Where We're Eating in January

This month, we're going off the beaten path for some cheap eats (and spiked shakes).

<< Chica Loca Taco
This bright little shop is tucked away from all the hustle and bustle of nearby Walnut Street. Chica Loca dishes out street-style tacos in addition to other small sides (like soup and various salads) and gelato. Grab a table and get yourself a few tacos (chorizo, chicken or veggie, to name a few). Friendly staffers supply crispy chips and cups of homemade salsa (for free with an order totaling $7 or more). If you’re able to plan your visit, stop in on Taco Tuesday, when a pair of the stuffed tortillas costs just $5.

733 Copeland St., Shadyside; 412/999-0511, chicalocataco.com

Tin Front Cafe
In Pittsburgh, you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve meat. But here, fruits and veggies are the main stars. On Homestead’s Eighth Avenue, few restaurants appear as inviting as Tin Front, with its homey atmosphere and bubbly crew. Items like polenta with ratatouille and pierogi lasagna grace the menu. Bonus: There’s a Sunday brunch buffet, stocked with treats like vegan blueberry pancakes, spinach quiche and grits with cheddar.

216 E. Eighth Ave., Homestead; 412/461-4615, tinfrontcafe.com

Cafe io
After reinventing his previous eatery, Iovino’s Cafe, chef Jeff Iovino came out on top. Cafe io’s polished-casual vibe and cuisine bring in locals regularly. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy a dressed-up version of the classic grilled cheese they had growing up or a Greek flatbread hummus pizza? Sip something sweet while you eat; spiked shakes (like “banana krak”) pair nicely with the fare. With a fun perspective and clear direction, Iovino makes Cafe io a must-visit South Hills spot.

300a Beverly Road, Mt. Lebanon; 412/440-4414, cafeio.com

The Mediterranean Grill
If you can get over having to walk inside the building that houses this place and travel down several steps, you’ll be fine. Offering a plethora of dishes, this eatery is viewed as a prime spot for reasonably priced, hearty Mediterranean eats (impressive for a neighborhood packed with ethnic restaurants). Don’t leave without trying some of the legendary hummus. And if you’re really hungry, you’ll want to order some top-of-the-line grape leaves (or a salad) with your chicken shwarma.

5824 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-5505; BYOB

Matt Kemp,  Co-Owner/Executive Chef | Fukuda

Chef Matt Kemp, a former vegetarian, has always been drawn to sushi (it was the only meat he’d eat on occasion — and the focus he opted to take in the kitchen). Kemp and his crew serve sushi, among other Japanese fare, at their Bloomfield eatery (and at AVA Lounge … and via their pop-up counter).   

How’s your cookbook collection?
It’s all over the place. If there’s any opportunity to get a gift, I’ve always received one that’s food-related. But I’m a food scientist — I study why things taste a certain way and why ingredients work together; it helps a lot more.  

Pet peeve?
Sushi in Pittsburgh seems more business-forward. Since sushi’s popular here, some people selling it make it glitzy and cheap.  

Best meal ever?
I definitely appreciate what Justin Severino is doing at Cure. And Kevin Sousa is doing an amazing job here in Pittsburgh, too.  

Nigiri or maki?
Definitely nigiri. You get a nice balance between the fish and rice.  

Invaluable utensil?
My Yanagiba knife; when it comes to slicing, everything needs to be done very precisely from start to finish. Also, my hangiri mixing bowl — it’s where cooked rice becomes sushi rice.

4770 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/567-5050, fukudapgh.com

Categories: Eat + Drink Features