Dining out in Pittsburgh isn’t hard to figure out. It’s a safe bet to go to Squirrel Hill for great Chinese food, the South Side to drink, Mt. Washington for the views and Downtown for fine dining.
But look a little closer and you’ll find great restaurants in unexpected places — places only the locals know. And what a reward when you find one you love in a neighborhood you don’t often visit.
Here are 10 great places worth discovering. We’d love to hear about your off-the-beaten-path favorites. Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Emil’s Lounge, Rankin
This place is tucked away in a low-traffic corner of Rankin. But you’re not going to hide classic Pittsburgh bar food this good from the likes of Rick Sebak, who has heartily signed off on this place. Plus, Andrew Zimmern, of “Bizarre Foods” fame, also went nuts for the restaurant on a visit to town — though there’s nothing bizarre about Emil’s “dinner at grandma’s house” vibe, at least to Pittsburghers. The fried fish sandwiches are as long as your arm, while the hot roast beef sandwich tastes like the reason the term “comfort food” was invented.
Udipi Cafe, Monroeville
Next to a gravel pit on a desolate street in the woods of Monroeville lies perhaps the region’s best Indian food. This unpretentious spot — barely upgraded from their styrofoam and plastic cutlery beginnings — is the real deal for spicy vegetarian and vegan South Indian cooking. Yes, they can bring the heat. Don’t skip the giant, pancake-like dosa and bubbly poori bread with hot chutney, if you dare.
Triangle Bar & Grill, Swissvale
Some places like to say they specialize in submarine sandwiches or subs. This place cranks out Battleships and Destroyers. And if a sandwich longer than your arm isn’t enough, try the Super Battleship: capicola, corned beef, pastrami — all the usual suspects are represented on one sandwich. If you’re going by size alone, this place on the way to Kennywood rules the waves. (They don’t really specify how big each sandwich is. Just imagine the biggest hoagie you’ve ever seen, and then double it.) Getting nervous? If you don’t feel like ingesting an entire navy, try the Torpedo for only $5.
Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar, Plum
Though Plum sounds like a delicious place, it’s mostly a residential suburb. But Eighty Acres is putting it on the culinary map with their refined take on new American cuisine. This is the kind of place where you can get a big, formal dinner such as the Gerber Amish chicken breast or a coffee-rubbed bistro filet. Or go for lunch and try the Eighty Acres bison burger with house-made pickles or the duck confit tacos, and spend $15 or less.
Jozsa Corner, Hazelwood
Since 1988, Josza Corner has served “Hungarian Country Styled Family Cooking” made with passion and contagious joy by one man who’s doing exactly what he wants to do, all the time. So call ahead: chef/owner Alex Bodnar only opens up if he’s got diners. During an episode of “Parts Unknown,” the late Anthony Bourdain dined on chicken paprikas and lángos, a Hungarian fried bread, and he heartily approved. Along with those dishes, you can’t go wrong with the rustic Transylvanian gulyás, stuffed cabbage, thin palacsinta pancakes and spicy kolbasz, all served gregariously in an otherwise forlorn corner of Hazelwood. Though that vibe may not last much longer: With La Gourmandine’s French bakery already across the street, and gigantic tech developments in the works nearby at Hazelwood Green, this neighborhood seems to have a future that will only get more delicious.
Big Jim’s in The Run, Greenfield
It’s hard to be off-the-beaten-path in the middle of the East End of Pittsburgh, but this place does it. “The Run” is a micro-neighborhood in a ravine between Greenfield and Oakland, almost GPS-proof in its tucked-away obscurity. Yet, this neighborhood pub and family restaurant has not only survived; it’s thrived. It doesn’t look like much on the outside or the inside, and it’s pretty much the opposite of everything currently fashionable in food. But the place is as friendly as it gets, and the massive calzones and oven-baked hoagies are delicious and the perfect way for your team to celebrate winning the big game. Or you can drown your game-losing sorrow in good marinara. Either way, don’t plan on needing to eat again anytime soon.