Best Restaurants 2018
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All Arounders (cont.)
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.
SHADYSIDE: 229 S. Highland Ave.
[Mediterranean] Now into its second decade, Casbah remains one of Pittsburgh’s most important restaurants. Executive Chef Dustin Gardner caters to longtime regulars as well as new visitors with a menu that seamlessly intertwines classic Casbah favorites such as cavatelli with fennel sausage and double-cut pork chops with butternut squash risotto with newer dishes such as sheep’s-milk gnudi, bay scallops, preserved lemon, pomegranate, cauliflower puree and bread crumbs. Front-of-house service is professional, the wine list is deep and the cocktail program is, quietly, one of the best executed in Pittsburgh.
EAST LIBERTY: 134 S. Highland Ave.
[American] Executive Chef/Co-Owner Brian Pekarcik returned to Spoon’s kitchen in February following the departure of Jamilka Borges (see “Chef of the Year,” p. 68). Pekarcik’s first full-time foray at the restaurant since 2014 means a refocused menu of contemporary American dishes such as goat-cheese souffle with frisee, grapefruit, lardons and pickled prawns and day-boat scallops with salsify purée, twice-cooked pork belly, blood orange reduction and broccolini. Service at Spoon consistently is among the best in town, crisp and professional without being overbearing.
Eleven Contemporary Kitchen
STRIP DISTRICT: 1150 Smallman St.
[American] Eleven Contemporary Kitchen is one of Pittsburgh’s most revered establishments. The high-end flagship of the big Burrito Restaurant Group’s mix of elegant cuisine, full spectrum beverage program and attentive service makes it a destination for special occasions, and Eleven’s tavern menu also makes it one of the city’s preeminent happy hour destinations. Executive Chef Eli Wahl’s seasonal tasting menus are noteworthy, and main courses such as Elysian Fields lamb loin with smoked lamb belly, celery root purée, roasted beets, Brussels sprouts, Anson Mills oats and whole-grain mustard jus are crowd pleasers.
EAST LIBERTY: 120 S. Whitfield St.
[American] The restaurant at Ace Hotel in East Liberty is run by two James Beard Foundation nominated chefs. Executive Chef Bethany Zozula is a 2018 semifinalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic and Pastry Chef Casey Renee is, two years running, a semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Visit Whitfield for, well, just about anything you’re craving. Breakfast and lunch menus offer satisfying, comforting selections such as Toad-in-a-Hole, mushroom gravy and biscuits and duck leg confit with escarole and hashbrowns. The restaurant’s dinner menu highlights Whitfield’s ambitious whole-animal butchery program. Here, diners can find selections such as Jamison Farm lamb, rabbit “porchetta” and Jubilee Hilltop Ranch steaks. There always are terrific vegetarian options, too, including a daily, multi-course tasting menu.
DOWNTOWN: 524 William Penn Place
[American] Derek Stevens made his mark in Pittsburgh as the longstanding executive chef of Eleven, running the Strip District kitchen for more than a decade. In 2017, after more than 25 years of working for other people, he decided to strike out solo and open Union Standard Downtown. Stevens’ menu marries the cuisines of the Mid-Atlantic, Appalachia and the Northeast with impeccably sourced dishes such as Jamison Farm lamb with Anson Mills polenta, blistered green beans, blood orange and pistachio and Laurel Hill trout with fingerling potato, smoked jalapeno and chow chow. Union Standard is a top choice for brunch and lunch Downtown, and the raw bar and cocktail program make it a terrific after-work and happy hour destination.