Casual, comfortable Apteka focuses on central and eastern European foods, such as the beloved Pittsburgh pierogi. But you won't find their pillowy dumplings stuffed with any kind of sausage or braised meat -- this Bloomfield spot calls itself a "vegetable restaurant," meaning that everything is vegan. Plans for Apteka grew from Pierogi Night, a popular monthly pop-up, eventually spawning a brick-and-mortar restaurant known for its seasonal creations, using the best summer vegetables (and fermented specialties) available.
This bright, airy Upper Lawrenceville café and restaurant has become a go-to for the city’s vegan and vegetarian crowd, though carnivores won’t be missing a thing. Falafel is notoriously hard to perfect, and the café’s house-made version is a standout. Dishes like Moussaka with saffron rice and flame-broiled Seitan kabobs round out the dinner options and lend an air of gravitas to an otherwise casual space.
This 1800s-era firehouse-turned-restaurant made national headlines when it declared that it would not accept gratuities, instead paying its staff a living wage salary. Bar Marco’s space is a sensory treat: The downstairs whitewashed wine room looks like it was pulled from the pages of a design magazine, and the upstairs dining room is adorned with artwork and a minimalist marble bar. Seafood dishes -- like the braised octopus with chickpea, potato, and chorizo vin -- steal the show. At the bar, sommelier Dominic Fiore holds court, amplifying each meal with hand-picked wine selections.
Central Business District
Even if you’re not a whiskey drinker, it’s impossible not to feel awed by Butcher and the Rye’s hulking eight-shelf bar with 600 different types of whiskey taking up all the space. That dedication to maintaining a museum-quality bar is emblematic of the restaurant’s careful attention to detail in its menu as well. Meats are the obvious fan favorite here, but the mac n' cheese deserves its own shout out -- the blend of taleggio, fontina, goat cheese, cheddar, and Parmesan is the city’s best.
It may still be early days for The Café Carnegie, but we’re expecting big things. The recently-opened café in the Carnegie Museum of Art hasn’t been around for a full season yet, and is already making its mark on Pittsburgh’s lunch crowd. That’s in no small part due to the leadership of Executive Consulting Chef Sonja Finn of Dinette, who brings her own unique spin to homegrown comfort food, like vegetable pot pie and a griddled ‘egg in the hole’ sandwich.
You’ll find spice, and lots of it, at this Squirrel Hill restaurant known for its traditional Sichuan cuisine. Turn directly to the ‘Traditional Chinese’ portion of the menu to see Chef Wei Zhu’s specialties, from shredded duck with baby ginger to pork blood tofu. Grab a crew to bring with you, because ordering too much from this family-style menu is inevitable.
Central Business District
This American gastropub inside Hotel Monaco delivers fresh takes on tavern classics in a cozy, subterranean location. The burger, a steak blend topped with smoked cheddar, red onion jam, and bacon on buckwheat brioche, is a lunch-hour staple. With city maps on the wall and an industrial vibe, the Commoner’s design pays homage to its blue collar hometown.
Cure was doing the whole "cool artisanal butchery" thing before it was ever a thing at all. This Lawrenceville favorite (and older sibling to Morcilla) is a carnivore’s dream. At Cure, the salumi board, a spread of all kinds of meats in various house-cured (get it?) preparations, is an absolute must.
Part café, part deli, and part restaurant, DiAnoia’s Eatery has a little something for everyone. Standouts include the deep sandwich selection, complete with house-made bread that’s been stuffed with Italian specialties like veal scallopini and sausage also made in-house. And don’t miss DiAnoia’s family-recipe three-meat meatballs, served piping hot and swimming in marinara.
You smell Gaucho before you see it. Its mouthwatering, smokey aroma wafts through the Strip District, luring you inside. Gaucho’s secret is its wood-fire grilling process, which turns Pennsylvania wood into red hot coals that give steaks inimitable char and a mouthful of smokiness. To fully experience its signature taste, bring your closest carnivores, and order the asado platter, which delivers five cuts of meat (flank, filet, sirloin, NY strip, and ribeye) garnished with chimichurri. Don’t be scared if you walk up and see a line snaking out the door -- it’s well worth the wait.
After recently celebrating 10 years in the business, Legume still sets the standard for fine dining in Pittsburgh. Led by chef/owner Trevett Hooper, the Oakland restaurant offers a seasonal menu with an emphasis on local meats and produce in a cozy, comfortable setting. Looking for one of the best burgers in the city? Head to the Butterjoint, the bar tucked inside Legume, and order up.
The second restaurant by acclaimed chef Justin Severino, this Spanish spot has quickly become one of Pittsburgh’s best and most exciting restaurants. Severino is a whole hog butcher, so naturally, meat takes center stage on Morcilla’s menu full of pintxos (the Basque version of tapas). Wines are offered in a 2oz pour, giving diners the chance to sample a different type of wine perfectly paired with each course, but there's also an entire drinks page dedicated to unmissable iterations of the Spanish gin-tonic.
The Downtown pork-centric joint from Richard DeShantz and Keith Fuller hasn’t even been open for a full year, but is already making a name for itself as one of the best spots for smoked meats in town. The brisket and ribs are the stars of the menu, but the sides -- like super-creamy Mac & Cheese and a daily selection of Deviled Eggs -- take the experience over the top. The whiskey program is strong, the bar boasts more than 30 beers on tap, and, like all of DeShantz’s restaurants, the cocktails are insanely good.
As a "restaurant incubator," Smallman Galley offers kitchen space to four local chefs, each with their own distinct concepts and menus, and a fresh crop of restaurant concepts just moved into the cafeteria-style venue. Banhmilicious (serving Vietnamese fusion), Iron Born (Detroit-style pizza), Colonia (a Latin-America concept) and Brunoise, an approachable take on fine dining are now Smallman’s restaurants of record, and will be for the next year. The venue also houses a full bar with plenty of local spirits, and a coffee bar using PA-based Commonplace's coffee beans, La Prima espresso, and Gyrphon's Tea.
Smoke isn't your typical BBQ restaurant, but it's sure to be one of your favorites. This Taqueria serves super smoky barbeque-like meats inside their tacos, complete with veggies and sauces galore. Plus, the sides put a twist on your normal BBQ combos, offering pinto beans instead of baked beans. The menu has “Vegetabletarian” taco options for you or your non-meat friends.
Ever since Jamilka Borges took over the kitchen at Spoon, good things have been happening at the East Liberty restaurant. Borges, a James Beard Award Rising Star semifinalist, has a flair for creating dishes that are as engaging to gawk at as they are to enjoy, and she’s slowly putting her mark on the menu with hearty dishes, such as a winter salad with spicy mixed greens and gnocchi with lamb shank, dotted with pomegranate.
It may be tempting to skip right to dessert (yes, the popcorn panna cotta with caramel corn and salted caramel is THAT good), but start with dinner first. The tagliatelle, served with smoked pork shank, soffritto, an egg, and Parmesan, is a bowlful of comfort food. On your way to the dining room, peek at the restored antique wood bar, covered with ornate carvings and woodwork, and order yourself a drink from the cocktail menu, which features libations infused with spice-cabinet finds, like ginger, cardamom and rosemary. New this season, Station is serving lunch, with a menu of delectable small plates alongside a hearty selection of sandwiches (including the soon-to-be-famous burger).
The Vandal is proof that gourmet dining doesn’t have to be necessarily fancy. This order-at-the-counter joint serves up beautifully plated meals on lunchroom trays to a crowd that knows that the long line is well worth the wait. Among its specialties is the fried chicken sandwich served at lunchtime, often selling out. Dinner is slightly more refined, with the ever-popular Vandal cheeseburger sharing menu space with shiitake and house-made ricotta ravioli, and chicken with spätzle, served with celery root crumble.
Umami is an izakaya (aka Japanese pub) serving Japanese street food dedicated to the fifth taste. Located above Round Corner Cantina, Umami has become a fixture for late-night eats, meaning you can get your margarita fix downstairs and your sushi and rotobaya fix upstairs until 2am.
Housed inside a YMCA-turned-Ace Hotel, Whitfield is far more than a hotel restaurant. This bright tavern is a best known for its locally sourced beef and in-house butchery, but brunch is also a standout here. Whitfield is one of the few brunch spots in Pittsburgh that actually takes reservations, which is particularly helpful when you just cannot wait for a blueberry buttermilk pancake with sweet lemon creme fraiche.
When Casellula @ Alphabet City opened earlier this year, cheese-lovers all over town rejoiced. The North Side cheese bar not only offers unique cheese plates paired with expertly selected accompaniments (like brown-sugar fudge), but also a full menu of snacks, sharable platters, and entrees, too. Casellula @ Alphabet City is the second location for the New York-based cheese and wine bar, and also boasts a stellar beer and wine selection, along with a staff that knows exactly what to recommend to make your visit extra special.
This dramatically lit place serves up eclectic island eats such as conch fritters and jerk chicken. Try the Kaya burger which comes with sliced pickles, avocado, bacon, tomato, Chihuahua cheese, a sunny-side egg, and Kaya sauce. Sip a tropical drink like a Mai Tai or mojito while you dig in.
Tiny neighborhood cafés usually don’t find themselves on best restaurant lists, but Pear and the Pickle earns its place by serving one of the best breakfast sandwiches in town, available all day long. The simple bodega staple, made with bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll, is our favorite, but the café also offers a menu of two-handed sandwiches, homemade soups, and a rotating list of daily specials that have made the Troy Hill spot a must-visit.
Scratch Food & Beverage, the hyper-local comfort food restaurant in Troy Hill, has been a neighborhood standout since it first opened its doors in 2015. And now, with new executive chef Brandon Blumenfeld in the kitchen, the gastropub is poised to become even more ingrained in Pittsburgh’s dining scene. The small, ever-changing menu features accessible dishes like Cacio e Pepe gnocchi, along with more elevated offerings like the Spring Curry, featuring seasonal treats like local asparagus, peas, and zucchini.
Acclaimed Pittsburgh chef Derek Stevens (who spent years running the show at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen) opened Union Standard a few months ago, and we've yet to be disappointed. The beautiful, modern space, located in the historic Union Trust Building downtown, is the perfect location for a drink and dinner while people-watching, and the contemporary American menu features dishes from the wood-fired rotisserie and grill, and a raw bar as well.
Though it may be one of the toughest restaurants in Pittsburgh to get a reservation at, it’s well worth the wait: Richard DeShantz’s Täkō is Pittsburgh’s go-to for elevated tacos with a global bent. The regular menu includes traditional favorites like carnitas tacos (served simply with fresh guacamole, salsa verde, and chicharrones), along with Täkō's famous Korean tacos, made with wagyu short rib, peanuts, fermented cucumber, and Napa cabbage, and topped with cilantro. And whatever you do, don’t forget to grab a cocktail -- with one of the best bar programs in the entire city, it would be a sin to not imbibe.
From the minute you walk into Chad and Lauren Townsend’s Shadyside scoop shop, you know you’re in for a treat. The bright colors (pink striped walls and an Instagram-worthy ice cream mural) will make you feel like a kid again, though the ice cream flavors are decidedly adult. Sourced with local, seasonal ingredients like rhubarb, coconut, and lime, Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream is producing some of the best sweet bites in the city.