The Steel City has radically changed since its manufacturing days and is reinventing itself and its restaurant scene to its new identity. Here are 5 must-try restaurants in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In Pittsburgh, you’ll find a number of great restaurants offering everything from authentic Cambodian, to soul food, Italian, and of course, Eastern European as almost every local restaurant offers pierogis. This is an imperfect list. It’s neither the only five must-try locations nor the fanciest, this is just five must-try restaurants for those eyeing a visit to the city.
One of the newest entrants to the Pittsburgh restaurant scene is Coop DeVille, a chicken restaurant that is casual, approachable, cool, and exceedingly delicious.
At the end of the Strip District, Coop occupies a pair of commercial spaces with split personalities. The bar and restaurant occupy an end cap with walk-up window ordering, indoor and outdoor seating, and communal tables and benches. In the adjacent entertainment space, rows of classic arcade games offer to take guests back to family dining as it once was. Cleverly, the team has installed Duck Pin Bowling which allows for social activities in a consolidated space.
The scratch kitchen is semi-open with guests interacting with kitchen staff at the pickup window and watching the prep kitchen prepare in a windowed pantry.
The simple menu is affordable, quick, and there’s something for everyone. I ordered their signature item, the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich with seasoned crinkle fries. Coop offers self-serve filtered still and sparkling water in addition to alcoholic and soft drinks – and the cocktails looked impressive.
The food was absolutely perfect, it was well-priced and all guests should feel fully welcome. Couples can enjoy a private evening here, we saw a group of office workers bowling until their food arrived, and a family with parents showing the kids how to work large console arcade games.
The restaurant group that owns Coop DeVille also owns other Pittsburgh mainstays: Meat & Potatoes, (the impressive) Poulet Bleu, and Gi-Jin. On Mondays, Coop offers wing night with happy hour specials on bowling and beer. Operating from an outside window and indoor coffee bar, La Colombe serves its signature nitro coffees available in cold brew and latte (with optional flavor add-ins) for the smoothest coffee experience. We love La Colombe and were elated to see a full offering.
Arlecchino is some of the best Italian food in the area. Located in the South Hills (Canonsburg, McMurray, Upper St. Clair), this family-style dining experience is unmissable held in an early 1900s converted one-room schoolhouse. A frequent location for nearby executives, and well-to-do suburban families, the upscale restaurant is pricey but worth it.
Each entree includes a house salad, and a pasta course but guests should not miss the Allegheny mountain smoked provolone with black truffles and arugula served on a searing hot plate. My daughter abhors lettuce (she would consider arugula to be part of this family) but will eat it off your plate if you look away.
The salad course features cranberries, beets, a variety of olives, and a combination of a sweet vinegar dressing and cream over the top. The pasta course features Arlecchino’s standard vodka sauce and fusilli served with optional spicy pepper house-infused olive oil – but you should instead upgrade to the tableside cacio e pepe made inside of a cheese wheel.
Lastly, Arlecchino offers a unique take on tiramisu featuring raspberry notes and Drambuie-soaked ladyfingers. If you’re looking for small plates, look elsewhere. But for an evening where the meal is the destination, guests will not be disappointed. The restaurant shares the same ownership with another local legend, Alla Famiglia.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to China but suffice to say, I am very familiar with xiao long bao and quality, authentic Chinese food. Everyday Noodles, is perhaps some of the best xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in the world. The secret to its exquisite execution is all about the dough. A window in the open-kitchen dining room features a chef kneading dough by braiding it then slamming it against the steel prep table to the initial shock, then delight of diners.
Another simple menu wins the day with just a handful of options from each category. What makes this Squirrel Hill restaurant so successful is the ability to keep food authentic while still welcoming to a wide variety of palettes. For example, Pork Belly sliders use spongy Chinese buns and thick slabs of pork belly which appeals to both enlightened locals and the extensive international community from nearby Pittsburgh University and Carnegie Mellon.
You won’t find sweet and sour pork on the menu, nor booze as the restaurant is BYOB. That said, recognizable favorites for the uninitiated like “potstickers” (pan-fried dumplings) ease the transition. My family’s perfect meal at Everyday Noodles start with Bok Choy with Oyster sauce, spicy wonton noodle bowl, two orders of xiao long bao (mix the chili sauce and dumpling sauce with provided freshly sliced ginger to dip in) and ending with sweet egg yolk steamed buns.
Other kids on their birthday might choose, pizza or burgers for their special day – our daughter chooses “dumplings” every time. Yours might too. If you’re looking for excellent Sichuan, How Lee across the street is very good, but James Beard semi-finalist chef Wei Zhu’s Chengdu Gourmet is superb – order the Chengdu cold noodles for the win.
Napa Prime: Chophouse and Cigar bar
There are a few fantastic steakhouses in the area, but Napa Prime delivers on that perfect steakhouse experience. While Gaucho (downtown Pittsburgh) has been a mainstay for its Argentinian meats, Napa brings in the best from Nebraska beef and Japan’s A5 prefecture.
The restaurant offers an exhaustive wine list and the very best of everything, though coats and tails are not necessary. From caviar to wagyu beef cooked on a hot stone at the table, to family-style sides, Napa does it right.
Part of the experience at Napa is the dining experience including private dining rooms and side rooms that allow small parties to enjoy a more intimate experience. The steaks and sides were outstanding but do not skip dessert.
In the chic neighborhood of Lawrenceville, Morcilla is a rare Spanish restaurant in Pittsburgh. Award-winning Morcilla’s menu offers some of the most unique ingredients for a contemporary Spanish dining experience that would excel in Madrid or Barcelona, what a gem in Western Pennsylvania.
Hokkaido scallops, whipped feta, and merguez sausage are just some of the unique approaches the small-plate-centric eatery has taken to Spanish cuisine. But more simple ingredients really highlight what Spanish food is all about, warm artisanal bread with olive oil, fried artichokes, and crushed tomato and anchovy baguettes take me back to tapas in Las Ramblas well after dark.
Those simple approaches give way to foie gras, and duck confit to offer a complexity for the most discerning palette and a plate worthy of sharing on social media.
Morcilla makes this must-try list because its originality and creativity would be welcomed in Spain without the long-haul flight and waiting until 10 pm for dinner – though I long to return to those tables too. It brings the very best of modern Spanish cuisine to a table near you and should not be missed.
Honorable Mention: Monterey Bay Fish Grotto
An absolutely worthwhile way to spend an evening is at Monterey Bay Fish Grotto overlooking downtown Pittsburgh, the North Side, the South Side, and the stadiums. The view from this Mount Washington (not an actual mountain) upscale restaurant uses seafood responsibly and when possible, locally sourced from Lake Erie as well as flown in from the coasts.
The environment is excellent, and they serve really good food, but the height of the experience comes down to the view.
Do you have a must-try in Pittsburgh that you’d add to this list? Are there any you’d remove?