First Time Visitor - Specific Questions
I am trying to get some decently priced tickets for an anniversary gift to hubby. if I succeed, we'll make a three day weekend out of it. Is there anything chow worthy other than Primanti's (which does not look appetizing to us) at Heinz or should we consider bringing in pork sandwiches and just buying liquor?
Also, what's the foodie tailgaiting scene like?
Any recs for restaurants (not Italian pastas)? We like small plates, mediterranean, spanish, french, Italian, molecular gastronomy. We like great food, don't mind spending $ but like some atmosphere, not white glove. We have enjoyed chef's menus, tasting menus in Boston, NY, Chicago and eaten quite well in Cleveland too (don't be jealous). I have been searching the net, and I know there is good food there, why is it so hard to find info? We like wood fired neopolitan pizzas too, seafood (like grilled octopus, oyster bars, etc)
We also like visiting markets - with the outdoor one be open in Oct and Nov?
What are some foodie souvenirs I can bring back and treats for coworkers?
Last, any recs for happy hours OR links to info where that can be found?
Good questions. And no, we're not jealous of Cleveland - we're pretty much keeping pace with them these days. And you're correct in skipping over Primanti's in favor of better options. Some locations are good for watching a game, but when everything tastes like cole slaw and fries, not much to recommend.
I'm not a Steelers fan, so can't help with the tailgating. All I know is it used to like Beirut when 3Rivers was still there but it's cleaned up quite a bit. Finding something to buy and bring on a Sunday morning could be a challenge. I'll leave that to the more experience tailgaters.
The oldest farmer's market is Farmers@Firehouse, which is in a parking lot on Penn between 22nd and 23rd. It'll be open 9am-1pm until the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so you're good there. Right next door is Bar Marco, which does farm-to-table food ($$$) and prohibition cocktails. They do a Saturday brunch so they'll be open. On other side of the lot is Penn Fish Company, great fish tacos & American sushi bar. Very fresh. Plus other shopping in the Strip (Penn Mac's cheese counter should be a must, also good salumi to take out at Parma Sausage). So that takes care of Saturday morning.
I suppose you could even buy a couple of Lucy's Banh Mi sandwiches or get something at S&D Polish Deli and eat them the next day for tailgating? Lucy is an institution, although she might be in Florida by Oct/Nov.
Remember that for beer, beer stores (distributors) in PA only sell by the case. You'll need to find a bottle shop to get a six-pack (bars will also sell sixes, but selections are usually poor). Wine selection is also poor except in PLCB Superstores (only a couple in Pgh).
Seafood: Dish on South Side for Sicilian seafood specialties. Will need reservations in advance. Pgh not a great seafood town. Other suggestion is Point Brugge (Point Breeze) which has fantastic moules/frites and good Belgian beer selection.
Molecular/Tasting Menus: Notion in E. Liberty is the only place that really features molecular these days. Dave usually has a tasting menu, but call in advance. Cure in Lawrenceville will also do tastings. I don't think Salt does them anymore but could be wrong. Not sure about Root/Legume, but given your post, I think you'd find Notion interesting if you can accept that some things are more experimental than actually delicious (cylindrical sous vide chicken comes to mind).
Excellent food/not white linen: In addition to Notion/Cure, Salt of the Earth, Root 174, Spoon, Legume, Wild Rosemary are all excellent farm-to-table, KousKous (Moroccan), Umi (Japanese)... a few others but those should carry you through a weekend.
Excellent food/downscale: Casa Rasta (Beechview), Reyna's taco stand (corner 21st/Penn), Wingharts (Market Sq.), Station St. Hot Dogs (run by Pgh's best chef), Nicky's Thai Kitchen (North Side) are good choices, but there are tons of others.
REALLY DOWNSCALE: The Original Hot Dog Shoppe (The Dirty O). It's an experience that words cannot do justice. But a brick of greasy fries can be beautiful.
Neopolitan Pizza: Il Pizzaiolo in Mt Lebanon or Market Square would be the consensus choice. Some also favor Stone right outside Market Square. Both are very good, but I'm actually loving Cucina Bella in Bridgeville these days. They don't have a wood-fired oven, but you wouldn't know it. A less traditional pizza is Dinette is E Liberty. Sonja has been nominated for James Beard awards. Toppings include eggs, fingerlings and other local offerings in additional to some traditional toppings.
As far as foodie gifts... salumi from Parma Sausage, a bottle of white rye from Wigle, Motts Family Farm (at Firehouse market) usually has jams/pasta sauces by October. There's also a guy who sells PA maple syrup there. If you can freeze stuff, there's always pierogies.
Hope this takes care of some of your questions. Have a fun trip and let us know what you did.
Thanks Bacchus, its nice to be quoted :-)
We are still exploring the food scene in Pittsburgh. Great advice from Panini Guy. The strip is your place for food, foodie and food gift shopping. Its quieter on Sundays but you could probably find good take out there for tailgating, too. I've been wanting to try Thin Man sandwiches on Smallman. Or get a huge breakfast at Pamela's or DeLucas and skip lunch!
Our liquor situation in PA is screwed up for sure. You may be able to get take out beers at Sharp Edge on Penn. Their selection is amazing. If you are serious about whiskey you may not like Wigle but its a cool local product. Love the label. Their ginever is fun to try.
Another place we've tried twice and liked is Union Pig and Chicken ( same owner as Salt of the Earth and Station St.). The bar upstairs has a cool view of the church next a door. The BBQ pork and cocktails were very good.
Also there is a Nicky'sThai downtown now, as well on the North Side.
I can't help with happy hours...at our age, we just drink when we're dry...
Regarding other sites for info...Pittsburgh City Paper seems to be a reliable source. Also google Pittsburgh best restaurants to get to P Magazines 2013l list.
We have been relying on Chowhound for years for food recs everywhere we travel. For the most part, its the best place for people serious about food.