The best restaurants to try in the Pittsburgh Metro
Pittsburgh may not be the best restaurant city in America, however, the up and coming food scene continues to draw much press. While you will not find the world-class dining options of NYC, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago, there is something here to please all. From iconic Primanti Brothers sandwiches stacked high with coleslaw and fries, to authentic Greek and Polish food, to classic diners, you will have plenty of interesting food choices to eat your way through in the ‘Burgh. Below are a few great local businesses to check out.
Location: Sewickley & Mt. Lebanon
What to try: Shashuka
This upscale bakery plus coffeeshop is the best place to pick up pastries and fresh bread. It’s also one of the best lunch destinations in the city. However, this delicious farm fresh food comes at a cost. Although delicious, the food is quite pricey. Expect crowds all day long on weekends, especially after 9am. Fortunately, the popularity is well deserved. The coffee/espresso is excellent, the scratch made pastries are amazing (try the chocolate croissant or a seasonal danish), and the use of fresh farm ingredients a big plus in a city with limited health options. Try the fantastic Shashuka, a traditional Middle Eastern dish consisting of poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce.
What to try: Veggie Lo Mein
The last remaining restaurant in Pittsburgh’s historic Chinatown neighborhood is one to put on the bucket list. The Yee family has been serving Yinzers for the past 3 generations. The menu now includes Szechuan and Hunan dishes, along with the original Cantonese fare. Everything is delicious and the lunch special is a terrific value which includes an entree, soup, and fried rice for under $15. Their egg drop soup, fried rice, and lo mein are by far the best in the metro area. Best of all, the spacious interior is gorgeous, dimly lit and classy – perfect for a date or special occasion! Bonus points for the gorgeous aquariums!
Location: Mt. Lebanon
What to try: Cheese pizza
The best NY style pizza in the Pittsburgh metro can be found at a little gem in downtown Mt. Lebanon. Although this is more of a pick up place (limited seating available), the delicious pizza warrants a visit. The crust is thin, the sauce is flavorful, and the cheese appears to be high quality. They offer many toppings and also pizza by the slice. Sicilian and various specialty pies available, although the plain cheese is fantastic in and of itself, not to mention much cheaper! The garlic knots are also tasty. Salads are huge and topped with plenty of veggies. Pricing is reasonable. Definitely give this gem a shot if you find yourself in the Mt. Lebanon neighborhood.
Mike and Tony’s Gyros
What to try: Baked Spinach Pie & Greek salad
This family-owned favorite has been going strong since 1973. Today you can find 5 locations spread throughout the metro. The menu includes an assortment of Greek and American staples including spinach pie, gyros, sandwiches, wraps, and salads. You will definitely want to plan a visit during Happy Hours where you can enjoy various drink and appetizer specials – it’s one of the better deals around. Highlights include a spinach feta dip, a heaping plate of nachos, and loaded fries, all priced half off. Not part of the special, although the stuffed grape leaves, hummus dip with veggies & pita flatbread, and pierogies are all worthy of a splurge.
Location: Strip District
What to try: Pasta of the day
This casual Italian restaurant is located in the historic Strip District, an old industrial area once home to many factories, that is now being transformed into a dining and shopping hotspot. Here you will find all your favorite Italian classics including pizza, pasta plates, a large selection of hoagies and wraps, and appetizers. Sitting out on the patio on a mild summer day is a fun way to people watch in a now popular touristy section of the city. If you are seeking comfort style Italian food, offered at an affordable price point, Bella Notte is one of your best bets. The pasta of the day is delicious and the sauce so flavorful.
Location: Wexford & Cranberry Township
What to try: Veggie panini and tomato basil soup
If you are craving a soup or sandwich, there is no better local choice in the Pittsburgh metro than Zuppa’s Deli. This simple counter service restaurant serves a sizeable selection of high quality soups, sandwiches, salads, and deli sides (mac and cheese, deviled eggs). The combo, which consists of a half sandwich and cup of soup or salad, is a great value at just 15 bucks. From a Harvest vegetable salad, to a Baked Chicken Panini, to a Tuna melt sandwich, there is a bit of something for everyone here. The best part of Zuppa’s is the fantastic soup menu which includes tomato basil, shrimp and corn chowder, Lobster Bisque, Italian wedding, as well as seasonal specials (try the Butternut Squash).
Christo’s Mediterranean Grille
Location: Downtown (Cultural District)
What to try: Spankopita
This old-school Greek joint is one of the few gems still going strong downtown. Three generations of Greek families have been providing authentic Greek fare to Pittsburgh locals and tourists in the Cultural District for over 25 years. The setting is really beautiful here, really it’s one of the nicest dining rooms in the entire city – the perfect romantic ambiance for a date. Dinners come with soup or salad, rice, vegetables, and bread, so it is a great value in a pricey downtown district. Must trys include the Spanakopita and the Chicken Kebab and baklava for dessert! On an interesting side note, the owner was once the chef to Jackie Onassis on the Aristole Onassis fleet.
What to try: Turkey Rachel
The most iconic restaurant in Pittsburgh is Primanti Brothers. Established in 1933, it is also one of the city’s oldest restaurants. It all began during the Great Depression when Joe Primanti opened a sandwich cart in the Strip District. Today, there are many Primanti locations across Pennsylvania. The now famous sandwiches include your choice of meat, tomatoes, homemade coleslaw, french fries, and provolone cheese on Italian bread. Lots of great appetizers and game day specials. Not the best choice for vegetarians (limited options), although a fantastic place to enjoy comfort food and watch a Steelers game!
What to try: Funghi pizza
This family-owned Italian eatery serves authentic pizza, insalata, panini, and gelato in the Shadyside neighborhood. A number of specialty wood-fired pizzas are available including Funghi, Margherita, Four Cheese, and Marinara. The pizzas are delicious and not over priced like many other establishments in the region. The salads are so fresh and the gelato is a nice post lunch treat. Options change throughout the year and include tempting flavors such as: strawberry cheesecake, tiramisu, death by chocolate, cookie dough, and caramel coffee crunch. The ambiance is pleasing, although quite crowded and noisy on the weekends. Great location nearby many national and local shops.
What to try: Grilled Vegetable Plate
This local gem in a quiet section of Shadyside is the best place to enjoy Mediterranean fare in the city. The setting is beautiful, the food is delicious, service is great, and the outdoor patio is a nice bonus during the milder seasons. So many great appetizers, as well as healthy vegetarian, chicken, and seafood based entrees. A good place to start is with the Veggie appetizer platter which includes: falafel, spinach borek, cigarette borek, zucchini and homemade rice. Definitely try the falafel, hummus plate, stuffed grape leaves, rice pudding for dessert, and the rich Turkish coffee.
What to try: Paneer Tikka Masala
Pittsburgh is not a hotspot for quality Indian cuisine. In fact, most restaurants I have tried have been mediocre at best. Spice Affair, while far from the best Indian food around, is likely your best bet in the Pittsburgh metro. The great location in the charming Aspinwall neighborhood, colorful setting, and diversity of dishes make it the best choice in town. Unfortunately, they no longer offer a lunch buffet. While the food is not top notch, it’s an option to satisfy a craving for tasty Indian food which is near impossible to duplicate at home. From vegetarian classics like Saag Paneer and Aloo Gobi, to Chicken and Lamb based specialities, there is something here for everyone. Do start with fresh garlic Naan bread and a few appetizers (you cannot go wrong with pakoras and samosas!).
The Porch at Schenley
Location: Schenley Park
What to try: Quiche of the day
For the best al fresco dining in the city, definitely plan for a spring/summer/fall brunch or lunch date at The Porch at Schenley. They offer the most beautiful patio dining in the city. The leafy views of the park can’t be topped. Fresh veggies come straight from their garden and all entrees are made from scratch. Thus, The Porch is one of the better options for health conscious diners. For brunch, enjoy a delicious slice of quiche or a filling breakfast burrito. For lunch, treat yourself to a specialty pizza (try the Spinach Artichoke) or a healthy salad (try the Autumn Harvest).
What to try: Perfect Balance bowl with Veggie croquettes and tikka masala
Although Choolaah is a chain, it deserves a spot on this list. This fast casual Indian restaurant is one of your best choices for fresh, delicious, affordable Indian cuisine. The concept is similar to Chipotle – you build your own bowl with your choice of toppings. Pick your rice (white or brown basmati), protein (paneer cheese, tofu, chicken, lamb), top with a sauce (tikka masala, chickpea masala, and add on extras like roasted veggies and Naan bread. Choolaah first opened in Cleveland in 2014 and has since expanded to include many locations through Ohio and Pennsylvania. The vibe is trendy and modern, food is served quick, and everything is delicious. Note – a bit pricey and portions are quite small.
Iron Born Pizza
Location: Strip District & Millvale
What to try: Veggie Supreme Pie
For Detroit style pizza, look no further than Iron Born Pizza. It’s one of the the few and definitely the best place to enjoy authentic Detroit style pies. Detroit Style pizza is cut into squares and served with the sauce on the top. The crust is thick, chewy, and crusty on the sides with the cheese overflowing. A variety of specialty pies are available, from to Buffalo Chicken Pie, to a White Pie, to a Pineapple Pie. The app selection is great – treat yourself to garlic knots, a half pound of fries, or house chips served with carmelized onion dip. The ambiance is a bit blah, although you are located just steps from many shops, vendors, and the Three Rivers Heritage bike trail.
What to try: Buddhist Delight
Sesame Inn is another authentic Chinese restaurant to add to your must-try list. With multiple locations, it’s easily accessible no matter where you go. The Mt. Lebanon location is convenient to many great coffeeshops and local businesses. The interior is clean and inviting, the staff friendly, and the food tasty. The menu is diverse and includes Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghai, Peking and Cantonese specialties, plus a full sushi bar and Thai specials. The lunch special is a great deal, priced at just $10-13 and includes soup, an egg roll, and fried rice.
Location: Mt. Lebanon
What to try: Spicy Veg grilled cheese w/ tomato basil soup
This upscale casual cafe is located on Beverly Rd, a small dining/shopping hub in Mt. Lebanon. If you are seeking tasty comfort fare and don’t mind sacrificing atmosphere, Cafe IO should please. While the setting is a bit noisy and cramped with little in the way of decor, the food is delicious and affordably priced. Most notably, this cafe is known for their grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade soups. With both veggie and meat loaded sandwiches (ham, bacon, and pulled pork), both vegetarians and carnivores will be pleased. Soup varities includes tomato basil, chili, french onion, and chicken and sausage. After your meal, treat yourself to a coffee and pastry at Mediterra, the best bakery and coffee shop in the city.
What to try: Build your own salad
For the freshest, most filling, and most diverse salad in the metro, definitely plan for a stop at Hello Bistro. Anyone craving a big hefty salad will be pleased with the variety of toppings available. If you have ever been to Jason’s Deli or Sweet Tomatoes think even bigger and better. For one low price, you can add an endless assortment of fresh veggies, proteins, crunchy toppings, seeds, and cheeses. Over 10 dressings available. Build your own burgers and grilled cheese also available, plus french fries and soup. The ambiance leaves a lot to be desired, although the food is fresh, moderately priced, and as healthy as it gets.
Locations: Moon Township & Wexford
What to try: Potato & Cheese
Pittsburgh is known for pierogies and there are a number of places where you can indulge in the Eastern Europe specialty. Forgotten Pierogi is a low key counter service establishment which offers over 12 varieties of pierogi including potato & sauerkraut, cottage cheese, spinach & feta, amongst others. These can be ordered ready to eat or frozen, in either a dozen or half dozen. The pierogies are the best in the area. Locals consider Forgotten to serve the best homemade pierogies in the area. No indoor seating at Moon, limited at Wexford.
Location: Strip District
What to try: Blueberry ricotta pancakes
Although Pamela’s and Deluca’s receive most of the tourist business in The Strip, Cafe Raymond serves the tastiest breakfast dishes. Unfortunately, no table service is available (you order at the counter), although the food and coffee are delicious, the menu diverse (even a few vegan options), and the pancakes the best in the Burgh. Everything is made in house and most ingredients come from local farms. Definitely treat yourself to the Blueberry Ricotta pancakes served with real maple syrup.
Tips for a great dining experience in Pittsburgh
Set out early for any breakfast establishment. These tend to get crowded after 9am or so, especially on weekends.
Make reservations for popular restaurants, if possible.
Head out to breakfast on Sunday to enjoy free parking. Parking in Pittsburgh is quite pricey per hour, although on Sundays you can park anywhere for free! This is a great deal. Also parking is free after 6pm every day of the week, so this is the best time to plan for dinner.