25 Best Restaurants: 2012
From culinary heavyweights to neighborhood mainstays, these places keep us coming back.
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LEGUME / Flat-iron steak and red wine sauce with barley-mushroom risotto and carrot puree
Make sure you make a reservation before heading over to Legume, since the dining public has passionately embraced the restaurant’s latest incarnation in Oakland. Maintaining the farm-to-table ethos on a larger scale, chef/co-owner Trevett Hooper offers dishes from the simple to the imaginative by using high-quality ingredients cooked to perfection. A nice emphasis on meats, grains and vegetables also makes Legume a great choice for health-conscious eaters and vegetarians. The daily menu starts with “Nice Things to Share,” like pâté, and ends with to-die-for desserts like the chocolate truffle cake. The “Chicken Cooked Under a Skillet” is among the best in Pittsburgh. The beautifully lit, full-service bar often offers live music Tuesday evenings. This is not one to miss.
• Chef/CO-Owner Trevett Hooper
• 214 N. Craig St., Oakland
• 412/621-2700, legumebistro.com
This local gastropub touts itself as one that offers “simple and approachable food.” While some fare, like the ribeye for two with confit steak fries and the chicken pot pie, are very straightforward, others are naturally a little more refined — like the wild mushroom risotto with truffles or the homemade duck-liver pâté with sauternes jelly and grilled bread. Chef/owner Richard DeShantz’s interesting background (fine-dining chef, baker and artist) is evident throughout, as the menu is imbued with elegant accents, the restaurant makes all its bread and buns in-house, and the interior is stylized and well-designed. The mood at Meat & Potatoes is similar to that of a dark speakeasy — a place to argue politics, laugh out loud and indulge in decadent offerings. And do not miss the much-talked-about barrel-aged Manhattan, which matures for two months to give the drink wonderful smoky oak accents.
• Chef/Owner Richard Deshantz
• 649 Penn Ave., Downtown
• 412/325-7007, meatandpotatoespgh.com
Nicky’s Thai Kitchen was once North Siders’ best-kept secret — but, as expected, the word has gotten out, and Nicky’s has become a destination for people around the city who are looking for fresh Thai cuisine. The food is bright and colorful with clean, fresh flavors and spice levels to your liking. Highly recommended are the fresh spring rolls and the rich, crispy crab Rangoon wontons. Also available are a wide variety of curries, rice and noodle dishes. The divine panang curry comes with your choice of meat, lime leaves, broccoli and coconut milk. Chef’s specials include basil fish with tilapia fillets and the “chicken black,” garlicky chicken with shiitake mushrooms and ginger in a homemade brown sauce. Thai-iced coffee and tea are always refreshing. During the warmer months, you can sit outside with a glass of iced tea at the beautiful green, plant-filled rear patio accented with Thai artwork.
• Owner Ratthasak Insawang
• 856 Western Ave., North Side
• 412/321-THAI, nickysthaikitchen.com