Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2019
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Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2019 Best Restaurants list is shorter than it has been in previous years; 30 establishments are honored. The relative brevity of the list is the result of the continued growth and improvement of Pittsburgh’s restaurant landscape. While it might seem counterintuitive to have a shorter list, we feel it’s a reflection that the standard for inclusion is higher than ever before.
“Does this restaurant fulfill its intention in an exceptional fashion?” is, of course, a subjective question, but I think it gets to the core of what separates a best restaurant from very good restaurants.
We continue, as we have for the last several years, to recognize the importance of broadening the definition of what makes a best restaurant; for us, a multicultural establishment that serves scrumptious food on disposable plates (Salem’s Market & Grill) stands every bit as worthy as the fine dining restaurants included on the list.
You can read more about our selection process here.
Happy dining Pittsburgh.
Cuisine: Central/Eastern European
It’s Best Because: It most uniquely defines a Pittsburgh restaurant in 2019.
If there is one restaurant that most represents the current pinnacle of the resurgence in Pittsburgh dining, it is Apteka in Bloomfield. Chefs/Owners Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski dig deep into the eastern European culinary traditions that, while mostly lost in our city’s restaurants today, weave through the fabric of Pittsburgh’s culinary history.
At the same time, they lean forward in a way that doesn’t make Apteka feel like a throwback. For example, Lasky and Skowronski offered a char-roasted whole, immature sunflower head brushed with toasted sunflower oil and dressed with smoked peppers, dry cabbage, dill and housemade (vegan) yogurt that felt traditional yet, as far as I know, had never been on a restaurant menu in the United States. Apteka’s bar program follows suit, especially with its Sunday night “Lonely No More” one-off cocktails.
The vibe at Apteka is of-the-now cool, and you can expect service that is cafe casual. Everything served is vegan.
Chefs/Owners Kate Lasky & Tomasz Skowronski
BLOOMFIELD: 4606 Penn Ave.
What we've said in the past: Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka
It’s Best Because: It’s the perfect spot for an elevated — yet fun — meal.
Bar Marco has been my touchstone Pittsburgh restaurant since it opened in 2012 in the Strip District. Over the years, it’s morphed from a wine and cocktail bar with good snacks to an ambitious, assertively aspirational restaurant and then, in the past three years, found its footing as a classy, upbeat gem where everyone feels at home.
Executive Chef Justin Steel’s menu leans Italian, letting high-quality ingredients shine without too much imposition or fussiness. The wine program, led by Sommelier Dominic Fiore, was recognized this year with a semi-finalist nomination for a James Beard Foundation Outstanding Wine Program award for its focus on natural wine. Hat-tip to ownership for fair labor practices at this no-tip restaurant — all of Bar Marco’s full-time staff are on salary.
Executive Chef/Co-Owner Justin Steel
STRIP DISTRICT: 2216 Penn Ave.
What we've said in the past: Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround
BITTER ENDS LUNCHEONETTE
It’s Best Because: Its high-quality, hyper-seasonal ingredients make for tasty eating in a chill atmosphere.
Becca Hegarty, the thrice-nominated James Beard Foundation Award Rising Star Chef of the Year semifinalist, runs her 17-seat Bloomfield restaurant with a fastidious attention to provenance of ingredients, sourcing produce, grains, meat and eggs from some of the region’s finest farmers. What I love about Bitter Ends is how Hegarty’s attention to quality translates into an experience that’s more akin to old-school breakfast and lunch counters than you’ll find at most newer restaurants.
Expect and embrace a limited menu — it’s a sign that everything served is in-season or properly preserved, and all the dishes are assembled with attention to detail.
Chef/Owner Becca Hegarty
BLOOMFIELD: 4613 Liberty Ave.
What we've said in the past: Restaurant Review: Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette is a Sweet Success