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Jun 17, 2011 08:04 PM

College Student Headed to Pittsburgh, Recs?

Hello everyone! I'm headed out to Pittsburgh in a couple of months to spend the next few years at U of P. I'm from Philadelphia and I'm a bit worried about not being able to have good food like I do at home. What would be some of the best places in Oakland/ downtown/ nearby neighborhoods that can offer up some great grub to a college student in great need of good food that won't break the bank? Thanks all in advance!

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  1. Welcome! I think you will find a nice variety of "student budget" restaurants near Oakland. I'm sure you will spend time in the Southside, Shadyside, and Squirrel Hill which are all fairly close by. I would highly recommend Yo Rita in the Southside. It's an inexpensive. upscale taco place, but not the typical type of tacos. Prices are from $4 to $6 each, and two make a meal. Check out the menu online.

    Here's a couple more:

    Squirrel Hill Cafe
    5802 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

    Yo Rita
    1120 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

    1. Are you a freshman? Will you be living in the dorms? There's a 5 Guys burger place right below the Towers, plus Dunkin' Donuts, Panera, Qdoba, and Chipotle right nearby.

      For non-chain, the closest place is the O (Original Hot Dog Shop). If you like hot dogs, well, you couldn't be closer. There's also a Primanti's sandwich shop. A lot of people find Primanti's the very essence of Great Pittsburgh Cuisine; to me, they're sandwiches with French fries on them. In 12 years, I've never felt the need to try one.

      There's also a non-chain burrito place 100 feet further down Forbes.

      There's a Pamela's on Forbes, also. Great pancakes, although they're served with other-than-real maple syrup.

      There are a number of interesting places on Atwood Street. Indian, other Asian, Mexican. There's pizza all over the place.

      Oakland Avenue has a carryout sushi place.

      Two of my favorite bargains are outside of Oakland:
      (1) salad w/fish at Penn Avenue Fish Company ($8.95-10.95 for a big, delicious salad with grilled salmon, tuna, shrimp, sword, crabmeat); downtown or Strip District.
      (2) the lasagne or the pizza at Piccolo Forno in Lawrenceville. Not so much "cheap" as "best in class." If you get appetizers, this will run you around $24 per person w/T&T. But it's worth it.

      Piccolo Forno
      3801 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jay F

        the O has passable hot dogs. it has GREAT value fries.

      2. Thanks Guys for the great feedback so quickly! Of course budget will be big for me, I would also like to splurge once in awhile. I checked out Yo Rita and the tacos look great! Thats the type of place I'll make good use of in college. And also, being that i'm Italian, good Italian food is also a must. I had read about Piccolo on a blog recently and I'm eager to check it out! Also, I started this post primarily due to my distaste for the Primanti sandwich. I have had one and left disappointed after receiving a sandwich with soggy fries, soggy bread, and overly sour cole slaw . Anyway, I'm eager to also give Pamela's a try since i've heard its a Pittsburgh favorite. with that said, where in the area before mentioned can I find some great Polish, German, Traditional pub fare, and noodle soups(pho or ramen).

        To Jay F, I will be a freshman, and believe me...I expect to make many a late night run to Five Guys!

        Yo Rita
        1120 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

        4 Replies
        1. re: twlaz

          For Pho, Trams kitchen, Pho Minh, and Vietnam's Pho Inc all serve respectable bowls. Tram's is probably my favorite. All three are on Penn Avenue.

          I haven't found any great ramen in Pgh, but maybe one of these guys could help both of us out.

          Right in Oakland, a favorite of mine is Oishii bento. It serves mostly Korean food, with some Japanese and a bit of fusion stuff too. It's a cheap, hole in the wall take out joint. But food is way better than it has to be. Their galbi bento, their bulgogi bibimbap, their oishii roll (Americanized sushi done right) are all favorites of mine.

          You'll probably like Piccolo. Their sandwiches are also quite good and well priced.

          If you don't mind saving up for a more upscale treat, I like Kaya in the strip district (which is a great place to go in general for food) - well made, upscale-ish Caribbean-inspired food. And I think Salt of the Earth on Penn ave is as good at the price as pretty much any restaurant I've been to in Philly. Or elsewhere, come to think of it. Both are places you can get a very good multicourse meal for $50.

          Pho Minh
          4917 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

          1. re: twlaz

            Got 2 for u first one is for burgfeeder too. Thia Suan Thip new thia in Bellview not far out of down town top shelf food reasonably priced also very nice decor fell like fine dining which it is and its byob! I'm sure you will be going back and forth to Philly-get off at the donegal exit turn left mile on right hand side Out of The Fire Cafe. Very good seafood nice views and outdoor seating as well very reasonable pricing lunch is a bargan but limited menu and also Byob. The food there makes me feel like I'm in New Orleans at 1/2 the price. Can get VERY busy on the weekend...



            1. re: don515

              nix that. head out to Babe's Place, in New Derry, PA. Great for late night drives (pizza from 8pm-2am or so). And FANTASTIC pizza.

              Babe's Place
              949 Pizza Barn Rd, Blairsville, PA 15717

            2. re: twlaz

              This thread is a little late. Nobody mentioned Lulu's Noodles on Craig St. in Oakland. Economical and good . thought of it when he mentioned noodle soup

            3. I've been posting for a long time that if you're thinking of going to Primanti's, go to Fat Head's in stead. Check their web site. It's another one of the eateries on Carson Street in the South Side. Yeah, Yo Rita is a trip.

              We really like Silk Elephant in Squirrel Hill for Thai food. I have no experience with Thai food to compare, but everything I get there is good.

              Squirrel Hill Cafe
              5802 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

              Yo Rita
              1120 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

              2 Replies
              1. re: yayadave

                i agree Fat Head's IMHO blows Primanti's out of the water on so many levels. If you go to Primanti's go to the one in the strip.

                Speaking in general you should find 90% of the food/drink here a lot more afforadalbe then Philly... My college roomates from Philly made us live like Kings because thier parents still gave them "Philly" allowances...

                1. re: Augie6

                  Agreed on fat heads and Primanti Bros. Though in truth, the OP is gonna be in Oakland and will surely wind up in the Oakland Primantis as some point. The important thing is to not go in under the impression that Primanti Bros is the especially good food by Pgh standards. It's distinctively local - that's not the same thing.

              2. Salt of The Earth - it won't be a place you go everyday but it's actually very budget friendly for a meal out.

                Chaya in squirrel hill for sushi

                I'm not a big fan of yo rita - nice sounding stuff, but the execution was poor.

                I've reviewed a few of the places mentioned on my own site - though most of them are moderately priced.