Best of the ’Burgh 2013
From vegan shakes to popup block parties to foodie classes, here are 40 of our favorite Pittsburgh things.
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Hottest Drink in Town
Smoke Stack at Industry Public House
Your weekend plans have fallen in a rut: Friends want to visit the usual watering hole for the same martini specials. Can’t you go somewhere different — maybe to a place offering hot drinks, literally as well as figuratively? Industry Public House needs to be on your radar, if not for the dark and cool interior, then most definitely for the Smoke Stack. Giving a nod to the Steel City’s working-class past, bartenders make the bourbon drink and then place flavored wood chips (try the apple-flavored) atop mesh covering the rim. After they’re finished using the blowtorch to heat the chips, you’re left with a smokin’ cocktail. — K.M.
4305 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/683-1100, industrypgh.com
Best Way to Make Your Corporate Team-Building Day Bearable
Copper Kettle Brewing Co.
Forget the trust falls, nature hikes and ice-breaking games. Let’s make some beer, shall we? Copper Kettle Brewing Co., the microbrewery arm of Greenfield favorite Hough’s Taproom and Brewpub, walks you through the brewing process step by step. From selecting a flavor to measuring grains to pouring this and that into giant kettles, you’re the brewer, working under expert guidance. What makes the process great for your office outing? The subject matter is interesting, you’ll get to work with colleagues to concoct a new brew (and design your own label, if you so choose) and you can kick back together at Hough’s during downtime. You’ll even get a second spiced-up day at the office for free — the day you go back to pick up the bottled results and pop open your creation. — S.C.
557 Greenfield Ave., Greenfield; 412/906-9400, copperkettlepgh.com
Best Lunch for Those Looking to Skip Dinner
What would you spend on a decent lunch? Not your average drive-thru meal — we’re talking about a sit-down lunch. Fifteen bucks? At most noontime spots, that’ll get you a sandwich, a depressing quantity of fries and maybe a Coke. So divert your attention to Casa Rasta, a Mexican-Caribbean gem in Beechview. For that same $15, you can score a chorizo burrito ($7), a Jamaican jerk-chicken taco ($3), an enchilada ($3) and a side of Mexican rice ($2), among nearly infinite low-cost combinations. Chef Antonio Fraga, a native of Mexico City, perfectly seasons his simple yet filling menu items. Last month, Fraga and company brought a location to the North Side. — S.C.
2102 Broadway Ave., Beechview; 412/223-6106, casarastapgh.com
Best Devilishly Good Local Brew
Helltown Brewing’s Insidious IPA
At 6 percent alcohol by volume, Helltown’s Insidious IPA nicely balances citrusy drinkability with a pungent, hoppy bite. The Mt. Pleasant brewery takes its name from the Westmoreland County town’s history as a raucous crossroads between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia during the Whiskey Rebellion. Look for Helltown’s Insidious IPA on tap around the city at establishments where beer is taken seriously — including D’s Six Packz & Dogz, Fat Head’s and Bocktown. You’ll be forgiven for having more than one pour — it’s that good. — M.S.
13 Henry C. Frick St., Mt. Pleasant; helltownbrewing.com
Best Indulgent Vegan Treat
Tuesday Milkshake Special at Burgatory
At Burgatory, home of behemoth beef patties and sriracha wings, you’ll find an unexpected treat: vegan milkshakes. Seriously — this is one of many offerings for those who skip meat, eggs and dairy. Vegan shake specials are served up on Tuesdays, and shakes feature thick soy-based ice cream. While varieties change, you can guarantee seeing fruit flavors, such as strawberry-banana, or at least fruit mixed with peanut butter because fresh produce mixes well with the ice cream. Living up to its name, Burgatory still delivers on its promise to bring “heavenly shakes” with its vegan option. — K.M.
Available at Fox Chapel and North Fayette locations; burgatorybar.com
Best Bunch of Land Rovers
Local Food Trucks
For years, stationary food vendors have set up near local colleges to feed 20-somethings in between classes. In late 2012, we saw a spike in mobile food activity. The Pgh Taco and Franktuary trucks helped to drive things forward as BRGR, Dozen and others got into the mix. Recent additions — such as Oh My Grill and The Steer and Wheel — can be found alongside others at area food-truck roundups; events have been held from South Side to the North Hills. Next time you see a truck parked, be sure to grab whatever’s cooking. Each vendor serves true treats — from Polish-style pierogies to decked-out burgers. Rave reviews from locals prove that Pittsburgh wants and needs a mobile-food community. — K.M.
Best Place to Find Treats That Trump the View
Grandview Bakery and Sweet Shop
The view of the city from Mount Washington makes for incredible eye candy. If you want to complement that Grand View with a sweet treat, head over to Grandview Bakery and Sweet Shop. Choose from a wide assortment of doughnuts, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pastries and cakes. Or sweeten up with chocolate-covered Oreos, turtles, coconut clusters or chocolate-caramel pretzel drumsticks. There are also breads, muffins, breakfast items and savory snacks. Dine at the dessert café, or take patriotic-themed cookies back to the overlook for fireworks on the Fourth. — M.M.
225 Shiloh St., Mount Washington; 412/251-0811, grandviewbakery.com
Best Spontaneous Block Party, Without the Cleanup
Tapped! Pop Up Beer Gardens
A wise man once sang, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” — lyrics that capture the spirit of Tapped! Pop Up Beer Gardens. Featuring local craft brews, food-truck fare and an authentic sense of community, the Saturday-afternoon block parties are designed to show off neighborhoods with what you might call “untapped” potential; past shindigs have taken place in Braddock and Larimer, near the new home of East End Brewing Co. No invitation is necessary — just keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for posts about future events. — M.S.
Best Late-Night Sampling
American Dim Sum Menu at Spoon
In the past, if you were hungry at 11:30 p.m., you might’ve been forced to settle for fast food or diner fare. Among the local spots that have recently added late-night menus is Spoon, one of our 2013 Best Restaurants. The eatery serves American dim sum Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. ’til midnight. Traditionally, the Asian-originated dim sum consists of small plates, some of which are cooked via steaming. At Spoon, options range from pork-belly bites to shrimp-pork potstickers. Chef/co-owner Brian Pekarcik puts his spin on these American-inspired items through the use of such common ingredients as white cheddar and arugula. — K.M.
134 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty; 412/362-2001, spoonpgh.com
Best On-Pointe Post-Workout Snack
Dancers are known for their agility, focus and strength. What fuels them? Light meals and sugar-filled snacks won’t keep active types well-nourished. That’s why Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers Julia Erickson and Aaron Ingley decided in February 2010 to create an energy bar for those who are constantly on the go. Their product line, Barre, contains three nutrient-packed varieties to suit the needs of prima ballerinas, marathon runners and everyone in between. Our favorite is the Ballerina Spirulina, which provides a wealth of vitamins via the algae, coconut and other ingredients. Pick up a few online or at Marty’s Market, PBT’s headquarters and area yoga studios, among other spots. — K.M.
Speediest Indian Lunch
Name any fast-food restaurant, and we guarantee that Sree’s has quicker service. Approach the counter, name your dish and Vydehi Mekala will instantly fill a Styrofoam box with rice and stew. Sree’s is so streamlined and customer-friendly that you can enter the building and leave with a hearty meal in less than two minutes. Better still, the food is delicious and nutritious: Mekala uses only pure vegetable oil, fresh greens and boneless chicken — no red meat or MSG. Whether you visit the downtown location, the lunch truck on Carnegie Mellon’s campus or the corner store in Squirrel Hill, you’re bound to find a crowd of regulars. Sreevardhan Mekala, the eatery’s namesake, passed away a couple of years ago, but people are still fanatical about “Mrs. Sree’s” lunches. — R.I.
701 Smithfield St., downtown; 412/860-9181, srees.com
Best Place to Find Wild Things
Those pesky weeds are cropping up in your yard again. Rather than having a cook-off with items that have sprouted on your lawn, visit the experts at Wild Purveyors. A hidden haven for all things foraged, Wild Purveyors sells everything from ramps to Japanese knotweed, plus an extraordinary selection of cheeses and more (great for pairing!). Brothers Cavan and Tom Patterson take pride in offering a variety of mushrooms; choices change based on time of year but may include morels and black trumpets. Be sure to pick up grass-fed beef to cook with your fresh finds. — K.M.
5308 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/206-WILD, wildpurveyorsmarket.com
Best Way to Roll Out
Fukuda’s Sushi-Rolling Class
It goes without saying that sushi is popular. Many aficionados leave the fish selections and prep work to the pros — but wouldn’t it be fun to make your own nigiri? If you’ve answered yes, you’ll need to get to Fukuda for one of the sushi-rolling classes. Executive chef/co-owner Matt Kemp guides a group of 10 through the ins and outs of sushi types and prep work, while also offering a little history lesson. Classmates use authentic tools, and a Best Sushi winner is crowned in every session. Keep an eye on the Fukuda site or Twitter feed (@FukudaPgh) for upcoming class dates. — K.M.
4770 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/377-0916, fukudapgh.com