Food & Drink

Pittsburgh's Restaurants That Are Absolutely Worth the Wait

The waiting is the hardest part, especially if you’re hungry, borderline hangry. Unfortunately, it can play a large part of going out to eat -- that is, if you're fixin' to dine at one of Pittsburgh's hottest restaurants. But how do you suss out which places with lines out the door are actually worth it? You read this list, of course. Here are many of the top places around Pittsburgh that won't leave you high and dry after all that waiting.

smoke bbq taqueria
Nicole Jarock Photography

Smoke Barbeque Taqueria


There's nothing quite like a strong margarita and a good taco. Or three. Of each. Lawrenceville’s Smoke is a cash-only, no-reservations BBQ joint that is worth waiting in the small space in the front of the shop. Everything on the menu has a kick to it, but even people who stay on the milder side will happily eat apricot habanero barbecue sauce -- runny nose and all -- because it's just that addictingly good. Although Smoke touts the finest Australian wagyu beef, Berkshire pork, and Gerber poultry, there are plenty of options for vegetarians, too. Black bean smoked onion dip, anyone?

Deluca’s Diner

Strip District

Have you ever eaten a plate of breakfast potatoes that was bigger than your head? We have, and we’ve waited in line for it, too. Count on Deluca’s Diner in the Strip District to have a line out the door during breakfast and brunch hours (it’s only open until 3pm), regardless of how the weather is outside. People line up under the awning of Strip establishments, huddled together away from the elements of a Pittsburgh winter (or spring, or fall, or summer, for that matter) for a breakfast feast. Whether you prefer a sweet or savory number, there’s a page on the menu just for you. A veggie omelet with four different cheeses? Sure! Peanut butter banana pancakes? Absolutely!

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina

Strip District

As you drive over the 16th St Bridge into the Strip District, you’ve likely seen a line wrapped around a building. It’s a line of hungry people waiting to take a seat in Gaucho. You'll have to wait on that to get to the counter where you'll order from the hand-drawn menu lacquered on the wall. Though the main attraction is steak, there’s a wide array of salads, sides, and sandwiches. So, even if you’re not chowing down on the Asado Platter (five cuts of steak totaling 25oz) there will be something there for you when you finally reach the counter.

Piccolo Forno
Adam Milliron/Courtesy of Piccolo Forno

Piccolo Forno


On the list of top places in the city to get Italian food, it’s worth hanging in there to catch a glimpse of Piccolo Forno’s Tuscan-style eats. Praised for wood-fired pizza, handmade pasta, gelato, and tiramisu, the restaurant utilizes seasonal ingredients in everything, so the menu is constantly changing. For mushroom lovers: the tagliatelle con sugo di funghi (pasta with mushroom sauce) will complete your life. Piccolo Forno is BYOB, however, those patrons in the mood for a drink that they don’t have to carry down Butler St in a paper bag can walk the 6ft down to a sister establishment Grapperia Bar Classico. It’s best to make a reservation or call ahead (if you have five or more), though you might get lucky if you walk in during off hours or just before the dinner rush.

Kelly’s Bar and Lounge

East Liberty

Though you probably won’t have to wait to physically get into Kelly’s, you’ll be sitting for a while for its signature dish: mac & cheese. The menu warns that it’s a 20-minute wait -- at least -- for the baked, liquid gold. Served in an individual baking dish, the mac (which comes in three sizes) arrives seeming more like a casserole than your standard bowl of mac & cheese. It’s piping hot, so those sensitive to heat will have to wait even longer, but it’s worth it. So worth it.

TJ Florentine



If you think that there won’t be a line at 8pm on a Monday night, you're sadly mistaken. Though the dining area at Tako will almost certainly be filled to the brim with those who made reservations, waiting your turn for a seat at the bar has its benefits. Chiefly, you’ll have a front-row seat to the bartenders charring orange peels to coat the rim of an Old Fashioned. Oh, and there’s build-your-own guacamole. Enough said.

Square Cafe
Christina Shields/Courtesy of Square Cafe

Square Café

Regent Square

Few things compare to a colorful summer Sunday morning standing on S Braddock Ave for a brunch date. Though the menu changes seasonally at the Square Cafe, there is a "square classics" section that houses the Tot Mess (basically loaded nachos, except sub tater tots for tortilla chips). The choices don’t stop there, with specialty lattes, milkshakes, and smoothies adorning the drinks section. We recommend the Purple Haze latte: hazelnut, lavender, and cayenne pepper. While you will almost certainly find yourself waiting outside of the Square Café, it might take you longer to actually pick what you want from the extensive menu.

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Brandy Hadden burned her tongue on Kelly’s mac & cheese. And it was totally worth it. What places will you wait in line for? Tell her @BrandyHadden!