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Help a DC chowhound find some good food in Pittsburgh

I'm heading to Pittsburgh this weekend, for fun at the Warhol Museum, Kennywood and the new Rivers Casino - and I've got some questions...

1) Any word yet on the casino restaurants? especially the buffet and steakhouse...

2) Sunday brunch, before the Warhol museum. I'll be looking for a classic american breakfast just after noon.

3) I'm hearing that the national dish of Pittsburgh is the pierogi. Where should I do get them?

4) What other mid-priced dining experience should not be missed.

I'm looking for a working class joint, full of flavor and texture - with memorable food.

Hey, thanks...

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  1. 2) I don't really care much for the greasy slop that most of the breakfast/brunch places here get away with. The classic choices in that realm would be DeLuca's, Pamelas, or my breakfast dive preference, JoJo's (they may not be open that late, call first). My vote for best brunch in the city is SixPenn, by a long shot. Delicious.

    3. Pierogies Plus - http://www.pierogiesplus.com/

    4. Not sure exactly what you're looking for, but fairly mid-priced and good are Kaya in the strip and Tessaro's in Bloomfield for a great charcoal-grilled burger.Point Brugge is also an excellent choice for mid-priced Belgian goodness. Or you could consider Bloomfield Bridge Tavern if looking to combine the pierogie visit and gritty working class polish food. In general, there are lots of "working class" places I suppose, but I can't think of anything that really stands out, except the very obvious choice of Primanti's in the strip (cue Primanti-hating chowhounders...).

    Hope this helps a little. Enjoy your visit.

    4 Replies
    1. re: skoledin

      *runs in* Primanti's? I HATE Primanti's.. hahahahahaha

      Just kidding.. well I do hate them but I thought I'd be a wiseass..

      1. re: skoledin

        Some very good suggestions. While I'm not a big fan of the greasy breakfasts, the pancakes at Pamela's (Strip District) can't be beat. SixPenn is a great brunch, but I'd make my way out to Tessaro's in Bloomfield for a tremendous burger. When you're done, walk across the street to the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern for a beer. You might want to scout this place out before you decide to eat there. I happen to love it!

        Here's a link to a review of the casino:

        Good luck and have fun!

        1. re: Burghfeeder

          Thanks tonz for the link to the casino review!

          How can I resist a "tremendous burger," going to try to fit Tessaro's in.

        2. re: skoledin

          Thank you! Pierogis Plus looks incredible, I am there for sure.

        3. I don't know if this fits with your food ideas or other plans, but if you go to Yo Rita, you'll remember when you get home and talk about it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: yayadave

            I have been reading the Yo Rita's thread and REALLLLLYYY wish I had a reason to go to Pittsburgh!

            1. re: yayadave

              Whoa, Thank you very much! I surfed the Yo Rita's thread, and the menu - it jumped right to the top of my list, I'll be there for sure. Hey, the website said they were open from 4 p.m., but didnt list a closing time, anyone know the hours? Whats the best time to go on saturday, to avoid the crowds? And just before, or after, what else shouldnt I miss in the neighborhood?

              Thank you everyone, for all your help. I am boarding an Amtrak on Friday at 4 p.m., and if all goes well, I am in Pittsburgh at midnight.

              1. re: mic9ael

                Well, since you asked, there are a lot of places to eat in that area which is known as South Side. Yo Rita is on Carson Street. Just a few blocks away near 18th and Carson is Fat Head's. If I were going for a burger, that's where I'd go. http://www.fatheads.com/

                Other folks might have other suggestions for the area.

            2. I agree with those who suggested Pamela's for brunch. Best crepe-like pancakes in the city. I think the Shadyside location is best.

              1. 1. can't comment on casino.
                2. would add Grand Concourse in Station Square to brunch suggestions. Have done brunch there several times, always enjoyed the food and atmosphere (big old train station). Plus you can hop the incline up top of Mt. Washington for the view and a drink.
                3. second (or third) on Pierogies Plus
                4. Dinette in East Liberty - exceptional artisan pizza and appetizers, small but good wine list. Yo Rita is currently best food value in the nation, let alone Pittsburgh. Amazing tacos from $5-$7 done up by a world-class chef. Kaya in the Strip for Caribbean. Not sure if I'd call Tessaro's burger the best in Pgh, but very good and a great local hangout.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Panini Guy

                  As far as the Casino goes, I stopped and had a drink at the bar at Andrews, they had just opened the doors when I was there on Sunday. The wine prices are appalling, $12.00 for a glass of Fish Eye wine which retails for $7.99 at the state store. The nice wine man upgraded me to something else for the same $12.00. Anyway my husband and I were sitting at the bar and three guy's came in and ordered the calamari. When it came it looked soggy, and it must have been because three orders went back to the kitchen. One guy got a steak and when it came it wasn't evenly cooked.
                  I ordered the green tomato, lobster stack, and that was wonderful. Thinly sliced green tomato's fried in a cornmeal crust, and lobster with tarragon cream drizzle. My husband had a plate of oysters that he said were "OK".
                  That is all I know about the food.

                2. Dinette is an excellent suggestion. Don't know if I would call it working class, but not stuffy either. A seat at the bar adds to the experience. Think I could sit there all day watching them make pizzas (particularly if I have a good glass of wine).

                  Fat Head's does make a good sammy, but they seem to want to put pepperoni on a lot of them, which I don't quite get. Beer selection is also fantastic.

                  Not working class at all, but I also really like Dish Osteria, also on the South Side. You could do Yo Rita right as it opens as an appetizer, go chill out, and then head to Dish for a late, relaxed, delicious dinner.

                  1. This is definitely after your trip, but my wife and I took a weekend to explore Pittsburgh (we're from Brooklyn) and I scoured Chowhound for dining options. Maybe this post will help other weekend travelers.

                    Tessaro's for Friday night dinner and it was excellent. I had the gourmet burger with dry blue cheese. Might be the best burger I ever had. My wife had the steak "salad" and she was very happy. The place is blue collar casual and the bar looks like a nice place to have a couple or seven IC beers.

                    Primanti's for lunch on Saturday. I read that a lot of Pitt foodies look down their nose at the place, but we liked it. I took a chowhound suggestion and got a fried baloney/fried egg sandwich and it was good. We thought the sandwiches would be oversized but they weren't, or maybe we are just gluttons, or maybe we had walked all around downtown before that. Washed it down with an unsweetened IcedT, nice. I can see the local point of view; new yorkers usually aren't keen on tourist trap food ('Italian' food in 'Little Italy' for example) but I thought Primanti's delivered on their expectation.

                    We took the Duquesne incline and had a drink at the first saloon on the left when you walk out the door to the street. It was really nice. They had a deck and the view was awesome. I couldn't believe it wasn't packed. Then again, it was August. The incline is something I'd recommend if you have never been to Pitt.

                    Girasole's for dinner Saturday night. Only disappointment of the trip.. The food was ok, but unbalanced. Appetizer was heavy on the blue cheese, yet striped bass entree wasn't seasoned at all, my fish stew wasn't really stew, but like I said, it wasn't bad. Unfortunately, it was hot in the dining area and the waitress said it was always like that when it was warm outside. We would have had dessert but skipped out and ate ice cream from the place directly above Girasole. I forget the name, but it was very good. The amateur critc inside me recommends Girasole lose five or six tables, lowers the temp, and eyeballs the food a little closer. And what is up with the alcohol tax on tax? I didn't see any Amish in the place. (As an aside, we wanted to try Dish, but couldn't get a reservation before 9:30.)

                    All in all, we had a nice weekend in Pittsburgh. Aside from the good eating/drinking we checked out FallingWater and the History Museum in the downtown area. Both are recommended.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: xxstimpy

                      We now tax all drinks an EXTRA 10%, though I heard it has been lowered to 7%.

                      1. re: xxstimpy

                        Lots of places have an extra line at the bottom of the slip for "Onorato tax" because he's the politico responsible. We're getting kicked around so much right now, I can't even remember what that tax was supposed to pay for. But it doesn't matter; it'll never go away.

                        Glad you had a nice time in our town. I've thought Girasole's was a little over-rated, myself. Not bad, just not up tp the raves about it.

                        1. re: yayadave

                          It's to fund the Port Authority, because we know that all those drinkers in the Strip, Sq Hlll, Polish Hill, Shadyside, Oakland and all parts East take the T home after a long night out.

                          Oh wait... there isn't any T in those areas. But they built a tunnel to Heinz Field. Hmmm.

                          1. re: Panini Guy

                            As an out-of-towner, you DO know about the Johnstown Flood Relief Tax, right?
                            They just never go away.

                            1. re: yayadave

                              The Johnstown Flood tax totally negates (well, mostly negates, to be fair every once in a while certain items really are less here, but mostly that's bogus) the supposed "PA buying power" of the LCB. God I hate that setup. Seems like the perfect thing for the budget crunch: sell the state stores! As if that'll ever happen....

                              1. re: CrazyOne

                                The state store system in PA makes a profit for the state. Selling them would only make a profit for the pols who get some under-the-table money for voting for the sale.

                                1. re: yayadave

                                  It's not the profits that make it necessary to keep our socialist system. It's the state unions. Studies conducted by the State itself have concluded that privatization of retail and wholesale would be income neutral at a minimum to PA at (then) current sales levels.

                                  Given that privatization would increase the number of stores, provide better selection and price competition - along with eliminating the need for 3 million Philadelphians to drive to NJ for their booze - it's easy to see that privatization would actually bring in more money to the PA Treasury.

                                  In every single case where a state or province in the US and Canada has privatized liquor operations, the result has been more sales, more profit, more tax revenue and in many cases a reduction in alcohol-related crime.

                                  Might also want to note that PA has a higher percentage of drunk driving fatalities than NY or any of the NE states that are privatized. So much for the MADD arguments against privatizing.

                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                    Good. I didn't know all that. Philosophically, I never thought the State should be in the retail liquor sales business, anyway. But keep in mind that the State will not give up control of liquor sales. They will probably retain wholesale sales and licensing authority. And keep you and me and CrazyOne from ordering out of state. They'll still have to protect that Johnstown Flood Relief Tax.

                                    1. re: yayadave

                                      It really is the unions that keep it from happening. The biggest casualty of privatizing the stores would be those state workers who make far too much money for providing zero customer service. In every other way it makes sense to privatize. Yes, the stores make a profit for the state now, but they would make a windfall in the privatization (something needed right now) and there would still be licensing and such. Only private stores that compete will truly up the service level. I think a good portion of PA just doesn't realize better service for booze is possible, or that they should demand it from their legislators. (Rendell actually wanted to privatize, as I recall. Or was it Ridge? I can't remember.)

                                      Getting off topic for this thread, but it's so annoying.

                                    2. re: Panini Guy

                                      Panini Guy, that is really interesting. Do you have any links to more info about the studies you mention?

                                      1. re: barryg

                                        This probably belongs as its own topic at this point (or not even on CH), but since you asked, happy to oblige with some quick info.

                                        Doesn't seem like anyone wants to produce handy-dandy charts on this stuff, but let's take 2006 stats, which represent the most recent year drunk driving fatalities were listed by state by the NHTSA. The national average for alcohol-related fatalities among all accidents was 37%.

                                        18 states still have government monopolies over alcohol (PA, NH and WY control wine and spirits, UT controls everything, including beer, the rest control only distilled spirits).

                                        Of these 18 states, only one-third (six) are better than than national average. PA is average.

                                        Of the 32 states that are fully privatized, 15 are better than average, or just about half. Bordering states to PA which are privatized (NJ, NY, MD, DE) are all either average (NJ) or better than average (NY, MD, DE).

                                        One of the best short articles on privatization regards Virginia. http://virginiatomorrow.com/2009/07/2...
                                        That article states that PA could see as much as a $1.7 billion windfall from divesting its stores and distributors.

                                        1. re: Panini Guy

                                          At least the Utah LCB allows beer to be sold in the supermarkets!