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Pittsburgh - time for only one dinner!

There are three of us traveling to Pittsburgh from DC for the first time next weekend. It is going to be a really quick trip - just one night. We're hoping to hit up Primanti's for lunch as that seems to be the Pittsburgh thing to do, but we're stuck on where to eat dinner. I've surfed these boards and it seems to come down to these four restaurants: Cioppino, Six Penn, Eleven, and Lidia's. Are there any strong reasons why we should go to one over the other? Have we completely missed a really great place? Is there something new getting great reviews?

The three of us love top notch food, we're not concerned about price for this meal, and we have one vegetarian in the group. In DC, we like to frequent the trendier upscale restaurants but also have fondness for the classics/ price fixed menus etc.

We're staying at the Omni, but don't mind traveling to other parts of the city.

Thanks!

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  1. Of those four, I'd do Eleven for several reasons: (mostly) locally grown food, kitchen skills, something out of the ordinary, decent service, decent wine list. Cioppino is still a bit new and while I've seen good reviews, if it's "one night", I think Eleven is more of a sure thing.

    However, given that Kevin Sousa (arguably Pittsburgh's most mercurial and acclaimed cook) is doing a temp gig at Nine on Nine and working with their chef/owner on some novel dishes, I'd strongly recommend adding Nine on Nine to your five.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Panini Guy

      While I can't top your research and PG's recs, as a non-meat eater your veggie friend needs to know Primanti's won't be their best bet. However, assuming you're going to the first, classic location in Strip District, no one will starve. You may also care to look into Benkovitz Fish for a sandwich. You'll love the Omni. You may enjoy checking out the South Side/Carson St. for food and drink.

      1. re: Panini Guy

        Makes it a list of two, doesn't it?

      2. I agree with Panini Guy on adding Nine on Nine as an option, and not just because Kevin Sousa is there. Prior to him coming I always thought their food was among the best and most consistently good in the city. Of your original 4, I would definitely skip Cioppino and Lidia's. Cioppino is ok, but nothing special yet. I think it has promise though. Lidia's to me has always just been an old standby, nothing to go out of your way for.

        1. While it would be out of your way and doesn't seem to get a lot of love from the Pittsburgh Chowhounders, I would also add Mio to that list. Having lived in D.C. for 12 years and continuing to make regular trips there for work, I can say that the meal we had there was among the best I've had and compared favorably with anything I've eaten at some of D.C. better restaurants. I have not eaten yet at 9 on 9 or Eleven, but would have to guess Mio is as good, if not better. You will definitely drop some coin, 'cause it's not BYOB and I don't believe there was a bottle under $70. The downside is its location, but the food was top-notch. That said, the local growing season is still strong right now, so Eleven is likely to showcase the best of locally produced veg and meat.

          Have fun. I'll be in D.C. in a few weeks for work. Any recs on newer restaurants I might want to check out, preferably in the District?

          5 Replies
          1. re: Whigsboy

            Thanks for all of your recommendations. We're leaning towards Eleven, and upon second look, I see that they also have a vegetarian tasting menu, which is sure to appeal to my friend.

            Whigsboy - as far as DC recommendations, a new favorite of ours is Oya in Penn Quarter, kind of an asian fusion/ small plates to share/ inventive cuisine type restaurant. I would also recommend Blue Duck Tavern in the West End (another restaurant featuring local ingredients).

            1. re: jcwexler

              Oh, and definitely Obelisk in Dupont if you haven't been. It is price fixed - $65, I believe - Italian. Menu changes daily, and it is oh so good. But, you need to make a reservation well in advance, so it will require a bit of planning. Enjoy!

              1. re: jcwexler

                When we were visiting from NY last spring, Eleven was our favorite-and my wife went for the vegetarian tasting just so we could have more dishes-it was as good as the regular tasting menu.
                And I always eat at Obelisk when in DC.

            2. re: Whigsboy

              whigs... I think that wine list is what keeps some of us away. I know that's true for us. Enjoying a nice bottle is practically a prerequisite for us having a great dinner, but we cannot justify paying what they're asking for wine, so we just take a pass on the place on those rare occasions when we're flush (those days are getting even rarer).

              We wish more resto owners would adopt policies like the Carlton's (a fixed $X over cost instead of 3x cost) vis a vis wine.

              Keep in mind this is coming from someone who sells the most expensive coffee in the city ;-)

              1. re: Panini Guy

                Funny you say that, PG. When Mio first opened, it seemed to me that it was going to be competing against a number of other high-end places and all I kept thinking was: I don't think there's enough $$ in the greater Pittsburgh area to support all of these places. I understand that the chef/owner of Mio came from a highly regarded Manhattan restaurant, but I just didn't understand the idea of opening another high-end restaurant, when even at the time it was obvious the economy was not necessarily great and Pittsburgh has a shrinking population, particularly younger folks not on a fixed income.

                What this area desperately needs are some more little bistros: good, simple food at affordable prices. You can do great things with simple food that will keep, shall we say "educated" eaters who would rather chew glass than eat at a chain like Applebees, etc., coming back again and again.

                Because as good as the food was at Mio, I'm fairly certain we won't be going back any time soon because it was such an expensive meal (and because we just don't get to eat out, sans kids, that often, and there a number of other places, e.g. Legume, I want to try).

                And thanks, JC, for the recs. Have eaten at Obelisk, but not Oya or Blue Duck.

            3. 9 on 9, without a doubt is the place that you should go. I am vegetarian, and I would take a trip to Pittsburgh just to eat at that place. They do not necessarily advertise the vegetarian menu, but they can accomodate every request flawlessly.

              I have also been to Eleven, and while it was good, it was not up to 9 on 9.

              1. I've been to all of those places you've named except Cioppino (I think it's an upscale steak house). I've had great experiences at the other three but would also agree with the others on this thread that Nine on Nine should be added as one of your options. It is the best meal I've had in the city. It has a prix fix menu (3, 5, 9 courses) so with a party of three you can essentially have a little taste of everything on the menu. Have fun!

                1. Thanks Everyone! Sorry it took me so long to report back. We wound up going to Eleven, and loved it! Thanks for the recommendations. We did the price fixed menu with the wine pairings and our friend took advantage of the vegetarian price fixed menu. Service was excellent and friendly. Well worth the trip. Thanks again.