New Restaurants to Visit Now
It’s freezing. It’s January. The festive part of the holidays is over, and now it’s all about resolutions for self-improvement and deciding what to re-give next year. If such thoughts make you want to cocoon at home, here’s another way to look at it: Happy New Year! Turn over a new leaf and celebrate the arrival of 2010! After all, quite a few new dining destinations opened their doors at the end of 2009, and if they haven’t made your radar yet, it’s time to check them out.
Espresso a Mano: Top-notch coffee and tasty pastries served in a narrow industrial-chic space made warmer by charming exposed brick and a friendly owner. Go for: The espresso made with a proprietary blend of La Prima beans. (3623 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/918-1864)
J’eet: This bright, stylish café opened in October with a menu heavy on crêpes and bistro-inspired sandwiches and salads. Go for: The turkey fig sandwich made with creamy smoked gouda, Granny Smith apples and fig jam. (4200 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville; 412/682-5338, jeetcafe.com)
Round Corner Cantina: A stylish renovation turned this former bar into a hip destination with tasty South American street food and great cocktails made with super-fresh juices. Go for: La Cantina Margarita and chips and guacamole. (3720 Butler St., Lawrenceville, 412/904-2279)
Las Velas Mexican Restaurant: This spot opened in October with an emphasis on a friendly vibe, fun bar and menu of hearty Mexican specialties from tortilla soup to mole poblano. Go for: The Mexican-style chorizo tacos with onions, cilantro and lime. (21 Market Square, downtown; 412/281-8180, lasvelasmex.com)
Plum: A gleaming sushi bar and new menu of pan-Asian offerings is now on offer at this handsomely designed space, formerly occupied by the short-lived Richard Chen restaurant. Go for: The beef carpaccio with hot oil, garlic and Japanese yuzu. (5996 Penn Circle South, East
Liberty; 412/363-7586, plumpanasiankitchen.com)
Tamari: This swanky restaurant has enjoyed major buzz since it opened in the fall, earning raves for its bold, creative small plates that deliver Asia by way of Latin America—or vice versa, depending on what you order. Go for: The chipotle tuna tartare with avocado crème, wasabi tobiko and plantain chips. (3519 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/325-3435, tamaripgh.com)
There’s something about Lidia Bastianich that makes her seem like one of Pittsburgh’s own. It might be her eponymous restaurant in the Strip District, her cooking shows that air on WQED tv13, her totally unpretentious approach to great food or this town’s deep affinity for all things Italian. But even if she were from another planet, I’d be seeking out her new cookbook, Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes. This beautifully illustrated tome was released in late fall and somehow missed my Christmas wish list. The way it delves into the cooking of Italy’s lesser-known regions from Valle d’Aosta or Sardinia makes it feel like a gastronomy tour as well as a great collection of recipes. My favorite online cookbook retailer, Jessica’s Biscuit (ecookbooks.com), is a great spot to nab it, or check other hot new releases to spice up your winter cookbook shelf.