In Pittsburgh, our seasons are defined by the sports we’re watching. And right now, we’re deep into Penguins season. That means that you’re probably spending at least a little bit of time in the PPG Paints Arena. And while the Uptown arena is located in a part of town that doesn’t exactly scream “best food in the city,” there are still a few choice places within walking distance to grab a bite to eat before a game, or one of the arena’s other events.
1315 Fifth Avenue
Z-Best is the best. The super-tiny barbecue spot has some of the city’s greatest smoked chicken and fall-off-the-bone ribs, and the Southern-style sides, like mac & cheese, collard greens, and fresh cornbread are an added bonus. Located just down the street from the arena, Z-Best does most of its business through takeout, but has tables available for pre-game dinners, too.
910 Fifth Avenue
Though the Souper Bowl is best known for its bar, don’t overlook it as a go-to spot for fueling up on your way to the arena. It's got a large menu of traditional bar food (think burgers, hoagies, and wraps), but we’re really in love with the crisp wings, which are available in a number of signature sauces, from hot Thai chili to a house mix of BBQ and Buffalo sauces.
458 Strawberry Way
Tucked inside the Hotel Monaco, you’ll find a cozy, upscale tavern, perfect for an elegant dinner or drinks before the game. The menu has plenty of elevated gastropub picks, from a New York strip steak with duck fat fries, to hearty lamb stew served in a cast iron pan. Don't sleep on the bar's deep selection of house cocktails or any number of regional brews.
942 Penn Avenue
Downtown’s Sienna Mercato is a bit of a hike from the arena (plan on at least a 15-minute walk), but that shouldn’t dissuade you from stopping by before or after a PPG Paints Arena event. You’ll find three floors of mouthwatering Italian food here, from Emporio: A Meatball Joint on the first floor, Mezzo, with pasta, pizza, and charcuterie on the second floor, and Il Tetto, the excellent and picturesque third-floor rooftop bar.
1014 Fifth Avenue
There’s plenty of Southern influence going on at this game day restaurant, located just across the street from the arena, like fried green tomatoes and a ‘Po Boy menu with oysters, shrimp, and catfish. Buford’s Kitchen also has a build-your-own burger menu with everything you need to make a one-of-a-kind creation, and milkshake options that will give your sweet tooth a thrill. We especially love the Peaches ‘n Cream shake, studded with pecans and topped with peach compote and cobbler crumbs.
1304 Fifth Avenue
This no-frills pizza shop is the perfect place to grab a slice or a pie before any PPG Paints Arena event. It’s on the way, it’s incredibly cheap, and the hoagies (classic Italian is our favorite) are two-handed affairs that will leave you full well into the third period. Added bonus? You’ll find a full bar, so you can grab a beer or two before the game.
1001 Fifth Avenue
If you’re already in the arena and find yourself a little hungry, head up to the upper level for Burgatory’s PPG Paints Arena outpost. You’ll find a selection of gourmet burgers, sandwiches, fries, and shakes. The menu is slightly smaller than the regular restaurant options, but it includes that insanely good chicken sandwich with fresh guacamole, and a ‘psychedelic’ Portobello mushroom burger with smoked gouda and roasted red peppers.
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1. Z Best Barbeque1315 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh
2. Souper Bowl910 5th Ave, Pittsburgh
3. The Commoner458 Strawberry Way, Pittsburgh
4. Sienna Mercato942 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh
5. Buford's Kitchen1014 5th Ave, Pittsburgh
6. Pizza Milano1304 5th Ave, Pittsburgh
7. Burgatory299 W Bridge St, Homestead
Possibly the only thing more necessary to saucy barbecue than a wad of absorbent napkins is a selection of choice sides, which is why the combo plates at Z Best Barbecue cover all needs. Slow-cooked prime rib and fried chicken are the top-selling meats (obviously), but they'd hardly be worth a mention without your pick of two sides, be they potato salad and mac & cheese or coleslaw and green beans. There's all the hot sauce you could need, whether or not your hockey team of preference was hot on the ice at the nearby PGG Paints Arena.
Yes, Uptown's The Souper Bowl has a punny name, but contrary to what it might suggest, this is a hockey bar. Penguins fans waddle into the divey pub right off Duquesne University for soup du jour specials (get the bread bowl), nachos and messy burgers and sandwiches. Across the street from the Penguins' home PPG Paints Arena, the place fills up pre- and post-game, and with patrons cheering the games on TV, you'll feel right in the center of the action. Step outside, and you can hear the actual announcers commentate from the stadium.
Located within Downtown's Hotel Monaco, The Commoner gives an attention to American fare and cocktails that is less common than the name suggests. Comfort dishes are given an elegant treatment, as low dishes like mac & cheese get gussied up by higher brow ingredients like braised pork belly, fusilli, buttered breadcrumbs, smoked peas and brie cream. Even the humble cocktail names betray their more refined appeal: The Farmer's Son is garnished with flowers, and made up of a blend of gin, Pimm's, lemon sorbet, pickle brine and an IPA float -- hardly something a typical peasant farmhand would be sipping.
Situated on separate floors, Sienna Mercato is three restaurants under one roof, each operating at a different speed but all offering some of the best Italian fare in Pittsburgh. At street-level, Emporio has an impressive spread of meatballs and sauces, plus a full bar. Up one flight is Mezzo, where generous plates of charcuterie, pizzas, pastas, and wine abound. Finally, the third floor is houses Il Tetto (Italian for "the roof"), a chic rooftop bar with 36 drafts, cocktails, wine, light fare, and a retractable glass roof that allows it to stay open year-round.
Hockey night meals are served up at Buford's Kitchen, a Southern-style eatery close to the PPG Paints Arena. Rustic wooden furniture, leftovers from when the place was Blue Line Grill, make a homey setting for down-home gluttony in fried catfish 'po boys, Creole cream cheese dip, gumbo, and jambalaya. Peaches 'N' Cream milkshakes make you feel like a Southern Belle while also inspiring you to loosen your belt. Consider building your own burger, too, which star beef patties much bigger than any ice puck you're watching on the TVs.
The pies coming out of Pizza Milano in the Hill District aren't like the panzerotti pizza pockets coming out of Italy's actual Milan, but they hit an undeniably cheesy note oh-so-familiar to the American sports fan. This saucy stop en route to the PPG Paints Arena sates your cravings for a slice when you're late to a hockey game, or provides a casual dining room to eat slowly. Non-pizza items range from a side of meatballs to buffalo chicken hoagies. Best part? The atmosphere is a several steps up from the typical corner pizza slinger, and boasts a full bar so you drink away whatever blues the cheese and marinara doesn't resolve.
You don't want to spend an eternity in Purgatory, but Pittsburgh's Burgatory is not such a bad place to pass a few millennia. The only problem is that there's no waiting here: the hip burger chain boasts create-your-own burger combos that you can order via an app before you even arrive. This waterfront location proves that not all fast-food is found along the highway, and that not all fast-food has soda as the only option. A craft beer and cocktail program puts Burgatory ahead of it's more corporate rivals.