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Must Eats in PGH

Hi! My husband and I will be moving away from Pittsburgh in a few months after a year of living here. We've been able to experience a lot of great Pittsburgh eats...Primanti's, Pamelas, Deluca's, etc. but want to make sure we're not missing anything before we head out. Where should we go and what should we eat?

Is there a best place for pierogies and a fish sandwich?

We live in Lawrenceville and have a baby, so nothing too far afield and anything open at lunch is better than dinnertime (since it's also the baby's bedtime.)


Deluca's Restaurant
2015 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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  1. The best fish sandwiches are at Penn Avenue Fish Company, either in the Strip (they close at 4 PM, so you have to go for lunch) or downtown on Forbes Ave. Or you can get salads or sushi. So good, you won't want to move.


    18 Replies
    1. re: Jay F

      Well, Penn Ave Fish has the best fish in town, yeah, and great sandwiches, and if you like that kind of thing you might want to try before you go because it's very good, but if you want to try a traditional Pittsburgh fish sandwich (huge hunk of some white fish, battered or breaded, and fried) then that's not the place.

      Oyster House (Market Square, downtown) is a good tradition. Benkovitz, in the Strip, that would be a little closer to you, although really although it was good recently I think Oyster House is my favorite. (PIcking a favorite is kinda like picking a favorite cheesesteak in Philly.) Or, since it's still Lent, head out on Friday to a local church fish fry, that's a Pittsburgh tradition for sure. There should be one in your neighborhood, although not all will actually still be doing it on Good Friday. (Lent ends on Easter, next Sunday the 24th, so you'd have to do that this week, to one that's actually open on Good Friday.)

      You could make a must eat list a mile long or very short depending upon what you like, budget, etc. I mean, we could say eat at Salt of the Earth before you go, right? If that's your thing. They open at 5 so you'd have to go at opening time. It's not too far afield at all. :-) I haven't been but it's a place worthy of special trips by all accounts.

      Dinette is one I like very much although they too open at 5.

      I suppose the validity of some places will vary depending upon where you are decamping to. I mean, if you're moving to NYC, that's very different than if you're moving to an even smaller town where you won't have the variety that is here.

      1. re: CrazyOne

        >>>>Well, Penn Ave Fish has the best fish in town, yeah, and great sandwiches, and if you like that kind of thing you might want to try before you go because it's very good, but if you want to try a traditional Pittsburgh fish sandwich (huge hunk of some white fish, battered or breaded, and fried) then that's not the place.


        Because nothing new and different will *ever* be as good in Pittsburgh as doing it the way we've been doing it since my grandmother's grandmother was born.

        1. re: Jay F

          You can rant about that if you like. But don't attribute that attitude to me or my post. That should not have AT ALL been implied from the way my post reads. Indeed I am right there with you on the "OMG that's not the way we've always done it" reaction. But:

          If people are asking about pierogies and a fish sandwich before leaving town, I'm definitely thinking they're talking about the traditional fried one. They're rattling off traditional foods alright? Sheesh. And if you're not familiar, you might walk into Penn Ave Fish expecting to get a fried sandwich. They don't have one. And that's cool. They have lots of other fantastic stuff.

          I love both Penn Ave Fish Co and a fried fish sandwich. Each has its place. What the hell is the problem with that?

          1. re: CrazyOne

            It must have been your "if you like that kind of thing" line.

            1. re: Jay F

              Not everyone does. Shrug. Their loss.

              I could use the same line for Salt of the Earth. Some people are not interested, even the ones reading here.

              1. re: CrazyOne

                I've never been to Salt. Every time I look at their menu online, nothing really draws me in. Only two things look even semi-interesting to me on today's menu. One is the softshell crab, only it has seaweed and horseradish. The other is the bass, but it has coconut.

                And too bad. It's so close.


                1. re: Jay F

                  Jay, I never wanted to bring that up on this board. Salt's menu never has anything that I want to go eat.. ( I am not saying that thier food would not be great) I look at thier menu and am at a lose at what I would eat. (not eating seafood doens't help)

                  1. re: Augie6

                    It's really a leap thing for a lot of people, I guess. I haven't rushed to try Salt either. People I trust say the experience is fantastic. I like the idea of sitting at the counter watching the kitchen as well. But you basically have to trust the chef and not have too many food aversions for it to be truly appealing.

                    It's clearly a worthy suggestion. It's up to others to decide if they are open to it. Unusual combinations are a hallmark for Sousa it seems to me, but it's not like he doesn't know what he's doing. I have little doubt it's going to taste good, but it's not for the picky eater for sure.

                    1. re: CrazyOne

                      I dined at Salt. It's definitely not for everyone. People complained about the portion sizes -- really? Does everything have to be Olive Garden (slop) sizes? I had the Tilefish in Dashi broth.. the levels of flavors, food was wonderful. Powdered bacon was really cool in the cheese plate (dessert for us::)). The combinations aren't that obvious.. not like you'll find a pile of coffee grinds on a plate... the flavors are subtle.

                      Olive Garden
                      83 E City Ave, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

                      1. re: burghgal

                        Portion size is Wester PA is a huge issue. I believe that the "bank for your buck" mentallity is just feed into our brains. (I also fall into that trap at times)

                    2. re: Augie6

                      Here's from today's menu http://www.saltpgh.com/menu/ :

                      Sashimi* $10: escolar, prickly pear, horseradish, shiso. I love fish, Augie, so I might like this, except for the horseradish. And the escolar (read this: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/in...).

                      Mackerel* $9: uni, cauliflower, cabbage, coffee, banana. I don't care for cauliflower or (especially) cooked cabbage.

                      And the entrees I'd choose are the same as those in yesterday's menu.

                      No Salt for me.

                      1. re: Jay F

                        That escolar dish is one of my favorites. The horseradish you mention is a bit of a play off wasabi, but is actually a powder (not sure exactly how they pull it off - do they use maltodextrin? I dunno) with a very light consistency and without the pungency or heat of fresh horseradish. If heat from the horseradish is your concern, it's not a major problem here.

                        Also, your link to escolar doesn't work. But if you're noting its... um... possible digestive effects, then you can also rest assured - there's not enough of it on Salt's dish to have those effects, which to my knowledge, are only known to occur at portions over 6 ounces. Beyond that - escolar makes the most heavenly delicious sashimi. I first tried it as a novelty, but I was blown away - totally worth the risk, IMO.

                        Also, people have been mentioning that people might be put off by modest portion sizes - given the context of much of Pittsburgh's dining scene and the expectation of Cheesecake Factory sized portions, I can see how this might be an issue. But I just wanted to point out to any lurkers that Salt is not one of those big plate, tiny portion restaurants. An app, main, and desert should be plenty to fill most hungry adults.

                        I agree though that Salt is not for everyone. Crazyone said above: "you basically have to trust the chef and not have too many food aversions for it to be truly appealing." I second this statement.

                    3. re: Jay F

                      I'm not sure why horseradish or coconut would somehow be a turnoff.

                        1. re: Jay F

                          I guess my confusion is that I assume many people who come to chowhound, as opposed to say Urbanspoon or Yelp, like to eat many different things. In this string you've ruled out horseradish, coconut, cabbage, and cauliflower. I have to assume your list of foods you don't like might be fairly extensive based on that sampling, so I'd think you'd have a hard time finding a restaurant you like that offers anything beyond what's offered at most chains.

                          Sorry, that kind of thing just always perplexes me. If you like to eat good food and search out good places to eat, it has to be difficult if you're a somewhat picky eater.

                          1. re: Whigsboy

                            Whigs, fwiw, I detest cooked cauliflower and am not a coconut fan. I don't seek out horseradish, although I'll eat it, and I generally only eat cabbage when prepared as kim chi or golumbki or cole slaw because it just does nothing for me when presented as 'cabbage'. Don't ever tell me there's raisins in a dish and the only time a green pea passes my lips is when it's discreetly hidden in a samosa, .

                            I'll try anything once and have eaten a hundred other things (grasshoppers, worms, spleen, testes, corn fungus, brains - on a pizza, no less, etc.) that would revulse many, some of which was cooked and served in conditions that get people wondering how I wasn't hospitalized.

                            So yeah, I'd suggest that to pick a small list of stuff that someone doesn't like and then try to label them is a tad unfair. Especially in light of Jay's history of posts which implies he gets around a bit and is well beyond the safety of chain restos.

                            Jay - all I'll say about Salt is this. Kevin Sousa made me like brussels sprouts. At least for one night. Give it a try man. It's a place where regardless what was served in a particular dish, I'd be confident I'd find more things I liked than didn't on my plate. And at the price range (relative to other top places) you can afford to experiment.

                              1. re: Panini Guy

                                Maybe I will try it someday, PG. But is it really so much for me to expect to be seduced a little by a menu?

                                And thanks for having my back.

          2. oyster house fish sandwich with buttermilk

            1. tessaro's. tram's. the new how lee. The original hot dog shop (in oakland)

              4 Replies
              1. re: Chowrin

                The dirty O. lol It is fun experience. Give it a try.

                1. re: Effort

                  Yes, definitely get some fries at the O! Haven't been there in so long that I completely forgot about it!

                2. re: Chowrin

                  Can I get an exposition on the new How Lee? It looks like it's been busy every time I've gone by lately. I am a huge fan of the Rose Tea Cafe just two doors down.

                  Rose Tea Cafe
                  5874 1/2 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

                  1. re: Daveman84

                    the rose tea cafe is Cantonese style. True chinese cooking... but much more tending towards fish.
                    The New How Lee is Sichuan. Hot, Numbing, and Vinegar. Ask for the food extra spicy -- you won't be disappointed.
                    Also, you want to order off the non-American menu (though their Hunan chicken is outstanding). the non-American Kung Pao Chicken has szechuan peppercorns, and oh so many chilis!

                3. Very close to you in the Strip is S&D Polish Deli that has really good pierogies. My favorite fish sandwich in the Strip is as Roland's. Benkovitz and Wholey's are good also.

                  1. Well since no one seems to be addressing pierogies, I will. The best pierogies I have had were from Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks. It is takeout only and you could purchase them cold and heat at home. I haven't found a restaurant that has any noteworthy pierogies but I have not tried them at the Bloomfield Bridge Taveran. Several people I know rave about them from there. Hope this helps.

                    Pierogies Plus
                    342 Island Ave, Mc Kees Rocks, PA 15136

                    1. New Castle Hot Dogs
                      Dave and Andy's Ice Cream
                      Jozca's Corner

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Chowrin

                        I tried Waffalonia on Tuesday. It was *so* good. I got the "unlimited" with two scoops of Dave & Andy's ice cream and chocolate sauce, for $6. Well worth it.

                        I'm glad I don't live in Squirrel Hill anymore, or I'm afraid I'd be there every day. It's best to go off-hours if you want something that's going to require utensils, because there are only 3 or 5 seats.

                        Squirrel Hill Cafe
                        5802 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

                        1. re: Jay F

                          wait... that's dave & andy's ice cream? I just got it plain last time... ;-)

                          1. re: Chowrin

                            I liked the vanilla better than their custom-made graham-cracker-paste ice cream.

                      2. Depending on where you are moving, I would say hit up a pizza place. Friends who have moved away often lament that they can't get good pizza like they did here in Pittsburgh.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: AllieP

                          More proof you can't argue pizza. Having moved here after 40+ years in NY/CT/MA, I find the pizza options in Pgh plentiful, but generally lacking excellence (or even 'very goodness').

                          Il Pizzaiolo is in its own category and Piccolo Forno close behind, but for 'everyday' pizza, I'm with Harry's. Then again, their recipe is from Harry's in West Hartford, CT.

                          I think there are plenty of "better than average" pies, of which I'd put Apizza Badamo up at top (whole or cuts), well above Burgh standbys like Mineo's or Aiellos or Fioris. Still haven't been to Franks or Police Station. I'd love to love Pizza Sola because it looks like a great NYC pie, but it just doesn't deliver on taste. I keep trying places that others recommend and for the most part am routinely let down. I don't get the love for many of the highly recommended places. I've had some that, completely without hyperbole, were worse than frozen supermarket pies.

                          1. re: Panini Guy

                            Panini Guy: "I'd love to love Pizza Sola because it looks like a great NYC pie, but it just doesn't deliver on taste."

                            ICAM. Pizza Sola looks like real pizza, but it's got no flavor. I wonder if they changed something. I liked it when it first opened in E. Liberty, but then I had a couple delivered when they hooked up with Wheel Deliver, and they were just blah. And at $4.50 a slice, it had better be a whole lot better than "blah."

                            Someone mentioned Mineo's. Mineo's was good in 1972, when it literally was the only pizza worth eating in the Oakland-Shadyside-Squirrel Hill triangle. Now it's oily, you have to make sure they don't overheat your slices, and you can smell air freshener from the bathroom out on Murray Avenue.

                            My favorite pizza is from Piccolo Forno, but I hardly ever get to eat it. They don't deliver, and when I go there, I get the lasagne. Since the OP lives in Lville, that's the place for her to go, Piccolo Forno (closed Sun and Mon). Of course, the idea that you need to pig out on pizza in Pgh. because you're moving to NY is kind of silly, but whatever.

                            1. re: Panini Guy

                              Have you tried Spak Brothers on Penn in Lawerenceville? My favorite behind Il Pizzaiolo

                              703 Washington Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228

                              1. re: six dower

                                Spak doesn't deliver. Just tried. Maybe another time.

                                1. re: Jay F

                                  Try it Jay! it is worth the effort to make a trip to Penn Ave....trust me.

                                    1. re: Jay F

                                      Yes they do. Stuff there is good for a pizza/sub place, like Italian sub made with meats all from Parma Sausage. But it can be especially interesting if you're vegetarian since they make fake sausage and pepperoni in house, seitan wings, and will make a vegan pizza with soy cheese if you really want. http://www.spakbrothers.com/

                                      Spak Brothers is in Garfield, not Lawrenceville anymore at that point on Penn. Don't let that scare you though. ;-)

                                      1. re: CrazyOne

                                        I have never heard of Spak before! my husband will be very excited.

                                        to OP, i would recommend Spoon ("bone marrow", "bacon & eggs", short ribs, sashimi and the burger are all awesome)

                                        1. re: yammers

                                          Thanks for the Spoon recommendations...we actually LOVE Spak Bros, but not for the pizza. The subs are great, the wings are really great and the salads are actually pretty good too. The pizza was so-so.

                          2. Thank you for all the suggestions! We are actually moving (back) to New York, but these are some great suggestions! We've been to Tamari, Tram's, Tessaro's, and Rose Tea but will definitely try the O and the Oyster House.

                            We have reservations at Salt of the Earth for our wedding anniversary...any recommended dishes?

                            Also, not to start a whole other debate, but where do you go for the best pizza in PGH?

                            Rose Tea Cafe
                            5874 1/2 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

                            Tessaro's Restaurant
                            4601 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: caphill2320

                              I think you will start another whole debate...But that's OK! My favorites, by far, are Harry's which is on Rt. 19 in the South Hills at Donaldsons Crossroads, Franks on Duss Avenue in Ambridge and Pizza House (some call it Police Station Pizza) also in Ambridge.

                              There are also some very good wood fired pizza places that many people prefer, but those are not my personal choice.


                              1. re: caphill2320

                                At Salt, reservations are only for the upstairs dining area, which, in my opinion, misses one of the best aspects of the Salt experience: the communal tables and open kitchen. There just seems to be a more electric buzz on the first floor compared to upstairs. When you arrive, I would ask how long the wait for the first floor is, or maybe have a pre/post dinner drink at the bar.

                                1. re: k squared

                                  That's interesting, I didn't know there were different seating areas for reservations. We actually had to cancel (baby with a cold :( ) so maybe we will try to walk another night in if we can get a babysitter.

                                2. re: caphill2320

                                  Pamela's is a must go to. a reall pittsburgh yinzer place.

                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                    But if you like real maple syrup, you'll need to bring your own.

                                    Speaking of Pamela's I read in the P-G that the Squirrel Hill location is moving into Panera's old space, and adding a Peruvian restaurant in part of the space, I guess kind of like what they have on Walnut Street. I hope they'll be open for dinner. I would have eaten at Pamela's much more (after they went non-smoking) if they'd been open at night when I lived in SH.

                                    1. re: Jay F

                                      Do you know any diner type places around hear that serve real maple syrup? I don't.

                                      1. re: Rick

                                        Dozen Bake Shop is not a diner, but in the same price category as a diner, and they serve real maple syrup.

                                        Pamela's, IMO, positions itself a cut above the typical diner, not least through its choice of relatively upscale locations (Squirrel Hill, Oakland, Shadyside, the Strip). Also, its pancakes are at least one order of magnitude better than normal diner pancakes. I mean, wouldn't you rather eat a Pamela's pancake than a DeLuca's pancake?

                                        I think Pamela's pancakes deserve real maple syrup based on that criterion alone.

                                        1. re: Jay F

                                          Agreed. It's always sort of baffled me that Pamela's bothers to make their pancakes as tasty and distinctive as theirs are (the crispy edges are especially nice) and then slathers em with goop. Offering real maple syrup for an upcharge would make more sense to me. Being a diner type place makes no difference - if you've got good pancakes, flaunt em.

                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                            I sent Pamela's an e-mail the other day congratulating them on opening up in the old Panera location in Squirrel Hill, and also mentioned I'd be willing to pay an extra $1 per pancake order if they'd switch to real maple syrup. Maybe you'd consider joining me.



                                          2. re: Jay F

                                            I absolutely agree with you that I'd rather have them with real maple syrup and that I'm much rather have Pamela's pancakes than DeLuca's. I just don't think at their price point that I expect real maple syrup. I disagree that the Strip and Oakland are upscale locations.

                                            1. re: Rick

                                              I don't expect them to serve real maple syrup at their current price point, either. Hence the suggestion to charge a buck more.

                                              And I'll grant that Oakland isn't upscale, but I go to the Strip when I'm looking for the best things in certain categories, whether fish (Penn Ave Fish Co), parmigiano-reggiano or meat for antipasto (PennMac), or spices (Penzey's). And look at all the good restaurants there are in the Strip. All this betterness says "upscale" to me.

                                              I think the 21st Street Pamela's looks better than the rest of their stores, too.

                                        2. re: Jay F

                                          fwiw, a gallon of Pennsylvania maple syrup costs $45 at the Farmers@Firehouse market. That comes out to $0.35 per ounce, which in restaurant terms would be about $1 upcharge per ounce. Doable, but if you're eating with your family and if anyone likes to drown their pancakes in the stuff, it would add up in a hurry.

                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                            What do you think would be a realistic upcharge?

                                            1. re: Jay F

                                              most Maple Syrup serving sizes are 1/4 Cup which comes out to 60ml or 2oz. If they could do a dollar upcharge and bring the maple syrup along side in a 2oz serving cup I think they would be in business.

                                              I understand their reluctance to do so though, as they're already very popular. And I'm not sure how most customers would act if asked to pay for something they may feel should be provided anyway.

                                            2. re: Panini Guy

                                              Well, the good thing is with real maple you don't have to drown so much; a little goes a long way. I think I could pay $1 or $1.50 upcharge in a couple places though to get a small 1-2oz portion of real maple syrup with my pancakes or waffles. I don't know if I would need 2oz or if I could do with just 1oz. So at $2 for 2oz I start to wonder if I would pay it. What I do now on the fairly rare occasion I go to Pamela's is use little or no fake syrup.

                                              Another option I liked though was different types of homemade syrups such as the ones they make and serve at Waffles Incaffeinated in New Brighton. Great place out there.

                                              FWIW, I don't consider Pamela's to be more upscale. They just make a different style of pancake than is typical, and a different style of potato. I don't really see how it any more upscale vs many other diner type places I've been in. It does hit some upscale-ish locations. That's just good business sense.