FIVE WEST COAST FOOD TRENDS MAKING THEIR WAY TO PITTSBURGH (AND TWO I WISH WOULD)
Pittsburgh is home to a vibrant dining scene, now influenced by West Coast food trends. Once only known for putting fries on salads and pierogies, Pittsburgh is home to some of the hottest restaurants in the countries.
In the two years I’ve been living in San Francisco, Pittsburgh has come along way on the food front. I claimed to have come from a city that is known to put French fries on any dish that will sit still long enough and now when I mention Pittsburgh, people proclaim about how up-and-coming the food scene is here. In case you missed it, Pittsburgh was even lucky enough to host one of Eater’s Young Gun dinners this month in addition to the slug of accolades over the past two years.
Every time I come home, I notice more and more of the West Coast food trends I love popping up in Pittsburgh restaurants. These range from dining experiences to menu trends. There are a few things that I miss — and definitely start craving — when I’ve been in Pittsburgh more than a few days. Check out what reminds me of the West Coast and what I wish would show up in Pittsburgh.
- Pop-Up Restaurants: It’s not unusual for restaurants in SF/Portland/LA to begin as “pop-ups”, borrowing space to test new concepts like a Hawaiian-themed brunch at ‘aina, New York-style bagel breakfasts at Shegetz Bagel and sushi at the (now finished) Pink Zebra. The newly-opened Umami and Apteka both began as pop-ups and I hope to see even more in the coming months.
- Acai Bowls: A few years ago you couldn’t find an acai bowl in Pittsburgh unless you made one yourself — now they can be found on menus around the city at places like Amazing Cafe in Southside and Salud Juicery in Shadyside. Acai berry puree is blended with juice, almond milk or coconut water and topped with freshly-cut bananas, granola, nuts and a drizzle of honey. Some of my favorite acai bowls on the West Coast include Basik in San Francisco, Beaming in LA and Backyard Bowls, which has locations in and around Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
- Veggie-forward Menus: Since Pittsburgh has been traditionally a meat and potatoes town, menus led by veggies haven’t really been the norm. My number-one favorites on the West Coast are Gjelina in LA and Al’s Place in San Francisco. Also in San Francisco, Lord Stanley was just named one of Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants of 2016 alongside Morcilla in Lawrenceville thanks to their veggie-forward menu. In Pittsburgh, restaurants like B52 with vegetable kabobs and Apteka with their vegan and veggie-stuffed pierogi (sauerkraut and mushroom, smoked potato and parsnip, and turnip greens) are changing that, but I’d like to see more non-vegan restaurants take a similar turn.
- Artisanal Ice Cream: The opening of Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream in Shadyside was the city’s first foray into house-made, artisanal ice cream. In San Francisco, I can think of at least eight different ice cream shops who make flavors like black sesame, “Secret Breakfast” (Bourbon ice cream with cornflakes) and sweet corn with berries that is made-to-order thanks to liquid nitrogen. My favorite West Coast ice cream shops are Salt and Straw in Portland and LA and Bi-Rite Creamery, Smitten and Humphrey Slocombe in SF.
- Small Plates: It’s hard to think of a meal I’ve had with friends on the West Coast that hasn’t been small plates. Most newer restaurants in LA, Portland and San Francisco are all about sharing — order five or six dishes for the table so everyone gets to try a little bit of everything. Some of my favorites include Tasty n’ Alder in Portland, Tasting Kitchen in LA and Tawla in SF. Places like Spork and Morcilla in Pittsburgh embrace the West Coast food trends of small dishes encourage the sharing culture with dishes like lamb meatballs and “all of the meats” charcuterie platters so you never have to have order-envy at your dining companions’ meals.
West Coast Food Trends I Wish Would Come to Pittsburgh
- Bougey Salad Places: As much as West Coasters love our Mexican food (and specifically, burritos), we love a good salad too. There’s plenty of salad places on the West Coast ranging from nationwide chains that haven’t made their way to Pittsburgh yet (Sweetgreen) to local places like Blue Barn Gourmet in San Francisco that will totally change your mind on salads — no fries required. Hello Bistro is as close as we come and hope that the soon to come Lawrenceville spot Reed & Co can up the ante.
- Poke: If you’ve been to Hawaii, you know poke, which is a raw-tuna marinated in soy sauce and sesame. Poke is near-ubiquitous in San Francisco right now: almost every neighborhood has a poke restaurant called Poki Time that works kind of like Chipotle: you pick your size, your base (greens, white rice, brown rice or a mixture), fish (tuna, salmon, yellowfin and maybe something seasonal), sauces and finally, toppings (mango, avocado, seaweed salad, carrots and cucumbers, to name a few). There’s not a poke-place in Pittsburgh yet but once there is, you can bet to see me in line.