Dining Critic's Picks: Wintertime Warmers


Taste the Tropics
It’s a painfully long trip from Pittsburgh to the tropical islands of the South Pacific. There’s an easier option: temporary, tropical relief at Hidden Harbor in Squirrel Hill. Tiki cocktails are designed to provide escapism from humdrum, ho-hums of winter, and nobody in Pittsburgh (or just about anywhere else) makes those drinks better than the Hidden Harbor bartenders. Visit the bar on Tuesdays for throwback Tiki Time Machine cocktails or Wednesdays to step into the future with Weird Science Wednesdays, or stop by any day for a fantastic concoction. There’s a solid menu of tropical-themed bar snacks such as grilled jackfruit tacos, pork sliders and seared tuna, too.
1708 Shady Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/422-5040, hiddenharborpgh.com

photo by laura petrilla


Cozy Pierogi
Butterjoint in Oakland is one of my favorite bars in Pittsburgh, period, but it resonates particularly deeply with me in the winter. I love cozying up and settling in for a couple of hours at the long bar that’s framed with an old, wooden back bar and tended by an always-friendly staff. On a snowy night, I’ll order a sazerac or negroni to drink and get something from the bar menu (there’s also an option to order from the full Legume menu until 9 p.m.). Butterjoint’s outstanding pierogi are a particularly good choice; get them with sautéed greens, house-made knackwurst and sauerkraut for a filling, inexpensive ($11) winter warmer.
214 N. Craig St., Oakland; 412/621-2700, butterjoint.com

photo by Heather Mull

Spice It Up
Sometimes it’s best to get the fire started from the inside. That’s why I love gathering a group of six to 10 friends around the lazy susan at Chengdu Gourmet in Squirrel Hill for a spicy Sichuan feast. Ma-la — the fiery, numbing combination of Sichuan peppercorns, dried chili pepper, spices and oil — is the base of dishes such as cumin lamb, mapo tofu and chongqing beef hot pot, all of which will get the blood flowing. Fish fillet with pickled sour mustard green soup, laced with Thai and jalapeno peppers, is another dish that’ll warm your winter-weary bones. 
5840 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-2088, chengdugourmet.com