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Recommendation needed Pittsburgh area for Cheap Eats but exceptional food.

Family of 4 looking for lunch or dinner restaurant recommendations With these parameters;
1. Quality food, any ethnicity
2. Beer or wine selection not needed
3. Value, $$ at most
4. Relatively safe neighborhood
5. Ambiance should be second to the food

Thanks in advance

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  1. Some that are good and not expensive.
    Il Pizzaiolo for pizza and pasta.
    Nicky's Thai Kitchen on the Northside.
    Smoke Barbeque Taquaeria for interested smoked tacos, in Homestead.BYOB
    Thin Man Sandwiches in the strip for sandwich.
    Point Brugge Cafe, but a little more expensive for dinner.
    Wingharts for a burger.
    Kaya is popular, not sure of the cost but I don't think it is to expensive.

    1. Penn Ave fish company is a great value if you stay away from the sushi (sushi is great but expensive).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rick

        +1 for Penn Ave Fish Company *for lunch only* @ $10 per item. You can get the most excellent big salads with your choice of salmon, tuna, swordfish, crab, etc., for $8.95-10.95. Two locations, downtown and Strip District.


      2. What's your definition of $$?

        I find Union Pig & Chicken affordable for what you get.

        If that price range is acceptable, that opens up a ton of options.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Panini Guy

          I think Union Pig & Chicken is about as good of BBQ as you can get north of the mason-dixon line, but it pales in comparison to what you will find at any road side shack in the carolina's, any where near Memphis or Texas, for sure.

          Still, it's solid BBQ at a decent price.

          1. re: Panini Guy

            Panni to me $$ converts to a plate costing either side of $10.00. Your recommendation of the Union Pig is spot on cost wise. Please elaborate on your other options, we have another 5 yrs. of visits to the area.

            1. re: jwheely

              A full rack of ribs at Union Pig & Chicken will cost you $20+. Most plates there will set you back $15 or so. Any sides are around $3-$5 a piece. Non-alcoholic beverages are generally $2-$3, but you get free refills for soda, I think.

              1. re: MonMauler

                Mex: Cinco
                Fusion: Tamari (some of the menu in this range)/Yo Rita!
                SE Asia: Smiling Banana Leaf/Pusadee's Garden/Nicky's Thai
                Korean: Korea Garden/Golden Pig/Dosanii
                Middle East: Kassab's/Amels
                Meat: Any of the 'artisan' burger places.

                And of course, Big Jim's in the Run.

                There are more, others can chime in.

                1. re: Panini Guy

                  Here's Big Jim's: http://www.bigjimsrestaurant.com/ I've lived here for years, and I had no idea what or where "the Run" is.

                  PG: I assume this is Cinco: http://www.5cinco5.com/

                  They both look great, btw. Thanks.

                  1. re: Jay F

                    Keep in mind that with Big Jim's, the ambience is the lack of ambience. I stick to the sandwiches. They can feed 3-4.
                    Some humorous reviews on portion sizes here: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/23/270156...

                  2. re: Panini Guy

                    I had lunch at Cinco today, and it was the best Mexican meal I have eaten in Pgh.

                    I had something called Minerva Tacos, which were three soft corn tortillas filled w/BBQ beef and cilantro, with a wonderful salsa. I wasn't really able to identify all the flavors. They were served with a standard rice and beans complement. Just delicious.

                    My friend ordered Carne Chalua, and didn't like it as much as I liked mine.

                    Here's the menu. http://www.5cinco5.com/files/63653616...

                    Thanks for the reco, PG.

              1. Thank you to all that posted suggestions. I've saved all the suggestions to evernote for future reference.

                We ended up eating here;
                Fri. night Hoffbrauhaus, not my idea but it was fun the schnitzel was ok until they drown in it some sort of cheese sauce. It was a group dinner, people were having fun.
                Sat. a late lunch at Northside Smoke Taqueria. LOVED IT
                Sat. night mainly because it was close to our hotel and quick we visited Wingharts, I agree with the Shipwreck raves.
                Sun. Waffallonia, nuff said, except we'll be back.

                I'd also like to acknowledge we enjoyed; Phipps Conservatory and the National Aviary.

                One last challenge; Breakfast restaurant suggestions same parameters as lunch and dinner but a MAX. of $7/plate.

                Again, thank you for the comments.

                6 Replies
                1. re: jwheely

                  Oi, I guess I'm late to the party.
                  For breakfast, it's gotta be Pamelas.
                  (Obama liked the pancakes so much he got the chef to make 'em at the White House -- Midwestern style pancakes).

                  The price is well within budget, I promise..

                  1. re: jwheely

                    Unfortunately the best breakfast in Pittsburgh isn't open on weekends: Bluebird Kitchen.

                    1. re: jwheely

                      For bfast, I agree with the Pamela's recommendation. I really like their pancakes and lyonnaise potatoes. They also give you a carafe of coffe, which I think is quaint. I'm also a fan of DeLuca's, also in the strip. It's a traditional, old-school diner. Both places are in the strip (Pamela's has other locations), and you will wait if you get to either place after 9am on the weekend.

                      This opinion is not generally shared on these boards, but I love Primanti's for any meal. It's particularly good for breakfast. The double egg, and bacon egg and cheese are particular bfast favorites, but I could have a cap or a pastrami (egg optional) anytime.

                      There are a lot of small bfast joints that are serviceable and cheap around here.

                      Bluebird is good, but it's a takeout joint. I guess they have the counter seats along the wall and window. The food is good enough, I guess, but it isn't anything spectacular. If you want to take the food back to your hotel or something, I guess it's ok. I've taken plenty of bfasts and sandwiches back to my office, and it's been good. I'm not sure I've seen a sandwich under $7 there, though. They are not open on the weekend. And they don't have table service. This last point is a deal breaker for me if I am looking for a casual breakfast out. Bluebird has far better food, but it is the equivalent of going to McDonald's and getting some coffee and an Egg McMuffin, only the seating is much more limited.

                      Otherwise, if German food interests you, please do not go to the Hofbrauhaus. Max's, in the northside is a much better, and probably cheaper, option. Penn Brewery would probably be between the two.

                      1. re: MonMauler

                        Pamela's might have the worst coffee in all of Pittsburgh. A carafe of the stuff is actually punishment.

                        The "love" for Pamela's and DeLuca's around here actually points out to a huge opportunity for someone to create a better breakfast joint. It seems Tom Colicchio's 'wichcraft chain is coming to town soon (not sure where, but they're hiring), so that should be an improvement in this category.

                        1. re: Panini Guy

                          I don't drink coffee anymore (got bronchitis bad one year, permanently lost my taste for it), but the tea at both Pamela's and DeLuca's is weak, wan stuff, iced or hot. I just drink water. Paying for their tea is "fool and his money" stupid.

                          Pamela's disappoints me because their pancakes are so good, but they adamantly, aggressively refuse to offer real maple syrup (I've asked many times), even as a cost-added option. And I can make eggs at home, so I hardly ever go there. It's the epitome of the old-Pittsburgh way of doing business: we make enough money doing it the way we've done it forever and ever, so why should we change?

                          1. re: Panini Guy

                            Waffles Inc. is, IMO, a better breakfast joint. Now that they have another location in the South Side I don't have to couch it by saying it's way out in New Brighton. :-)

                            Still not sure it'll meet your coffee standards of course but should be better than some. ;-)

                      2. Tons of quality spots around town are very, very, reasonably priced (even generously) but $10 a plate isn't likely, and by most definition that would be a $, or -$ (as in the restaurant is losing money)

                        A lot of people ask for quality, but aren't willing to support it.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Rodzilla

                          Gyros up in Squirrel Hill are $5 apiece, with free can of pop.
                          Trams has pho for under ten apiece.
                          The New How Lee has decent chinese for under $10 (the good stuff is just over)
                          Coriander Indian Grill has decent stuff for just over, and Udipi is under, if you're prepared to eat light.
                          Pizza's in this bracket, as are subshops and sammich shops as well.

                          1. re: Chowrin

                            Tessaro's will fit in at under $10, and that's a place people travel to see!

                            The Original Hot Dog Shop is worth a visit, particularly if you're trying to save money on the lunch for a bigger dinner.

                            I feel like my advice to OP would be: find some ~5buck stuff you like, and spend at least $15 for one decent meal as well. You'll get a better feel for city dining if you're willing...

                        2. Agree with Rodzilla on what appears to be a lack of willingness to support quality "spots" in Pittsburgh. As quality is quite subjective: I have failed in my times in Pittsburgh to identify "tons" of quality "spots". While it is understandable that one may want to, or need to stay with a certain budget: a couple bucks more for an excellent meal should always be considered worth it or even prudent. More good restaurants will thrive as the locals continue to change their attitude regarding price and do expect and support quality. Often it is the visitor/tourist dollar which can buoy the better restaurants. Certainly not in this case. High praise to all Pburgh hounds who have kindly provided some choices for the" Cheap Eats but exceptional food" OP: Hurry back we need your support!!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Bacchus101

                            Major progress has happened in the past 10-12 years, but Pittsburgh has a long, long way to go before prevailing attitudes about food change.

                            There has been progress in higher end farm-to-table and even in lower-cost fusion plates (Tamari, etc.) and one can find pretty good Japanese, and finally Korean.

                            When I was in Stamford, CT in the 80s and early 90s, we didn't go out for "Chinese". We chose whether we wanted to go to a Hunan, Scezhuan or Cantonese. With maybe one or two exceptions, Pittsburghers still can't even choose that.

                            There is almost unanimous resistance to the concept that there exists Mexican food that doesn't come in a tortilla and isn't smothered by cheese and sour cream and served with refried beans. And other than a Peruvian chicken joint and a churrascaria, nothing from the rest of Latin America.

                            If more/better ethnic places came online other than noodle shops, there would be more good/exceptional choices in the $10-$15 range.

                          2. I ate at Union Pig and Chicken a couple of nights ago, and I can just recommend the hell out of it. I got a brisket sandwich, which, instead of being shredded, was 1/2" thick slabs of beef on a roll. It came with Pommery mustard, raw onions, and a white sauce that was dribbled on. There was a squeeze bottle of what tasted like a vinegary hot sauce. It was a thin sauce--not what Americans think of as BBQ sauce.

                            It was amazingly tasty, hot but not too hot. I ordered Mac and Cheese as a side, and unfortunately, the flavor of the brisket was so prominent, the cheese flavor was diminished in comparison. Next time, I'll get another side, maybe cole slaw. And there *will* be a next time. This was good grub.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Jay F

                              I second the recommendation. That brisket is lovely.

                              I do think comments on what most Americans might consider barbecue sauce misses the heated and diverse opinions of barbecue in the U.S.

                              Meanwhile, I've noticed noone has mentioned Noodlehead. Am I the only person here who likes it? Because that food was tasty.

                              1. re: Lizard

                                I guess I should have said "the kind of BBQ sauce that most Americans buy in bottles at the grocery store to brush on chicken before they grill it outdoors."

                                But somehow, I thought what I wrote would be understood.

                                Oh, where's Noodlehead?