We didn’t know how good we had it.
As I read Hal B. Klein’s annual “Best Restaurants” list — a story that, this year, is as much a personal journey as it is an informative survey — I found myself not only hungry but also longing for a proper return to Pittsburgh’s impressive dining scene. Before March 2020, I took the variety and sheer quantity of worthy restaurants in Pittsburgh for granted; it’s easy to fall into familiar routines, choosing the favorite neighborhood burger spot over the hidden gem farther afield.
Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I look forward to experiencing more of Hal’s choices myself — first, at those establishments with outdoor dining sections and via take-out, then, as COVID numbers improve, indoors once again.
When I say that we didn’t know how good we had it, though, I don’t simply mean before the pandemic. I was stricken, in reading Hal’s piece, with the number of these restaurants that pivoted to innovative, hospitality-first ways to make their food available for those at home, even in the darkest days of the pandemic. In those moments where we felt truly cut off from the world, our region’s best restaurateurs and chefs were still there, making sure their world-class fare was getting to tables.
We didn’t know how good we had it — it felt like the world was missing, but it never really went away.
Sadly, many beloved institutions, from stalwart bars to ambitious restaurants, have indeed fallen victim to the economic downturn; there are a great many places we won’t be able to replace. But as we get out this summer — safely, and pending vaccination, of course — and once again begin exploring our hometown, we will find new, fresh favorites and old, familiar haunts. And, if Hal’s list is any indication, there will be plenty to find.
First order of business for me: Experiencing the newly reopened outdoor space at Pusadee’s Garden. After a year spent inside the same walls, it sounds like paradise.
Sean can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org