The Strip Worth A Trip ?
Isn't the Strip the Italian area of Pittsburgh--Any food shops or restaurants worthy of a look while in town for the afternoon. Any other foodie must see or eats in and around downtown and the airport area?
The strip isn't the Italian area, though there are Italian grocers most famously Pennsylvania Macaroni. I believe Bloomfield is the Italian area. I love the strip. Enrico Biscotti has some great baked good and biscotti and adjoining that is the Cafe which is an excellent place for lunch. 21st Street Coffee is my favorite coffee shop in the city. Pamela's is a great diner, especially for breakfast (try the pancakes which are crepe style and get the lyonnaise). Wholey's, Roland's, and Benkovitz are well known for their fish sandwiches. Penn Avenue Fish company is also a good place for lunch, as is the place next door to La Prima Espresso of which the name escapes me right now. There's also Big Mama's House of Soul which recently had some national press. There's also Eleven if you'd like something more upscale. I love going to the Strip and yes I think it's worth a trip.
For a fist time visitor my rec. would be coffee at 21st Street Coffee, breakfast at Pamela's, and lunch at Enrico's.
I agree with Rick's suggestions, and definitely think it's worth a trip, especially on a Saturday when the area comes alive. Some highlights for a Saturday afternoon:
- Enrico's cafe fires up their wood-burning oven and produces amazing pizzas,
- Reyna foods across the street churns out piping hot tortillas
- A women one block to the east hand assembles excellent Vietnamese subs to order (the name of her store escapes me at the moment).
- The wholesale produce stalls on Smallman street are open.
- If the planets are aligned (I've only seen this twice), you can buy handmade pierogi from two old grandmothers in the lobby of church on Smallman and 21st street that are unbelievable.
My favorite stores to visit are Pennsylvania Macaroni, Wholey's and Lotus, which is an excellent Asian grocery store. All of these places are on Penn Ave between about 16th - 21st streets.
Enrico's Biscotti was featured in Gourmet magazine. I second the rec. for Penn Mac, but would recommend Penn Ave Fish Market for the best seafood (and tasty lunches). Wholey's (pronounced Wool-ees) is more of an "experience". Your profile doesn't indicate where you're from, but if you don't have a local Penzey's Spices it's definitely fun to stop in there. Reyna's is...meh. It's overpriced and the quality is not that great, it's only advantage is that it basically has no competition. Stop in Roxanne's Dried Flowers (sounds like your grandma's attic, I know) which has some beautiful arrangements. If you're there on a Saturday (Summer/Fall) there's a cute little organic farmers' market next to Penn Ave. Fish Market. Whatever you do, don't eat at Rolands! I can't drink coffee but my husband loves La Prima. He gets his espresso and I go next door to the Popcorn Co. and get some popcorn! I'm surprised no one mentioned Kaya yet.... also a nice place to stop and eat upscale Caribbean inspired fare.
Two places not mentioned are Mon Ami Chocolates at 21st and Penn and Parma Sausage, a little further down Penn. But Pamala's is only a block away from 21st and Penn and the 21st St coffee shop is less than that in the other direction. I don't know what your travel and buying plans are. If you're shopping, Penn Mac on Penn Ave has great cheese and Italian products and Parma Sausage has great salami etc. But if you're not able to do the heavy shopping, THERE'S ALWAYS ROOM FOR CHOCOLATE.
Mon Ami also sells Capogiro Gelato by the scoop. Sure it's from Philadelphia, but it's excellent. I will say that it's wayyy over priced at Mon Ami. You get a single tiny scoop for $2.50. I've been to Capogiro in Philly as a point of reference.
I've had the fish sandwich at Roland's several times and always thought it was excellent, maybe their other dishes aren't as good?
I've had a few different things at Rolands...none of them better than Applebee's. Not to mention, one time (and the last time), they had the most GOD-AWFUL service I have EVER experienced in my entire life. Went there w/ my family in a group of 7 people, (one 10y old, one 12y old), and they didn't want to seat us. They were 5 feet away while we heard them talking about how nobody wanted the group w/ kids in it. Please bear in mind that these two children have eaten at the Four Seasons and many other restaurants- and know how to behave themselves.... Finally one server said, fine, whatever, I'll take that table...all of them speaking loudly and the put us in a dirty corner by the kitchen door. And they couldn't assume we were cheap b/c my mom has a LV bag and a 4 karat ring- maybe it's because my mother has a foreign accent? On top of that, the food was not good at all and they messed up our orders and charged us for the replacements, even though we didn't eat the incorrect plates. That was the last time I've been and I certainly won't ever go back. I absolutely would steer people away from there, there are so many other great places to grab a bite in the Strip. So unless you want overpriced, mediocre food and want to risk awful service...AVOID ROLANDS!