week in Pittsburgh

I will be spending a week in Pittsburgh in mid-june: a few days at a conference downtown, and a few more staying with a friend in mount lebanon. Any must-tries ? Nothing too $$… and hoping not to spend too much on ubers!!


Kaya (Caribbean)
Con Alma (great jazz, good cocktails, eclectic menu)
Penn Ave Fish Co. (great fish sandwiches, sushi, seafood)
Pamela’s Diner on the strip (classic)
FetFisk (hipster but very good food)
Federal Galley (various eateries in one big food hall)
Bae Bae’s Kitchen (seasonal Korean)
The Warren Bar & Burrow (great dive bar with an eclectic menu - think sushi and burgers, both good).

If you like Argentinian steak you can try to get into Gaucho Parilla. We’ve never been when it was open, and the line is around the block when it is. Good luck!


Thank you!! Creating my google map now…

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I went to high school near Pittsburgh, and then lived there at different points in my adult life. Haven’t been there in years now, so I won’t attempt specific restaurant recommendations, but this obscure blog by a small group of food-obsessed friends has been the best source for reliable Pittsburgh restaurant reviews for nearly 20 years. I always hit it up before a visit. They really know what they’re talking about, and any place that merits two little blue circles from them is definitely worth a visit.



This was so fun to read. Some of the descriptions are hilarious. I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh since 1963, and I still enjoyed it!


This is well timed, we are heading there in August! Any chance you would share your Google map?


Thanks for sharing! I grew up there in Pgh but moved away for college and never really went back, but it was a nice trip down memory lane. But - The O closed??? I have so many memories of that place! We used to cut Sunday school and go there for fries… it was never crowded at 9:30am on Sundays…


will do!!

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Also, if you don’t have a Penzey’s near you, there’s one on the strip that I keep forgetting about :roll_eyes:, and Penn Mac, a great source for all things Italian.

Tina’s is also a very cute place that specializes in negronis, and they have a lovely selection of tinned seafoods. We had habanero smoked oysters that were bomb.


You’re very welcome! We’re in Philly phar more ophten than PGH, but good friends of ours live there, and always have great recommendations for us :slight_smile:

Oh, and there’s a super-cute Turkish cafe Alihan’s Coffee & Breakfast right downtown that we loved for lunch.

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I LOVE Penzey’s… none in Canada!!

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Oh, fabulous! I usually order from them online & always forget they have an actual brick & mortar bldg in PGH :slight_smile:

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That list from @ninrn looks legit! Also the recent recs from @linguafood.

I haven’t spent time in the Pittsburgh area since 2018 but grew up there and visited family for decades. I agree with other posters that a visit to the Strip (District) can be fun. Think of it as a mix of food shopping and eateries in a formerly industrial neighborhood. Ought to be a short Uber trip from wherever you’re staying downtown.

For a quintessentially Pittsburgh experience, you could include a ride on one of the historic Pittsburgh inclines. Take in a view of the city from Mount Washington. (Ask the staff at your hotel about the easiest way to pop over there from your hotel. Hills, bridges—you won’t want to attempt a walk I think.)

Pittsburgh is very much its own place, yet it doesn’t have a regional specialty food that appeals to visitors in the same sense, that say, a lobster roll would be iconic for someone visiting Maine. Pittsburgh food for me is always particularly connected to community: a fried fish sandwich at a local tavern, pierogi made for a church fundraiser, a vast table of homemade cookies for a wedding.

I have fond memories of below-the-radar neighborhood restaurants that I have visited over the years, more notable for being part of their local scene than anything else. When you’re staying with your friend in Mt. Lebanon, maybe ask if there’s a neighborhood place where you can grab that fried fish sandwich or a burger and a beer. That’s a Pittsburgh experience to me.


I’ve visited the burbs of Pittsburgh at least 30 times, mostly for weddings and funerals over the past 30 years.

I tend to get more home cooking than restaurant food when I visit.

These are some regional things that I’ve had a lot when I’ve visited.

The donuts. Pittsburgh still has good old school donuts, that don’t cost $4 each, something that Toronto no longer has. Mac’s donuts (not convenient to downtown, not suggesting the drive, but if you happen to be nearby) is the place my uncle always bought his donuts.

Prantl’s burnt almond torte. I know rstuart doesn’t enjoy nuts, this is more for Christina.
Prantl’s does sell nut-free stuff. My cousin, who had a side gig selling wedding cookies for cookie tables, loves this torte. I sent one through Goldbelly to my uncle in Colorado for his bday 3 years ago. They’re available for shipping.

Primanti’s sandwiches. It’s a chain. There is at least one location right downtown. I don’t know which is the best one to order. Fries are added to the sandwich. Fries are also added to their salads.

I enjoyed one New American meal downtown, the week of a family wedding. I’ll check to see if that restaurant is still in business.

Other things Pittsburgh does well: Italian American food that is distinct from what’s available in Toronto. Perogies, sausage, kraut, again, Americanized versions which are distinct from what’s available in Toronto.

The regional sandwiches are distinct from what we have in Toronto.

The The Dor Stop Restaurant (breakfast) . I still haven’t been but it’s been on my radar for 20 years.

In terms of Pittsburgh regional foods I haven’t seen in Toronto: Strawberry pretzel salad :slightly_smiling_face: I love it. :smiley: I didn’t try this until a family reunion in 2018. It’s potluck food.

City Chicken ( it’s actually usually pork, sometimes veal)

If I had more time, I would want to spend more time poking around Squirrel Hill.


I used to go to Pittsburgh for work every once in a while at my last job - all pre-pandemic. There was a great very low key casual place called The Colombian Spot that offered good Colombian food, and a few offerings of other Latin American dishes. There are a few good, noteworthy places in the downtown area, but I my recall is expiring and the names are not coming to me. These were nicer, trendy restaurants for the workers’ after hours dinners.

If you love sandwiches, Pimanti Bros is apparently very popular. I was meh with the experience, but I also don’t love sandwiches. The fries in sandwiches and on salads too…not my thing.


Fries on salad = Pittsburgh salad!

I never got that fries on sandwiches and salads thing before I traveled. I think it traces back to workers who needed a substantial meal and had little time to eat it.

For example, up here in the Merrimack Valley (Mass.) you can still find a Boott Mill sandwich with fried potatoes, eggs, cheese, and a breakfast meat. Admittedly, I don’t have such a handy explanation for that fries on salad thing.


I (mistakenly) thought the fries on the Primanti’s salad were for the people who order a salad at a sandwich shop, who don’t want a Primanti’s sandwich, to Primanti it up.

Fries wrapped into a gyro or souvlaki in a pita, is normal in Greece. It was new to me around 2004. I love it. I only ever want a few fries, not a whole side of fries. 5-8 fries in my sandwich is just right. LOL.

One practical reason to have the fries in the sandwich- no need for a fork or to get your fingers dirty eating the fries. The sandwich to-go might be wrapped in waxed paper or foil, as you eat it.

(Cornish pasties and Jamaican patties were created so that people (miners in the Cornwall case ) could eat them on the go, holding the pasties / patties by the crust on the edge.)

(Edit: I had no idea the Pittsburgh Salad was so popular, at places that have nothing to do with Primanti’s! Popular with home cooks, too)


Yeah, fries in a salad are a thing beyond Pimanti’s. Had lunch with a vendor in Pittsburgh once, and we went to a different cafe, and my coworker (local) ordered a salad and added fries to it. That was actually the first time encountering it. A few places in Boston offer it too (Greco being one). Convenience is one thing, but I never understood the appeal of soggy fries. Same with the chips in sandwiches.

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We have a Primanti’s in town and it’s frat boy central. Zero appeal to me, but I don’t go out for sandwiches, generally, and don’t care for fries in and on everything.