New this summer in Pittsburgh: octopus tacos, avocado toast, popcorn panna cotta, booze buckets, and grappa cocktails. Pittsburgh’s restaurant and bar scene continues to grow with these 10 new spots featuring experienced chefs, ingredient-focused menus, locally sourced products, and fresh spins on old favorites.
What you’re getting: Duchesse de Bourgogne
The rooftop patio atop Hotel Monaco has been packed all summer -- or, at least, every day that it wasn’t raining -- and for good reason. The bar offers sweeping skyline views, an impressive selection of European beers, and mouthwatering bar snacks. A draft of the tart red ale Duchesse de Bourgogne pairs well with the sauerbraten, a beef brisket dish with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.
What you’re getting: LaVanda
Grappa, the mainstay at Grapperia, is an Italian brandy made from the skin of grapes used in winemaking -- and it packs a punch. The Lawrenceville bar pays homage to the Italian favorite with a cozy atmosphere and a wide selection of grappa, along with amari (another Italian liqueur) and more familiar Italian beverages, such as limoncello and sambuca. Grappa cocktails are another option, like the LaVanda -- lavender-infused grappa, green pepper honey, and lemon juice.
What you’re getting: Fruit Roll Up
National bar chain Howl at the Moon descended into Pittsburgh over the summer, bringing the party to Downtown. The bar features dueling pianos, singers, and guitarists with their own renditions of songs like “Shake It Off” and “Ignition.” Start the party with the Fruit Roll Up -- peach and apple vodka plus melon liqueur served in a giant bucket (share with a group of friends).
What you’re getting: Yellowtail nigiri
Among the list of creations on the menu at Pan Asian Kitchen is one that joins yellowtail, wasabi, orange zest, Asian pear ginger slaw, and eel sauce. The Lawrenceville restaurant also specializes in innovative small plates and bowls, featuring noodles and dumplings. Pro tip: sushi rolls are $4 during happy hour.
What you’re getting: Filetto di maiale
Carnivores, prepare your taste buds for Italian restaurant Senti’s dinner menu, featuring filetto di maiale (pork tenderloin with house-made sausage), chicken caponata, and tagliatelle with porcetta. Plenty of classic pasta dishes are on the menu, too, from fettuccine to lasagna to spaghetti. The wine bar is equipped with a high-tech wine dispenser and a long wine list. Save room for dessert -- budino al café, aka coffee pudding with glazed donut holes.
What you’re getting: A PBR and a pizza
Spirit, a former Moose Lounge in Lawrenceville, is now part bar, part pizza place, part ballroom. The 10,000sqft space hosts events, such as pig roasts, roller derby, concerts, and Tune In Tuesdays (vintage MTV and classic game consoles). Beers from local brewers are on tap, along with $2.50 PBR pounders and $2.50 IC Lights. Order a pizza from Spirit’s in-house Slice Island.
What you’re getting: Tagliatelle
Station, located in Pittsburgh’s Little Italy, has a contemporary American public house vibe with a fresh take on Mediterranean tastes. Start with the crispy wings, then get the tagliatelle with smoked pork shank, and finally the popcorn panna cotta. Spend the rest of the evening lingering over cocktails at the carefully restored, ornate wooden bar.
What you’re getting: Rice bowl
Perhaps it’s an unconventional pick for a list of sit-down establishments, but a food truck deserves a mention when it’s this good. Chef Jamilka Borges, also of Bar Marco, is serving up Puerto Rican street food at Swing Truck, located next to Bar Marco in the Strip District. Try the rice bowl -- rice, beans, and plantain, with a choice of meat. Cocktails, beer, and bocce in the courtyard are also available.
What you’re getting: Tako tacos
A giant yellow marquee out front of this Downtown street-fusion restaurant promises “tacos, sandwiches, seviche, cold beer, tequila,” and really what more could you want? Focus on the tacos, served in pairs, which combine ingredients ranging from grilled pork shoulder to mushrooms to Wagyu short rib. Don’t be afraid to try the Tako tacos featuring octopus.
What you’re getting: Fried chicken
At The Vandal, the motto is “hang out or take out.” Definitely choose the "hang out" option because this brand-new Lawrenceville spot delivers gourmet food in a casual setting for a low-key brunch (think: yogurt and avocado toast), lunch (sandwiches and burgers), and dinner (fried chicken). The locally sourced fried chicken is a specialty large enough for two; order it with a rotating menu of seasonal sides.
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Rossilynne S. Culgan (@rossilynne) is a Pittsburgh native who is practicing her bocce skills for a visit to Swing Truck.
1. Biergarten620 William Penn Pl, Pittsburgh
2. Grapperia3801 Butler St Rear, Pittsburgh
3. Howl at the Moon125 7th St, Pittsburgh
4. Pan Asian3519 Butler St, Pittsburgh
5. Senti3473 Butler St, Pittsburgh
6. Spirit242 51st St, Pittsburgh
7. Station4744 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh
8. Swing Truck2216 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh
9. täkō214 6th St, Pittsburgh
10. The Vandal4306 Butler St, Pittsburgh
Biergarten at the Hotel Monaco features an exhaustive list of European beer, like bottled German favorites the Spaten Optimator doppelbock, the Weihenstephaner hefeweizen, and the Spaten marzen, and Belgian Trappist ales and sours. German-inspired bar bites range from house-made currywurst and sauerbraten to giant pretzels and a full array of pickles. And if you think the highlight of the evening will be trying to pronounce all of this German after a few drinks, try your hand at any of Biergarten’s pub games, like Jenga, garden chess, and super-sized Connect Four, and see how long you can last.
Grapperia in Lawrenceville is extremely true to its name, as it focuses on grappa. Grappa is an Italian brandy made from the skin of grapes used in winemaking -- and it packs a punch. This Italian bar centers around the liqueur and also offers other Italian beverages, including amari, limoncello, and grappa cocktails like the LaVanda -- lavender-infused grappa, green pepper honey, and lemon juice.
The national bar chain has found a home in Pittsburgh, featuring dueling pianos, singers, and guitarists with their own renditions of the latest Top 40 hits. Get the party going with one of their group cocktails like the Fruit Roll Up: peach and apple vodka plus melon liqueur served in a giant bucket.
As the name suggests, this spot has plenty of different Asian eats on offer, but the Yellowtail nigiri with wasabi, orange zest, Asian pear ginger slaw, and eel sauce, is the real stand-out winner. Pro tip: sushi rolls are $4 during happy hour.
This meat-focused Italian restaurant features items like filetto di maiale (pork tenderloin with house-made sausage), chicken caponata, and tagliatelle with porcetta. Plus, the bar is equipped with a high-tech wine dispenser and an extensive wine list. You can go for a whole glass or just dispense yourself a taste, taking advantage of a good swish and spit opportunity before settling on your favorites.
Crispy, thin-crust, square-cut pizza meets Pennsylvania booze -- it's a love story to end all others. That's what happens every night at Spirit, a spot on the upper West corner of Allegheny Arsenal that tricks everyday passerby with its outer abandoned warehouse look. Those in the know, however, regularly flock here for the simple Slice Island pies and glass after glass after glass of craft beer, wine, and cocktails alongside some live indie music in '70s-prom kind of dance hall or out on the back patio.
Station is a Pittsburgh native's culinary dream: half local dive, half gourmet gastropub. With jet-black walls, tin ceilings, and a heavy re-purposed wood bar, this Bloomfield watering hole is built to resemble a turn-of-the-century train station. Without sacrificing its neighborhood gin-joint vibe, the place is serving up a menu far more complex than wings and beer nuts. There are more than enough small plates, but rather than soft pretzels, Station offers corned beef tongue, poached pears with whole grain mustard, and chicken liver mousse over fermented vegetables. The menu offers plenty of full entrees (try the roasted venison leg with hazelnut gnocchi), deserts, and an impressive number of signature house cocktails featuring everything from rosemary and violet liquor to cardamom and rosewater.
Chef Jamilka Borges, also of next door Bar Marco, is serving up Puerto Rican street food at Swing Truck. Try the rice bowl, grab yourself a cocktail and head on over for some bocce ball in the courtyard.
Think you know tacos? You haven't tried the Asian-Mexican fusion versions coming out of täkō, serving up modern street food with a global bent. The namesake octopus (täkō is octopus in Japanese) is the must-order: coming grilled and folded into a tortilla adorned with harissa aioli, preserved lemon, greens, and pickled onion. The lineup ranges from unexpected to familiar, with a Korean-inspired taco (with Wagyu short rib, peanuts, and fermented cucumber) balanced by more safe Mexican choices like chorizo or carnitas. Whatever you do, try one of the eight margaritas, which can be spiked with lychee & pepper or sweetened with Thai coconut milk.
The Vandal is something of a millennial haven with hole-studded white walls, an unfinished, beam-lined ceiling, a hand-drawn chalkboard menu, and meals plated exclusively on classic cafeteria trays. The Pittsburgh favorite serves standard American fare, breakfast through dinner, with a contemporary personal twist -- roasted pork topped with apple and kale chips, crepes with cured trout and sour cream, a fried chicken sandwich with rutabaga slaw and chili-honey. The space's co-owners host and cook full-time, are notorious for recognizing regulars (of which there are many), and curate a soundtrack primarily built of whiney 90's throwbacks . Parlor Coffee is served all day, BYOB is encouraged, and the food is every bit as instagrammable as it is delicious.