Top 10 Picks for Restaurant Week: Winter 2014
The time is now to eat your way through The Next Food City.
It’s not news that Pittsburgh consistently tops many “Best Places to Live” lists. During the past two years, the metropolis we love is racking up even more accolades and spawning many a love letter from bloggers who live here, ’Burgh ex-pats and out-of-towners.
What is new, though — and makes me even more giddy — is how we lately have been paving the way in the food world. More than a week ago, CNN and Food & Wine covered the Superior Motors campaign, which broke the Kickstarter record for highest funding of a restaurant project. Chef Kevin Sousa’s venture raised and surpassed its goal with an eleventh-hour nail-biter fueled by a social-media rally that even “Top Chef” runner-up Bryan Voltaggio couldn’t help but back. Garnering more national coverage is inevitable when this groundbreaking restaurant goes through its build and launch phases.
This is but one example of why Pittsburgh is not only topping “livability lists,” but it’s also starting to rule food-focused lists. In 2013, Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern hailed Pittsburgh as “the next big thing,” and to start this year off, Bon Appétit Foodist Andrew Knowlton recently named us The Next Food City.
This week, let’s celebrate our city’s fare with one of the events that in no small way has contributed to this growing food culture: Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. What started as a labor of love has grown to be one of our most-anticipated events. It provides a time for all of us to experience and support the restaurants that have been a big part of redefining Pittsburgh food.
Here are my Top 10 Picks to help you sort through the many participants. (Note: This list has been getting harder to narrow down!) So come out of your post-polar-vortex hibernation and eat your way through the city.
Photo by John Altdorfer
Like many, I’ve been in love with Bar Marco for a long time. I wrote about the spot in PM’s 15 Hot Brunches feature, and the restaurant continues to be one of the city’s most intrepid. This week, for $30.14, treat your palate to chef Jamilka Borges’ three-course menu: beet and apple soup with dill, kohlrabi-mushroom ravioli and buttercup squash-honey flan.
Head over to Willow Street, right behind Butler, for Lawrenceville’s best-kept secret, Kaleidoscope Café! For $20.14, nosh on the sweet-potato tagliatelle with tempeh linguica, peas and spinach. On top of that, you get a soup and salad.
I grew up on Spanish food, so this week I’m headed to Mallorca in South Side. For $35.14, the restaurant offers a multicourse menu of appetizers and soups, plus an entrée and six dessert choices. I’m ordering the portabello mushroom in balsamic vinaigrette and piquillo peppers stuffed with spinach, raisins and pine nuts. Yum.
Pino’s Contemporary Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
Over in Point Breeze, Pino’s offers a $30.14 PRW menu that’s absolutely mouthwatering: Start with a winter vegetable bisque with coconut curry purée, crispy kale greens and cinnamon dust. Follow it with a butternut squash ravioli with sage. And finish with dessert. For a $12.14 upcharge, you get a wine pairing. Deal!
Attention, city dwellers who never cross bridges: It’s time to traverse your pick of bridges connecting Penn Avenue or Butler Street to Fox Chapel. For $20.14, the Donato’s special features a fantastic tofu stew with hot peppers and wild mushrooms over a sumptuous risotto. Don’t worry, Google Maps will take you straight back home. Or not. *Left turn in-to riv-er.*
Photo by Laura Petrilla
I hate surprises, but I’ll make an exception for the always-inventive Keith Fuller. The chef/owner of the Regent Square gem is offering a three-course menu for both meat and veg lovers, plus everyone in between. Pay $30.14 for the omnivore menu and $28.14 for the vegetarian option. Note that the menu changes daily.
Habitat remains my downtown lunch pick with the $14 Executive Express Lunch option. This beautiful restaurant inside Fairmont Pittsburgh has the freshest salads, seasonal soups and satisfying sandwiches — including a grilled vegetable wrap and whole-grain veggie burger that hits the spot on a work day.
The Terrace Room (inside the Omni William Penn)
My downtown dinner pick is the Terrace Room at the Omni. For $35.14, the Terrace is serving a multiple-course menu that starts with such options as roasted pumpkin and smoked maple bisque and beet napoleons. The entrée star is a sweet-potato gnocchi with Swiss chard and crispy sage. And there are three mouthwatering dessert choices! After dinner, head over to Speakeasy and grab a classic cocktail to cap a perfect evening.
For more on Speakeasy, check out After Dark’s review.
Tender Bar + Kitchen
The Bang for Your Buck Gold Star goes to Tender Bar + Kitchen as the place debuts its new burger lineup this week! Get a drink and your burger of choice for $14. I’m ordering the quinoa-black bean burger with radicchio slaw. I may or may not add tots for $3. And I’m definitely getting an aperitif and a digestif.
For more on Tender, check out After Dark’s recent review.
Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina
I know where I’m brunching this weekend — Verde, where the meal will cost $14. I’m ready for the pumpkin spice panqueues with apple compote, cumin maple syrup and granola. Then I’m hoping someone at my table orders the tortitas de patata: shredded potato pancakes with roasted pepper and corn — so I can mooch off their plate. Verde also is serving a $30.14 dinner menu and a two-course lunch from the regular $14 menu. Heck, eat at Verde for every meal this weekend!