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Chowing Suggestions in PGH Please

I am coming to PGH (from LA) for a long weekend in a few weeks. I would really appreciate recommendations from fellow 'hounds on where to eat. I'm interested in the whole gamut from 5-star (was not impressed with La Mont website) to Primanti Bros. (Are the sandwiches worth the trip?). Money is really no object. I want either really great food or good food that's unique to the area. I will be staying near PNC Park without a car but am willing to cab pretty much anywhere for good Chow. Thanks.

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  1. I would have to recommend Roland's Seafood grill. The lobster roll is a Pittsburgh tradition and its absolutely decadent. I had it this weekend, lots of lobster, butter, garlic, on grilled garlic bread. really good. It's on Penn Avenue in the Strip District. You will find other good food there too. The original Primanti's is there. Pamela's and De Luca's are both breakfast places that you either love or hate. Further up on Liberty is the Church Brew Works. They have a website to check out. Great pizza, good beer but really the atmosphere is great. The outdoor patio is lovely.

    As far as Pittsburgh fine dining, you won't find anything that is worth the money probably compared to LA. Eleven and Lidia's are in the Strip also, both more upscale.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Mr Siegal

      Not that I doubt you (and not to threadjack), but being a New England boy who moved here in 2002, this is the first I've heard of any Pgh lobster roll tradition.

      Why (and how) would such a tradition come to pass? Maine - sure. But Pittsburgh? Can you elaborate on the history?

      Oh - and for lebdog - I'd add Vivo to the list. It's up in Bellevue. Chef-run, family is the help. Local food. Sam DiBattista is virtually the mayor of Bellevue and an imaginative cook - nice guy, great chow. Not sure if it's still BYO.

      And if Sousa's new place, Salt of the Earth, is open by the time of your visit, it'll likely be worth it.

      1. re: Panini Guy

        Amen, Panini guy! As a Bostonian, I couldn't help but laugh at the lobster roll thing. and, like you, I can't wait for Kevin Sousa's return.

        1. re: EricaSez

          I agree with the lobster roll oddity - though I must add that I had an absolutely killer lobster roll at Eleven. It's on the lunch menu.

        2. re: Panini Guy

          i meant its very popular around pittsburgh and something that is recommended to those who visit. i realize that its not the traditional "new england" lobster roll. those are not as good as Roland's.

      2. If you focus on things that are unique to the area, you can probably have more fun with few expectations (and more money left over for beer). Here are some things I believe Pittsburgh does as well/better than LA if you choose well:
        - eastern euro (Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, Gypsy Cafe)
        - local/northeastern (Legume, Bona Terra - ingredients you may not see often in LA)
        - ridiculous sandwiches (Primantis, FatHeads)
        - sports bar food (creations like cajun burgers with blue cheese dressing, garlic cheese fries and steak salads are fairly common)

        If you do Primantis, go all the way and get the fried egg on top of your meat, fries and slaw.

        I'd also look for menus where you can get freshwater fish like walleye pike, smallmouth bass, virginia spots, and others.

        Enjoy the trip and the spectacle of a weekend during Steeler season.

        1. Something Pittsburgh does well. Any of the Sharp Edge bars for Belgian beer.
          The Church Brew Works has been mentioned.
          Another place that makes good beer and features German style food is Penn Brewery. http://www.pennbrew.com/

          2 Replies
          1. re: yayadave

            I just bumpt into this post about the Pittsburgh beer scene.

            1. re: yayadave

              Thanks. "Youns" guys are the best.

          2. If you're looking for 5-star, you will be hard pressed in the Burgh, but there are some decent places with local flair. I'm not sure if you are flying solo, but many of these are single diner friendly. Eleven is definitely worth a shot, and Lidia's is decent for Italian. I would recommend Monterey Bay on Mt Washington as it is about the best place in town for seafood and the view is outstanding (plus it has a bar where you can eat without reservations). A couple places within reasonable walking distance (assuming that you are staying at the SpringHill Suites) are Six Penn Kitchen. I haven't actually eaten there, but it is very local with its cuisine and ingredients. Also in the area is Sonoma Grille, and they tend to do some seasonal foods. A little further away is the Church Bre Works (mentioned previously)--they definitely do some seasonal foods, have decent beer, and its a really cool place. You probably should have a Primanti's sandwich to say that you did, and don't shy away from the wings. Pgh has some pretty good wings. I don't think the locals realize this and the folks up North in Buffalo should be jealous!

            1. I also think unique to the area is a better choice than haute cuisine. I would say something like Tessaro's or Jorza's Corner. Stay away from anything not Eastern European or American.

              3 Replies
              1. re: johnnytang24

                Sorry jt24. You just blew off places like The Hydehole, Girasole, Nine on Nine, Bado's Cuchina, Bistro 19, Silk Elephant, Chaya, La Tavola Italiana, and Azul. All of which have not been mentioned and are good eats, and none of which are "Eastern European or American." Well, maybe Hydehole.

                1. re: yayadave

                  That is correct. Coming from LA, I don't think it would be worth going to any of those restaurants. While they are all good for the region, I doubt any of them would rate up with the cuisine found in LA.

                  I've never been out dining in LA, but I assume the food is as good as NY, meaning there are restaurants like Jean-George, Le Bernadin, Daniel, etc., which none of the restaurants in Pittsburgh can compare.

              2. If you want to go out before it gets dark try the Original. The O will definitly give you something to talk about when you get back to LA

                3 Replies
                  1. re: yayadave

                    First time my wife took me to the O, my jaw dropped. It wasn't the dogs or the ambience. It was the brick of fries with the grease still pouring off in streams as the entire contents of the fry basket was dumped onto my tray.

                    1. re: Panini Guy

                      I miss working at Pitt and indulging on the "O" about every 2-3 months. I think my cholesterol is in a better place now.

                1. Eleven and Lidia's in the Strip, Soba Lounge in Shadyside, Cioppino (at the Cork Factory) in the Strip, Piccolo Forno in Lawrenceville, Il Pizzialo in Mt. Lebanon, Dish on the South Side. Had friends here from DC this past weekend -- they grabbed a bite at Sonoma Grill Friday night and were terribly underwhelmed. They had eaten there before and enjoyed it, so they were disappointed. We also had dinner at Cioppino with them on Saturday night -- a little pricey, but very, very good. Roland's has an awesome beer selection. Their food is good, but won't blow you away.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sg1136

                    I did not realize Cioppino was open - can you expand on your experience there?

                    1. re: shadysider023

                      First of all, let me say that I'm not a food critic, I just love food and the whole experience of dining out. You should check out their website (www.cioppinopittsburgh.com). I looked at it and it was a deciding factor in choosing the restaurant (Richard Chen are you listening?). Our choices were between Richard Chen and Cioppino and we decided on Cioppino because of the website (maybe that's not a big thing, but we are also fans of Greg Alauzen's since his days at the old Steelhead Grill). IMO It seems like the entire operation was planned with much care to detail...including the website. The bar area is a nice size (guessing 20 seats at the bar), as well as small tables around the perimeter of the room. They have a spacious dining area with another room which can be closed off for private parties. Also a cigar bar which is through a door off the bar. The food was great - we had 4 apps (filet carpaccio, bay scallops, 2 oz pasta w/fresh tomato sauce and heirloom tomato salad)...all were fantastic, the bay scallops were so fresh -- they tasted of the sea. Our entrees were beautiful cuts of beef and fish, perfectly executed (porterhouse, strip steak and halibut). Our server was polished - knowledgeable, inobtrusive but there when we needed him to be. Our bill for four was roughly $375 (which included two bottles of wine, a couple of drinks and the tip). We will definitely be going back.

                  2. right near PNC Park are a couple places I can recommend with confidence. For a really fantastic steak, Hyde Park is literally right there. They do great cuts of meat and their sides are delicious. Also if you want to rub elbows with the lesser-folk, check out Ugly's for a ridiculous amount of wing options and a pretty nice beer selection.

                    1. Thanks to all who gave suggestions. I ate twice (at 3:30 a.m.) at the Original Primanti's and some other places. I did not see Kaya mentioned on the list and I'd highly recommend it. I had the Cuban Sandwich and Shrimp Chowder, both of which were far from run-of-the-mill and tasty. The people I was with vetoed Roland's (horrible service) and I was never up early enough for breakfast. although I did have Sunday brunch at Soho (I stayed at the Spring Hill Suites right there). The Sunday brunch was pretty good, especially the lox and omelet station.