The Best Restaurant Openings in Pittsburgh in 2017
PM dining critic Hal B. Klein's list of the 10 best openings this year.
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A good number of noteworthy restaurants opened in 2017, so many so that this list of 10 is the longest “Best New” feature I've written as Pittsburgh Magazine's dining critic. The year in Pittsburgh restaurants brought a good mix of high-end, pricier establishments with ambitious menus and detailed service and smaller, highly focused restaurants that prove you still can rise to the top despite working with a limited budget. What does that mean? We're moving ever closer to becoming a well-rounded dining city.
photo by laura petrilla
or, The Whale
or, The Whale, the restaurant attached to Distrikt Hotel Downtown, delivers a complete package. Although Executive Chef/Proprietor Dennis Marron’s restaurant got off to a shaky start, he and his team quickly righted the ship, and the establishment now is running full steam ahead. Look past the gimmicky menu concept and dive into the restaurant’s fish-forward menu, which is prepared under the eye of chef de cuisine Brooks Hart. The cod chowder, fish stew and whole-grilled fish all are some of the best seafood dishes in Pittsburgh, as are shellfish preparations such as scallops with butternut squash caponata and sunflower shoots. The restaurant’s dry-aged beef program, while pricy, is top-notch and a worthwhile special occasion treat; I’m smitten with the 35 oz., bone-in ribeye. Pastry chef Adam Bates, a recent addition to the team, crafts killer desserts. Service is informed, engaged and enthusiastic, and bar manager Michael R. Anderson’s cocktail program is spot-on.
[463 Blvd. of the Allies, Downtown; 412/632-002, orthewhalepgh.com]
photo by hal B. Klein
Bitter Ends Luncheonette
Bitter Ends Luncheonette is, for many reasons, my favorite restaurant that opened in Pittsburgh this year. It’s a joy to see Chef/Co-owner Becca Hegarty's potential for excellence blooming at her pocket-sized breakfast and lunch counter in Bloomfield. Hegarty and her crew take farm- and producer-to-table to the extreme (she and partner Jason Oddo grow much of what’s served, and everything else is meticulously sourced), but they do it in the least pretentious way possible — Bitter Ends has more in common with community restaurants of yesteryear than it does with faddish restaurants making specious claims of their commitment to farms because they serve a few things that don't come from factory farms. Diners should expect a limited menu that is reflective of the season, so look for heartier sandwiches and soups — and a focus slightly tilted toward meat — in the winter months and lighter, vegetable-forward dishes during western Pennsylvania's peak growing season. Hegarty is a talented pastry chef who bakes bread (which is available for purchase) and serves doughnuts, pies and more. Seating is limited and the kitchen is small, so you might have to wait during busy hours (everything also is available to-go). It’s worth it.
[4613 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; tillthebitterends.com]
photo courtesy fl.2
The swankiest restaurant that opened in Pittsburgh this year is fl.2, located on the second floor of the Fairmont Hotel Downtown. The stunning space was designed by Barcelona-based Lazaro Rosa-Violan — it’s a gorgeous yet comfortable combination of gilded-age era influences and modern touches. But fl.2 is more than just a showpiece. It’s a must-go lunch and dinner destination, and not merely for Downtown diners looking to fill up. The restaurant’s kitchen staff is skillful in their handling of vegetables. An earthy blend of wild mushrooms, for example, are slow-cooked in beef tallow and finished with cured roe and herb cream, and red Kuri squash is elevated with fromage blanc, Bayonne ham and smoked almonds. The restaurant’s heritage rotisserie chicken, lush with garlic jus and enhanced with tangy house-made mustard, is a fun centerpiece for a shared meal.
[510 Market St., Downtown; 412/773-8848, fl2pgh.com]