2010 Legends

What makes a restaurant a legend? It has something to do with three words that begin with the letter "C": character, consistency and comfort. These establishments distinguish themselves with outstanding food, a refined sense of who they are and distinctive decor. What's more, they deliver that experience time after time, year after year. We are pleased to list some of the region's most legendary restaurants, chosen by the Restaurant Review Panel.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in downtown Pittsburgh is (The) Common Plea Restaurant. Owner John Barsotti sets the tone of gracious hospitality that is conveyed by the entire staff. Don’t forget to try out the award-winning (and visually stunning) Steelertini, garnished with black and gold licorice.

It’s hard to believe that the cozy neighborhood trattoria Girasole is only 10 years old since it feels as if it has always been a part of the ambience and character of Shadyside. It’s what I would call Italian comfort food, and that never goes out of style.

As always, the pasta and veal dishes on the menu are the standouts, but the authentic food is only part of the charm at Gran Canal Caffe, located in Sharpsburg. Here you also get the passion and warmth of the owners and chefs, Michele and Antoinette Bonaventura, as well. I hope they never take the cannelloni off the menu.

The Grand Concourse at Station Square is not only a legend of fine dining in this region, it’s also a historic landmark. Walk through the doors into what must have been one of the grandest railways stations in America, dine like a steel baron and don’t miss the spectacular river-level view of downtown from the River Room. Sunday brunch remains one of the most extravagant in western Pennsylvania.

Ah, romance! It’s in every corner of the magical Hyeholde Restaurant, and the genius of executive chef Chris O’Brien’s cuisine only adds to the special moments you’ll enjoy here in Moon Township. His commitment to quality and locally sourced ingredients earned him the Governor’s Award for Culinary Excellence last year. New features are always being added—including a chef’s table, Hye Tea and even cooking classes.

Tucked away in Station Square, Kiku Japanese Restaurant is an oasis of tranquility, a far cry from the raucous restaurants with flying knives and acrobatic chefs. It is a place where you’ll be pampered and can savor the delicate and distinctive flavors of authentic Japanese cuisine.

Sometimes dinner is all about a unique food experience, and sometimes it’s all about going someplace where they make you feel special. At LeMont, it’s always about both. Enjoy some of their fabulous specials during the 50th-anniversary celebration at this Mount Washington landmark.

A simple food philosophy has been the hallmark of the legendary Monterey Bay Fish Grotto ever since its inception as the Rodi Grille House almost 20 years ago: the finest and freshest seafood, expertly prepared. The daily roster at this scenic spot with locations atop Mount Washington and in Monroeville always includes 10 to 20 varieties of fish from all over the world.

Of course you wouldn’t want to eat here every day, but when the urge comes over you, there is no denying a trip to Primanti Brothers in the Strip. With cole slaw and french fries piled high, there is just nothing like its Pitts-Burgher Cheese Steak, the No. 2 bestseller. And let’s face it, you’re not going to make one of these for yourself at home!

With the advent of cell-phone cameras, I’ll bet there are thousands of pictures of the food at Sushi Kim, located on Penn Avenue in the Strip District, circulating through cyberspace. Here, artistry meets authenticity with an extensive menu of Korean and Japanese entrees as well as the incredible array of sushi.

If you’re walking around Bloomfield within a few blocks of Tessaro’s, you can’t avoid the tantalizing aroma of fresh beef searing to perfection on a wood grill. Tessaro’s should get an award just for improving the air quality of the region. But even if beef is not your thing, you can always stop by for the friendly atmosphere and some of the fabulous home fries.

Award-winning The Carlton downtown is where the grown-ups go for lunch and dinner. It’s not just the sophisticated menu and extensive wine list. It’s also that sense of being treated as an adult with the finest-quality food and professional service. No games and no gimmicks.

You don’t usually think of college bars as places to go for the food. But Union Grill, an Oakland watering hole on the edge of the Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh campuses, serves imaginative and plentiful soups, salads and burgers that turn tavern staples into memorable meals.

It’s just a 30-minute ride from downtown to the romantic Wooden Angel in Beaver. Celebrate a special occasion, or treat yourself to a memorable meal. Chef Mike Frashure’s thin-crust skillet breads are amazing—especially if there’s one with roasted apples, figs, blue cheese and molasses on the menu.

Categories: Eat + Drink Features