Best Restaurants 2018
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photo courtesy fl. 2
For a more recent Best Restaurants List, head to our 2019 List here.
Pittsburgh’s dining options are expanding, and so is Pittsburgh Magazine’s annual Best Restaurants list. This year, our independent Restaurant Review Panel recommends 37 restaurants for inclusion and, as the magazine’s dining critic, I’ve added three more, for a neat total of 40.
Some notable longstanding Pittsburgh restaurants such as Hyeholde are resurgent, and outstanding newcomers such as Union Standard and Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette add their fresh perspectives to a slowly maturing culinary landscape.
On top of that, we are continuing to broaden our discussion of the definition of what makes a restaurant “best” to extend beyond the classic interpretation of fine dining. We love a fancy, formal night out at a restaurant with snappy service and pressed white tablecloths such as the one you’ll find at Lautrec (in fact, we’d like to see more of those in Pittsburgh), yet we recognize that well-executed informal restaurants such as Gaucho Parrilla Argentina and Apteka are fulfilling their mission at a high level, too.
International restaurants, once relegated as offshoot “ethnic” food back-pats, are meaningful, too, particularly those that speak with a distinctive voice. To that end, the longstanding Indian vegan restaurant Udipi Cafe gets a nod after more than two decades of operation, and we continue to celebrate the growth of Squirrel Hill’s regional Chinese specialties with the inclusion of Taiwanese Bistro Cafe 33.
What does this mean for you? Options. For the second year running, the Best Restaurants list is broken into categories so that you can find the best of what you’re looking for to suit your mood.
— Hal B. Klein
(Editor's Note: Restaurants must have opened by December 31, 2017 to qualify for inclusion on the list.)
These restaurants have it all: talented chefs, top-notch service and a focus on ambience. They are perfect for a celebration yet approachable enough for a nice weeknight meal, and they often are our favorite go-to destinations.
LAWRENCEVILLE: 5336 Butler St.
[Mediterranean] Executive Chef/Co-Owner Justin Severino, chef de cuisine Danielle Felix and the rest of the culinary team at Cure consistently craft some of Pittsburgh’s most exciting dishes. Coddled eggs with sherry chantilly and smoked maple, for example, is elegant comfort in a calcium shell, and roasted trout with braised swiss chard, calabrian chili, crispy fried white runner beans and burnt lemon hits the mark as an elevated yet unfussy main course. Pasta dishes, available by the half- and whole-order, work as a side dish, a main course and even, paired with a glass of wine or one of Cure’s perfectly balanced cocktails, an indulgent snack.
STRIP DISTRICT: 2216 Penn Ave.
[Mediterranean] Whether you’re on an important third date or simply out for a casual night with pals, it always is a treat to visit Bar Marco. Now in its sixth year of operation, the restaurant has matured into a neighborhood gathering spot that’s a draw for everyone, even if you don’t live in the Strip District. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Justin Steel’s handmade pasta dishes such as bucatini carbonara and gemelli with ramp and arugula pesto and peas are pure comfort, and his seasonal dishes such as fried smelts, carrot gnocchi and fennel salad with citrus transport diners to the Mediterranean while remaining rooted in contemporary Pittsburgh dining. Sommelier Dominic Fiore applies his extensive viniculture knowledge and creative purchasing to craft a dynamic, curated list of natural wines.
LAWRENCEVILLE: 3519 Butler St.
[Spanish] Nothing like a flood to shake things up. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Justin Severino turned a bad situation into an opportunity after a burst pipe in the apartment upstairs caused catastrophic damage to his Lawrenceville restaurant. Severino’s new menu features an increase in large-format plates, with dishes such as lamb tagine and cider-braised chicken with calasparra rice joining Morcilla’s whole-roasted suckling pig as must-gets, as well as new shareable items including artichoke and idiazabal gratin. Severino also focused on a nagging noise problem with the new construction — with increased soundproofing through the dining room, Morcilla now is cozy and quiet.
OAKLAND: 214 N. Craig St.
[American] Trevett Hooper’s Legume restaurant won early acclaim with progressive eaters when he opened the first iteration of the producer-to-table eatery in 2007, and he reached a wider audience moving to Oakland in 2011. This year, Legume’s reputation for responsive seasonal cuisine and genuine connection to local food systems hit the national spotlight, earning a James Beard award semifinalist nod for Best Restaurant (Hooper also was a 2013 Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic semifinalist). The restaurant’s cozy attached bar, Butterjoint, serves the Legume menu as well as snacks, including one of the best hamburgers in Pittsburgh. Hooper’s new project, Pie For Breakfast, will open later this year.