Best Restaurants 2017
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We go out to eat for different reasons.
Some diners are drawn to an exploration of cuisine and are more interested in what’s on the plate than the the atmosphere that surrounds them.
Other diners expect eating at a restaurant to be a special-occasion, white-tablecloth experience.
Often, we seek out the middle ground: casual, dependable and delicious places where we share great food with friends and family.
This year, our independent Restaurant Review Panel recommends 34 establishments to be honored on Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best Restaurants list. These restaurants offer a diversity of dining choices that will guide Pittsburghers and visitors, no matter what they’re seeking.
This year’s list is wide-ranging. It includes a Sichuan restaurant tucked under a bowling alley in Squirrel Hill run by a James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist (Chengdu Gourmet) and a five-star, five-diamond establishment with white-glove service located 60 miles south of Pittsburgh (Lautrec). There’s a vegetable-forward, seasonal-obsessed restaurant in the heart of reinvigorated East Liberty (Dinette) and a classy, tasting-menu-only destination in suburban Sewickley (Cocothé).
Two of the newly opened spots selected for the list this year are regional-specific, vegan restaurants (Apteka and B52). We also welcome the return of a critic’s favorite (Bar Marco) as well as a long-standing restaurant finally getting its day on the podium (Salem’s Market & Grill).
Read on for our picks of Pittsburgh’s best.
This year, as Pittsburgh Magazine’s dining critic, I’ve sorted the BEST RESTAURANTS list into five categories to help you find what you’re looking for, no matter your dining style or craving. — Hal B. Klein
LAWRENCEVILLE: 3519 Butler St.
Executive Chef/co-Owner Justin Severino
[Spanish] Morcilla landed heaps of accolades from Pittsburgh Magazine’s independent Restaurant Review Panel in 2016: Best New Restaurant, Outstanding in Their Field Chef (Justin Severino) and Rising Star Chef (Chef de Cuisine Nate Hobart). Morcilla continues on the upswing in 2017. Severino and Hobart serve an array of extraordinary Spanish dishes in their taverna with a boisterous atmosphere in Lower Lawrenceville. Pittsburghers in search of a late-evening bite now can sit at the bar and enjoy charcuterie, conservas and other snacks with a glass of sherry, cider or vermouth.
STRIP DISTRICT: 2216 Penn Ave.
Executive Chef/Co-owner Justin Steel
[Italian] No other restaurant in Pittsburgh turned things around last year the way Bar Marco did. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Justin Steel found his culinary voice in 2016 and now is preparing some of the most craveable dishes in Pittsburgh. Steel focuses on regional Italian specialties such as pork tonnato, gorgeously crafted seasonal salads and extraordinary pasta dishes, as well as larger plates such as osso bucco with saffron risotto. Visit on Tuesday nights for a classic Chicken Parmigiana special. Sommelier Dominic Fiore leads an attentive, well-informed front-of-house staff.
EAST LIBERTY: 134 Highland Ave.
Executive Chef Jamilka Borges
[American] A new executive chef (Jamilka Borges) and a fresh interior design revitalized Spoon, which was one of the foundation restaurants of Pittsburgh’s recent dining resurgence. Borges brings her nuanced touch to dishes such as smoked bluefish, in which a vivid display of flavor, texture and color enhance the meaty fish. Main courses such as farrotto — a farro-based play on risotto served with sunchokes and pickled apples — are a delight. Perfectly balanced cocktails and outstanding wine service (Pittsburgh Magazine named Spoon “Best Complete Bar Program” earlier this year) complement the cuisine.
SHADYSIDE: 229 S. Highland Ave.
Executive Chef Dustin Gardner
[Mediterranean] In 2016, Executive Chef Dustin Gardner returned to Casbah, where he previously worked as sous chef, to helm the kitchen of the celebrated Shadyside restaurant. He infused the longtime favorite with new energy by adding a killer Saturday-brunch service as well as dishes such as reimagined beet salad with Marcona almonds and French green-lentil vinaigrette, and pappardelle with honey-roasted mushrooms and poppy seeds. Specialty weeks such as the seasonal Festa di Pasta celebrations and the end-of-summer Tomato and Corn Menu always are a hit.