Late-night menus are making midnight food adventures in Pittsburgh more interesting. When late-night cravings hit, it’s nice to have fresh options to go along with the all-night diners, pizza joints and food trucks. And it’s safe to say that food tastes pretty fantastic when you’ve been fueling up on beers and cocktails all evening, or just wrapping up a busy work week. But when you find that perfect “still open” spot to match your mood, it’s magical.
Ready for a little late-night culinary exploring? Here are a few places to add to your map along with some of the midnight classics:
Umami – Lawrenceville
Umami feels like the perfect late-night destination. The red lanterns give off a comfortable glow and the vibe feels relaxed with just enough “night market” energy to keep the fun going.
There’s a lot to choose from here: platters of colorful sushi and sashimi, temaki sushi rolled into handheld cones, rice bowls and ramen, gyozas and shumai all bursting with flavor.
The tantalizing smells of the robatayaki grill are immediately mouthwatering. This Japanese barbecue-like method involves small skewers of meat or vegetables slow-grilled over hot charcoal. The point is not to flame up and scorch the food, but to slow grill everything to its sweet spot, where juices start to flow. Beef and chicken take on smoky flavors and a crunchy outside while the inside is melt-in-your-mouth tender.
The robust cold sake menu offers many different flavor profiles to experience. The cocktail list is peppered with Japanese-leaning elements like flavored shochus (Japanese distilled beverages), ginger, coconut, wasabi and matcha. There’s also a full wine list and a great selection of Japanese beers that pair perfectly with bold flavors.
Our pick: The Wagyu beef tenderloin and pork belly from the robotayaki menu.
Location: 202 38th St., Lawrenceville (above Round Corner Cantina). Open: Tuesday – Thursday 4:30 p.m. – 12 a.m., Friday – Saturday 4:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Cambod-ican Kitchen – The South Side
People light up when you mention the name—“Oh, Cambod-ican! Love that place!” Mentioning it often leads to flashbacks of post-bar adventures and crazy nights: late-night munchies at the famous food cart that eventually morphed into a real restaurant on the South Side. Cambod-ican Kitchen is now an after-hours staple in the neighborhood.
Cambodian and Asian fusion cuisine, with all kinds of noodle dishes, curries, wontons and kabobs, is a big draw. Cash only orders are placed right at the kitchen window which, since it’s open most nights until 5 a.m., sees its fair share of interesting customers.
What Cambod-ican lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for with quirkiness, good prices and a friendly feel. Owner Dan McSwiggen keeps the energy level up, enthusiastically pushing wife Moeun’s kitchen creations like the Cambodian noodle soup, Caw Goh beef noodles and General Tso’s chicken.
Our pick: Crispy wontons with “moon” sauce. If you’re lucky enough to be offered the pickled Thai peppers from the back, say yes.
Location: 1701 East Carson St. on the South Side. Open: Tuesday – Saturday 6 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Pirata – Downtown
A late-night visit to Pirata is like a little island vacation. Open since October, the rum bar and Caribbean restaurant features 200 different rums and a late-night menu packed with big spices and savory island flavors. There’s a crowd-pleasing selection of empanadas, tacos, wings and sliders. Pirata keeps it simple with a special late-night menu that doesn’t overwhelm. Everything is easy to eat and share right at the bar. The late-night menu is offered Monday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to midnight.
If you want to learn about rum, this is your place. The bartenders are knowledgeable and sampling is made easy with a variety of rum flights. Pirata features rums from as far away as India, and as close by as Maggie’s Farm in The Strip.
Fortunately, the beer list is more about keeping beer lovers happy than sticking with the Caribbean theme. Spain and Argentina feature heavily on the wine list. For a little late-night pick-me-up, there’s cafe cubano and cafe con leche.
Our pick: Order a few different things to share but don’t miss the Jamaican beef patty empanadas.
Location: 274 Forbes Ave., Downtown. Open: Monday – Thursday 11 – 12 a.m., Friday – Saturday 11 – 2 a.m. and Sunday 12 – 9 p.m.
Tres Rios – The South Side
Tres Rios is a relatively new option along Carson Street on the South Side. The Mexican kitchen and tequila bar serves an upscale spin on street food until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Pork belly tacos and slow-roasted lamb tacos share the menu with crab cake and chicken tortas (Mexican sandwiches) served on grilled crusty bread. In addition to more unique combos, the Tres Rios kitchen prepares classic burritos, fajitas and made-to-order guacamole.
The bar menu features margaritas and cocktails made with a range of tequilas including blanco, reposado, and añejo. There’s a great beer list as well.
The pick: The delicious crispy yucca fries, served as a side or as an appetizer bowl topped with cheese sauce, beer-braised jalapeños, and chorizo.
Location: 1719 East Carson, South Side. Open: Monday – Wednesday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – midnight.
Apteka – Bloomfield
Apteka makes for the perfect late-night spot that feels a little more soulful and nourishing. The vegan menu has a way of pleasing with its unique potato dumplings in rich broth and some of the most delicious pierogi you have ever tasted. There are also sandwiches, soups and small plates to try.
Place your order at the bar and grab a seat there, or at any of the tables. There’s a comfortable feel here that’s calm, homey and relaxed. There’s always good music in the background. At night, the ambience shifts to a pleasant darker and more lounge-like feel. On some nights, there’s a DJ handling the music. It’s a great place to dive in and explore different kinds of Central and Eastern European cuisine.
One tasty late-night option is the “special sandwich” featuring smoked chili paste, smoked apples, red cabbage slaw, garlic, salted turnip, savory sauce and a veggie pate. It’s a delicious explosion of flavors that work so well together, with just the right amount of crunch all served on tasty bread.
The cocktails are unique and seductive, often featuring a rotation of liqueurs, simple syrups, specially preserved fruits like cherries and black currants, fermented and pickled things, shrubs, and herbs—all things that lean toward experimentation but also tell a story. Embracing something different can lead to great rewards here.
Our pick: The special sandwich is THE late-night choice, hands down.
Location: 4606 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. Open Wednesday – Sunday 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Täkō – Downtown
Täkō is all about street food, small plates and savory tacos with fresh ingredients served in unique combinations. Entering next to the streetfront kitchen feels like walking into a night market busy with revelers. The DJ spinning tunes and the vibrant visuals add to the nighttime energy. If you’re lucky enough to grab bar space, you’ll be very happy. Getting a table can sometimes be tricky without a reservation, so plan ahead if you need to because its really worth it.
Once you settle in, the menu has a big range of bold flavors with all kinds of tacos to try including grilled octopus, chorizo, grilled chicken and duck confit. There’s street corn, poke, ceviche and wings that make great late-night shares.
While many menu items are only offered until midnight, Täkō rolls out a special late-night menu “starting around 12-ish till we run out.” It’s a simpler, rotating selection that often includes loaded nachos and straightforward taco selections more in line with people’s post-midnight decision-making abilities.
All of these great tastes are served up alongside a big selection margaritas with bold and delicious taste combos. There’s a great list of tequila-based cocktails, beer, sangria and wine.
Our pick: The Korean—a scrumptious taco made with wagyu short rib, peanuts, fermented cucumber, cabbage and cilantro.
Location: 214 6th St., Downtown. Open Monday – Thursday 5 – 11 p.m., Friday – Saturday 5 p.m. to beyond midnight (times vary), Sunday 3 – 9 p.m.