                                                      I wish I liked that place. It really looks so nice with the well designed store front and logo. I've only tried it twice, but both times the cake part was dry and tasteless. And the icing tasted like a mouthful of sweet Crisco. Maybe it's gone downhill?

                                                                    2. re: benright

                                                                      Had a burger from Tessaro's just last night. It was very good, but, and my wife agreed, it needed salt. Had it been seasoned properly and with a better bun, it would have been perfect.

                                                                      1. re: benright

                                                                        Although I do like Perogi's Plus (I remember buying cheap gas there when it was a Red Head gas station), the real deal on perogis in the Pittsburgh area is to find an Eastern church that sells them every Friday. Just look for a little sign that says "Perogis Fri." or "Perogis Today."

                                                                        I think for Mexican you want to try Azul in Leetsdale.

                                                                        Glad you're enjoying our town.

                                                                        1. re: yayadave

                                                                          If you get up early in Saturday mornings, go down to St. Stanislaus in the Strip (the church on Smallman with with the gold dome). They sell homemade pierogies by the dozen, though they are usually sold out of the potato and cottage cheese by 10 am.

                                                                      2. Try Cafe Du Juor on Carson St not far from station square. Very good very inexpensive and byob-cash only.Small so make a reservation on the weekend think it's only open wens-sat Last trip I was pumped for the rolled eggplant ( I love eggplant and wife has no interest so now is my shot) but opted for the special veal shank finished on the grill unbeliveable! It's just a few door down from Jacks voted best dive bar in Pitt. Be ready for very cheap drinks and second hand smoke. Around the corner from Jack's this is all on the same block is Club cafe the best music venue in Pitt only holds maybe 100 people-enjoy!

                                                                        dc

                                                                        1. I finally ate at Red Room over the weekend. It almost made me forget I was eating in Pittsburgh. I was a bit apprehensive when I asked for a tasting menu and they agreed, without giving a price, but it turns out it was very affordable as well. The food is a kind of nouveau cuisine without going overly crazy on the nouveau. The new chef is suprisingly young and very good. I thought the room was a little dark, and the music was a little loud, but that's too be expected when the place is also a lounge. Overall, I think the quality of food is good enough (in my very unprofessional opinion) to warrant a Michelin star.

                                                                          For me, the Red Room has been elevated to top restaurant in Pittsburgh.

                                                                          1. If you are looking for Indian food, the best that I have had around is Udipi in Monroeville/Plum area. You can find things like dosa that you don't normally get in other Indian restaurants.

                                                                            In Squirrel Hill on Forbes Ave., there is a Malaysian restaurant called Sun Penang that is very good. They have dimsum there too among other dishes. Down the street just a little is Rose Tea Cafe. Rose Tea is pretty authentic Taiwanese style food. Still on Forbes, upstairs above Norka Futon is a Thai place called Bangkok Balcony. Might not be the best but I enjoy it over the likes of Spice Island in Oakland. If you are looking for dessert in Squirrel Hill Gullifty's has an extensive dessert menu and their regular food isnt bad either.

                                                                            Lulu's was mentioned several times in Oakland. I don't mind eating there, but certainly nothing amazing. If you want great Chinese food, Rose Tea is authentic and House of Chen in Cranberry Twp. was very good, but I have yet to be there since they rebuilt after a fire.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: msirera

                                                                              The best Indian food I have found is also in Plum. Zaiaka is in a little shopping center on Route 286 (behind King’s). My favorite dish is Chicken Makhan Wala (chicken in a spicy cream sauce).

                                                                              For Thai food the Green Mango has been my favorite for years, ever since they had a small take out place in Swissvale. Now they have one restaurant on South Braddock Ave. I understand that they have just opened another restaurant in the east (Monroeville or Wilkins maybe). I LOVE the Choo Chee Pia (tilapia in red curry) and the summer rolls.

                                                                              Another wonderful restaurant on south Braddock Ave is Legume—I only ate there once so I don’t have a favorite dish yet but the duck breast I had was delish and I will definitely go back soon

                                                                              I have never been to a Malaysian restaurant so I will put Sun Penang on my list of restaurants to visit—any suggestions for what to order?

                                                                            2. Sorry I didn't see your run-down before we spent this past weekend in Pgh. Three things to report:
                                                                              1. Monterey Bay Fish Grotto - good food, great views, modestly priced wines available, lousy service - impossible to snag the bread or water guys, waitress disappeared for huge blocks of time, 20+ minutes between table being completely cleared after entrees (down to water glasses and spoons!) and anyone coming to ask about coffee (WITHOUT bringing dessert menus - that took another 5 minutes)

                                                                              2. Kaya (on Smallman at 20th in the Strip District) - terrific for lunch - but you have to like cayenne and other spices! Great gazpacho, sweet potato fries, imaginative salads

                                                                              3. PNC Park food is blah and expensive, but then, you don't go there for the food (you don't go there for the baseball either, the way the Pirates are playing...)