25 Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh: 2011
It is a pleasure to present the 25 Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh and celebrate a year that vaulted the region’s dining scene to a whole new level of sophistication.
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Photo by Laura Petrilla
Spoon: Day boat scallops and grilled prawns with spring risotto, local ramps, fava beans, asparagus and lemon buerre blanc.
Salt of the Earth
Two years in the making and the winner of several of this year’s awards, including Best New Restaurant, Salt of the Earth has largely influenced the local dining scene since it opened nine months ago. Kevin Sousa’s unapologetic approach and chalkboard wall menu are full of surprises and veer away from the traditional dishes that predominate in Pittsburgh.
Top-notch dishes include a venison tartare with crunchy pumpernickel crumbles and roasted cashews; scallops with spicy kim chi, Brussels sprouts and rice cakes; and striped bass with enoki mushrooms, crunchy black rice and fragrant pine needle-infused dashi broth.
To finish, choose the cheese plate or the only dessert offered: White Chocolate. Drinks include wine (selection is limited but appealing), draft beer and a handful of craft cocktails.
The restaurant’s unique space includes communal tables, banquette seating and an open kitchen with a bar for dining. Reservations are only accepted for mezzanine seating, and accordingly, weekend waits at peak times run long.
Chef/Owner Kevin Sousa. 5523 Penn Ave., Garfield. Info: 412/441-7258, saltpgh.com.
This longtime tapas-and-mojitos destination has expanded with new seating and mid-sized plates that should be suitable whether you’re in the mood for something light or for a sit-down dinner.
The seviche, served with homemade tortilla chips, is a specialty, and you can select your seafood and preparation style from a long list of choices—the “traditional” with fresh lime, jalapeño pepper, scallion, red onion and cilantro is a classic.
From the rest of the menu, our go-to order is the small bites, including the ahi-tuna sliders with wasabi mayo on plump little rolls or the spicy Cuban sushi roll. If a larger meal is desired, offerings include filet mignon a la plancha with roasted-corn croqueta and chipotle demi-glace or banana-stuffed pork tenderloin with dark rum glaze.
Seviche is a fun spot for late-night dining (the kitchen stays open until midnight on weeknights and until 1 a.m. on weekends) or happy hour, with its casual and colorful interior, big windows overlooking Penn Avenue and lively bar scene.
Executive Chef Max Scribner. 930 Penn Ave., downtown. Info: 412/697-3120, seviche.com.
In a place where not many ethnic restaurants successfully go upscale, Soba breaks the mold with its urban-Zen vibe, modern first-floor lounge, dining area with two-story water-wall and cozy upstairs deck for warm weather dining.
Chill out in the lounge’s leather seating with custom-blended cocktails (try the Bangkok Tea made with green-tea-infused vodka, fresh sours and honey-ginger syrup) and a few small plates. The menu includes just about everything you’d expect from upscale Pan-Asian: yellow-tail sashimi drizzled with wasabi oil, tuna tartare wrapped in crispy rice paper and pork dumplings with sweet vinegar sauce for dipping.
For a more formal evening, opt for a white-tablecloth dinner and choose among such spicy entrées as seared rare tuna with a crunchy sesame crust or the chili-miso black cod with barbecued pork over rice-cake noodles. Finish up with Asian-inspired desserts like cardamom beignets with coconut custard. —Kaitlyn Johnston
Executive Chef Danielle Cain. 5847 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. Info: 412/362-5656, bigburrito.com/soba.
For dinner and drinks, this handsome new restaurant that opened in the former Red Room space has sophisticated appeal. The wine list from sommelier Tobin Finegold is a winner whether you order by the glass or by the bottle.
The menu, from our “Rising Star Chef” award-winner Brian Pekarcik, offers about 10 appetizers and 10 mains, with each seasonally inspired dish available for a few weeks.
We loved dishes like the sinful bacon-and-eggs starter, with pork belly, five-minute poached egg, asparagus and hollandaise; lobster cakes with pickled-beet salad; miso-glazed butterfish with tempura prawns and braised daikon and orange-chili dressing.
The appealing dessert menu offers choices like chocolate-ganache cake for two or brioche French toast with poached pears along with inspired wine pairing suggestions. Accommodating service completes the experience.
Executive Chef Brian Pekarcik, 134 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty. Info: 412/362-6001, spoonpgh.com.
Terrific handmade Italian food comes out of the kitchen at this small, modest restaurant that’s the collaboration of chef Stephen Felder and Cara DelSignore, his girlfriend and partner whose Sicilian family hails from Pittsburgh.
Local, seasonal and sustainable aren’t just buzzwords to Felder, who works with nearby purveyors, makes his own sausage and pickles, brines and preserves galore. He also makes his own pasta, and it truly shines in dishes like fettuccine with fresh Jamison Farm lamb meatballs with arugula-horseradish pesto and roasted-red peppers or pear-and-mascarpone ravioli with seared duck breast alongside red-currant preserves.
Lunch is also memorable with such dishes as an open-face, crispy soft-shell-crab sandwich with cherry tomato and aïoli served on fresh Italian bread.
To finish, there are house-made sweets including (predictably for this neighborhood) tiramisù.
Visit for dinner—the menu changes daily and is posted online by 4 p.m.—or check out events like the monthly wine dinner, family-style Sunday Supper or Sunday brunch.
Chef/Owner Stephen Felder. 4770 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Info: 412/687-5775, stagionipgh.com.