Hungry for Something Good? Where We're Eating in February

We're digging flexible Downtown dining, two new heavy hitters on the restaurant scene, killer sandwiches in the Strip, pizza in East Liberty and baked goods in Squirrel Hill.

photo by heather mull

Five Points Artisan Bakeshop
Geof Comings’ Five Points Artisan Bakeshop produces top-notch baked goods six days a week (it’s closed on Mondays). The baguettes, in particular, are a standout. In fact, you might want to pick up two of them because chances are you’ll eat one of the crispy, airy loaves on the way to your destination. Five Points makes it easy to satisfy just about any baked goods craving: There are slow-fermented sourdough loaves that can last for several days, sweet pastries such as apple cake and cinnamon buns and always a few tasty sandwiches ready for a quick lunch.
[6520 Wilkins Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-2253,]

photo by laura petrilla

The Umbrella Cafe
Downtown’s fairly spartan options for wholesome breakfast and lunch dining got a boost when The Umbrella Cafe — a partnership between Om Nom Bake Studio, Savasana Juice Company and Soup Nancys — opened last year. I particularly like the choose-what-suits-you flexibility here. You can have a hearty polenta with sausage ragu or a fresh juice, soup and salad. Excellent vegan and vegetarian options always are available.
[951 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 412/391-8500,]

Thin Man Sandwich Shop
The Strip District sandwich shop celebrates its third anniversary this month and remains one of my go-to choices for a quick, flavorful lunch. The terrific original sandwich fixtures — The Thin Man, Il Bastardo and The Smash — continue to anchor the menu, which also includes a rotating seasonal selection featuring ingredients from Pittsburgh-area farmers and ranchers.
[50 21st St., Strip District; 412/586-7370,]

Photo by adam milliron

I predict the second restaurant from Cure’s Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino is going to be getting a lot of national attention. My favorite bites right now are the bacalao (salt cod) croqueta with lemon honey, the pato escabeche (duck leg) with roasted carrot and burnt grapefruit, and the outstanding costillas de la matanza (smoked, crispy pork ribs). 
[3519 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/652-9924,]

So far my favorite items at Whitfield, the restaurant at Ace Hotel in East Liberty, have been the sweet ones. Pastry chef Casey Shively is creating a tasty array of desserts that marry classic technique with a down-home feel. I really enjoy the tart, frozen lemon mousse with toasted meringue and the cheesecake encased in a chocolate “magic shell.”
[120 S. Whitfield St., East Liberty; 412/361-3300,]

photo by heather Mull

Pizza Taglio
Tony Giaramita opened Pizza Taglio in April and continuously has worked to improve his product. I especially like The Greenpointer — fresh mozzarella, spicy soppressata and Mike’s hot honey — a hot and sweet homage to Paul Gianone’s Hellboy pizza at Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn. Another standout is the Cauliflower, a white pizza topped with garlic-roasted cauliflower, fresh mozzarella, pecorino and panko. Look for more on the menu when Giaramita’s wood-fired oven gets hot sometime early this year. 
[126 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty; 412/404-7410,]


Cecil Usher 
Lead Bartender | Butcher and the Rye

Cecil Usher grew up in New York City and was a bartender in State College before moving to Pittsburgh in 2010. He is a founding member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild. Usher moved to Butcher in July after working as bar manager of Meat & Potatoes, both part of the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group.

What’s the key to creating a great drink?
It’s either getting inspiration from an ingredient or from…an idea I see online. I read a lot to get a sense of what people are doing with cocktails. Then it’s about honing it in using a tool like “The Flavor Bible” or talking to culinary friends about how they like to put ingredients together.

How about mixing once you have the recipe?
It’s about being consistent. If you understand how the ingredients work, it gives you an understanding about how to balance them. For example, if you put citrus juice in something you’ll need some kind of sugar to balance it out. And always taste to see where it’s at.

What are your secrets to hospitality?
When someone steps up to my bar I want to make them feel like they’re coming to my house. I need to figure out what mood you’re in. Some people want to talk and other people just want to make sure their drinks are filled.

How do you deal with unruly patrons?
I try to address it in a respectful way. Hopefully I’ve built a rapport with them already. [If I need to] I’ll cut them off and try to get the people that they’re with to help defuse the situation. Finally, if I have to, I’ll make sure that the patron exits safely. I don’t talk down to them; most of us have been there at some point

Categories: Eat + Drink Features