Looking for a quick meal on the run? These outdoor food vendors might change your perception of “fast food.”
By Robert Isenberg
- Joe’s Dog House (Locations in Shadyside and on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus): It’s not much of a house—more like a traditional cart, shaded by umbrellas—but Joe’s little nooks on CMU’s campus and in Shadyside are community institutions. Half the joy is eating a grease-dripping kielbasa on a bun, covered in onions and ’kraut, for a measly $3.75, or the equally tasty vegetarian version made from soy protein. The other half? Satisfying that afternoon (or very late night) hunger pang with no cleanup (or fork) required.
- Sree’s Foods (Oakland): Sreevardhan Mekala is a smiley, mustached man with a good head for health and business, and there’s nary a downtown office worker who hasn’t visited his super-efficient restaurant at Seventh Avenue and Smithfield Street (there’s another location in Squirrel Hill on Murray Avenue, too). Meanwhile, over in Oakland, Carnegie Mellon University students can enjoy his “food truck,” a little mobile kitchen parked in front of the dorms serving tamarind curry chicken, tomato dal and spinach tofu. Sree’s is the best-known stop, but visitors can also sample from the row of other food trucks, all of which offer eclectic lunchtime bites.
- Vendors of the Strip (Strip District): The Strip District is chock full of food vendors touting portable, delicious foods. Dozens of businesses set up stands to sell kabobs, egg rolls, ice cream, fried ravioli, pizza slices and lo mein. Don’t miss Sam Bok Oriental Foods (1745 Penn Ave., 412/261-9377), where an outdoor lunch table serves up fried rice, Korean barbecue and “banh mi,” or in Pittsburgh-speak, “hoagies.” While you’re in the neighborhood, visit the lemonade stand a couple of blocks down, where just-squeezed lemon juice, sugar and crushed ice are shaken to frothy perfection.
- Vendors of Schenley Plaza (Oakland): It wasn’t long ago that Schenley Plaza was a parking lot. Now there are grass lawns, benches, a carousel and several places to eat. Two favorites: The Bagel Factory, for a quick shmear, and Asia Tea House, which serves everything from sushi to bourbon chicken. For breakfast or bubble tea, Schenley Plaza has become a favorite outdoor lunch spot.