Best Restaurants 2013

Presenting 34 of the finest, freshest and most forward-thinking restaurants in Pittsburgh. Bon appetit!

Photography by Laura Petrilla


This year, instead of limiting ourselves to listing the city’s 25 finest restaurants, we present every spot that our independent Restaurant Review Panel recommends (a total of 34!).

That makes sense, given the influx of new chefs and more open-minded diners bringing energy to Pittsburgh’s restaurants. Local chefs share ideas, support one another and get involved in the community through various projects — which aids the growth of our culinary scene.

Small neighborhood spots such as Cure, Point Brugge and SMOKE thrive because the chefs at the helm care deeply about the food. Diners notice and appreciate that, so they make plans to return.

For those of you who enjoy eating your way through our list, you’ll have more dining to do than ever before — so go hungry and get ready to dig in and enjoy fresh finds. Bon appetit!


Shadyside: 5501 Centre Ave.


Stop by Avenue B for a refined gourmet experience in a quiet, relaxed Shadyside atmosphere. Chef/owner Chris Bonfili’s seasonal menus with daily chalkboard specials include staples such as aged-cheddar grilled cheese and roasted garlic-tomato bisque, a lunchtime favorite. In 2012, Avenue B expanded its reach by hosting private events. Drop-off catering service is still available, too, for those looking to serve Avenue B’s American fare in their venue of choice.


Mt. Lebanon: 300A Beverly Road


In the heart of Mt. Lebanon’s diminutive Beverly Road commercial strip, Café Io is known for artfully simple dishes, an informal family-friendly environment and down-to-earth servers. Fans rave about the tomato-basil soup, and the hot ham and cheese pretzelwich served at lunchtime. For dinner, order the turkey and mashed potatoes or the catch of the day. Io’s children’s menu goes outside the box a bit, listing chicken-finger tacos and roasted turkey, among other options. Despite its small size, the restaurant has a full-service bar, plus spiked shakes (yum, banana!). Fully engaged in the community, Jeff Iovino and his crew donate a portion of proceeds to local charities.


Shadyside: 229 S. Highland Ave.


Casbah is truly one of the most consistent restaurants in Pittsburgh, a place where locals have taken out-of-town guests with confidence during its 17 years in business. The offerings range from light (think fresh salads and scallops) to more decadent, such as the double-cut pork chop. Housemade pastas and desserts are always solid options. Sit indoors in the amber-lit space with artful finishes or inside the enclosed front patio. The bar is a great meeting spot, with comfy chairs, an impressive wine selection and weekday happy-hour specials.


Lawrenceville: 5336 Butler St.


During its short time in existence, Cure has commanded local and national attention, having received a nomination from Bon Appetit for one of the magazine’s 50 Best lists. Rightfully so — this small eatery, operated by our 2013 Star Chef, Justin Severino, offers superb food in a casual but polished setting. Bringing together his cooking and butchering knowledge, Severino’s menu lists cured meats, in-season produce, expertly cooked meat dishes and much more. Try the salumi platter, a special selection of such housemade delights as lardo, duck speck and duck rillettes. Severino’s restaurant is truly farm-to-table, as he takes great pride in his relationships with local farmers, food suppliers and fellow chefs. Cure has a newly added bar and liquor license, providing it with a chance to offer cocktails and a wine list on par with those at other Pittsburgh spots.



East Liberty: 5996 Penn Circle South


Truth: Dinette’s pizzas, small plates (ranging from flavorful soups to refined salads) and desserts are as good as any you might find in a French eatery. Chef Sonja Finn, a James Beard semi-finalist in 2009 and 2010, changes her pizza varieties daily; options include beet greens, sage sausage, chevre and onion, and basil, tomato, fresh Mozzarella and ricotta. The restaurant has a rooftop garden that provides in-season tomatoes and herbs.


South Side: 128 17th St.


The bar at Dish Osteria & Bar is cozy and dark — and a great place to get a taste of the South Side of yore. Offering Italian food with a Sicilian emphasis, Dish is often packed. Try the Carpaccio, scallop or grilled calamari appetizers before moving on to meaty entrées, such as the housemade gnocchi with three-meat Bolognese. Sip some Italian wine as you take in the unpretentious surroundings.


Fox Chapel: 46 Fox Chapel Road


To find traditional American and Italian food in a tasteful environment, visit Donato’s, which delivers favorites such as porcini-dusted filet and jumbo lump crab cakes. The Italian fare is strong, particularly the veal, pasta and specialty items. Always-professional servers in formal black attire will allow you to mix and match dishes to create the perfect meal. On Friday nights, jazz performances are scheduled, starting at 8 p.m. Family-style dinner is served Sunday, and private dining and catering are also available.


Strip District: 1150 Smallman St.


Eleven boasts a stylized interior, top-notch food and a casual environment, making it a go-to spot for entertaining visitors or heading out for date night. The bar is very popular, with leather seating and a “tavern” menu. The main lineup changes often but always includes appetizers, such as raw oysters and tuna tartare, along with seafood, meat and vegetarian entrées. Save room for made-from-scratch breads and dessert. Keep in mind that Eleven also offers a chef’s table with a tasting menu (seating up to six), as well as several private dining rooms.



Downtown: Fairmont Pittsburgh, 510 Market St., second floor


Situated on the second floor of the Fairmont Pittsburgh, Habitat boasts an open kitchen and a community table. The restaurant isn’t just a hotel amenity — it’s a destination on its own. Downtown business folks flock to Habitat for lunch, and theater patrons stop in before shows. The menu is fresh with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, grass-fed beef and pastured poultry. The food is far from typical hotel fare, including such options as Amish-raised chicken and vegan rice noodles with a tofu emulsion. The sophisticated desserts are definitely worth a try. Breakfast and holiday brunches are also offered.


Moon Township: 1516 Coraopolis Heights Road


Hyeholde’s image has evolved from special-occasion restaurant to a peaceful spot offering fine fare. In business for 75 years, Hyeholde is truly an oasis, with its main “castle” built in the 1930s on 4 acres with gardens and winding stone paths. The dinner menu includes classics such as bisque and wild mushroom tart, as well as such rustic dishes as trout. The newly constructed patio provides outdoor dining and reasonably priced high-end grilled fare, including grilled salmon sandwiches with caper aïoli. Hyeholde offers a chef’s table, afternoon tea and picnic menu, in addition to wedding and events packages.


Highland Park: 5701 Bryant St.


Joseph Tambellini Restaurant is where Italians and non-Italians go when they want an excellent meal in a peaceful setting. Despite his restaurant’s white tablecloths and elegant décor, chef Joseph Tambellini has a warm personality that’s infectious, giving the place a homey feel. The food is straightforward and features simple ingredients — garlic, olive oil, lemon and tomato. Highlights include the seafood, meatballs (arguably the city’s best) and housemade pasta. The pound cake with butterscotch sauce and ice cream is drool-worthy and definitely worth the calories.


Strip District: 2000 Smallman St.


Kaya’s cuisine is inspired by “the sea and sun, melding fresh, high-quality ingredients with bold flavor and alluring preparations.” The jerked mahi mahi with coconut grits and tropical paella are two examples of Kaya’s fusion of Caribbean and South American influences. The restaurant’s interior adds to the fun, with its bright palette, colorful lighting and large pieces of ethnic art. The bar scene is always hopping, and Sunday brunch and fried-chicken night (with a tofu option) — which takes place every third Thursday — bring in crowds every time.


Farmington: 1001 Lafayette Drive


Lautrec, located in the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, is one of the most decorated restaurants in the region. As a winner of both the Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Award (2012 and 2013) and the AAA Five Diamond Award (2012), it offers superb food and exceptional service in a rich environment. The red-and-gold interior sets the tone for the experience. You may choose your own multiple-course meal or the chef’s eight-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings. Multiple-course vegan and vegetarian tasting menus were added this year. The sommelier is extremely knowledgeable and will help you select the right wine to pair with your meal.


Oakland: 214 N. Craig St.


Legume has established itself as one of Pittsburgh’s top farm-to-table restaurants under chef/co-owner Trevett Hooper, a 2013 James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef – Mid-Atlantic. Legume reinvented its connected bar in 2012, officially naming it Butterjoint, a masonry term that refers to precision. The bar’s casual menu features burgers made of local beef and the ever-popular housemade pierogies. In the main dining room, the daily menu focuses on high-quality, carefully selected ingredients prepared with a light touch. The pâtés, salads, risottos and meat dishes remain appealing. Newly appointed pastry chef Amanda Barbano still makes the house favorite chocolate truffle cake while also branching out with her own creations. The wine list continues to grow, and the cocktails remain spot-on.



Downtown: 649 Penn Ave.


Call before you intend to visit Meat & Potatoes because it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Pittsburgh — so much so that its owners are planning to open a similar spot nearby. You might find yourself dining alongside visiting celebs, local politicians, business folks, families or young couples. No wonder this place is such a hit. The menu offers a wide range of decadent fare, including housemade breads, rich pastas and bar-inspired food (try the fried pickles!). For those with an appetite, the 34-ounce ribeye with confit steak fries should satisfy. The drinks, including barrel-aged cocktails, are well-executed by a skilled staff of bartenders. The Bloody Mary bar, available during weekend brunch, is extensive and inspiring.


North Side: 856 Western Ave.


With lines often out the door, Nicky’s Thai Kitchen — both the original North Side site and new downtown addition, which opened earlier this year — continues to offer some of the freshest Thai food around. Great menu items include the spring rolls, rich crab Rangoons, tilapia with basil and marvelous curry dishes. The North Side location has a lovely outdoor dining area that’s the perfect place to sip a refreshing green iced tea during warmer months.


Downtown: 900 Penn Ave.


A staple for elegant dining, Nine on Nine delivers a high-quality experience in an unpretentious setting. In the midst of Cultural District hubbub, Nine on Nine remains tasteful with enduring favorites, such as the seared scallops with Swiss chard and bacon. The roasted chicken breast with hominy-sunchoke hash and crispy Brussels sprouts is also a homey treat. Bar Nine is a great spot to sip a Bellini or martini with friends. If you’re on the way to a show, try the three-course pre-theater tasting menu or, if you have more time, try the chef’s three- or four-course tasting menus. Remember that the restaurant and bar can be reserved for private events.


Highland Park: 5801 Bryant St.


Park Bruges is a classic neighborhood bistro with a French influence, and it’s the sister restaurant of beloved Belgian-inspired Point Brugge Café, another one of our Best Restaurants (below). The environment is simple, and the menu lists a nice selection of salads, poutine (twice-cooked fries topped with gravy and cheese curds), mussels and burgers. Brunch is popular, forcing folks to wait in line for sumptuous treats such as liege waffles and tarte flambé with chorizo and potato hash. Check out the website for Jazz Monday events, held the first week of every month.



Downtown: 308 Forbes Ave., 412/562-1710
Strip District: 2208 Penn Ave., 412/434-7200


Owners Angela Earley and Henry Dewey operate two distinctly different Penn Avenue Fish Co. locations: The Strip District spot is a fish retailer, as well as a casual counter-service restaurant. It serves soups, fresh sandwiches and the ever-popular fish tacos (all-you-can-eat on Tuesdays), along with beautifully prepared sushi. The other site, nestled in the heart of downtown, offers fish in a number of preparations — grilled, on pasta, in sandwiches. Abundant trays of seafood and non-seafood delicacies are also available for those in need of a caterer.


Lawrenceville: 3801 Butler St.


Piccolo Forno does things old-school: Pastas and pizza dough are made fresh daily, pizzas are cooked hot in a wood-fired oven, and braised rabbit is often offered. Chef/owner Domenic Branduzzi and his family hail from Tuscany, and their roots are evident in the cuisine. Salads are fresh and light with ingredients such as arugula, white beans and tuna. Pizzas are perfect; the best-seller stars mascarpone, fresh Mozzarella and speck. Here you’ll find the city’s best lasagna with housemade noodles, ragu and béchamel. Reservations are accepted for parties of five or more. With a smaller group, you may need to wait a while for a table, but it’ll be worth it.


Point Breeze: 401 Hastings St.


Point Brugge Cafe is a favorite neighborhood bistro that’s been luring locals since 2005. You’ll always receive a warm welcome and feel right at home. Executive chef James McCaslin prepares fare with a Belgian twist. The staples are the Prince Edward Island mussels with your broth of choice, including classic white wine with shallots; the dish is served with a hunk of crusty bread to sop up the delicious broth. The Brugge frites are cooked twice and served with basil mayonnaise in true Belgian style; they pair nicely with any of the Belgian brews. The Sunday brunch service has a loyal following.


Regent Square: 1113 S. Braddock Ave.


Root 174’s amazing Brussels sprouts with a bacon black-pepper glaze have many locals hooked. In this small Regent Square restaurant with unusually sophisticated food, other standouts include bone-marrow crème brulee, and slow-roasted salmon with kale and olive salad. Root promises to provide “cultivated comfort food,” and it really delivers. Vegan and vegetarian dishes go above and beyond the usual, specifically the desserts, which are as good as conventional treats. Earlier this year, chef/co-owner Keith Fuller acquired a liquor license, so you can now try a creative cocktail or wine. Lunch is served Wednesday through Saturday.



Garfield: 5523 Penn Ave.


This year, Kevin Sousa added a nomination for People’s Best New Chef (Mid-Atlantic) from Food & Wine to his growing list of accolades, which also includes recognition from the James Beard Foundation and, of course, PM. Despite his expansion into other ventures, Sousa’s original restaurant, Salt of the Earth, still provides one of the edgiest meals in town. With communal seating in the main dining area, a giant chalkboard menu and a clear view of sous chef Chad Townsend and other chefs in the open kitchen, Salt continues to please gourmands from near and far. The rotating daily menu offers creative choices; for example, beets, fennel, yuzu and hibiscus are combined to make a memorable dish. The light portions are beautifully presented. Cocktails are always great and feature housemade ingredients. Stop by one of Sousa’s other East End spots: Union Pig & Chicken, a barbecue-style eatery; Station Street, a hot dog, ramen and taco joint; and Harvard & Highland, a cocktail haven above Union (check out the menus online: His forthcoming eatery Magarac will open later this year in Braddock.


Downtown: 22 Market Square


We’re pleased to welcome Sienna, our 2013 Best New Restaurant, because it’s deserving of positive attention. This hip spot features modern interpretations of traditional Italian cuisine from lauded chef Matthew Porco. In warmer months, the restaurant spills onto Market Square, when front doors open on a hydraulic lift. The food is delicious and dependable, with options such as housemade pappardelle with Bolognese sauce, in addition to lighter fish and shrimp dishes. Porco prides himself on making many of the ingredients in-house.


Homestead: 225 E. Eighth Ave.
412/205-3039, Facebook


SMOKE is a small, uber-casual place with a tiny menu and many loyal takeout patrons. Though it’s located off the beaten track, SMOKE has a huge fan base because the simple tacos, featuring fresh tortillas, and sides are truly stellar. Taco fillings run the gamut — brisket, pork with apricot habanero sauce and veggie with black beans. The mac-n-cheese and jalapeño-apple slaw also please. If the mood strikes, breakfast tacos (think eggs and cheese) are available all day. Try a fresh horchata to wash it all down.


Shadyside: 5847 Ellsworth Ave.


Soba fans can continue to enjoy the interesting cocktails, professional bar service and small plates they’ve come to expect in the restaurant’s newly expanded bar. Meanwhile, the old bar has become part of the expanded first floor. Items to share include rock shrimp or pork-belly buns. The menu continues to evolve, but it always lists pan-Asian cuisine that’s sophisticated and fun. For entrées, try the miso black cod or one of the flavor-packed noodle dishes. Like all big Burrito restaurants, the service at Soba is impeccable.


East Liberty: 134 S. Highland Ave.


Chef Brian Pekarcik, our 2012 Chef of the Year, and his team continue to deliver fresh, local, modern American cuisine. The farm-to-table menu never stays the same, always offering seasonal goods. Seafood is delicately prepared, and meats are often served “three ways,” such as duck offered as seared breast, confit leg and fois gras. Desserts continue in the same spirit, featuring fresh flavors and ingredients with clean, distinct flavors. The small but busy bar features extensive wine and cocktail offerings, and it continues to evolve, thanks to recently hired star sommelier John Walbeck. Spoon’s casual sister restaurant BRGR, with locations next door and in Cranberry Township, offers gourmet burgers and spiked milkshakes. If you’re craving top-notch fare late at night, stop by Spoon for American dim sum, offered from 10 p.m. to midnight.



South Side: 2104 E. Carson St.


Stagioni’s food is reminiscent of what you might’ve eaten as a child — if you had an Italian grandmother who could really cook. Housemade pastas are the stars, as well as the made-to-order Mozzarella plated with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. If you’re craving a meaty dish, try the braised wild boar served over creamy polenta. The seasonal menu is short, and the fare is straightforward — perfectly in line with chef/co-owner Stephen Felder’s mission to bring good food to Pittsburgh. Felder, our 2012 Rising Star Chef, is committed to using high-quality local ingredients. The atmosphere is similar to a neighborhood bistro with friendly, attentive service and a nice Italian wine list.


Warrendale: 701 Warrendale Village Drive


Foodies in the North Hills could barely contain their excitement when Lawrenceville’s Tamari opened a second location in Warrendale. Despite the strip-mall location, the new Tamari’s interior and tabletops are beautifully designed in tones of brown and blue. The large bar area is a packed after-work spot. The main dining room attracts the business crowd during lunchtime and a pleasant mix of diners for dinner. A lunchtime favorite is the bento box, which includes selected items in four compartments. The dinner menu features many interesting sushi creations, such as the “angry lobster” tempura and the “tamari”: white tuna with seared scallops and sriracha aïoli.


Shadyside: 5102 Baum Blvd.


Toast! is welcoming and has an understated look. The bar is a good spot for conversation. Appetizers include the very popular shrimp and grits; entrées span from skate wing to vegetarian risotto to duck breast. The menu is small but diverse enough to please every diner, and it includes a wine-pairing suggestion for each dish. In addition, all Champagnes and wines are available in 2-ounce, 4-ounce and 6-ounce pours, allowing you to taste as many as you wish. Toast! also has three private dining rooms, available for special events.


South Side: 51 S. 12th St.


A complete renovation of the former Café Allegro space resulted in Truth, a dark, clean contemporary restaurant with high ceilings, which is perfect for the weekly live-music performances. Because the owners are of Greek descent, the menu features American food with a Mediterranean twist. The best displays of the owners’ origins include the excellent flaming Greek saganaki cheese and the lambsicles. Many people order lots of little plates and share with friends instead of trying entrées. Dishes such as squid ink pasta with mussels and shrimp, and stuffed Virginia quail keep locals coming back for more. The bar has an extensive menu of cocktails and scotch and bourbons, in addition to the wine and beer lists.



Shadyside: 5849 Ellsworth Ave.
JAPANESE  |  $$-$$$ (omakase starts at $85/person)  |  EXECUTIVE CHEF MR. SHU


Mr. Shu, our 2013 Chef of the Year, presides over the exquisite menu at Umi, making it one of Pittsburgh’s top restaurants. The best choice is the omakase, for which Mr. Shu creates a minimum seven-course menu (for $85 or more) that’s creative and superb. Raw fish and cooked fish dishes, overseen by seasoned sous chef Jesse Wilson, are equally marvelous. Have some sake with your meal as you admire the subdued environment, which features large Japanese-inspired paintings by local artist Lauri Mancuso.


Sewickley: 432 Beaver St.


Vivo is both a neighborhood favorite and a destination restaurant. The well-designed environment is tasteful and appropriate for Sewickley, where chef/co-owner Sabatino DiBattista moved his restaurant last year from Bellevue. The American food features Italian influences and showcases good ingredients; examples include the wonderfully simple butter lettuce starter topped with walnuts and truffle vinaigrette. Dishes change frequently, but one that won us over was the espresso-crusted scallops with coconut cream, with its great flavor combinations. Don’t skip desserts here, for the housemade creations are mind-blowing. Outdoor seating is available during warmer months.


Upper St. Clair: 1469 Bower Hill Road


Word of advice: Wild Rosemary is both small (with just 28 seats and two seatings per night) and always in demand. So make a reservation any time you want to visit. It’s not new, but the high-quality, simple dishes listed on the bi-weekly menu continue to appeal to foodies. Order the cioppino, classic osso bucco or lamb chops. This place prides itself on its use of local products and suppliers. Wild Rosemary is also a popular venue for private parties. This is definitely a South Hills gem.

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