Best Restaurants 2014
Presenting 33 top-notch eateries that are revolutionizing Pittsburgh's food scene.
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VIDEO BY DAVE COLE / / / PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAURA PETRILLA
As we celebrate our 25th Best Restaurants edition, it is our sincere pleasure to present this year’s list of 33 Best Restaurants. We welcome some newcomers — including Butcher and the Rye, Grit & Grace, Everyday Noodles and notion — but we also recognize legendary locales, such as Casbah and Umi, which have made the cut every year since opening.
The local restaurant industry is booming; we’re happy to document the progress along the way. With so much to consider in or near Pittsburgh, the focus this year is on restaurants close to home. Spots that are a bit farther from the city — such as award-winning Lautrec at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Out of the Fire Café in Donegal — might not be included, but they continue to warm our hearts and please our palates, as do the following selections.
SHADYSIDE: 5501 Centre Ave.
| 412/683-3663, AVENUEB-PGH.com
AMERICAN | $$-$$$ | Chef/Owner CHRIS BONFILI
This quiet bistro along busy Centre Avenue is a very popular lunch and dinner spot, with an apt motto of “Eat. Relax. Enjoy.” Avenue B offers seasonal fare that’s not the least bit fussy; one favorite is the Wagyu beef meatloaf. Choices that deviate from the norm include housemade falafel and molé pork belly. Fish dishes consistently are done well, and Chris Bonfili, chef/owner, generally offers a five-course tasting menu. It’s always nice to finish the meal with French-press coffee and one — or a few — of the revered desserts.
STRIP DISTRICT: 2216 Penn Ave.
| 412/471-1900, BARMARCOPGH.com
AMERICAN | $$-$$$ | Executive Chef JAMILKA BORGES
Bar Marco is unique because of its owners’ out-of-the-box approach to running the restaurant, as well as their active involvement in addressing community food issues. During No Menu Monday events, guest chefs cook whatever inspires them; this is a great platform for budding cooks, new restaurateurs and charitable causes looking to spread the word about their mission. Bartenders use their “mental Rolodex and their own creativity” to compose whatever drink — using many housemade ingredients — suits your fancy. Executive Chef Jamilka Borges and Co-owner/Chef Justin Steel collaborate on the food offerings. The dinner menu is brief but focuses on flavorful choices; starters include dates with Manchego and bacon, and entrées change seasonally. Brunch is off-the-charts delicious, with sweet and savory choices. In the newly opened Wine Room, located downstairs, Borges and sommelier Sarah Thomas curate four- and 10-course prix-fixe tastings with wine pairings.
You’ll often find a line of people waiting to eat at BRGR. Burger-patty options include dry-aged prime beef, turkey, salmon and black bean-corn falafel. Feeling hungry? Try the Button Buster, a beef burger topped with braised beef short ribs, white cheddar cheese, béarnaise sauce and crispy onions. Smith’s hot dogs, a favorite brand among locals, also are available. Enjoy one of the spiked handcrafted shakes — the salty caramel is comprised of vanilla ice cream, bourbon, caramel sauce, sea salt and vanilla bean. Happy hour extends to the weekend: Specials run Monday through Friday 5-7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 p.m.-12 a.m. By popular demand, BRGR has opened a third location inside PNC Park, and it intends to put a location inside The Galleria in Mt. Lebanon. The BRGR food-truck team can be found throughout the city Wednesday through Friday and at special events around town.
DOWNTOWN: 212 Sixth St. |
AMERICAN | $$ | Executive Chef/Co-owner RICHARD DeSHANTZ
This downtown hot spot instantly became a hit when it opened late last year. Featuring a boisterous first-floor bar and a quieter upstairs bar, Butcher boasts a bourbon collection of 350-plus bottles as well as wines, cocktails and beer, including an exclusive house brew from Church Brew Works. While upstairs, indecisive diners can peruse liquor options on an iPad, scrolling through a catalog with detailed descriptions. No wonder the place received a James Beard Foundation nomination for Outstanding Bar Program. Small- and large-plate choices include crispy pig “wing” with Thai chili sauce, five-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese and shepherd’s pie with braised beef cheeks. Each room sports its own imaginative look; eclectic design elements and items of décor — such as a giant stuffed bear, recycled doors and local art — pair well with the festive food.