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Oct 12, 2012 08:37 PM

Serious Question...Is Pittsburgh limited to Diners Drive-ins and Dives or are there a few good restaurants?

My kids go to Pitt and I'm in the burgh a lot. I yet to have a good meal there.


Lidia's...mediocre at best. Elevens...just OK. Paris 66...mediocre is being kind (see my recent post).

I'm not flaming. Is there even one restaurant that could stay open in Philly or NYC?

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    1. Agree with what Mon said, and if you search you'll find your answer. The past few years especially the dining scene has really come alive.

      I lived outside of PGH for most of my life, now after living on the west coast and being lucky enough to eat at some really highly acclaimed places - the dishes I've had at a few restaurants in PGH are still some of the best around. You're going to the wrong spots.

      Salt of The Earth...not sure how you missed hearing about this one
      Root 174
      Notion (cross your fingers for a speedy re-opening in East Liberty..and do a search for reviews from people like UlteriorEpicure..or even myself)

      Check out withthegrains or foodcollage for reviews of dining around the city - the former has spent a lot of time in Philly, the latter has been all over.

      the food at these places speaks for itself, but the backgrounds of these Chef's is impressive as well...and the camaraderie that is somewhat unique to PGH where these "competing" restaurants aren't just friendly, but are hosting events together - etc.

      they wouldn't just stay open in cities that are a bit more food-focused, they would be packed.

      Il Pizzaoiola is said to be one of the best Neopolitan pie places in the states.

      Your question is kind of like someone asking if Philly is all places like Geno's, and not searching for Vetri or Morimoto. Please, PLEASE try a few of the places mentioned. I'm guaranteeing your opinion will change.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Rodzilla

        Thanks to all for the recs. I'm finally back in town for more than a moment and got to try a couple of them.

        Soba was great. Asian, particularly Korean food. Wonderful apps, rock shrimp, dumplings, duck buns...mains were ramen bowl, miso cod, korean bbq tuna and pad Thai. All were great. Miso cod was perfect I was told.

        The Porch for brunch was less than I expected, but I expected too much of a student-centered place on campus. It was ...OK. Pizza was a little limp-crusted, burger was OK, smoked trout salad was very skimpy on the salad...more like an app in portion size. Cool to be on the site of Forbes Field.

        Spoon was really good. Foie gras with funnel cake, onion marmalade and pineapple was tasty, but the pineapple was a little strong for the rest of the dish. The Spring Pea Soup was pretty and good as was the lobster app. Halibut was cooked just right, duck was generous and just as it should be, scallops were lovely. And they had a cheese course, God bless them.

        With your help I'm getting a handle on the burgh. Thanks!

        1. re: sal_acid

          Pamela's will do you just fine for brunch (there's an Oakland location "on campus" -- within a short walk at least. I like the squirrel hill location better, which is a short drive/busride *cough* I'dwalkit *cough*)

      2. We have just moved to Pittsburgh (I am from here originally but lived away for 20+ years) from central PA. While we loved our time there, we needed to take frequent "city breaks." So within the past few years we have dined as some of the best restaurants in the Philly we dined at Zahav, Osteria, and several of Jose Garcia's and Steven Starr's places. Recent NYC favorites are Eleven Madison Park, Motorino's, The Modern, and Babbo. In DC we have tried Rasika, Central and Jaleo. I include this info so you understand the importance we place on great food.

        I agree with others that you have not been trying the right places. While we haven't had a chance to visit all of the restaurants suggested above, we have been working on it. I have always trusted Chowhound for recs wherever we travel.

        We haven't done much fine dining so far, but we loved Toast for my husbands birthday. Enjoyed the cozy room and great wine list. Rich, homey food very well done.

        Had great Italian at both Dish and Stagioni. We also had a fabulous meal at Alla Famiglia last year and my husband has been trying to get me back there since we moved. Girasole is a lovely place for lunch or dinner.

        For more causal, but still great food, try Park Brugges. We are hitting their sister restaurant, Point Brugges for brunch today (coupled with our first trip to the East End Co-Op.)

        While not fancy, we loved the unique tacos at Yo Rita and Round Corner Cantina.

        Living on the south end of Pittsburgh, we have had several great meals at Il Pizzaioli, although I do think NYC does the best Neooolitan (try Motorinos!) We also liked Bistro 19, also in Mt Lebanon.

        Have you checked out Pittsburgh Magazine's top 25? Similar recs to what you find here and no mention of Lidias or Paris 66!

        20 Replies
        1. I would put some Pittsburgh's best against the best of any city that are the same types of restaurant.

          Philly certainly has MORE notable/destination type spots, they aren't necessarily better.

          1. You're serious?
            Pittsburgh is the 3rd most promiscuous city in the country.
            Capita per capita, we got philly beat.
            Pittsburgh is the second most cloudy city in the country.
            We go out to eat a lot here.

            We beat pants off NYC in Asian food, we have out-of-this world eastern european food.
            And burger afficianados fly from philly to eat at our world famous burger joints (Tessaros).

            1. re: Chowrin

              Pittsburgh beats NYC for Asian food? And the best burger on earth is worth the cost of a flight from Philly?

              Next you'll say that the burgh has the best pastrami on earth. And that you should put fries in a reuben instead of kraut..

              That's what's great about chowhound, you learn stuff that you never suspected.

              BTW the oldest philly grandma can kick Sidney Crosby's cowardly ass.

              1. re: sal_acid

                Yeah, we heard all about philly booing Palin. d*** boobirds (that's said with affection!)

                Yup. for many years we had one of the top ten thai restaurants in the country (now we've got more!), NYC was never on the list.

                And NYC doesn't get Pilgrims, for goodness sakes!

                Pittsburgh's jew-food sucks. And it's Italian sucks (go to the Garden State fer that, for goodness sakes!).

                Local yinzers and good pizza don't seem to get along.

                But we do a decent jab at contemporary american.

                1. re: sal_acid


                  Often lots of noise here. Bose headphones and/ selective reading can block them out.
                  With all of the valid positive things Pittsburgh has going for it I am always surprised by those odd arguments forward here by some. Which in fact only degrade the value of those comments made in ernest by those trying to assist and/or just forward their personal opinions based on knowledge.

                2. re: Chowrin

                  Very few cities beat NYC in just about anything.

                  I'll give you that Pitt has some good burgers..but Asian food? Maybe Thai, but ot too many authentic Japanese or Chinese places.

                  Eastern Euro - yes

                  Pizza - Il Pizzaoilo is an outlier and an amazing one. Dinette is a unique style, and if you're a fan of cracker thin crust, you'll love what they do there.

                  Contemporary American - hells yes, hidden gem.

                  and if you're looking for the best cured meats and charcuterie boards, meet Justin Severino.

                  Now if anyone wants to hate a Pittsburgh sports star - let's make it Roethlisberger

                  1. re: Rodzilla

                    Pittsburgh seems to have a higher income (or maybe that's disposable income) segment of Asians than nyc... I'm spoiled because I'm in the east end.
                    And I meant Indian in there too...

                    1. re: Rodzilla

                      I won't get into the war (I've lived in Brooklyn for 15 years, but grew up in Western PA -- there's good restos nearly everywhere) but where are the good Eastern Euro joints in PGH? BBT is OK, but I've found nothing that's blown me away. Or that matched my memories of the home-cooking you used to find at Orthodox churches throughout the region.

                      Bonus points for anyone who can point me to LIthuanian food in the greater PGH area (not provisions, proper cooked food).

                      1. re: lambretta76

                        Josza's (Hungarian).

                        But I'd have to ask, what Eastern Euro restos in any city have "blown you away"?

                        There used to be a couple here. Last one was "Old Europe" on Carson that met its demise 5 or 6 years ago. I don't believe there's a market for Eastern Euro cuisine at this point - it's not 'spicy', it's not exotic, it's meat and heavy sauce sauce-centric, and it's not finger food. And there's not a single cooking show featuring it.

                        That's about as close as one gets to a 'no sale' among 35-and-unders.

                        I'm half Lithuanian. If you can mention a Lit resto that isn't connected to a local Lit social club in any city, I'm interested in hearing about it. Only one I'm aware of that's any good (and actually profitable) is Grand Duke's in Chicago.

                        1. re: Panini Guy

                          I was in London back in '98 or '99 and went to a place (whose name sadly escapes me, maybe Wodka?) It was outstanding, kind of a French technique for traditional Polish dishes. Sadly, they also had excellent house-infused vodkas, so my exact memory of that meal is somewhat clouded. Perhaps Easter European will be the next Scandinavia cuisine.

                          There's no great ones here in NYC either, sadly. Karczma is a good Polish workhorse (love the blood sausage), as are Lomzynianka and Krolewskie Jadlo, but what stands out are more the meat markets than the restaurants. I've heard that Hospoda in NYC is excellent for Czech, but I've not been.

                          There is a Lithuanian restaurant here in NYC. Ish. It serves Lithuanian dishes one day every couple of months, this is from the last one: The last proper one I knew about was next door to a Lithuanian church and closed in the late 90s/early 00s.

                          But sadly this is all a bit off-topic. Hopefully some farm-to-table chef that grew up in western PA will find a soft-spot for the food of their childhood and bring an excellent Eastern Euro resto to Pittsburgh.

                          1. re: Panini Guy

                            There's also that place in homestead that serves soups on Saturdays... (post gazette had a review of it).

                            And oh, the pierogies! There looked to be a fine place up in Wexford.

                            Eastern Euro cuisine isn't stylish, true, but neither is greek, and they make do.

                      2. re: Chowrin

                        Please tell me where these NYC beating asian places are as we've been driving to Northern Virginia fairly regularly to get our asian fix.

                        1. re: Rick

                          Tried the New How Lee?
                          The Thai Place in Shadyside is classic.
                          Rose Tea Cafe is delish.
                          Bangkok Balcony

                          for the more expensive set: Umi and Soba and Chaya

                          All that we're missing is ramen (unless salt's has improved...)

                          1. re: Chowrin

                            and don't forget tram's.

                            anyone got any info on Burma Tokyo?

                            1. re: Chowrin

                              Burma Tokyo is definitely a dive, but pretty darn delicious. I would stick to the most Burmese dishes rather than the other stuff.

                              If you've been somewhere like Burma Superstar in SF, this doesn't come close, but as the only authentic Burmese I'm aware of in the burgh, it's definitely worth checking out.

                            2. re: Chowrin

                              Finally got to try the New How Lee, it was really good! Not quite as good as what I've had at Joe's Noodle in Rockville, MD, but still very good. I've been to Udipi but it's probably been a few years, need to get back out there one day.

                            3. re: Rick

                              There isn't a "NYC-beating" Chinese place. But, I do think China Star could hold its own on Canal St.

                              1. re: Panini Guy

                                is that china star related to the one in squirrel hill?

                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                    I believe it is. The China Star on Murray across from the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle recently changed its name to Sichuan Gourmet. This isn't to be confused with the other China Star, also on Murray, also across from a Giant Eagle (the Greenfield one).

                        2. Perhaps I also have missed the wonderful Pittsburgh restaurants. Having relocated to Philadelphia from San Francisco I was so please to find what major food and news publications have described as one of the most vibrant food scenes in the East. The comments come based on the many James Beard Award winners, Best New Restaurant of the Year Awards to name just a few. I have noted, although not interested in joining, a ongoing cross PA battle on most all things. The Burgh is a very nice area with many extremely good qualities but it does suffer from a second city complex thus this constant chatter. Football, Hockey, Baseball?, Basketball, Soccer: I understand the competition. Oh sorry scratch Basketball and Soccer. However based on years of travel to the Steel City, great restaurants, sorry not even close.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Bacchus101

                            Bacchus, do you mind sharing which restaurants you have tried?

                            While I agree that it's difficult for a small city like Pittsburgh to compete with Philadelphia, which is more than twice its size, that certainly does not mean there are no good restaurants. I compare the recent appearance of small, chef-centric BYOB places in the 'Burgh similar to what took place in Philly a few years earlier. Both cities have to deal with the state's ridiculous liquor laws, which make restaurant start ups very expensive. It's is further complicated by Pittsburgh's neighborhood structure, so there is no single dining location. I have enjoyed seeing the revitalization of places like Lawrenceville and East Liberty but for a visitor it may seem like a lot of driving around our crazy streets!

                            We are looking forward to trying the restaurants suggested above as we continue to familiarize ourselves with the local food scene. I hope you will also be able to find some places you like.

                            1. re: Bacchus101

                              Well, Pittsburgh's got a better beer selection than Philly, hands down.
                              And we got our share of James Beard folks wandering around.

                              and years of traveling to pittsburgh? where HAVE you been staying!?

                              1. re: Chowrin

                                You can find great microbreweries in just about every significant American city.You can also find bars with huge selections of anything you want in just about every significant American city. While it may be true that Sharp Edge imports more Belgian beers than any other bar in the US, if you want a bottle of Pliny the Elder or Pliny the Younger - two of the most talked about West Coast beers over the past couple of years - you have to go to Philly.

                                1. re: Panini Guy

                                  Side note: I had tried Pliny the Elder in Philly a couple years back and wasn't super impressed. Then just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine spent his honeymoon on the West Coast and brought me back a bottle of Pliny he had bought a day or two before at the brewery. Holy crap, what a difference. It was awesome. The gulf between a stale Pliny and a fresh one is huge. I don't know if I just got unlucky and picked a bad one in Philly or if a lot of the Philly stock winds up being a little older. But if you know anyone making a trip out West, see if they can pick you up a bottle right before coming back.

                            2. You've discovered... that pittsburgh's food media isn't too great. But there are quite a few good restaurants in pittsburgh. Monmauler mentioned several of my favorites. I also like some of our semi-divy Asian food. One of my personal favorites is Oishii Bento, right next to you in Oakland. Another is the Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland park. And there are a few other places I like but I can't comfortably name because I have friends working at them.

                              I grew up in Philly and still have family there, btw. I wouldn't argue that Pittsburgh's restaurants are better than those in Philly, but if you search out better recommendations, I think you'll find Pittsburgh holds its own in several categories.

                              ETA: and yeah, you do kinda come off like you're trolling. I dig the restaurant reviews you've posted, but look around in a few other threads and try out some of the places that are actually recommended here before claiming that Pittsburgh is all DD&D land.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                I'm actually dying to hear more Asian recs, because quite frankly I was starting to believe that State College PA had better Asian places. And I already know about Nicky' about good regional Chinese (and please don't say Sesame Inn), Korean BBQ, Japanese?
                                Oishii Bento looks great, thanks for that rec. Would love to hear others.

                                1. re: mb luvs SBH

                                  I work in pgh, but have lived a good ways south for several years now, so I don't get around as much as some of the other posters here. In other words, my recs are just places I like, and not others might be able to recommend better restaurants in the above categories.

                                  That said, for Korean BBQ and Korean in general, I do like the Golden Pig on Miller's Run rd in cecil. I don't get there as much as I'd like, but it's a good restaurant.

                                  For Japanese, I'm partial to Chaya in Squirrel Hill. Their nagiri menu is the best traditional sushi I've had in pittsburgh. And their non-sushi offerings are generally quite good as well.

                                  I really like Nicky's Thai Kitchen too, though I hate driving around the North Side, so I don't get out there much. There seem to be quite a few good (and affordable) Thai restaurants in pgh. Smiling Banana Leaf's menu isn't quite as good as Nicky's (though it's close IMO), but if you stop there for an early dinner before it gets crowded, it's just such a nice little cozy hole in the wall with great atmosphere, and really comforting well seasoned food to match.

                                  For Chinese... you'd be better off asking someone else for recs.

                                  There are a few decent Vietnamese places I've tried. Tram's in Bloomfield and Vietnam's Pho in the strip district are both enjoyable and respectable, though not quite mindblowing. Lucy's in the strip district makes killer bahn mi - Pittsburgh would have a much better reputation for food if hers was the go-to sandwich rather than Primanti Bros' offerings, IMO.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    I've heard nothing but praise for Golden Pig.

                                    Chaya is the best for traditional no frills sushi, but I've now been spoiled by the West Coast where plenty of places meet Chaya's quality. That said, the fact that it competes at all (and favorably) given the area is a testament to the quality.

                                    Umi is another one, I believe Chef Shu trained under Masa in NYC, His style reflects - more garnishes, etc, but the flavors and quality are top notch. You can expect to pay for it, but I think (without visiting) that it would compare favorably with Motorino.

                                  2. re: mb luvs SBH

                                    The New How Lee (sichuan)
                                    Rose Tea Cafe (cantonese)

                                    Out near the Temple there's a great indian joint, Udipi

                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                      Thanks, I'll check those out! Especially grateful for an Indian rec.

                                      1. re: mb luvs SBH

                                        You'll find another good one on Murray @ Phillips (the old Kazansky place).

                                        As I mentioned above, Pittsburgh is a holy city, complete with pilgrims.

                                        1. re: Chowrin

                                          I second Udipi, great food, total hole in the wall though but that never stopped me.