Where to Eat in Pittsburgh and Why

BY  Joe Rosenthal

Some say it’s the worst food city in the United States. Others claim it’s not that bad. Here’s how to make the most out of a trip to the Steel City.
Blood orange chocolate cake from The Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh.
Photo: Joe Rosenthal

Note: Since this article was published, Casey Renee has left her position as Pastry Chef of The Whitfield—go at your own peril. Renee now operates CONFECTIONS.

How Lee
Squirrel Hill
5888 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(412) 422-1888
With three Szechuan restaurants in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood alone, you’re failing the Pittsburgh visit if you leave without having some Szechuan food. The scallion pancakes and cold noodle appetizer are must-try starters. Get the Chongqing dry hot chicken and the double cooked pork belly and share them family-style, and add on the cumin beef if you’ve got a large party and at least someone is a cumin fan. If you need vegetables, the golden corn fills that niche well.

Chongqing Dry Hot Chicken at How Lee.
Photo: Joe Rosenthal

Gaby et Jules
Squirrel Hill
5837 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(412) 682-1966
The macarons are up there with those from Ladurée, and there’s plenty of beautiful pastries from which you can choose, but be sure to grab a palmier (elephant ears) for the next morning.

Pittsburgh Food Fact “Pittsburgh has more pizzerias per capita than any other US city with exception to Orlando, Florida. Beware.”

Waffleonia in Schenley Plaza
Oakland
4212 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(412) 521-4902
There’s a pretty good chance that your Liège waffle will be underdone inside, but if it’s not, it’ll be phenomenal. Go with the Bruges for a waffle topped with fresh strawberries and freshly whipped cream. You can also add a scoop of Nutella ice cream on top of any waffle, if that’s what you need, or you could just eat a scoop of Nutella ice cream—who’s judging?

Liège waffle at Waffleonia. This waffle was underdone, but it looked great.
Photo: Joe Rosenthal

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
Oakland
3616 Fifth Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(412) 687-0100
Skip the tenders and go with the real deal fried chicken—you can thank me later.

Pittsburgh Food Fact “Among other things, Heinz Ketchup and Klondike bars were invented in the Pittsburgh area. Yum!”

Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream
Shadyside

232 S Highland Ave

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

(412) 404-8853
Try Chad’s Vanilla. If you’re lactose intolerant, they’ve got something to help with that up front.

The Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh
East Liberty
120 S Whitfield St
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(412) 626-3090
Stay at the Ace Hotel when you visit Pittsburgh, and go out to eat somewhere else on this list; come back for dessert. Don’t go off script. There’s a reason why The Whitield’s Casey Renee is called one of the top pastry chefs in the country: her seasonally rotating chocolate cake is as good as it gets.

Pittsburgh Food Fact “Pittsburgh is not known for cheese steaks; that’s Philadelphia. And no, they’re not close together. Stop trying to order cheese steaks in Pittsburgh.”

Jozsa Corner
Hazelwood
4800 Second Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(412) 422-1886
Bring five friends (minimum, reservation required) that want to do a Hungarian tasting menu of seemingly endless courses while sitting in what could pass as someone’s home. The food’s solid through and through, and you’ll more or less eat what gets put in front of you.

S&D Polish Deli
Strip District
2204 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(412) 281-2906
This polish delicatessen is your go to place for farmer’s cheese pierogi and smoked kielbasy. And they ship nationwide.