Food bloggers dish on Pittsburgh’s best-kept dining secrets and more

Pittsburgh restaurants need our support more than ever. (They also needs the government’s support, for the record.)

That means that in addition to your favorite haunts, it’s a great time to branch out and try takeout from a new spot. Just don’t forget to tip.

In an effort to make this exploratory process even easier (and to celebrate Pittsburgh food in general), we asked some of the city’s best food bloggers to tell us about their favorites, the city’s best-kept secrets, and how there’s wayyyy more to Pittsburgh food than fried starches. Here’s what they said.

The Incline: What’s your go-to take-out right now? 

Jess Iacullo, aka Hungry Grl Big City: I love that Noodlehead in Shadyside has adopted a Noodle Hotline. Their pork buns and their Chiang Mai Curry (spice level three) are a go-to of mine. I also order from The Colombian Spot in the South Side where they have the best arepas in the city. And All India in Oakland is a favorite of mine. Their mango juice is unreal. I also recommend their samosas and aloo tikki.

Alex Goodstein, aka Alex Eats Too Much: The Fairlane in Mt. Lebanon, which is sadly closing, and Pittsburgh Sandwich Society, specifically for their Nashville hot chicken sandwich nights.

Stacy Skiavo, aka YinzHungry412: Hands down the best takeout meal I’ve had during the pandemic was the burger special at the Independent Brewing Company. A pair of burgers, wings, fries, and two pounders for under $40 — sign me up for every Monday!

Shannon Daly, aka PittsburghPlates: My go-to takeout spot (even before the pandemic) has to be Carson Street Deli. While I do change my order from time to time, my go-to handhelds include Montezuma’s Revenge, Godfather, Balboa, or if I’m feeling creative I create my own.

Elyse Levkulich, aka BurghNosh: We have consumed A LOT of pizza and I’m almost embarrassed to say how many times a week we order it. It’s honestly appropriate for any meal of the day, and next day pizza with a fried egg on top is a totally acceptable breakfast in our house. While we love Fiori’s pizza, we recently fell in love with Pizzeria Davide – that crust!

The Incline: What’s the best kept secret in the Pittsburgh-area food scene? We’ll only tell everyone reading this. 

Briana White, aka Breelicious Bites: Al an’ Rubens in Washington. I don’t think they’re underrated or a secret, but Washington is kind of out there — but it is so worth the drive. It’s a Black-owned Italian restaurant, and it’s my favorite restaurant.

Alex: There are so many restaurants in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas that you pass by walking down the street or driving down the road and think “this place has been here forever and I really need to try it.” Those restaurants are Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets and they are right in front of you. They stay open for years getting business just on word of mouth. There is a good chance it could be one of the best restaurants in your neighborhood and you should definitely give them a try next time you’re thinking about where to get dinner.

Stacy: Taking this about 45 minutes east, Bardine’s Country Smokehouse has the best meat products I’ve ever had — steak, beef sticks, sausages, and roast beef — it’s all wonderful. Keeping this a bit more local, not enough people have had the pleasure of dining at Onion Maiden. Coming from the mouth of a serious carnivore, this is the most delicious vegan food I’ve ever had. The pho, tater tots, brunch options, and the donuts — you need to try everything. Their inventiveness of carrot-based salmon and cashew-based cheese sounds a little funky but is executed perfectly. You would hardly know the difference.

Shannon: I’m not sure how much of a secret Khalil’s on Baum Boulevard is, but if you haven’t been, it is an absolute must. Once dining inside is available, the interior is so dreamy and perfect for a date night. For now, you can enjoy their delicious food at home with curbside pickup. (Update: Khalil’s is now offering outdoor dining, too.)

Elyse: For breakfast, Gab & Eat in Carnegie is one of my favorites. I highly recommend ordering the “whole mixed grill.” I also stumbled upon Porky’s Bar & Grill in Etna, which has so much history and yet rebranded itself recently. Many of the items on their menu are so creative! For dinner, Redfin Blues in Washington’s Landing on the Allegheny River is one of my favorites.

The Incline: What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten in Pittsburgh?

Stacy: Geez, that’s a tough one, but I can think of a couple standout meals. For starters, everything I’ve ever had at DiAnoia’s Eatery is amazing, for brunch, lunch, and dinner. The 34-ounce steak and devils on horseback at Meat & Potatoes is out of this world, and everyone in Pittsburgh must try the gnocchi at Poulet Bleu and grab a donut at Onion Maiden for dessert.

Shannon: This is such a tough question! I have had so many unforgettable meals. Thinking more recently, I have to say the sausage and onion pizza from Bonfire. The combo of the sausage and the smoked tomatoes is like nothing I’ve ever had before. I just about fell over.

Alex: This is so difficult. I’ve lived in Pittsburgh now for over a decade. I’m going to narrow it down to my two favorites. The first is such a Pittsburgh classic, and it’s The Morning After Breakfast Special at Pamela’s Diner. It has almost everything you could want for breakfast with the inclusion of the hotcakes, but I always add on the Lyonnaise potatoes. The second is much more of a personal comfort food, but I absolutely love the General Tso’s chicken and egg rolls at Downtown’s Chinatown Inn.

The Incline: What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Pittsburgh food”? What does that phrase mean outside the city? 

Briana: I wanted to start this sentence off with “unfortunately” but (laughs) … I think people who live outside of Pittsburgh hear “Pittsburgh food” and think of pierogies and sandwiches from Primanti Brothers. But for me, I do think Pittsburgh is a great food city, and I don’t think any one food or place defines it. And I believe “Pittsburgh food” is not one-dimensional at all.

Alex: I always think of pierogies, pickles, and Primanti’s. And beer. Beer is totally a Pittsburgh food. However, I think people outside of Pittsburgh may not even be aware that there are “Pittsburgh foods.” They don’t get the same type of hype and national attention as some other cities or regions.

Elyse: Pittsburgh is a multicultural city and the food scene represents that. No matter what you are in the mood for or what you want to try, there is always someone that can offer it. I think that if anything, publicity is missing. So many cities in the U.S. are getting recognized for their expanding food scenes, yet Pittsburgh has so many great “up-and-coming restaurants and chefs” that deserve recognition, too.

Stacy: When I hear “Pittsburgh food” two things immediately come to mind — pierogies and random dishes topped with french fries. I think the biggest Pittsburgh misconception to out-of-towners is that we’re just a city of yinzers that love their Primanti’s sandwiches. People don’t realize we don’t just have our claim-to-fame sandwiches, we have diverse and amazing upscale dining as well. There’s always something new popping up on the Pittsburgh food scene and I love it. Food trucks, Mediterranean, Vietnamese, Detroit-style pizza … shall I go on? But we are lacking a market/biergarten like Stanley’s Market in Denver or North Market in Columbus. We’re on our way, but not there yet.

The Incline: How should people support a restaurant they love right now?  

Shannon: My biggest suggestion is ordering takeout directly from their website or calling the restaurant directly for pickup or delivery (if they offer this). Third-party delivery services can really hurt a restaurant. I also think taking advantage of these beautiful summer nights and dining al fresco is the best way to enjoy a meal these days.

Elyse: Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene needs our help more than ever. We order a lot of takeout in our house because we truly love the good food that people are creating and putting their time and energy into. Plus, ordering takeout and delivery does help us have that sense of normalcy that we are missing during this unprecedented time. Noshing on our favorite sandwiches from The Strip is something we will never take for granted again…

Briana: Gift cards are a good idea. They could also virtually tip service industry workers. (Here’s how.)

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Updated: 10:26 a.m. Nov. 19