Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2019


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.

APTEKA

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.
aptekapgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Pittsburgh’s Best New Restaurant: Apteka

BAR MARCO

Cuisine: Mediterranean
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.
412/471-1900
barmarcopgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Dish Review: Bar Marco’s Turnaround


BITTER ENDS LUNCHEONETTE

Cuisine: Farm-to-Table
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.
tillthebitterends.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette is a Sweet Success

THE CAFE CARNEGIE

Cuisine: American
It’s Best Because: You get to have lunch in a museum. 

Here’s a quality recipe for building one of my favorite lunch destinations in Pittsburgh: Combine one of Pittsburgh’s top chefs with two of the country’s top museums, add a dash of modernist design and finish with attentive service.

Consulting Chef Sonja J Finn (Dinette) and her team offer an energizing menu of balanced salads, tasty sandwiches and seasonal specials that will have your brain and body ready to appreciate the wonders of the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History or wherever else your day might take you. The Cafe Carnegie is family-friendly, with a kid’s menu that goes beyond basic with dishes such as an assortment of tea sandwiches and shrimp cocktail.

Consulting Chef Sonja J Finn
OAKLAND: 4400 Forbes Ave.
412/622-3225
thecafecarnegie.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: The Cafe Carnegie


photo by erin kelly

 

CAFE ZINHO

Cuisine:  Mediterranean
It’s Best Because: Toni Pais is a Pittsburgh legend. 

There are few Pittsburgh meals that are more transportive than sharing an al fresco dinner with a group of friends at Cafe Zinho in Shadyside. It’s easy to feel the magic of the city as the summer breeze is blowing and the conversation is flowing over (BYO) bottles of wine paired with dishes such as impeccably cooked, lightly dressed fresh fish or lamb burger with mint pesto.

Executive Chef/Owner Toni Pais is a legend of the Pittsburgh kitchen, having once operated lauded restaurants such as Baum Vivant in Shadyside (Pittsburgh Magazine’s Restaurant of the Year from 1995-2002) and Cafe Zao Downtown. Cafe Zinho is one of Pittsburgh’s 12 Essential Restaurants.

Executive Chef/Owner Toni Pais
SHADYSIDE: 238 Spahr St.
412/363-1500

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What we’ve said in the past: ReviewCafé Zinho


CASBAH

Cuisine: Mediterranean
It’s Best Because: More than 20 years into its run, Casbah just keeps getting better. 

Here’s the thing I love about Casbah: I can take anyone from my father, who appreciates a classic, straightforward pasta menu, to my brother, who likes to eat fresh and healthy, and they will be thrilled to dig into Casbah’s selection of thoughtfully prepared dishes from a menu of Mediterranean-inspired favorites.

Executive Chef Dustin Gardner manages to keep standbys such as short rib ravioli with oyster mushrooms and Swiss chard worth ordering while keeping things novel by adding nuanced touches such as garnishing tuna tartare with Meyer lemon and celery leaves. Service, cocktails and wine are all top-notch, too. Casbah is one of Pittsburgh’s 12 Essential Restaurants.

Executive Chef Dustin Gardner
SHADYSIDE: 229 S. Highland Ave.
412/661-5656
casbahpgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: Casbah Still is Rocking


photo by erin kelly

 

CHENGDU GOURMET

Cuisine: Sichuan Chinese
It’s Best Because: It’s one of the best Sichuan restaurants in the United States. 

Chengdu Gourmet Executive Chef/Owner Wei Zhu is a three-year-running James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic for his outstanding Sichuan cookery. Here’s what I tell people when they ask me about visiting the restaurant: It’s much more fun with a group, plan on sharing everything and, if you are new to Sichuan cuisine, feel good about asking a lot of questions.

You’ll want to balance the fiery mala-spiced dishes such as chongqing crispy chicken and cumin lamb with cooling items such as crispy pickled cucumbers and eggplant in garlic sauce. Chengdu Gourmet is BYOB — I recommended pairing your meal with inexpensive lager beer or a high-acid, slightly sweet white wine.

Executive Chef/Owner Wei zhu
Squirrel hill: 5840 Forward Ave.
412/521-2088
chengdugourmet.net

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What we’ve said in the past: Chengdu Gourmet in Squirrel Hill Brings the Heat


DIANOIA’S EATERY

Cuisine: Italian
It’s Best Because: It’s timeless, yet of the moment. 

DiAnoia’s Eatery seamlessly bridges the divide between wildly popular, Instagramable (and also flavorsome) dishes such as Sorrentina-style gnocchi, which comes in its own bread bowl, with rooted Italian cuisine such as porchetta served with its drippings and olive-oil-kissed, pan-roasted branzino served with roasted potatoes and tomatoes. Visit during the day for crushable lunchtime sandwiches and antipasti, and in the morning for beautiful coffee drinks and an egg sandwich that rivals those of New York City bodegas.

Service is top-notch, as is the bar program. In May, Executive Chef/Co-Owner Dave Anoia spun the restaurant’s popular gas-oven pizza into an adjacent space: Pizzeria Davide.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Dave Anoia
STRIP DISTRICT: 2549 Penn Ave.
412/918-1875
dianoiaseatery.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: DiAnoia’s Eatery Bridges the Gap


DINETTE

Cuisine: Mediterranean
It’s Best Because: It’s a perfect place to relax with a casual, flavor-forward meal. 

Dinette remains as relevant and vital a force in Pittsburgh dining as when Sonja J Finn opened it in 2008. It’s a perfect spot for an intimate evening with a loved one, and it’s also one of my top recommendations for places to go when you want to pamper yourself to a weeknight evening with a glass of wine, a simple-yet-lovely meal and some quality time with a good book.

Trust the seasonal selections and go with your cravings when ordering from the delectable top-of-the-menu selections; the same advice holds true with Finn’s elevated pizza topping combinations. Fair wages and working conditions, as well as leadership in environmental stewardship, are part of the reason that Dinette is one of Pittsburgh’s 12 Essential Restaurants.

Chef/Owner Sonja J Finn
SHADYSIDE: 5996 Centre Ave.
412/362-0202
dinette-pgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Dinette Now Is a No-Tipping Restaurant

DISH OSTERIA & BAR

Cuisine: Mediterranean
It’s Best Because: It’s pure Pittsburgh magic. 

Pittsburgh food lovers mourned in 2017 when Michele and Cindy Savoia announced they were shuttering their 17-year-old Dish Osteria & Bar. We rejoiced in April when what was a closing turned out to be an extended sabbatical. It’s as if the Savoias froze time; all the magic that made Dish one of Pittsburgh’s most beloved restaurants is still there, as are nearly the entire closing staff.

The stunning seafood dishes such as sardines alla griglia and cravable pasta plates such as rigatoni alla scamorza affumicata are as delectable as they ever were. Michele and his brother, Andrea, plus a dynamic front-of-house crew, provide a timeless sense of grace and hospitality. If Dish isn’t already your go-to feel-good destination, it quickly will become so.

Chef/Co-Owner Michele Savoia
SOUTH SIDE: 128 S. 17th St.
412/390-2012
dishosteria.com

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What we said when we learned of the reopening: Dish Osteria Will Reopen This Spring


DRIFTWOOD OVEN

Cuisine: Pizza
It’s Best Because: It’s a family-friendly pizza joint with a lot of nice touches. 

Pittsburgh went ga-ga when author/model Chrissy Teigen tweeted in February about how much she loved Driftwood Oven. It caused a bit of a frenzy (and some very long lines) for a few weeks, but it also clued people in to what a lot of us already knew: Neil Blazin and Justin Vetter’s brick-and-mortar version of their once-mobile pizzaria is outstanding.

Blazin, the baker, prepares stellar pizzas risen with a natural starter. His menu also includes farm-to-table salads and sourdough sandwiches such as mortadella with spicy pickled peppers. Vetter oversees an energetic, attentive and friendly front-of-house staff. We appreciate that Blazin and Vetter provide a fair wage for those workers, too. And here’s a nice bonus: Driftwood Oven is family-friendly.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Neil Blazin
LAWRENCEVILLE: 3615 Butler St.
412/251-0253
driftwoodoven.com

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What we’ve said in the past: All Ashore! Driftwood Oven Lands A Permanent Home


photo by erin kelly

ELEVEN CONTEMPORARY KITCHEN

Cuisine: American
It’s Best Because: It’s an anchor in Pittsburgh dining. 

As the Strip District undergoes its most significant transformation in decades, Eleven Contemporary Kitchen provides a much-needed sense of upscale continuity. Eli Wahl helms the kitchen of the big Burrito Restaurant Group’s flagship restaurant, which since 2004 has elevated dining in Pittsburgh.

The dinner menu features dishes such as roasted carrots with parsnip purée, madeira-orange reduction, almond crunch and spicy greens as well as wild Alaskan halibut with pea puree, trumpet mushrooms, ramps and crispy spelt; seasonal tasting menus such as “Celebration of Spring” continue to wow, too. If you’re a Pittsburgher who hasn’t tried Eleven because you’re always visiting newer restaurants, I encourage a visit. If you’re a conventioneer or other traveler staying Downtown, it’s worth the short walk to dine at this always-excellent establishment.

Executive Chef Eli Wahl
STRIP DISTRICT: 1150 Smallman St.
412/201-5656
elevenck.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

FISH NOR FOWL

Cuisine: Modern American
It’s Best Because: It brings culinary adventure back to a once-favorite space.

Fish Nor Fowl, the sixth standalone concept from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group, Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2019 Restaurateurs of the Year, is firing on all cylinders in the former Salt of the Earth space. Executive Chef /Partner Dan Carlton’s modern American menu features a selection of shareable dishes that change with the weather — some standouts from this year include halibut collar with lemon and butter, farfalle with uni, baby corn, chervil and lime and burrata with citrus, fennel and bitter greens.

General Manager Maggie Meskey oversees an exemplary front of house staff, the cocktail program ranks in Pittsburgh’s top-tier and DeShantz’s modern-hygge design makes for an outstanding experience.

Executive Chef/Partner Dan Carlton
GARFIELD: 5523 Penn Ave.
412/460-4644
fishnorfowlpgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past:
Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: Fish nor Fowl


FL.2

Cuisine: American
It’s Best Because: It’s an all-around excellent experience. 

Earlier this year, while eating a coconut-chia parfait and sipping on a vivid blend of fresh-pressed juices in fl.2’s stunning dining room, I was reminded about how luxurious it feels to enjoy an elegant breakfast in a beautiful space. But I typically go to fl.2 in the evening, which is when the restaurant’s extraordinarily talented executive chef, Julio Peraza, oversees one of the best dinner menus in Pittsburgh.

Start with kampachi sashimi dressed with white seaweed, citrus and white soy-yuzu, and then share a whole rotisserie chicken or locally raised trout with all the trimmings. Attending one of Peraza’s collaborative chefs’ dinner series is always a treat, too.

Executive Chef Julio Peraza
DOWNTOWN: 510 Market St., second floor
412/773-8848
fl2pgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past:
Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: fl.2 Is a Level Up


GAUCHO PARRILLA ARGENTINA

Cuisine: Argentine
It’s Best Because: You get to eat all the meats, cooked over fire. 

Several of my best mealtime memories in Pittsburgh involve gathering with a few friends and a few bottles of (BYO) wine and crushing all the meats at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, owner Anthony Falcon’s Strip District ode to asado. Sure, sometimes there is a long-ish line, but when you’re with the right people, waiting can be part of the fun (tip: go for an off-hour lunch if lines aren’t your thing).

For a proper feast, step up to the counter and order the asado platter, which includes five cuts of steak, and add some sides such as roasted carrots, roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary, an El Gaucho salad and provoleta.

Executive Chef Matthew Neal
STRIP DISTRICT: 1601 Penn Ave.
412/709-6622
eat-gaucho.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin’

LAUTREC

Cuisine: Fine Dining
It’s Best Because: It’s most worthy of a long drive just for dinner. 

Lautrec, the fine-dining restaurant at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, is more than 60 miles from Pittsburgh, yet it maintains a place on this list because of how extraordinary an experience it is to dine there. Executive Chef Kristin A. Butterworth combines classic technique with a farm-to-table ethos to craft a menu full of visually and gastronomically stunning dishes.

Butterworth’s prix fixe menu is a delicious salute to the seasons, and her chef’s table menu is an magnificent delight. Also on the table — an outstanding wine list.

Executive Chef Kristin A. Butterworth
NEMACOLIN WOODLANDS RESORT, FARMINGTON, FAYETTE COUNTY: 1001 Lafayette Drive
724/329-8555
nemacolin.com/dining/fine-dining/lautrec

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What we’ve said in the past: Profile of Kristin A. Butterworth


LEGUME BISTRO

Cuisine: American
It’s Best Because: It’s matured into an all-around outstanding dining experience.

Legume Bistro, the 12-year-old restaurant from Trevett and Sarah Hooper, has developed into one of Pittsburgh’s most mature restaurants — a smart and personable front-of-house staff set the mood for an attentive dining experience, and the kitchen’s deep commitment to following the rhythm of western Pennsylvania’s seasons means the menu changes in little ways nearly every day.

I appreciate the zing of preserved ingredients in the winter, the pop of fresh produce in spring, the brightness of summer’s best and the richness of foraged fall. Csilla Thackray, formerly of The Vandal and Bar Marco, joined the culinary staff as chef de cuisine earlier this year. Legume is one of Pittsburgh’s 12 Essential Restaurants.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Trevett Hooper
OAKLAND: 214 N. Craig St.
412/621-2700
legumebistro.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Legume Bistro Turns 10


MORCILLA

Cuisine: Spanish
It’s Best Because: Its Spanish-influenced snacks, shareable big plates and a low-key excellent cocktail program make for a powerhouse of a meal. 

Although Pittsburgh eating aficionados mourn the closing of Cure, Justin Severino’s culinary prowess (and his absurdly amazing charcuterie) lives on at his other restaurant, Morcilla. He works with Executive Chef Nate Hobart to offer a delectable array of Spanish-influenced snacks such as Spanish mackerel escabeche with espelette aioli, fennel and saffron, plus large-format dishes such as cider-braised chicken with calasparra rice and herbs.

The dining room — now with better sound-proofing — is terrific for group dining, and the bar area is perfect for casual snacks accompanied by some of the bars quaffable cocktails, ciders, gin tonics and selections from its deep sherry list.

Executive Chef Nate Hobart
​​LAWRENCEVILLE: 3519 Butler St.
412/652-9924
morcillapittsburgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Re-Open Date Set for Morcilla in Lawrenceville

BEST NEW RESTAURANT – POULET BLEU

Cuisine: French
It’s Best Because: Dining at Poulet Bleu is a transportive experience. 

Poulet Bleu is the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group’s first foray from its Downtown core of bar/restaurants, and it’s a grand success, earning this year’s award for Best New Restaurant.

DeShantz’s tempting French bistro menu tilts to the classics with dishes such as seared foie gras with tart cherries and apple compote, trout almondine and boeuf bourguignon. And don’t get me started about the French onion soup; its rich broth is resonant with deeply caramelized onions, veal stock and Cognac, and the crust of melted Comte and Emmental cheeses is a savory blanket.

Pastry Chef James D. Wrobleski III’s winning dessert menu features stunners such as chocolate souffle and pavlova. Wine maestro John Wabeck curated the French-heavy wine list, and classic cocktails shine on the bar menu. DeShantz went classic with his design choices, too. Soft blue and white are the dominant tones; accented with brass and pewter, they speak to an era of refined dining. The Polynesian-influenced upstairs bar is a swell getaway, too.

Executive Chef Richard DeShantz
LAWRENCEVILLE: 3519 Butler St.
412/325-3435
pouletbleupgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: Poulet Bleu


SALEM’S MARKET & GRILL

Cuisine: Middle Eastern
It’s Best Because: It’s budget-friendly, delicious and welcoming. 

I love the lunchtime hubbub at Salem’s Market & Grill. Come prepared for bare-bones ambience and amenities that are balanced by warm hospitality and fantastic food. The diversity of its clientele is a reflection of the population of the city — it’s the Pittsburgh restaurant where you’ll most likely be surrounded by people who come from a different background than you do.

Pittsburghers of all stripes line up for generous hot-bar portions of goat curry, tandoori chicken and daily specials such as grilled fish, or order items such as shish tawook, chicken shawarma and kufta kebab from the grill menu.

General Manager/Owner Abdullah Salem
STRIP DISTRICT: 2923 Penn Ave.
412/235-7828
salemsmarketgrill.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: Salem’s Market & Grill in the Strip District


SENTI

Cuisine: Italian
It’s Best Because: Franco Braccia and his staff bring upscale Italian to Lawrenceville. 

Senti’s low-key exterior makes it easy to miss, which is a shame because once you’re inside, it’s a real treat. Pittsburgh is lucky to have owner Franco Braccia running front-of-house service; his ability to read and react to what a table needs is extraordinary.

Chef Antonio Garcia’s Italian classics such as ossobuco di Maiale (pork shank braised in white wine, served with creamy polenta and gremolata) are stunners and, this year, Chef Jon Sterrett introduced a culinary counterpoint; his “Nuovo” menu features progressive Italian dishes such as gnocchi with braised lamb ragù and a mint kombucha palette cleanser and baby carrots with chili oil, caramelized ricotta, pomegranate seeds, parsley and carrot-ginger foam.

Chefs Antonio Garcia and Jon Sterrett
​LAWRENCEVILLE: 3473 Butler St.
412/586-4347
sentirestaurant.com

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SMOKE BARBEQUE TAQUERIA

Cuisine: Barbeque
It’s Best Because: Barbecue comes nestled in house-made tortillas and that sparks all the joy. 

There are few categories of food I enjoy as much as smoked meats, and Smoke, which owners Jeff Petruso and Nelda Carranco moved from its original Homestead location to Lawrenceville in 2014, hits squarely in my happy place.

Petruso’s Oyler Pit smoker perfumes the neighborhood as brisket, pork shoulder, ribs and other cuts of meat slow-cook to perfection. Eat them with accoutrements inside house-made flour tortillas or enjoy them on their own. And jump on daily specials such as Cubano quesadilla, pastrami tacos, and, when they have them, hamburgers.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Jeff Petruso
LAWRENCEVILLE: 4115 Butler St.
412/224-2070
smokepgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Flavorful Tacos are Main Attraction at Lawrenceville’s SMOKE


SPOON

Cuisine: American
It’s Best Because: It has anchored East Liberty dining since 2010. 

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Brian Pekarcik’s attuned-to-the-seasons menu is rooted in modern American cuisine, with a nod to Pittsburgh in dishes such as beet pierogi with house-made sausage and pickled fennel slaw. Look for elegant main courses such as duck breast with lemon-herb crust, chestnut spaetzle, pickled pear and juniper-port reduction. Spoon’s cocktail list long has been one of the strongest in Pittsburgh.

Service at Spoon is formal enough to make it a smart choice for an important celebration yet not so fussy as to stop you from popping in for a fun weekday dinner.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Brian Pekarcik
EAST LIBERTY: 134 S. Highland Ave.
412/362-6001
spoonpgh.com

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SPORK

Cuisine: American
It’s Best Because: The garden-to-table meets modern American menu always feels right for the season. 

Executive Chef Christian Frangiadis sat at the pinnacle of Pittsburgh dining in the late 1990s. After more than a decade in the Caribbean — and a few years finding his footing at Spork — he’s climbed back to the top of the peak.

The restaurant’s backyard garden provides stunningly fresh produce during the growing season, and its preservation program provides accents for dishes throughout the winter. Elegant touches such as tableside preparation of pressed dry-aged duck are complemented by a fun vibe, attentive service and an outstanding cocktail program.

Executive Chef Christian Frangiadis
BLOOMFIELD: 5430 Penn Ave.
412/441-1700
sporkpittsburgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: An Impressive Duck Lands at Spork in Bloomfield

SUPERIOR MOTORS

Cuisine: New American
It’s Best Because: It’s innovative and also fun. 

Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best New Restaurant of 2018 keeps rolling strong, with Executive Chef/Co-Owner Kevin Sousa deepening his exploration of what new American cookery means. Dishes such as mackerel with shoyu, leek, mushroom and dill are rooted in our region while at the same time draw from global influences. Pair those dishes with a selection or two from Superior Motors’ superlative beverage program.

Sousa’s introduction of a series of collaborative dinners with like-minded chefs and reasonably priced weekday tasting menus gives diners even more of a reason to visit the Braddock restaurant.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Kevin Sousa
BRADDOCK: 1211 Braddock Ave.
412/271-1022
superiormotors15104.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Best New Restaurant of 2018: Superior Motors


TAIWANESE BISTRO CAFE 33

Cuisine: Taiwanese
It’s Best Because: You get real-deal Taiwanese cuisine paired with excellent service. 

In what used to be a laundromat is now the best Taiwanese restaurant menu in Pittsburgh. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Asan Tao’s menu is full of tasty hits such as three-cup chicken, scallion pancake with egg or beef (I prefer the egg), pan-fried noodles and beef stew noodle soup. Look into the deeper cuts, too — dishes such as turnip cake, tripe with vegetables and jellyfish with celery salad are also worth your attention.

Co-Owner Jenny Tao makes the bubble tea — testing each batch from a tiny cup — and oversees the front-of-house staff; if you’re unfamiliar with Taiwanese cuisine, be sure to lean on them as your guide.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Asan Tao
SQUIRREL HILL: 1711 Shady Ave.
412/421-2717
twcafe33.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: Taiwanese Bistro Cafe 33


THE TWISTED FRENCHMAN

Cuisine: Modern French
It’s Best Because: You can experience fine dining with a touch of modernism. 

In the beautifully outfitted kitchen of what used to be an auction house, Twisted Frenchman Executive Chef/Partner Andrew Garbarino crafts multi-course tasting menus built with high-quality ingredients and a fusion of modern and classic techniques.

General Manager Yannick Thomas oversaw front-of-house operations at a pair of two-Michelin-star restaurants in France prior to moving to Pittsburgh — his approach to service is extraordinary.

Executive Chef/Partner Andrew Garbarino
EAST LIBERTY: 2595 Baum Blvd.
412/665-2880
thetwistedfrenchman.com

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What we’ve said in the past: The Twisted Frenchman Gets an Actual Frenchman

UMAMI

Cuisine: Japanese
It’s Best Because: It’s the spot for late night fun with good eats. 

Pittsburgh’s late-night options are scant. At Umami, the culinary party lasts deeper into the night than most establishments, and what they’re serving satisfies a craving better than just about anything else.

Hungry revelers can indulge in Umami’s tasty bites from the robatayaki and sushi menus, as well as succulent diversions such as pork gyoza and yaki udon until midnight on weeknights and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The sake list is good, and there often is a D.J. keeping the vibes just right. Look for an omakase-only sushi counter from owners Roger Li and Derek Brunell later this year.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner Roger Li
LAWRENCEVILLE: 202 38th St.
412/224-2354
umamipgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: Umami in Lawrenceville


UNION STANDARD

Cuisine: American
It’s Best Because: Derek Stevens and company know how to make Downtown a dining destination. 

The second-floor kitchen at Union Standard is dominated by a J & R Manufacturing wood-fired grill and rotisserie. From it, Executive Chef/Owner Derek Stevens offers smoky delights such as wood-grilled strip steak, tasty rotisserie chicken and roasted whole branzino.

That enough is worth a visit, but don’t overlook the restaurant’s vegetarian and vegetable-forward options, which shine just as brightly as the meat dishes. Dig into a cauliflower schnitzel, braised collard greens and whatever seasonal soup is offered; Stevens and company pay attention to the agricultural clock as well as any restaurant in Pittsburgh.

Executive Chef/Owner Derek Stevens
DOWNTOWN: 524 William Penn Place
412/281-0738
unionstandardpgh.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Restaurant Review: Union Standard


VIVO KITCHEN

Cuisine: Mediterranean
It’s Best Because: It’s a suburban restaurant worth driving to from the city. 

Vivo Executive Chef/Co-Owner Sam DiBattista has the old-school, new-school hybrid energy that many of us aim to age into. He’s been at it longer than nearly any other chef on this list, yet his menu and his swagger translates as contemporary. What this means are dishes such as stinging nettle risotto with roasted fiddlehead ferns and ramps.

DiBattista also offers my favorite chicken deal in the region — his crispy whole chicken with garlic is a must get at $19.

Executive Chef/Co-Owner
Sabatino “Sam” DiBattista
SEWICKLEY: 432 Beaver St.
412/259-8945
vivokitchen.com

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What we’ve said in the past: Tearing into a Whole Chicken at Vivo

How We Made Our Choices


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.

Spork, for example, makes the list for the first time because the culinary and management team of the three-year-old restaurant has honed-in on its menu and cocktail programs, as well as incorporated an impressive garden-to-table ecosystem. It’s also why Chengdu Gourmet remains on the list and remains one of my favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh. Although the restaurant is light on atmosphere, executive chef/owner Wei Zhu’s commitment to bettering his craft, including a trip to China for advanced culinary classes this year, keeps the restaurant leaning forward, making it part of a larger conversation about Sichuan cuisine in the United States.

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.

One thing that I’m thinking about this year more than ever before is how ownership treats its employees. There aren’t any restaurants that qualified for this list solely on the virtue of virtuousness, but I do think that a new addition this year, Driftwood Oven, as well as other longstanding establishments, deserve a nod of support for ensuring that their employees are looked after (Driftwood Oven’s owners are part of the Legume family tree).

We also made a rare exception to our policy that a restaurant must have opened by the final day of the previous calendar year to be included on the list. Dish Osteria & Bar reopened in April following a two-year hiatus; aside from some welcome soundproofing added to the dining room it was as if time had stood still. The beloved establishment, which first opened in 2000, is every bit as magical as it ever was and thus it appears on this list.

Finally, this year marks a new way of doing things around here: for the past 24 years, our list was selected by a committee. A pared down version of that committee remains and their advice is invaluable, but this list is fully the determination of the editorial staff of Pittsburgh Magazine.

Happy dining, Pittsburgh.

Categories: Best Restaurants, From the Magazine, Hot Reads