The Best Restaurants In Pittsburgh
photo credit: Adam Milliron
If all you know about Pittsburgh’s food scene is that we put fries and coleslaw on our sandwiches, we’ve got a lot to show you. The city has blue-collar roots and a large Eastern European population, so you’ll find lots of pierogi (the vegan ones are especially good), Italian sausages, and enough delis to warrant another roundup of sandwich spots alone.
In recent years, there’s been a wave of restaurants serving cuisines from all over Asia that we’re particularly excited about—we’re talking about Chinese hand-pulled noodles in Squirrel Hill, a.k.a. the neighborhood where Mister Rogers raised his kids, a Thai fall-off-the-bone lamb shank in Upper Lawrenceville, and South Indian bhindi masala you can find on a short drive from downtown.
This guide will take you through all the best of Pittsburgh and more, whether you’re looking for a special occasion meal with a panorama view of the city or a smoked brisket lunch 10 minutes from the PA Turnpike.
Dish is escapism at its finest, or at least a welcome disassociation from gloomy Pittsburgh in the winter. This osteria and bar has some of the best parts of southern Italy under one roof: plates of wild shrimp coated in Calabrian chilis, heaping portions of gnocchi in duck ragu, and a long list of especially good Sicilian wine. In addition to all that, it’s a date night or special occasion go-to where you can linger with a lambrusco spritz at one of the red mahogany tables that are lit by sultry candlelight. Always make a reservation, because the best seats here are hard to come by.
Some day, we’d love to write a guide to restaurants named after sausages. When we do, Morcilla is going to be at the top of the list. This Lawrenceville spot is a must if you enjoy housemade charcuterie, wine and sherry from Valencia, and a vibe that’s similar to Spanish tavernas—wooden boards cover the walls and haunches of jamón serrano dangle above the bar. Go heavy on small plates like tender oxtail montaditos with a creamy mahón cheese, some charred octopus with habanada pepper zhug, and a foie gras and chicken liver mousse that’s nicely balanced with some sour cherries and a pistachio crunch. The family-style menu is perfect for a relaxed meal where you can share everything with a group—even though once the plates start dropping, you’ll want to hoard it all for yourself.
Pittsburgh has changed a lot over the past couple of years, but one thing that’ll always stay the same is how much this town loves meat. The best place to see this devotion in action is at Gaucho Parrilla, an Argentinian steakhouse. The restaurant moved to the Cultural District a few years ago, and lines have been out the door ever since. They do perfectly cooked wood-fired proteins served with a crunchy char and equally impressive sides and sauces, like roasted acorn squash with garlic-sage croutons and bright chimichurri. The flap steak has become our go-to, but if it’s your first time here, go big and order their signature Parrillada Mixta platter to sample as many meats as possible.
So yes, Pittsburgh is a total meat town, but one of the recent and refreshing restaurant trends is how many more excellent vegan places have opened. The best of them by far is Apteka, a great sit-down spot in Bloomfield that serves plant-based spins on Central and Eastern European dishes. Start with a bowl of comforting celeriac soup with layers of crispy buckwheat, some tender stuffed cabbage with mushrooms and preserved tomato, and always get one (or more) orders of potato pierogi that are served with a light czarna salsa. They also have a full menu of homemade fruit and herb cordials and tinctures, and there’s no better way to wrap up a meal here than with a shot of their dark tart cherry liqueur.
Gi-Jin in downtown Pittsburgh is all about the trifecta of sashimi, handrolls, and gin. They’ve somehow figured out how to make fatty toro even more delicious by serving it with citrusy yuzu salt, scallion, and wasabi. The handrolls are excellent and just unexpected enough (see: either the beef tartare with pickled shiitakes or hamachi with pomegranate jam). And the gin list, which is categorized by style, will teach you about the difference between juniper-forward London pours and modern bottles that mix spice and citrus. The restaurant itself is pretty small, with just a handful of tables below the giant dragon mural and a long bar, making it better for a sexy date than a big group dinner with your intro to pottery class.
Chengdu Gourmet is our preferred group meeting spot, where we abandon our meal prep plans and go all out for family-style Sichuan dishes. They do great pan-fried dumplings and scallion pancakes, but the dishes from China’s Chengdu region are the ones to prioritize. Go for the minced pork-loaded dan dan noodles and crispy cucumbers with a garlicky dressing that you’ll go crazy trying to replicate at home. Also good are the fragrant Xinjiang-style cumin beef with onions and red peppers and a side of Chinese eggplant in garlic sauce. They’re BYOB, so before dinner, head to the nearby Cuvée Bottle Shop for a nice Pinot Noir to complement the cumin and garlic flavors, or grab a four-pack of crisp pilsner from Independent Brewing Co. to cool the heat.
There's nothing like a Sunday brunch at 40 North in Alphabet City to help delay the Sunday scaries a bit longer. But this isn’t just your regular stop for eggs benedict and mimosas—it’s one of the more unique brunches you can have in Pittsburgh, since the dining room is in the middle of a bookstore called City of Asylum. That means you can eat things like spätzle with poached eggs as you listen to readings by authors you might recognize from BookTok, or have a brunch date of huevos rancheros with braised lamb before browsing the shelves for some new fiction to take home. They also do great cocktails like a scotch espresso martini topped with orange and warm spices, plus non-alcoholic drinks—go with the tart Mauve with pink peppercorns and bay syrup.
Whenever we’re in a meeting and hear somebody say, "everyone can have a piece of the pie," we think about Lorelei. That’s because it's one of the best group dinner spots in the city, where you’ll need a crew to take down their menu of wood-fired pizzas. Enjoy thin, crispy, 14-inch Neapolitan-style pies like cacio e pepe, spicy pepperoni with homemade hot honey and pickled jalapeños, and weekly specials like Pennsylvania mushrooms and squash. The space is a giant beer hall where glasses overflow with kölsch, Italian pilsners, and a Franconian-style pale smoke lager, and the long, communal tables serve as runways for the various wine and amaro flights. Walk in, take over a table, and spend the night swapping slices instead of memes with your coworkers for once.
Don’t come to Con Alma hoping to debrief about your latest work or love life drama—they usually have genre-bending live jazz playing, and you’re gonna want to listen. While the music is the main attraction, the food isn’t an afterthought. Try dishes like za’atar-dusted sourdough wheat focaccia, smoky Peruvian red pepper-covered and mushroom-loaded lo mein, and kimchi fried rice with pork belly burnt ends. Check their website if you want to see the full music calendar, but it’s also fun to show up without context and see if tonight is going to be a jam session led by a legendary sax player or a vocalist belting out a lovely rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon.”
You know those rare spots that are good for date night, a solo dinner, a weeknight Happy Hour, and everything in between? For the people of Pittsburgh, that’s The Vandal, a small wine bar in Lawrenceville. The space has a simple bistro aesthetic, and they do a constantly rotating menu featuring peak Pennsylvania ingredients. There’s a cheese plate curated by Chantal’s in Bloomfield, pork chops with grilled escarole, thomcord grapes, and mustard vinaigrette, and seared duck breast served with beets, walnuts, and preserved plum. Pair it all with something from their natural wine list, a Le Concorde cocktail made with gin and concord grapes, or a non-alcoholic Stappi spritz doing its best Negroni impersonation.
When we’re talking about why we love Pusadee’s Garden, a Thai restaurant in Upper Lawrenceville, it comes down to two words: lamb shank. When your waiter brings this massive cut of meat to your table, it’s a full-on spectacle, leaving behind a trail of spiced coconut aromatics and turned heads. Pusadee’s Garden is perfect for pulling that fancy outfit from your closet for a birthday or reconnecting with your college friend group, especially if it’s nice out and you can sit on their patio that’s a literal garden. Just know the fall-off-the-bone slab of lamb covered in rich massaman curry almost always sells out well before the restaurant closes, so make a reservation on the earlier side.
When you come to Pittsburgh for the first time, someone will inevitably tell you to go to the overlook on Mt. Washington for an amazing view of the city. But this panorama is always better over dinner, especially when it’s at Altius. The restaurant itself sits slightly out from the cliff, giving you the illusion that you’re floating above the city’s three rivers. Besides the view, you come here for upscale dishes like creamy crab toast, chicken with perfectly crispy skin, and the rich chocolate medley dessert, all of which have bigger portions than you’d find at other fine dining spots. They also give you a snack of warm popcorn right when you sit down because, sure, this is an elevated spot with a great view, but it doesn’t take itself all that seriously.
The best word to describe Scratch & Co, a cafe and pub in Troy Hill, is eclectic. The people who work here don’t have specific job titles. Rather, they’re cross-trained to work every position, filling in where needed, which makes it feel like everyone’s just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. Go for brunch when you can get things like bagels from Hellbender, a pop-up run by one of their staff members, or the chicken confit sandwich with smoked jalapeño honey, cabbage and herb slaw, and lemon aioli. They also have a tight list of excellent local beer and cider.
"A vegan was converted here" is one of many handwritten messages on the Tastefully Blessed Kitchen & Smokehouse walls. And you'll have time to read them all as you join the line of people waiting for some of the best BBQ in the city. No order here is complete without the smoked brisket, and while first-timers should start with a half pound, you can have it folded in a quesadilla, stuffed in a cheesesteak, or as a topping in one of their smashburgers. Add on some Mississippi pot roast or tender baby back ribs, sides like honey-soaked cornbread, creamy mac and cheese, or candied yams, and the sure-to-sell-out banana pudding. Located less than 10 minutes from the PA Turnpike, it's the perfect lunch spot for kicking off a weekend itinerary or getting out of the city for some fresh air. After your feast, walk up the street to Leaning Cask Brewing for a British golden ale.
When you walk into Everyday, you'll see a lineup of their staff hand-pulling fresh noodles behind a window. We would definitely watch this daily if they set up a livestream, but we're also here all the time—and so is everybody else in Squirrel Hill. There may be a bit of a wait to sit down, but stick it out, because pretty much everything here is delicious. Start with the wood ear mushroom and garlic-marinated tofu skin appetizer, and then tack on some hot spicy wonton noodles that are piled with cilantro and scallions. While the noodles here are excellent, it’s the soup dumplings that keep us coming back, specifically the classic pork and the shrimp and loofah ones. After you eat, explore one of the bookstores on Forbes Avenue, and hit a post-lunch matinee around the corner at the Manor Theater.
It’s not easy to find South Indian vegetarian dishes in Pittsburgh. This is why we love Udipi, a casual spot that’s about a 20-minute drive from downtown. The gobi manchurian alone is worth filling up your gas tank, as you’ll get a huge plate of perfectly roasted cauliflowers tossed in a sweet, tangy Indo-Chinese sauce. Pile into the red leather booths with friends and order one of their 21 dosa varieties, filled with things like potatoes and spicy Andhra chutney or some okra bhindi masala—our favorite of the 18 curries that pairs perfectly with the city’s puffiest bhatura bread
Butterjoint in Oakland makes incredible sandwiches, pierogi, and baked goods. Primetime here is lunch on the weekends, when the smell of fresh buttery goodness hits you right as you walk in—focus on their rolls with roasted cipollini onion butter or one of their rotating sandwiches like Jamaican pulled goat served on a milk bread bun. The plate of smoked bluefish pate or sauerkraut balls with honey mustard are perfect to share, as are the pierogi, the best of which come with a link of kielbasa and a variety of pickles. There are cute and colorful booths, long tables, and small two-seater high-tops, though we prefer the booths in the bar for an extra intimate setup. Have a slice of their vinegar pie, a Depression-era treat with a crunchy top and a custardy texture, before walking over to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for the afternoon.
This gastropub brings the heat, literally—at the center of Fire Side Public House is their large wood-fired grill. Grab a spot at the bar or one of their high-top tables that’ll place you right at the perimeter of the grill, where you can watch flat iron steaks, sweet corn on the cob, and avocados get charred to perfection. After sipping a Pennsylvania-brewed pint, kick off your order with the city’s best fried and smoked wings and their crab-infused corn meal hushpuppies topped with bacon, corn, and spicy aioli. This place makes for the perfect lunch stop after your productive morning at nearby Redstart Coffee Roasters or for a quick meal before tackling your weekend to-do list.
At this casual Vietnamese restaurant in the Strip District, you’ll find punny pop art posters on the walls, including one that says “Pho King Delicious.” We really appreciate their dedication to the puns, almost as much as we appreciate their phở with a rich broth that’s been simmered for days. This family-run establishment has a variety of soupy dishes with just as many proteins like tripe, meatballs, and sliced beef, along with a great chicken phở. Beyond the soup, try some grilled plates, like chicken teriyaki, which are also full of flavor and make for great leftovers to eat throughout the week. Have lunch here before spending the rest of the day exploring all the shops and grocers in the neighborhood.