While press coverage has made Pittsburgh synonymous with "hip," the success and creativity of local chefs hasn't gone unnoticed. In 2014, Bon Appétit
proclaimed Pittsburgh "The Next Big Food Town." In 2015, Zagat, the noted source for restaurant reviews, named Pittsburgh the nation's "No. 1 Food City."
Pittsburgh chefs are focusing on more ethnic foods, from Korean BBQ to fine French cuisine; street foods; whole, fresh foods; and "veggie-forward" foods. Neighborhoods that are home to some of the best urban eateries are Lawrenceville, the Strip District, Downtown and the North Shore.
Hot and Hip in Lawrenceville and the Strip
One local change agent is Justin Severino, a three-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee and Food & Wine magazine's "Best New Chef." Cure, Severino's breakout restaurant in Lawrenceville, is a modern charcuterie with Mediterranean flair. Alongside notable young chef Nate Hobart, Severino has opened his second Lawrenceville restaurant, Morcilla, featuring tastes of Spain - and host of the James Beard Foundation's Celebrity Chef Tour.
Between Downtown Pittsburgh and Lawrenceville is the Strip District, a popular dining hub. Kaya has an island vibe; casual and spicy. Down the street, Eleven Contemporary Kitchen offers elegance and an outstanding wine list. At Savoy, executive chef Andre Robinson invites his audience to "Experience the Good Life," and Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, known for wood-fired grilled meats, is on Yelp's 2015 list of "Top Places to Eat in the U.S."
The Strip District has a new kid on the block. Smallman Galley is a restaurant "incubator" that gives four young chefs the space they need to develop their own concepts. The goal is for these chefs to eventually move on to their own establishments. The current foursome - Aubergine Bistro, Carota Café, Josephine's Toast and Provision Pgh - offer something for everyone.
The Culture Is Downtown
The city's performance center is located Downtown, where visitors can choose from a host of alluring restaurants for dinner before or after the theater. Some new options include Butcher and the Rye, täko and Pork & Beans. Another new addition is Chef Claudy Pierre's Culture Restaurant & Lounge, where American cuisine is the focal point.
The North Shore Is Sports
Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, created by the former Pittsburgh Steeler, can't be missed. Tiffany Welsh, the sales and events coordinator, points out that Chef Jay Erfort and his team make everything from scratch, from bacon-infused burgers to mac n' cheese to pierogies, a local comfort food.
As enticing and ample as the menu (and the local craft beer selection) is, this establishment stands out as a sports destination, where 54 high-definition TVs display games without commercials. For those who desire a different scene, the restaurant's patio provides outstanding views of the city's skyline from across the Allegheny River.
There couldn't be a better location in Pittsburgh to catch sports fever. Jerome Bettis' Grille 36 is located on the North Shore between PNC Park and Heinz Field. The restaurant can accommodate groups of 15 to 300, either in private spaces or by renting out the whole place.
If you prefer "Some Real Southern Cooking" over sports, Carmi Soul Food Restaurant offers fried and smothered (in gravy) versions of chicken, pork chops and fish, all served with a heaping portion of cornbread.
For more information about what to do and where to dine, see visitpittsburgh.com.