25 Best Restaurants: 2012
From culinary heavyweights to neighborhood mainstays, these places keep us coming back.
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ROOT 174 / Chef Keith Fuller’s attention to detail and creativity shine through in all of Root 174’s dishes, even the simplest ones.
Root 174 is one of the city’s most interesting new restaurants, upping the draw of rising star-neighborhood Regent Square. Chef/owner Keith Fuller and his staff describe their offerings as “cultivated comfort food,” which translates into grub you might know — take carbonara, for example, prepared with fun, contemporary twists (like using gnocchi for the pasta and beef tongue as an accent). The menu changes often and always includes unexpected flavor combinations. Golden beet soup with maple croutons? Bone-marrow crème brulee with apple gremolata? This restaurant is a fabulous choice for the adventurous diner who’s willing to take a chance on chef Fuller’s creative expressions. Typically frequented by a younger, edgier crowd, Root 174 offers real vegetarian and vegan dishes and desserts, which definitely hold their own among the other offerings.
• Chef Keith Fuller
• 1113 South Braddock Ave., Regent Square
• 412/243-4348, root174.com
This place continues to be one of the most-talked-about restaurants in Pittsburgh; the fact that Salt of the Earth received our 2011 Best New Restaurant, Chef of the Year and Delicious Design awards is clear evidence. Providing an exceptional dining experience without the pretense and cost of fine dining, chef/owner Kevin Sousa has become something of a celebrity in Pittsburgh. His restaurant’s sleek gray and pale-green environment offers communal tables on the first floor and a quieter mezzanine (by reservation only); you can also sit at the kitchen’s bar and watch the chefs at work. Salt’s small but complete chalkboard menu changes often, with each dish thoughtfully planned and crafted. Sousa is famous for playing with textures and flavors in edgy ways; it’s the challenging nature of his culinary creations that deters few and inspires many to flock to Salt. Some of the dishes are truly brilliant, and the cocktail menu is superb (thanks to two of Sousa’s accomplished drink-slingers, Maggie Meskey and Summer Voelker). Also, be sure to check out his two latest ventures: Union Pig & Chicken (unionpgh.com) and Station Street Hot Dogs (stationstreetpgh.com), both in the East End.
• Chef/Owner Kevin Sousa
• 5523 Penn Ave., Garfield
• 412/441-7258, saltpgh.com
A Pittsburgh favorite for more than 10 years, Soba has maintained its status as a hot spot for its cool scene, full-service bar and interesting, well-prepared food. The interior is inspired by a Zen garden, with soothing silent water running down a slate wall. The cuisine is truly Pan-Asian, including references to China, Thailand and Japan. Of the offerings, the small dishes and appetizers are definitely most popular. Fabulous options include the crispy tofu, mussels with Thai sausage, Thai corn chowder with generous jumbo lump crabmeat and the miso black cod. Fun desserts feature an Asian twist. The bar is maintained by pros; thus, drinks are always worthwhile.
• Executive Chef Danielle Cain
• 5847 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside
• 412/362-5656, bigburrito.com/soba