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Mar 15, 2009 08:04 AM

Pittsburgh - looking for advice from the foodies (possibly moving here)!

Hi everyone,

My husband might be offered a position at CMU soon, and we're trying to learn more about where a great place to live that would be close to a nice funky restaurant-dotted area.

We're coming from Canada so we aren't familiar with many chain restaurants that might be good too.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

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  1. I lived in Pittsburgh for 22 years before moving to Boston 2 years ago. I'm moving back to Pittsburgh next summer. There's a variety of great restaurants. However, the best thing about Pittsburgh is the value. You can get great food (and real estate) for a price that can't be beat.

    The closest thing that Pittsburgh has to what you're looking for is inShadyside near Ellsworth Ave. There's a variety of great places, including Umi which is one of the 2 best restaurants in Pittsburgh (the other being Nine on Nine).

    When you get to Pittsburgh, be sure to look out for Kevin Sousa's new restaurant "Salt of the Earth" opening in East Liberty. He is by far the best chef in Pittsburgh and one of the few chefs in the United States truly skilled in "molecular gastronomy" ultra-modern cuisine. He currently spends some time at Nine on Nine but is opening his new place soon.

    1. I'll go out on a limb here, but I don't think there is any one particular restaurant-dotted area in Pittsburgh. Restaurants are just scattered around.

      8 Replies
      1. re: yayadave

        True enough, but there are spots where there's a higher concentration of eats. I would've argued Squirrel Hill over Shadyside for the number of different cuisines and price ranges in a small walking radius. Plus it's closer to CMU.

        1. re: Panini Guy

          I'd certainly have to take Squirrel Hill over Shadyside just for the cosmopolitan nature of the area.

          A thing which people from out side of the Pittsburgh area might not realize is just how easy it is to go from one part of town to another(except on the parkways during rush hours).

          1. re: yayadave

            Heh, I've lived in the area for 18 years and something like Sq Hill being more cosmopolitan than Shadyside is a nuance that is a new one to me. I need more tidbits like this as we try to find which more cosmopolitan place to live as opposed to out here in the sticks near Cranberry. ;-) (You see how hard that is, since that's pretty much the whole city.)

            Newly in love with walkable uptown Mt Lebanon (ever so long I have avoided the south suburbs for the dreaded tunnels commutes, plus Mt Lebo was always supposed to be over my housing budget), but the realization today (after looking into a half-promising open house) is that it might not really cut the time of the commute enough if we ride the T. So we might forever be driving if we want to hang out at Aldo Coffee. ;-)

            Anyway, I think anywhere in the central area zeroing in on CMU is fine. Shadyside, Sq Hill, whatever. Nowhere will you be able to walk to everything you want, I don't think, but these should get you close. Parts of Sq Hill are prob closer to CMU but most of that area and most of Shadyside are pretty comparable distances. Depending upon your budget, choose carefully and your husband can *walk* to work and you can still be walking distance to some other good stuff.

            My Sq Hill knowledge is not good enough (little beyond passing through here and there, not much eating) and clearly from accounts here we need to go spend more time there.

            1. re: CrazyOne

              This is great info! Keep it coming!

              Wikipedia mentioned that The Strip has many markets and ethnic communities - is this a place I should consider as well?

              1. re: egirlwonder

                it is ...if loft or condo living is what you is an urban, commercial area....that i happen to adore. The market area is within walking distance to the downtown central are within a 15 minute stroll of the theatre district...and La Prima has the best expresso/capuccino anywhere

              2. re: CrazyOne

                The wide variety of people, background, age, financial status, in Squirrel Hill makes it lively. The thing that the people have in common is that they are not couch potatoes. It is the kind of lively intellectual place that a person associated with CMU might like. And you could easily bike to work.

                The comment about the strip is probably not right. It is not a community. It is a run down commercial area for shopping. And I doubt if people do their regular food shopping there.

                1. re: yayadave

                  The Oakland area, where CMU is located, is part of a lively college scene. I lived in Pittsburgh for 30 years and now live in Philadelphia. Surprisingly, no one has mentioned the South Side of Pittsburgh, which caters to a younger crowd, but still has a few good restaurants worth visiting. Also, the Strip District in the city has, arguably, some old world charm that is at odds with the would-be hipsters who continue to edge into that area. What Pittsburgh really lacks are good BYOB restaurants, which are everywhere in Philadelphia, if you like BYOBs. Finally, the best thing about Pittsburgh, IMHO, is the value you get for your money as a previous poster noted. I refer to Pittsburgh as a big, small city. And they have the Steelers of course, along with the nicest baseball stadium in the country.

                  1. re: stormicans

                    I wouldn't mind living in the Strip, but it's a smaller area for residential vs the others and really for restaurants as well. Yes, you would be right next to good small market shopping, but I don't see where those ethnic *communities* are there, just the ethnic markets. For me, I find it to be central and convenient enough. I work downtown. My girlfriend works in Oakland. There was a new loft condo project that was on the drawing board up at about 12th-13th street on Penn which would have been perfect, I had been in dialog with the newbie developers of the thing, but it looks like their financing fell through. (Never heard back after my last inquiry, and they took the web site down.)

                    If you want walkable multiple good restaurant choices, though, the Strip really isn't it. Really, although I'm not as familiar with Squirrel Hill and would defer to the others on that area, the place that comes to mind for me is in the area of bounded by S. Highland, Ellsworth, etc of Shadyside, which then for the restaurants spills over at least into the near part of East Liberty with Dinette and such. Quite possibly there are not as many good choices at lower price points in that area, though. There is a pedestrian bridge on tap that will connect Ellsworth to somewhere in the vicinity of the Whole Foods building, giving another walking option vs Highland to get over the rails and busway. Trouble is, it might be too pricey housing-wise as well, for rent or buy. (I've been looking at buying mostly, but that's only because in many cases the rent has seemed like it would be higher for many rentable places vs what I could do buying in similar areas. May or may not always be the case, depending upon what you're looking for.)

                    South Side just doesn't do it for me. If I'm close enough to what's interesting, I'm too close to the bar hopping, and if I'm far away from that, it's not as interesting. Nice place to visit. ;-) Oakland is fine, I suppose, in spots, but personally I'd like a little distance from the masses of students, which I think Shadyside/Sq Hill generally manages without being too far away.

        2. Squirrel Hill: About a 10 minute bus ride to CMU. Also walkable/bikeable. Like everyone said, an eclectic mix of people. Lots of students/young professionals, lots of families. Wikipedia says half of the population is Jewish, but I kind of doubt that. There are several Kosher restaurants, a Kosher bakery, and a Kosher market. There is a grocery store (Giant Eagle) that's easy to walk to, but it's pretty bad. Really bad. Soul suckingly bad. Drive to Shadyside instead. Lots of pizza places, lots of Asian places too. Aladdin's is a chain but it's consistently good middle eastern food. There are quite a few ice cream places too.

          Regent Square: Slightly farther from CMU than Sq. Hill. The main street has a few nice places to eat (Green Mango, Legume) and a great place to get beer (D's 6-Packs). I'm no expert but I would assume the real estate is more affordable than in Sq. Hill.

          Shadyside: A somewhat posher section of the city...much flatter than Squirrel Hill. Easy bus access to CMU. The Walnut St. corridor has a fair amount of restaurants. Lots of cute stores and a few chains (Gap, J. Crew, etc.) There is a very nice Giant Eagle in Shadyside too. Parts of East Liberty border Shadyside and a lot of development is going on there. It started with Whole Foods and took off from there. There is a Trader Joe's nearby and also a new shopping development.

          Southside: Mostly a young bar scene, seems really chaotic and every time I go there I wonder how people deal with living there. Parking is at a premium at night! A fair amount of bar-food type restaurants, but a few gems here and there (Fat Heads for good beer selection, Kassab's middle eastern).

          1. All of these places have a different feel and suit different peoples' needs. Furthermore, a lot of areas that might not be so comfortable today look to be improving for the future. That would be such as East Liberty and the Strip. Then there are a lot of little areas. For example, Lawerenceville, Millvale, Etna, Sharpsburg, and a real gem. Oakmont. The OP will just have to get around to sniff the flavor of these places to find their comfort place. They may just look upon their first landing site as temporary.

            I think the operative idea is that there are good places to eat and shop, both local and chains, all around the area, and it just ain't that hard to get around. Most areas have a couple of decent eateries, but you'll soon tire of them and be checking out other areas, anyway.

            1. The Oakmont suggestion is great. Another place even closer to CMU would be Aspinwall.

              1 Reply
              1. re: olivertwist

                The trouble is that there is such a vast difference between Oakmont, the strip, and Squirrel Hill. And we have no way to know which of these or severalteen others would suit the OP and hubby.