If you’re not sampling all of what Pittsburgh's restaurant scene has to offer, you should, and the Best Restaurants list is a good place to start.
The annual Best Restaurants list each June not only remains a thoughtful guide to the places you need to eat, but also is a barometer of the restaurant scene in Pittsburgh. For years, the list has expanded as we recognized the growth in our restaurant scene. Now, we acknowledge that it’s no longer a burgeoning industry but a mature one that is in its prime and we can be even more selective about our list. (See Our 50 Years to see how far we’ve come).
I’ve heard how lucky we are to be recognized for the outstanding restaurants we have, but luck has little to do with it. The women and men who have shaped what it means to be a Pittsburgh restaurant have done so by their entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and hard work.
Because of them, dining out is a transformative and enjoyable experience. If you’re not sampling all the restaurant scene has to offer, you should, and the Best Restaurants list is a good place to start. To be clear, it’s not just a rundown of fine-dining establishments; the list also includes amazing pizza and other surprises.
Because there are so many good and new places to eat, a group of my friends and I formed a dinner club. About once a month we meet at a restaurant that most of us haven’t tried yet. We work our way through cocktails, appetizers, dinner and dessert — all of which we sample. We’ve had mostly great meals, some mediocre meals and a few total misfires. But no matter what the experience, sharing a meal and talking about it brings us together and demonstrates the power of food to connect us.
While it is natural to focus on the food and the hard work that goes into running a restaurant, front-of-house service can elevate or decimate a dining experience. Here are some examples from our dinner club experiences (thanks to Jamie, Mac, Robert, Russ and Suzanne for their input):
- Music sets a mood as long as it’s not so loud that the server has to shout to be heard.
- Keep a good pace. If everything comes out too fast or all at once, it feels chaotic and rushed; too slow, it feels neglectful.
- Stop being fussy about clearing the plates and taking unused silverware the moment we pause from eating.
- Don’t make guests feel like they need to shove their credit cards in your hands as soon as you deliver the check for fear of being ignored for another half hour.
- It’s OK if a customer asks a question about a dish and a server doesn’t know. It’s not OK if she won’t find out.
- A waiter once insulted the woman who poured the water for our table after one of us asked what she liked on the menu because she was “just a busgirl.” That left a bad taste in our mouths.
- Guests should be kind and understanding. We once waited more than an hour, even though we had a reservation, but took it in stride because the staff was so apologetic. In the end, it translated to a great experience.
- Remember to pay.
That last one is directed at me. We had a great meal at fl.2 in the Fairmont, and the next thing I knew the waiter was returning with everyone’s credit cards — except mine. We split the check as usual, but somehow I failed to toss my card in the pile. I still have no idea how I missed this happening right in front of me. (Really, Russ, you have to believe me.) Yes, I offered to make things right, but they refused, probably so I can be teased about it for the rest of my life. Needless to say, fl.2 remains one of my favorite places for top-notch food, excellent service … and an unbeatable price.