Food & Drink

50 Things to Eat in Pittsburgh Before You Die

Published On 10/06/2015 Published On 10/06/2015
Meatball Panini | Courtesy of Emporio

Pittsburgh It’s time to update your bucket list: ditch skydiving and forget seeing the Seven Wonders. Instead, focus on the here and now by devouring these 50 foods in Pittsburgh. From the classics like Primanti Bros. to the obscure dinners at Jozsa Corner, this checklist contains the primary must-eat foods within our city limits (sorry suburbs).

Courtesy of Primanti Bros.

1. Primanti Bros. sandwich

Primanti Bros. (address and info)
Multiple locations
It’s the iconic Pittsburgh sandwich: two pieces of thick Italian bread that can barely contain the meat, cheese, tomatoes, coleslaw, and French fries stuffed inside, all served on a sheet of wax paper. Visit the original location in the Strip District, where a family started making these filling sandwiches to feed workers during the Great Depression. 
 

2. Smiley cookie

Eat’n Park (address and info)
Multiple locations
Pittsburgh kids grow up knowing that if they behave during dinner at Eat’n Park, they’ll be rewarded with a smiley cookie. These iced sugar cookies, which look a lot like emojis, are a sweet treat for grown-ups, too.

Rossilynne Culgan/Thrillist

3. Pierogi

S&D Polish Deli (address and info)
Strip District
For the uninitiated: pierogi are a type of dumpling, often called “Polish ravioli,” very popular in Pittsburgh. S&D Polish Deli’s pierogi are the real deal with a soft shell of dough encasing mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese, all topped with butter and onions.
 

4. Haluski

Bloomfield Bridge Tavern (address and info)
Bloomfield
Another nod to Pittsburgh’s Polish heritage, haluski is a Polish specialty combining cabbage and noodles. Order it at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, aka “The Polish Party House.”

Nancy Johnson/Courtesy of Prantl’s 

5. Burnt almond torte

Prantl’s Bakery (address and info)
Shadyside
This cake didn’t earn the title of “the greatest cake America has ever made” for nothing. Sugared almonds in an ultra-saccharine icing top layers of light, fluffy cake that you can buy in-store or ship anywhere in the nation.

Courtesy of Mad Mex

6. The Gobblerito

Mad Mex (address and info)
Multiple locations
It’s Thanksgiving rolled inside a burrito shell: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, and gravy with cranberry sauce on the side, served seasonally.

Adam Milliron/Courtesy of Cure

7. Salumi board

Cure (address and info)
Lawrenceville
Cure’s salumi board is a feast for carnivores: duck speck, Spanish chorizo, culatello, coppa secca, rabbit terrine, duck rillettes, and a whole lot more. Be adventurous, and don’t be intimidated by the board’s more unconventional meats.

Alberto Benzaquen/Courtesy of Gaucho

8. Steak burger

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina (address and info)
Strip District
This spot is so popular that you’ll likely have to wait in line, but it's so worth it for the wood-fired steak burger served on ciabatta. Order it with portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions.

Rossilynne Culgan/Thrillist

9. Red curry

Pusadee’s Garden (address and info)
Lawrenceville
The red curry combines bamboo, carrots, peas, and basil into a creamy mixture paired with steaming jasmine rice. The bamboo and fresh basil balance out the spicy sauce.

Rossilynne Culgan/Thrillist

10. Pizza with raw toppings

Beto’s (address and info)
Beechview
Pittsburgh’s most hotly debated pizza, the slices at Beto’s come with raw toppings. The dough and sauce are cooked, then toppings and handfuls of cold shredded cheese are tossed on top.

11. Pittsburgh-style salad

Giorgio’s Place (address and info)
North Side
Pittsburghers’ penchant for putting French fries in unlikely food pairings isn’t limited to Primanti’s sandwiches; we even add them to salads. Giorgio’s Place serves the classic Pittsburgh salad: romaine hearts, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, black olives, red peppers, croutons, peperoncini, homemade Italian dressing -- and the option to add fries.

Rossilynne Culgan/Thrillist

12. Gnocchi Sorrentina

Il Pizzaiolo (address and info)
Market Square Il
Pizzaiolo’s gnocchi Sorrentina is the best this side of the Atlantic. Doughy gnocchi is topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella di bufala imported from Naples, Italy.

Flickr/Sean Kelly

13. Nancy-B hot chocolate chip cookie sundae

Page Dairy Mart (address and info)
South Side
Soft-serve ice cream at Page Dairy Mart is always divine, but it becomes downright heavenly with the addition of a warm chocolate chip cookie (peanut butter in the cookie batter takes the treat above and beyond) from Nancy B’s Bakery, plus hot fudge.

Linda Hackett/Courtesy of La Courmandine

14. Croissant

La Gourmandine (address and info)
Lawrenceville
Buttery, airy, puffy, and just a bit crispy, these croissants are enough to make you think you’re in Paris, not Pittsburgh. The owners grew up in France, and the baker brings expertise from studying at Paris-famed Lenôtre culinary school.

15. Donuts

E2 (address and info)
Highland Park
During brunch on the weekends, warm donut holes are available by the half-dozen in flavors like lemon lavender, chocolate pistachio, and “berry white” (powdered sugar and berry topping). They’re so good nobody will judge you for licking the sugary remains from your fingertips.

16. Sunday supper

Piper’s Pub (address and info)
South Side
Every Sunday, Piper’s Pub, which specializes in cuisine of the British Isles, serves a traditional supper of roast beef, brandied pan gravy, whipped potatoes, Brussels with bacon, and Yorkshire pudding. Dinner starts at 3pm and lasts until it’s sold out. 

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Popcorn Co.

17. Chunky chocolate caramel popcorn

Pittsburgh Popcorn Co. (address and info)
Multiple locations
Even better than buttery popcorn at the movie theater, this caramel popcorn is covered in creamy milk chocolate. It’s available for purchase by the bag or in a one-gallon tin -- just go right for the gallon size, trust us.

Mineo’s Pizza House

18. Pittsburgh-style pizza

Aiello’s Pizza (address and info) and Mineo’s Pizza House (address and info)
Squirrel Hill
Given their location just steps away from one another, Pittsburghers have developed allegiances to either Aiello’s Pizza or Mineo’s Pizza House. All rivalries aside, they’re both must-visit spots that have been serving Pittsburgh-style pizza (a thin pizza with a crispy crust and plenty of cheese) for decades after their founders immigrated to Pittsburgh from Sicily.

19. Charleroi waffle

Waffallonia (address and info)
Squirrel Hill
Waffallonia’s Liège sugar waffle is a treat on its own and way better than the American style of “Belgian” waffles. Take it to the next level with toppings like Nutella, bananas, strawberry slices, and even ice cream.

20. Bacon on bacon night

Shiloh Grill (address and info)
Mt. Washington
At Shiloh Grill (and at its sister restaurant Harris Grill in Shadyside), the best night of the week is Tuesday: all-you-can-eat bacon night. Baskets of crispy, greasy bacon are $1 at tables and free at the bar.

Flickr/Wally Gobetz

21. Crepe hotcakes

Pamela’s Diner (address and info)
Multiple locations
These plate-size pancakes are simultaneously thin yet dense, sweet yet buttery, and fluffy yet crispy on the edges. So good President Obama once invited the chef to the White House to prepare the hotcakes for a Memorial Day breakfast.

22. Brisket taco

Smoke BBQ Taqueria (address and info)
Lawrenceville
Smoky Wagyu beef brisket, sautéed onions, hot peppers, and mustard sauce wrapped in a soft flour tortilla. The restaurant is BYOB (there’s a bottle shop next door), but you just might be tempted to drink the bowl of queso that you have to order as a side dish.

23. The Sam & Erna sandwich

Smoq Pitt (address and info)
Brookline
Half brisket, half pulled pork, all delicious. Meats are wood smoked on site for 20 hours, giving this hearty sandwich an authentic smoky flavor. Top it with coleslaw and your choice of BBQ sauces.

Butcher and the Rye

24. Pig candy

Butcher and the Rye (address and info)
Downtown
This small plate packs big flavor with pork belly, apple kimchi, miso caramel, and cilantro. Conveniently, it pairs well with bourbon, of which there are 350 varieties at Butcher and the Rye.

25. Meatball panini

Emporio (address and info)
Downtown
Your choice of meatballs -- the classic beef is a standout -- doused in a cheesy sauce or marinara and smashed inside a panini. What makes this panini so good? “Grandma’s secrets,” they say.

26. Popcorn panna cotta

Station (address and info)
Bloomfield
Station’s meals are so delectable, it’s hard to save room for dessert, but do it for the popcorn panna cotta. Served in a Mason jar, this sweet treat starts with a thick helping of creamy panna cotta, then a drizzle of salted caramel, and finally finishes with caramel popcorn on top.

27. Santucci sub

Peppi’s Old Tyme Sandwich Shop (address and info)
Multiple locations
Do not wear your skinny jeans here. The giant, messy Santucci is a hot Italian sub with extra meat, extra cheese, grilled peppers, onions, mushrooms, and hot peppers.

28. The Thin Man

Thin Man Sandwich Shop (address and info)
Strip District
This fancy sammie combines chicken liver mousse, bacon, and frisée, topped with some red wine vinaigrette on a baguette, all prepared by classically trained, fine-dining chefs.

Flickr/Manley Walker

29. Fries

The Original Hot Dog Shop (address and info)
Oakland
Paper bowls cannot contain these heaps of crispy fries, which always tumble from their container and onto the tray underneath. Located near the University of Pittsburgh, The Original Hot Dog Shop (or “The O”) has been a beloved Pittsburgh institution since it opened in the 1960s.

30. Isaly’s chipped chopped ham

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. (address and info)
Strip District
Go to the deli counter and order some Isaly’s chipped chopped ham. “Chipped” ham is Pittsburgh’s favorite deli meat characterized by its thinly sliced cut. For Yinzer bonus points, take that deli meat home and make a ham barbecue sandwich cooked with Heinz ketchup and Coca-Cola.

31. Tacos

Las Palmas (address and info)
Brookline
These takeout tacos, served street-side in front of a market, attract lines of fans dedicated to waiting their turn for these soft shells filled with tender meats, creamy guac, diced tomatoes, onions, and plenty of cilantro.

32. Southside Slopes sandwich

Fat Head’s Saloon (address and info)
South Side
Another entry in the ginormous sandwich category, the South Side Slopes sandwich is filed under the menu’s “Headwiches” category, aka sandwiches nearly the size of your head. Stuffed inside the bun are all the major Pittsburgh food groups: char-grilled kielbasa, onions, cheese, horseradish sauce -- and pierogi.

33. Ravioli

Groceria Italiana (address and info)
Bloomfield
Grab a box of homemade ravioli from the freezer at this store in Pittsburgh’s Little Italy, and prepare them at home exactly as directed. The pillows of dough must be baked; the dough is so delicate that the pasta will break apart if boiled. Just like grandma used to make.

Adam Milliron/Courtesy of Leona’s

34. Ice cream sandwich

Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches (address and info)
Multiple locations
These oversized, lactose-free ice cream sandwiches are summer in dessert form. Flavors change seasonally -- think berries in the summertime and cinnamon flavors in colder months. Find these confections at Leona’s mobile cart or in select grocers across the city.

35. Mac Attack

The Yard (address and info)
Shadyside
Sometimes you need mac and cheese... on your grilled cheese sandwich. The Yard delivers just that in this jumbo sandwich featuring cheddar sauce, spiral pasta, and some bacon tossed in for good measure.

Meat & Potatoes

36. Meat and potatoes for two

Meat & Potatoes (address and info)
Downtown
Bring a date -- and an appetite -- for this feast of a 34oz ribeye, confit steak fries, mushroom ragu, homemade steak sauce, and bone marrow gratin.

37. Pierogie pizza

The Church Brew Works (address and info)
Lawrenceville
On this pizza, substitute sauce for mashed garlic potatoes and onions, and switch out mozzarella for cheddar cheese. It’s essentially a big open-face pierogi atop pizza dough -- all the carbs, please.

Flickr/Brian Donovan

38. Ice ball

Gus and Yia Yia’s (address and info)
North Side
This venerable food cart has been serving ice balls “on the North Side since your Dad was a lad,” the business proudly proclaims. On a hot summer day, there’s no better way to cool down than slurping one of these icy, sweet shaved ice treats.

39. Fancy burger of the day

Butterjoint (address and info)
Oakland
This burger is hailed as one of Pittsburgh’s finest. With beef ground in-house daily and toppings like chicken liver mousse and kimchi, it’s well-earned praise.

40. Ribs

Showcase BBQ (address and info)
Homewood East
If you’re one of those brave people who can handle really hot foods -- or who thinks they can handle really hot foods -- the hot sauce at Showcase will put your taste buds to the test. Order it with a slab of smoky, well-seasoned ribs and keep a slice of bread handy to soak up the extra sauce.

Matthew Chiang/Courtesy of Union Pig & Chicken

41. Fried chicken

Union Pig & Chicken (address and info)
East Liberty
This fried chicken is in the Goldilocks zone -- not too crispy on the outside, not too soft on the inside, it’s just right. Add a bit of Carolina chili-vinegar sauce for an extra kick.

42. Fish sandwich

Nied’s Hotel (address and info)
Lawrenceville
This old-school neighborhood spot is known for its “famous” flaky fried fish sandwich, with fish even longer than the roll it’s served in.

Bread & Salt

43. Bread

Bread & Salt Bakery (address and info)
Bloomfield
Once you taste the freshly baked bread at Bread & Salt Bakery you’ll never again buy bagged bread from the grocery store. On weekends, fans line up out the bakery’s door for this dough that’s somehow equal parts dense and airy.

44. Seitan melt hoagie

Spak Brothers (address and info)
Garfield
Carnivores, put down the bacon, and give this seitan sandwich a try. Its base is shaved seitan served either Buffalo or BBQ style (both are excellent options), which is topped with lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, and provolone and served on a hoagie bun.

45. The Dirt Rag Delight

Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe (address and info)
South Side
Start with a ground turkey burger, then add American cheese, dill pickles, peanut butter, and bacon. This is not a prank. It’s the Dirt Rag Delight with unexpected flavors working together even better than ketchup and mustard.

Roland’s Seafood Grill

46. Hot lobster roll

Roland’s Seafood Grill (address and info)
Strip District
Roland’s calls this dish the “famous” lobster roll -- and for good reason. With lobster sautéed in garlic butter and toasted bread, this dish deserves the spotlight.

47. Bánh mì

Lucy’s
Strip District
Pork, cilantro, carrots, and jalapeños spill from this sandwich, which is only available seasonally at a cart in the parking lot of Bar Marco, so hurry up and get there before winter.

48. Enmoladas

Casa Reyna (address and info)
Strip District
Head downstairs below Reyna Foods Mexican Grocery to Casa Reyna restaurant for the enmoladas -- tortillas covered in mole sauce, stuffed with chicken, and topped with plenty of queso.

49. Hungarian night multi-course dinner

Jozsa Corner (address and info)
Hazelwood
Go for Hungarian night, every second Friday of the month for a multi-course dinner of traditional Hungarian specialties -- chef’s choice. Specialties include stuffed cabbage, lángos (flat bread), and palacsinta (crepes).

Michael Williams/MichaelWill Photographers

50. Cookies from a Pittsburgh wedding cookie table

Multiple locations
It’s not the traditional restaurant pick, but this is a Pittsburgh must-eat so important that even if you have to crash a wedding to get these cookies, it’s worth it. It’s a longtime Pittsburgh tradition for the couple’s family to provide dozens and dozens of homemade cookies (pizzelle, buckeyes, lady locks) for the wedding reception -- all that in addition to the standard wedding cake.

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Rossilynne S. Culgan (@rossilynne) is a Pittsburgh native. She doesn’t generally condone crashing weddings, but she’d make an exception for cookies.

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