Bistro to Go

Bistro to Go and Bistro Soul are go-to places for comfort food and more.

Spinach mozzarella salmon: A pan-seared 6-ounce wild salmon filet topped with fresh spinach, asiago and mozzarella cheeses, garnished with fresh tomato-basil bruschetta. Served with pan-sautéed roasted vegetables.

Photo by Laura Petrilla

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Bistro to Go is a great spot for old-fashioned home cooking served in a quaint, unpretentious environment. Since opening in October 2007 on East Ohio Street on the North Side, Bistro to Go has grown to include a new adjacent restaurant, Bistro Soul, which comprises a very active catering business, cooking classes and the provision of food at the nearby National Aviary.

Another good reason to try it out: Bistro to Go is one of the most community-oriented dining establishments in Pittsburgh. Owner Nikki Heckman, along with husband Stanley, created Bistro to Go with the goal of having a positive influence on the East Ohio Street neighborhood.

The restaurant is built on core values of caring for customers, employees, community and the earth. The Heckmans also engage in a myriad of community activities and partnerships, including providing meeting space, discounted food, job training and instruction on healthy eating.

An inviting, homey environment created by independent designer Robert Sands (who also did the logo) is to be found at Bistro to Go. There’s a tall tin ceiling, lots of colors (crimson, moss green and mustard) and accent pieces such as a pale-yellow vintage stove. Tables, all glass-topped, come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and you’ll be served on plates of assorted colors and patterns to boot. A few board games and newspapers are available, and sometimes you might see a poster display set up by a local nonprofit explaining its mission.

The kitchen is visible, and the food is offered cafeteria-style behind glass. Let me explain that: You go up to the counter, look at the food, order and pay, and a server brings your food to your table as quickly as you can sit down. Your meal arrives on brown cafeteria trays (why not a fun color?) and some of the serveware is plastic.

Nikki Heckman says she wants Bistro to Go to be a place where diverse people can meet and mingle. In order to achieve that goal, she designed the menu to be widely varied in both content and price range.

Each day, there is a hot-food selection that includes a traditional main dish such as beef Stroganoff, a “Lite” dish such as lemon-pepper salmon and a vegan option such as spicy chickpea cakes. Entrées, which range from $6 to $13, include one side dish and a traditional dinner roll made at neighboring Priory Fine Pastries.

Under the “Main” category, I recommend the traditional stuffed chicken ($8.95). It’s a substantial breast amplified by mild but flavorful breading, celery and onion stuffing. Under Lite offerings, I like the honey-mustard salmon ($9.50), a 6-ounce portion of fish baked with a mildly sweet glaze.

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