It finally feels like winter. The air is biting, and this week brought our first dusting of snow after an unseasonably warm December. Add to that the standard post-holiday malaise and you have the recipe for a lot of boring nights spent huddled at home.
It doesn’t have to be that way. 2015 brought us a slew of new dining options all over the city, from food trucks to fine dining and everything in between. There were a few closings—I’ll miss Tamari, Salt of the Earth and Szmidt’s, among others—but a whole lot more openings. It was an exciting year to be eating in Pittsburgh.
A list of the year’s new restaurants could easily balloon into the triple digits—the Allegheny County Health Department reports 21 openings in the county in November alone. But to get you started with some solid picks for staving off those winter blues, here are 15 restaurants that made their debut in 2015.
Though it broke from the naming pattern of Meat & Potatoes, Butcher and the Rye and the upcoming Pork and Beans, täkō is unquestionably a Richard DeShantz venture: bold and funky design, cutting-edge cocktails and modern spins on familiar dishes combined to make täkō one of the hottest reservations of the year. Though täkō says they make street food, you aren’t likely to find their brand of punchy, Asian-inspired tacos coming from too many carts. Stop by the bustling Downtown “surf shack” for an order of the signature grilled octopus tacos and a Yellow Jacket, one of eight inventive house margaritas.
Smoke BBQ Taqueria
2015 brought another unique take on tacos with the opening of Smoke BBQ Taqueria in Lawrenceville. After shuttering their original Homestead storefront in the spring of 2014, anticipation for Smoke’s new location could not have been higher when it opened on Butler Street in early 2015. Smoke delivered, cranking out their much-loved juicy meats and homemade tortillas in a fun, lively space filled with vintage eye candy. Recently, Smoke obtained a liquor license and introduced Burger Tuesdays, adding a few more logs to an already blazing fire.
When you can do something special with chicken wings in this town, you know you’re on to something. Chef Curtis Gamble’s garlicky, crispy and wildly addictive take on the Pittsburgh favorite epitomizes what Station does best: elevated versions of classic comfort food. And though the burgers and fried chicken are top-notch, Gamble also has a way with vegetables—a Belgian endive appetizer was the standout dish on a recent visit. Station has only been open since the summer, but its warm, railroad-tinged interior makes it feel like a longstanding Bloomfield institution.
Morcilla opened just a few weeks ago, but the hype has been building for a lot longer than that. That’s because Morcilla is the second restaurant from Chef Justin Severino, who continually makes local and national waves with his creative charcuterie and multilayered dishes at Cure. Now Severino has moved to the other end of Lawrenceville with Morcilla, a larger, more casual space featuring Spanish tapas, seafood and an impressive list of Spanish wine and cider. From hams suspended behind the bar to a chalkboard featuring the day’s pintxos (bite-sized snacks), Severino and his team have created a true Mediterranean experience on the banks of the Allegheny.
Sneaking in at the tail end of 2015 was the year’s most unique restaurant. Smallman Galley offers ambitious chefs the chance to try out a concept before diving into owning their own restaurants. Four chefs create menus and run their own kitchens at the industrial-style food hall style space, all while learning the ins and outs of the risky restaurant business. Diners can grab brunch, lunch and dinner from any of the kitchens—Aubergine Bistro, Carota Café, Josephine’s Toast or Provision PGH—or sample small plates from all four. A central bar provides craft cocktails and 20 local-tap beers to pair with them and there’s a coffee/espresso service to complete any meal. Smallman Galley is sure to be a dynamic, one-of-a-kind addition to the bustling Strip District scene.