Eat and Drink in Peace at These Underrated Suburban Spots
Oakmont and South Fayette are home to cozy, under-the-radar eateries.
If you’re keeping track—and bless your heart for doing so—you’ll note that this is the second week After Dark has dedicated to nightlife in the suburbs, as a tie-in to the Best of the ‘Burbs feature in our annual City Guide. And this time, I got to thinking about suburban restaurants, like the great Pines Tavern, pictured alongside our section on Pine and Richland townships. (A note on that place, by the way: If you want all the great food and atmosphere they have to offer with a bit less formality, be sure to pay a visit to their Tap Room. It doesn’t close between the lunch and dinner seatings like the restaurant, and is a great place for a casual date.)
Editor’s note: If we had a category in our Best Restaurants issue for Most Criminally Under-the-Radar Restaurant, Pines Tavern would be co-winner with Out of the Fire in Donegal.
In the city, you see, we have quantity when it comes to restaurants. Some are great, some are best avoided, and many are fine. But in many of Pittsburgh’s ‘burbs, quality is favored. There may not always be a dozen eateries in a block, but the one that’s there—or, more likely, hidden in a pleasant little spot just outside the neighborhood—will be an instant go-to spot. There are a number of these joints that I love, but I was eager to explore further. As I always am.
I had never visited the well-regarded Chelsea Grille, just a few blocks down and across the tracks from my regular Oakmont haunt, the Oaks Theater. I was eager to try the place, though; I liked my go-to pre-movie choice, Carnivores, but I’m always up for a second option. What I discovered is that the Grille is a destination in and of itself. If you’re eating (and you should), the Seafood Soup is unbelievable, the entrees are flavorful and surprisingly ornate for the price, and even the side salads are remarkable. If you’re just drinking, the specialty is refreshing cocktails. A late-summer special was posted on the door as we entered, and I considered making it a drinking lunch for the Rapture Martini. There’s always an interesting and affordable wine-by-the-glass feature, as well. It’s not just a place to stop if you’re in the neighborhood; the Chelsea Grille is a must for a great meal in a comfortable spot. And if you’re in for lunch, be sure to visit another local treasure, the Mystery Lovers Bookshop, across the street.
(515 Allegheny Ave, Oakmont. Mon-Thu, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sun, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Info: 412/828-0570 or chelseagriloak.com)
Meanwhile, in picturesque South Fayette, Frenchy’s Bistro & Wine Cellar has taken the standard ‘Burgh bar and refined it into a comforting escape. South Fayette may well be the point where Pittsburgh finally slips away, as you pass over the Bridgeville line and are firmly in rural Pennsylvania, with rolling hills and room to breathe. Not that Frenchy’s is out in the middle of nowhere—in fact, you could probably be in Mount Lebanon in 10 minutes. The distinction is mental, but important, and Frenchy’s makes hay with it.
It’s as if a neighborhood joint in Millvale or the North Side suddenly hit it rich and decided to go all out. The expected bar in the middle of the room is still there, surrounded intimately by booths and small tables. But everything at Frenchy’s is relaxed, comfortable and inviting. Pour over the wine list and pick a glass or a bottle; they have a decent bottled beer list and liquor, of course, but this is a place for wine. The menu is small, but they know what they’re doing; I went with a special on my last visit, which is always a fine decision as well. You still have time to enjoy Frenchy’s back patio before winter, as well, a quiet backyard haven. And stop by on any Friday or Saturday night for live jazz from 7 – 10 p.m. If you’re from the area, you probably already visit Frenchy’s at least once a week; if you’re not, it’s worth a stop anytime you’re on that side of the tunnel.
(3477 Washington Pike, South Fayette. Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Info: 412/221-1900.)