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Feb 21, 2011 09:22 AM

Please help with Pittsburgh recommendations

My boyfriend and I are visiting Pittsburgh for the first time next weekend and are sort of "interviewing" the city to see if we want to move there for grad school (from Boston). We're very excited as we keep hearing great things about the city. I'm hoping you all can recommend some places to eat, as good food and coffee are very important to us!

I see Espresso a Mano, Salt of the Earth, Tamari, and Yo Rita's popping up all over the place, so we know those are highly recommended. I would appreciate hearing where else you think it's worth trying. We are staying near CMU, but really want to get out and see other neighborhoods (Lawrenceville, Shadyside, South Side, Bloomfield...), so we're pretty open in terms of location, and we will have a car. The only real sticking point is that I am a seafood eating vegetarian and am gluten-free. I think the gluten-free bit may be what makes things more difficult, since it looks like a lot of the restaurants that everyone recommends are Italian.

Thanks a lot for your help!

Yo Rita
1120 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

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  1. This particular board is great for rec's... I am not one of the experts but here are my suggestions. ( glutenfree and vegitarian is not common specialty for me so sorry if this is helples)
    Thai me up in sside is pretty good! (being from boston eithnic foods in PGH might not fair well )
    Monterey Bay in Mt Washington
    Penn Avenue Fish Market's-downtownish...
    Eleven in the strip is just great!
    The BeeHive in South Side is a really COOL coffee shop-- not for everyone, but being grad students probally wont mind it.
    These are all the uper crust standards, I can gaurntee people will know more than me. Pittsburgh seems to be going through somewhat of a food and culture upgrade over the last couple years.. Hope you enjoy your visit, being from Boston, the cold won't turn you off too much.

    1. gluten-free + veggie/seafood makes it tough, but you should still be able to eat pretty well, especially in the East End area. Here are a few things that come to mind. These are generally all best or near-best of class for Pittsburgh, a mix of cheap and not so cheap, and you shouldn't have any trouble finding things to eat at these places.

      Lawrenceville: Tamari, Round Corner Cantina
      Bloomfield/Friendship/Garfield: Thai Cuisine, Pho Minh, Salt of the Earth, People's Indian
      Shadyside: I prefer the Ellsworth vibe to Walnut St, so Harris Grill, Soba, Umi
      Strip District/Downtown: Kaya, Eleven, Six Penn, Penn Ave Fish

      In general, there are lots of cheap college eats in Oakland around Pitt, some better than others.

      That should give you plenty to pick from for a weekend.

      Have a great visit.

      Pho Minh
      4917 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

      Thai Cuisine Restaurant
      4627 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

      Umi Restaurant
      5847 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

      Harris Grill
      5747 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

      6 Replies
      1. re: skoledin

        Thanks Augie6 and skoledin - these are really helpful. I wonder if you have brunch recommendations. Do you think Coca Cafe is worth the wait that everyone mentions in their reviews? Another option is Quiet Storm for a veggie brunch. Thoughts on that?

        Also, any bakeries you'd recommend? This one's for the bf - I'm not expecting gluten-free recs on this one.

        Thanks again.

        The Quiet Storm
        5430 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

        1. re: kms41

          Hadn't really thought about brunch, but Coca is a great delicious choice if you don't mind the wait.

          For bakery, I can only recommend one, although with you being gluten-free it would be such tease... Jean Marc Chatelier in Millvale - - right across the river from Lawrenceville (Coca). You could always get some chocolate truffles for yourself... Millvale is an old town that isn't all bright and shiny and hipster, but it will definitely give you a taste of old-school Pittsburgh and how cheap, gritty, fun, and quirky living here can be. There's also a Pamela's (std. breakfast joint) in the old pharmacy across the street.

          If the weather's nice, you could take your pastries and walk along the river a bit:

          For all-veggie, all-the-time, Quiet Storm is your place and will probably give you a little bit of a feel for the "veggie culture" here. In terms of food, not quite as tasty as Coca, but it's a different sort of thing anyway.

          I'll second the Oishii Bento rec, great stuff.

          Augie6 is right about asking what you're into. Pittsburgh is a bunch of completely unique neighborhoods sandwiched in fairly close proximity. For example, I can be in 5 different neighborhoods, just a couple blocks out my front door. Some places and areas are more bar&music oriented, while others are quieter and focused on dining and such. Just something to keep in mind as you're cruising around.

          The Quiet Storm
          5430 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

          Oishii Bento
          119 Oakland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

          1. re: skoledin

            Hi everyone -

            Thank you so much for these great recommendations! We are definitely going to try Salt of the Earth one night, so we are looking for something totally different, and more low key, the second night. We're thinking Round Corner Cantina or Umi at this point. For brunch/lunch, I think we'll do Quiet Storm one day and Coca the other. Plus plenty of coffee and treats in between (I am so excited there's a gluten-free bakery to try!). We will definitely not leave Pittsburgh hungry!

            I really appreciate the suggestions you all gave, and also that you took the time to wonder/ask about what scene we're into. We are really looking forward to wandering around the various neighborhoods and would certainly welcome any suggestions for places to visit. From what we have read, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Shadyside, South Side, the Strip, and Squirrel Hill are all worth visiting for different reasons. In addition to getting a general sense of the city and trying great good, we would really like to get a feel for places we might like to live eventually. We want to be within walking distance of good food and coffee, plus the usual conveniences like grocery stores and public transport.

            Thanks again everyone - this is such a great community!

            Squirrel Hill Cafe
            5802 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

            The Quiet Storm
            5430 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

            Umi Restaurant
            5847 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

          2. re: kms41

            There's a solid bakery right where you're staying. It's called Prantl's, and sits on Walnut St. in Shadyside (and sorry, they're not gluten-free). It has been around at least since I was a little kid, so we're talking 30+ years, and I'm sure it's far longer than that. I stopped by there on a visit to Pittsburgh a couple years ago, and it still smelled the same inside, and all their stuff tasted the same as well.

          3. re: skoledin

            I like your list. Lots of the stuff I'd recommend.

            I'm glad that Round Corner Cantina is starting to get some love - they've got a good thing going on. Variably authentic but across-the-board delicious and crave-able Mexican food.

            Finally made it to Salt of the Earth last month - totally lived up to the hype. We sampled a lot of their menu. I don't think you can go expecting every single thing on the menu to be mindblowing - they're a little too experimental to hit a home run on every dish (also, I believe they change their menu often). But the best plates there were as good or better than any I've had in Pittsburgh, and the meal was surprisingly affordable for what it was.

            I also wanted to mention a couple other places that don't get as much buzz on chowhound.

            I really like Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland Park - a cozy, very affordable Thai restaurant whose kitchen just seems to get everything right.

            For a cheap college dive in Oakland, Oishii Bento serves shockingly good Korean/Japanese food for a place that's barely more than a take-out joint.

            I also recently started going to Chaya in squirrel hill again since they moved. I've always liked them, but I think they're even better now. The sushi was still fairly classic and well made, but the other menu items were better than I remember. They have a Kaiseki menu you have to call for in advance that I'm looking forward to trying.

            Oishii Bento
            119 Oakland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

            1. re: skoledin

              downtown/strip-Six Penn, Penn ave Fish, Kaya, Eleven
              Southside - Cafe du Jour - BYOB
              Point Brugge
              Avenue B - BYOB
              YOu already have Salt of E, Tamari
              bloomfield - Tessaro for burgers.

              Point Brugge Cafe
              401 Hastings St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

              Avenue B
              5501 Centre Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

            2. Can you eat sushi? If you can get to the Penn Avenue Fish Market during lunch on Wed, it's all you can eat for $22. And it's the best fish in town. Strip District location only.

              There's a gluten-free bakery in Squirrel Hill:

              1. The original comment has been removed
                1. Kms41, just wondering what are you and the b/f into scene wise? Even though Pittsburgh is pretty easy to jump from neighborhood to hood with a car, its nice to visit area more suitable to the type of scence you are into...

                  Had some friends from out of town look at CMU for Grad but hated the area they got taken too. Sometimes help to know preferences , nightlife, daylife, interests.