Fireball Whiskey Apple Pies: A Dessert Fit for a Frat Party
Elegant, beautifully designed French bistro with classic dishes and a great wine list
Prolific Pittsburgh restaurateur Richard DeShantz has another hit on his hands. The latest offering from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group (which includes Butcher & The Rye, Pork & Beans, Meat & Potatoes, and Täkō) opened to much acclaim earlier this year, offering classic French dishes like French onion soup (the simple dish is elevated to new heights thanks to braised oxtail, cognac, and Emmental), pot-au-feu, and steak frites. The restaurant’s perfectly prepared chocolate souffle comes with an assortment of accoutrements and is a must for ending your meal on a high note.
Mobile pizza oven turned brick-and-mortar location serving up naturally leavened pies
Before opening their brick-and-mortar restaurant in Lawrenceville earlier this year, Driftwood Oven was a mobile pizzeria, rolling around Pittsburgh since 2015, serving up fresh, wood-fired pies topped with ingredients that are sourced from local farms and change with the season. They’re doing the same thing now, just in a more permanent location. All the pizza from Driftwood starts the same way: with, well, a starter. The bread and pizza doughs produced from Neil Blazin and Justin Vetter’s mobile pizza unite are all hand-mixed with organic flours and a sourdough culture, which makes the dough rich and flavorful.
Tiny takeout taco joint serving a small menu of Mexican favorites
Baby Loves Tacos first existed as a roaming pop-up, taking over the kitchens in restaurants around the city for one-night-only affairs. But now, the taco restaurant has its very own location in Bloomfield, serving fresh tacos to the masses for lunch and dinner almost every day. Owner Zack Shell doesn’t exactly play by all of the standard rules of restaurant ownership, expanding, and contracting opening hours based on a number of factors (most notably, limitations on the quantity that they can produce every day). But if the stars align and you find yourself at the counter, you’re in for a treat. Shell’s tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, and salads are filling and delicious, and are a welcome addition to Pittsburgh’s taco scene.
An upscale, stylish restaurant at the Fairmont Pittsburgh with a killer bar program
There are certain places in Pittsburgh that you go when you want to really impress someone -- and fl.2 has joined those ranks. The restaurant, located on the second floor of the Fairmont Pittsburgh, replaced Habitat late last year with a new concept, new menu, and completely redesigned space. The lovely, circular bar is the focal point of the restaurant, and provides an elegant backdrop for your evening, while the menu features updated American dishes with an emphasis on local sourcing. The bar’s cocktail program is divine, with inventive new takes on classics, and non-alcoholic mocktail options that deserve a mention.
Food hall with four distinct, chef-run restaurants, a well-stocked bar, and outdoor space
As the new sister restaurant of Smallman Galley, the uber-popular restaurant incubator in the Strip District, Federal Galley had a lot to live up to -- and it does, mightily. The four restaurant concepts in Federal Galley include Provision PGH, El Lugar, Michigan & Trumbull, and Supper, all bringing various styles of cuisine, from elevated New American fare to Detroit-style pizza, to one location. Pay special note to the bar program, which includes a deep bench of Pittsburgh brews and spirits, along with a creative cocktail list that changes seasonally.
Tiny counter spot serving breakfast and lunch with produce grown from their own farm
Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette is a lunch counter that has some very unique sourcing: its very own small organic farm, located just outside of the city. Owner Becca Hegarty offers a small menu each day at the Bloomfield spot, with a selection of baked goods (whole-wheat donuts, pizzelles), soups (bean soup and chicken soup are regulars), and sandwiches, served on house-baked bread, including their popular Veggie Sammie. Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette is a simple, old-school concept that’s executed perfectly.
Fancy French restaurant with a downstairs brasserie
The Twisted Frenchman has been a top contender in Pittsburgh since it opened in 2015, offering one of the area’s only tasting menus (which is available in three, eight, 14, or 21 courses). After moving to a new location last year, chef/owner Andrew Garbarino introduced a new upscale French bistro concept connected to the restaurant called Bar Frenchman, which serves perfectly-executed French classics like Escargot with mushroom ragout, ratatouille, and mussels & frites. The Twisted Frenchman also offers an extensive wine list, with selections available in all price points.
Community-driven, hyper-local restaurant in Braddock with a focus on seasonality
One of Pittsburgh’s most-anticipated restaurant openings of 2017 has lived up to the hype. As one of the highest-grossing restaurant Kickstarter campaigns ever, Kevin Sousa’s Superior Motors, a community-focused restaurant, located outside the city in Braddock, has garnered a lot of attention, both locally and nationally. The seasonal, locally sourced menu, made with produce primarily coming from nearby Braddock Farms changes regularly, and the dessert menu is a particular standout, with complex pairings and elevated flavor profiles.
An elegant seafood and chophouse known for customer attention
Downtown’s Distrikt Hotel Pittsburgh is now home to or, The Whale, an ambitious (if awkwardly named) restaurant led by chef Dennis Marron. The stylish space has an upstairs bar and seating area overlooking the main dining room below, which features a butcher room, a wine room that doubles as a dining room, and an open kitchen, with a wood-burning hearth and a pastry room. On the menu, you’ll find an eclectic take on seafood and chophouse standards, with dry-aged steaks sharing space with linguine and cockles, and a "Duck, Duck, Goose" burger, made with ground duck and topped with seared foie gras.
Pizzeria known for thin-crust pies and inexpensive wine
Dinette has been open since 2008, but the concept -- wood-fired pizzas topped with local, sustainable ingredients -- is as fresh as ever. At the East Liberty mainstay, crispy, wafer-thin dough is the foundation for light sauce and fresh ingredients on their famous pies, and the menu is rounded out with perfect starters to share with the table, from grilled shishito peppers to house-marinated olives. Dinette’s “all the same price” wine (available by the glass or by the bottle) adds to the restaurant’s easy charm and takes the pressure off the price-shy when ordering.
A small-plates restaurant with unusual flavor pairings and craft cocktails
One of the hidden gems of Pittsburgh’s dining scene, Spork is known for its extensive small-plates menu, which places a special emphasis on house-made pastas (the gnocchi is a standout) and charcuterie. While the kitchen crew regularly knocks elevated offerings like smoked brisket ravioli (featuring brisket smoked in their own BBQ smoker) out of the park, they also excel in the seemingly simplest dishes on the menu, such as a sourdough baguette that absolutely shouldn’t be missed.
An Eastern European-inspired vegan restaurant with café-style ordering
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.
Intimate wine bar housed in a historic Strip District firehouse
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 whitewashed wine room downstairs 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. Pasta dishes (like their rich, creamy fettuccine) steal the show in the dining room, while sommelier Dominic Fiore holds court at the bar, amplifying each meal with hand-picked wine selections.
Central Business District
Destination restaurant for whiskey connoisseurs, with a meat-heavy menu
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.
Sichuan spot known for both traditional and American-style Chinese dishes
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.
Popular restaurant serving local Mediterranean food from star chef Justin Severino
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 mashup of all kinds of meats in various house-cured preparations -- is an absolute must. Save room for dessert, where local flavors (Paw Paw Cream Pie, anyone?) rule the day.
All-day Italian café, bakery, and restaurant hybrid serving homemade everything
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.
Bustling spot serving wood-grilled meats and South American specialities
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.
Neighborhood bistro with a truly hyper-local menu and an ambitious bar program
After celebrating 10 years in business, Legume still sets the standard for fine dining in Pittsburgh. Led by chef/owner Trevett Hooper, the Oakland restaurant (recently named a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurant) offers a seasonal menu with an emphasis on local meats and produce in a cozy, comfortable setting. House kimchi, fermented cabbage, preserved lemons, and pickled cherries are just a few of the surprises that you’ll find dotting the menu all year long, thanks to Legume’s deep in-house fermentation and pickling program. And if you’re looking for one of the best burgers in the city? Head to the Butterjoint, the bar tucked inside Legume, and order up.
Spanish restaurant with a full menu of pintxos, extensive charcuterie selection, and a fun bar
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.
Pittsburgh’s original restaurant incubator with four concepts and a local-based bar
As the original "restaurant incubator," in the Galley Group lineup of restaurants (Federal Galley opened across town earlier this year) Smallman Galley offers kitchen space to four local chefs, each with their own distinct concepts and menus. Banhmilicious (serving Vietnamese fusion) and Iron Born (Detroit-style pizza) will remain on the lineup for the foreseeable future, but Colonia (a Latin-America concept) and Brunoise (an approachable take on fine dining) will be leaving in the coming months. Filling their spots will be Joey’s, an European café concept from The Vandal owner Joey Hilty, and Home, which will serve classic comfort dishes from chef Phill Milton. 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.
Modern American eatery with an inventive menu and talented kitchen staff
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 the 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. Station also serves lunch, with a menu of delectable small plates alongside a hearty selection of sandwiches (including a limited number of burgers each day).
A café serving seasonal dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
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 the long line is well worth the wait; specialties like the fried chicken sandwich served at lunchtime often end up selling out. Dinner is slightly more refined, with the ever-popular Vandal cheeseburger sharing menu space with Arctic char served with Chioggia beet yogurt and lamb shank with buckwheat polenta.
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.
Lively spot known for using sustainable, local ingredients
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 can't wait for a blueberry buttermilk pancake with sweet lemon creme fraiche. The bar program is also outstanding, with classic cocktails mingling on the menu with more inventive offerings.
Spacious, friendly café featuring seriously good coffee and breakfast sandwiches
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.
Comfortable spot for New American cuisine, with a bar serving local favorites
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. The elevated gastropub has a small, ever-changing menu that features accessible dishes like Cacio e Pepe gnocchi, along with more ambitious fare, like a Wild Scottish Trout served with chickpea stew.
Buzzy spot offering modern Northeast American cuisine in a bright, modern setting
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.
Fun and festive taqueria serving elevated Mexican dishes and margaritas
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.