6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh
Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.
Many college students in Pittsburgh have a hard time believing the headlines that call the city the country’s top up-and-coming food city. If you’re a busy student without a car — and you’re living on a college student’s budget — it’s not always easy to find the time or means to eat out at the newest, trendiest restaurants Downtown or in the Strip District.
Luckily, there are still plenty of good places to eat nestled in the neighborhoods surrounding Pittsburgh’s universities. You don’t have to go any further than Oakland, Squirrel Hill or Shadyside to find a place to eat that’s cheap, quick and, mostly importantly, serves a meal that makes “college food” actually taste good. There’s also a wealth of good food in neighborhoods like the Waterfront and Lawrenceville, which may seem distant but are only a bus ride away.
photos by laura petrilla
Located on South Highland Avenue near pricier, high-end establishments like Casbah and Spoon, this cash-only Thai spot has a menu of $9 noodles that always pleases your palate. Noodlehead serves Thai classics like pad thai and pad see yew, plus less traditional dishes like the Street Noodle 2, which features tempura shrimp and bok choy, and Chiang Mai curry, a yellow curry with egg noodles and pickled mustard greens. If you like spicy food, you’ll love Noodlehead. The restaurant lets you choose how spicy your food is on a scale of 1 to 5, and, be warned, they don’t hold back when you order a 5.
[242 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside; no phone number, noodleheadpgh.com]
Burgatory’s the place to go for a burger and shake you’ll never forget. You can build your own burger, so the options essentially are unlimited. If you’re not great at making decisions, Burgatory also has a list of solid pre-built burgers on its menu. As far as shakes go, you can order something traditional, like caramel pretzel, or (if you’re of drinking age) try a spiked shake like the Burnt Almond Torte, which recalls Prantl’s famous cake with vanilla vodka and amaretto. Burgatory has several locations, but their Waterfront location is just a 61D ride away, and conveniently adjacent to Target, the AMC Loews 22 and the Waterfront’s other shopping destinations.
[299 West Bridge St., Homestead; 412-261-2200, burgatorybar.com]
Tucked into a less-frequented section of Penn Avenue, Spak Bros. serves pizza, wings and subs like the Pittsburgh Steak (steak, fries, hot peppers, mushrooms, grilled onions, green peppers, egg, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and mayo). Spak has vegetarian or vegan options for all of their subs, with steak subbed out for seitan. Spak Bros. also is one of the few places in Pittsburgh you can get a completely vegan pizza, complete with vegan “cheese.” And don’t miss their seitan wings — they’re so good that even carnivores might prefer them over chicken wings.
[5107 Penn Ave., Garfield; 412-362-7725, spakbrothers.com]
The Vandal opened recently in Lawrenceville to wide critical acclaim, celebrated for its casual atmosphere and simple but exciting menu. The restaurant serves Instagram-ready meals on cafeteria trays, and makes a great destination for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch. The Vandal’s decor is minimalist, with whitewashed walls and lots of natural light. Their fried chicken sandwich is a must-have, and if you’re there for brunch try the ham and egg biscuit with some vanilla lemonade to wash it down.
[4306 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412-251-0465, thevandalpgh.com]
At Everyday Noodles, you know your food is fresh; at this Squirrel Hill restaurant you can watch chefs prepare your noodles from scratch, stretching long skeins of dough across their arms behind the kitchen’s plate glass windows. The restaurant serves a variety of Chinese and Taiwanese fare, including potstickers, rice dishes and, of course, noodles, with nothing on the menu over $12. You can’t go wrong with their dumplings, and noodle soup is the perfect way to warm up in the depths of Pittsburgh’s winter.
[5875 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412-421-6668, everydaynoodles.net]
If you thought that there was no good Mexican food in Pittsburgh, Las Palmas might just prove you wrong. Conveniently located on Atwood Street adjacent to the University of Pittsburgh, Las Palmas serves something that no college student can turn down: $2.50 tacos. You’ll get the authentic street food experience at Las Palmas, which is on the sidewalk in front of a Mexican grocery. After paying inside, choose from a rotating variety of meats and then add as many toppings and salsas as you want to make a taco that’s just to your liking.
[Several locations, including Oakland: 326 Atwood St., Oakland; 412-682-1115]