A Good Meal is More Than Just Good Food

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When I worked for another publication in its heyday, the features department published two dining reviews a week — one focused on fine dining, the other on casual places. Both appeared in the weekend entertainment section.

At one point, a staff member questioned why the dining reviews were not part of the bi-weekly food sections, which focused on recipes and meal preparation. Eating out, the person argued, is all about food.

Visiting restaurants, burger joints or even food trucks is much more than the food. So much of our lives is spent sharing a good meal with friends or family, celebrating birthdays or engagements or even someone’s cherished life at a restaurant.

Now that almost everything is back after the pandemic pauses, it’s clear many Pittsburghers combine a nice meal out with attending a show or sports event. Have you tried to get a reservation anywhere Downtown right before the weekend? Your choices are usually at 4:30 or after 9 p.m. — and it’s the same for the hot restaurants in other places around town.

Our Best Restaurants round-up is one of our most popular features every year in the magazine and by far the best read and most popular article online. Our newish food editor Kristy Locklin puts her own twist on the 25 restaurants she’s selected (a list that includes just a few white-tablecloth spots). Price, decor and type of service do not always reflect the quality of food or the innovative preparation.

This is definitely the case for Apteka, the casual, order-at-the counter vegan spot that’s been a sensation since it opened in 2016. The New York Times included the Bloomfield restaurant on its list of “50 places in America we’re most excited about right now” in 2022. And its chefs/owners, Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, have been tapped as Pittsburgh’s first finalists in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category in the James Beard Awards, one of the culinary world’s highest accolades (Pittsburgh has had a lot of semifinalists). We’ll find out on June 5 if they are the city’s first winners of this coveted honor.Virginiathumb

Our dining package also includes a tribute to Toni Pais, a titan in the Pittsburgh culinary scene who retired in February after a 45-year career. Valentina Vavasis, Pittsburgh Magazine’s dining critic from 2009 to 2014 and a contributor until 2016, talks about how Pais, through his three restaurants — Baum Vivant, Cafe Zao and Cafe Zinho — helped shape the dining scene we have today.

I hope you enjoy the restaurants on Kristy’s list if you haven’t tried them all yet — and good luck getting reservations.

Virginia Linn can be reached at vlinn@pittsburghmagazine.com.

Categories: Editor