Each month we ask one of our favorite Pittsburghers the question:
If you only had 24 hours to show a friend the best that urban Pittsburgh has to offer, where would you take them?
Live: Lawrencville Work: Lawrencville How Long: 3 years
You know that chic, beautiful, and always impeccably dressed (in pink and/or ruffles) woman you always see walking down Butler Street? That’s none other than Brianne Conley, owner of No. 14 and blogger for Just a Girl Boss. When Brianne isn’t busy stocking the shelves with the hottest clothes of the moment, playing with her dog Roo, or designing her new home; she’s enjoying all the food and drinks Pittsburgh has to offer. So we asked Brianne to give us the scoop on where she loves to eat and, most importantly, what she would wear to each place on these nice, spring days.
Breakfast: I’m obsessed with Espresso A Mano in Lawrenceville. I literally live for coffee so I stop by there every single morning because it’s close to my house and the shop. I always get my favorite drink, a soy mocha latte. But if I’m doing something outside of my normal morning coffee run, I absolutely love Whitfield at The Ace Hotel for brunch. I went last weekend and had the blueberry buttermilk pancake in a skillet with a lemon crème fraiche and it was to die for.
What to Wear: A black dress with a plum leather jacket and floral booties and it was perfect.
Lunch: I have to admit, I go to Penn Ave Fish Company in the Strip District like twice a week with my husband Eric. I seriously think it is the best sushi in Pittsburgh. And a secret tip, their happy hour doubles as a late lunch at 3:00 (oyster specials). It’s BYOB so we love to bring our favorite bottle of wine, usually a chardonnay to pair perfectly with the sushi.
What to Wear: A breezy dress and a pair of converse or cut-off shorts and cute t-shirt. Cause come on, you are going for their amazing food.
Dinner: I love going out to dinner and there are so many great places it’s difficult to choose. My favorite place for dinner right now is täkō in Downtown. I just love the vibe, it’s so cool and funky. . So much thought went into designing the restaurant and the street style tacos are the best in the city hands down. I also recently dined at Umami and had the best experience. Everything on the menu seemed just a little out of my comfort zone like their octopus balls…but it’s all so delicious. It might seem intimidating at first but the staff is so nice and super helpful. The shots of sake also helped us with our ambitious ordering.
What to Wear: I would want to make sure I’m dressing cute and fun, but not too overdone. My first thought would be wedges and a fun dress and I some fun, sparkly jewelry.
Bar: I love a fun night out with my friends. We always have so many options for what to do. If I just want to get a casual drink, I like to walk to Round Corner Cantina with my dog Roo. I can go in, order my cocktail, and sit outside on the porch. It’s so nice. But if I’m going for a big night out, it usually starts some place hip for drinks and food. My girlfriends and I love to start with drinks at Tender. They make the best Moscow mule I’ve ever had. After we have a few drinks we usually just go wherever the night takes us!
What to Wear: If you find me out in Pittsburgh I can almost guarantee you’ll find me in skinny jeans and a leather jacket with a killer pair of heels.
Live: Bloomfield Work: Milvale How Long: 1 Year
Breakfast: When I have friends visiting Pittsburgh, there’s nothing like taking them to breakfast at Pamela’s. The Millvale location is fantastic — not only because I get to show friends where I work, but as at every location, the pancakes are mind-blowingly good and big. There is of course the added perk of potentially sitting on the same chair Michelle Obama used when she last visited!
Lunch: For lunch I love taking people to Conflict Kitchen where folks always seem to indulge in food inspired, thought provoking conversation. The bonus here is getting to go on a long walk around Oakland where the beautiful museums, architecture and the hilly Schenley Park’s stunning views lets us burn off some of those calories from the morning.
Dinner: Making our way into Downtown, it’s dinner and drinks at Sienna Mercato. Out of towners are always impressed (rightfully so) with the rooftop bar which makes the wait for dinner way more fun. For food – definitely the second floor concept, Mezzo is my pick…their tartufo pizza is a must order along with the best mushroom risotto I’ve ever had.
Bar: To proverbially come full circle to end the night, nothing knocks people’s socks off like the two trendiest breweries on this side of the Allegheny. The beers at Millvale’s Grist House and Draai Laag are not only delicious, they pack a punch. If inspired to then continue the night, it’s the perfect launching pad for a classic (and gritty) Pittsburgh Party Night in Lawrenceville.
Live: Bloomfield Work: Crafton
Breakfast: I love to start my day with either a soy latte from Constellation Coffee or a almond latte from 4121 Main. Both shops have a bright, airy interiors and their respective unique offerings; I love introducing friends to these Bloomfield gems.
Bar: Grist House Brewing in Millvale would make for a fun happy hour with beer-loving visitors to the city. It’s been a while, but I also love the Elks Lodge’s Wednesday Banjo Nights in Deutschtown. It feels like you’re stepping into an alternate polka-loving universe from the past. For an even wilder time, Bob’s Garage in Blawnox is a must. Its lit-up interior is the only environment that’s ever successfully coaxed me into doing karaoke solo. Even if you can’t hold a tune, go for the decor alone especially around the holidays. If I’m out for drinks in the East End, you will likely find me at one of my weekend staples: brillobox for dance parties + amazing bartenders, Round Corner Cantina for a killer margarita & their patio or Gooski’s for beers & a jukebox where dreams are made. Allegheny Wine Mixer is also perfect for a post-work wind-down and glass of Malbec.
Live: Lawrenceville Work: Oakland How Long: 5 Years
Breakfast: I’ve long been a huge fan of E2 for dinner–I go there specifically for their porcini cappelletti–but after experiencing their weekend brunch, I’m devoted for life. Popular for their breakfast doughnuts, beignets, and zeppoli, I’m still dreaming about their breakfast salad: eggs and bacon and toast, plus gorgonzola, balsamic dressing, and pecans. In a hearty salad. For breakfast. It’s perfect.
Lunch: Though Pittsburgh’s Mexican cuisine scene is still nascent, there are some definite standouts here: and Las Palmas, to me, is the jewel in the ‘Burgh’s taco crown. A grocery store and carnicería, the magic of Las Palmas is stationed out front–a sizzling grill and a toppings bar featuring salsas, pico de gallo, cilantro, and avocado crema, Las Palmas serves up simple street food, but the savory, made-to-order chicken, chorizo, pork, or ribeye, served in generous portions in warm corn tortillas, are out of this world.
Dinner: The Commoner, Hotel Monaco’s in-house restaurant, is everything you’d expect from a place that calls itself a “reinvented American tavern.” Try the Commoner Old Fashioned, which is infused with pork belly and has nice smoky notes. Or for something sweet, get the Fresh Picked Apple–a bourbon with apple cider, schnapps, and more. Alongside a plate of field greens with shaved brussels sprouts and avocado–and a simple yet shockingly tasty charred cauliflower head with sage walnut pesto–I had the best lamb shank of my life here: braised with red wine, atop truffled polenta and roasted baby vegetables, it was tender and, if I recall correctly, literally mouthwatering.
Bar: I’m happy with most beers, from a PBR tallboy to a local craft IPA, so for me bars are usually about character and charm, the crowd, or the architectural details of the space… And sometimes you just get the urge to hit up that divey, raunchy, smoky neighborhood gay bar. From live drag performances to trivia night to karaoke to RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties, Blue Moon is a staple of the queer scene–and there’s always something on the agenda.
Breakfast is essential for a day of classes and 9-hour shifts at my restaurant job (yes, I’m that crazy that I work too!). Before I head to class I love to walk to Blue Bird Kitchen and see what they have going on. It’s always creative and always delicious. Now, brunches…are a different story. I work every Friday and Saturday night, so I make sure to mark my calendar for the monthly Urbanist and Round Corner Cantina Brunch Party. Where else will I find my brunch, champagne, DJs, and dance floor?
No questions asked, the best is Cocoa Café. Recently introduced, I have found myself working my way down their menu and have yet to be less than incredibly satisfied. But, if I have a day with short breaks between classes or am running off to work, I head over to Nicky’s Thai Kitchen for a college budget-approved lunch special or grab my roommate and head over to Stone for a wood-fired margherita pizza.
Working as a server and bartender, I’m often just looking for a laid back environment with a delicious menu. Once the weather breaks, (hoping that’s sooner rather than later) I’ll bee-line to Pusadee’s Garden. Tucked away with a beautiful patio, BYOB and a big bowl of Pad Thai makes for a relaxing hideout. As for now, I’ll stay warm in Kaya’s tropical getaway in the Strip District. Tapas style is my favorite way to dine and their small plates are always creative and delicious.
Drinks are essential after spending a night waiting on customers who are “gluten free” and prefer their drinks’ made “sugar free.” In search of good music and well-made drinks, New Amsterdam never disappoints. However, sometimes when I’m looking to sit and chill, I hit up the 40+ selection of craft beers at Sienna Mercato’s third floor Beer Garden and take in the view of my beautiful city.
Live: Morningside Work: Downtown Pittsburgh How Long: 10 years
Many of Saturdays are spent preparing for that night’s events. A quick stop by La Gourmandine in Lawrenceville is perfect for a grab-and-go sandwich. A Le Montagnard (homemade French baguette with butter, prosciutto, and Gherkin pickles) gets me through the afternoon. The bread is deliciously crusty and the service fast and friendly. When I have a little lmore time, or a guest DJ in town, a quick stroll through The Strip is a must. The stand at Reyna’s with has a decent variety of tacos–carne asada and al pastor are my favorites–are cheap, fresh and served on warm tortillas that are made onsite. Just down the street, the Penn Avenue Fish Company serves up the freshest sushi and seafood in town in a casual, newly expanded market restaurant. In Squirrel Hill, two of my favorite loves can be found on one city block – pizza and records. Take a break from the music at Jerry’s and have the good people at Mineo’s warm you up a slice. I’ve heard Aiello’s is pretty good too!
While I love the recent wave of farm-to-table fare and rise of award winning chefs, the old-school joints like Bloomfield’s Tessaro’s edure by doing what they do best. Here the burger is king – ground daily and grilled over hardwood – the Deli burger is one of the best in the city. For another well-crafted burger, try the more contemporary Butterjoint. Teppanyaki Kyoto in Highland Park specializes in authentic Japanese food. Don’t look for sushi on the menu, this place has proper street food like Takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and a selection of Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes).
Bridging the gap between a comfortably cool cocktail lounge and a neighborhood pub, the brillobox gets it right with its friendly staff and eclectic events. For the brews and bites, Fat Head’s saloon offers tasty, Pittsburgh-sized burgers and sandwiches, but more importantly the award winning Headhunter IPA was created by these guys. For a stellar wine and craft draft selection check out the Allegheny Wine Mixer in Lawrenceville. The knowledgeable bartenders and unpretentious atmosphere is a perfect combination for their Thursday night DJ series.
Live: Stanton Heights Work: East Liberty How Long: 3 years
During the work week, I mostly eat breakfast at home but weekend brunch is a different story. It’s a great way to indulge and celebrate weekends. My top brunch places are Eden in Shadyside – great veg, gluten free and raw food that even omnivores will love; Square Café in Regent Square – a breakfast all day menu that is nothing short of phenomenal; Zenith in the Southside and Tin Front Café in Homestead are worth venturing out of the East End for. There are many brunch options but there is only one for coffee: Espresso a Mano.
For a quick bite downtown, nothing beats Bluebird Kitchen with its amazing array of whole-food, fresh, hand made food that changes daily. My favorites are the Thai Tomato Soup, the whole grain and vegetable sides, and of course, the fresh potato chips that are hard to say no to. If you have time to linger for a little bit, Habitat downtown is a great place to relax before you get on with the work day. If I’m in the Strip District I always love to get the beans and greens from Enrico’s and the Jamaican Green Curry Vegetables at Kaya. Closer to home, I love to go to Park Bruges in Highland Park for amazing salads and my favorite frites in Pittsburgh.
I have been going to Casbah since the first time I moved to Pittsburgh. I have left and come back and still think its one of the most consistent restaurants in town. Great Mediterranean food paired with an amazing wine selection. Root 174 is a little restaurant in Regent Square that always has a couple of surprises up its sleeve – I am addicted to the Brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze. I love Legume, its truly a modern Pittsburgh classic. I recently had a crispy farro with grilled radicchio dish that was divine. In Highland Park, E2 is just plain good – beautiful and messy Mediterranean food made to be shared.
Tamari in Lawrenceville has the best Happy Hour in town, hands down. I’m a grazer so this is the perfect opportunity for me to grab a drink, a little appetizer and segue right into dinner. The Livermore in East Liberty has a nice neighborhood vibe and if I didn’t make any plans, I always head over to Bar Marco where I’m sure to run into people I know. If you love tequila, Verde in Garfield is the place to go. And if I want to leave my fate in the hands of the bartender, Salt and Harvard & Highland never disappoint.
Live: South Oakland Work: Downtown/Strip District
I’m a Seattle native so good, strong coffee appropriately defines my morning. My order is a cappuccino from 21st Street Coffee or Espresso a Mano. For brunch, nothing tops Coca Cafe’s delicious stuffed French toast. I also love brunch at Casbah, which is a steal.
I wish I could eat lunch out more often but my ballerina day job often precludes that. However, on free days I love Enrico Biscotti in the Strip; the setting transports me to a cobblestone street in Italy. I also love the bibimbap from Green Pepper.
When my partner Aaron and I want a quick, inexpensive and calorie indulgent meal (yes, ballet dancers so eat fattening food on occasion) we head to Mad Mex in Shadyside and order their perfect margaritas and the nachos grande (extra cheese, extra burnt). If I’m looking for something more upscale, I go for the gnocchi, hanger steak or any of the charcuterie at Cure.
I’m a big fan of the creative cocktails at both Butterjoint and Salt of the Earth. Tamari‘s 3519 is a cool, cucumber-y dose of deliciousness. And if I’m in the mood for wine, Spoon is my pick for their thoughtful, enticing selection.
Live: Polish Hill Work: Strip District How Long: 3.5 years
After college, I nannied in Paris and simultaneously fell in love with the city, accordions and almond croissants. When La Gourmandine opened in Lawrenceville, it filled the croissant-shaped void in my life. Any visitor of mine will definitely start the day there, but if it comes down to the last almond croissant, it’s all mine! If it’s one of those rare, perfectly sunny, blue-skied, breezy and warm days in Pittsburgh, we’ll take our French delicacies and maybe some Espresso A Mano cappuccinos to the cemetery for a lovely morning picnic. However, if we’re pursuing the full brunch experience, the beignets at E2 will beckon, and I won’t refuse their call.
I consider myself a professional picnicker, so for lunch, we might load up on cheeses and cured meats from Penn Mac and eat by the river. If the weather does not cooperate, the speck and mascarpone pizza at Piccolo Forno is the perfect indoor solution. Since our sole priority will be eating and visiting, we might as well add some red wine to that lunch and then head to Marty’s Market in the Strip for our next caffeine fix.
For those months of the year when the garden is in full bloom, my dinner recommendation is Pusadee’s Garden. In addition to providing fresh ingredients, the garden makes me feel so far away from everything. It’s delicious respite at its best. Otherwise, we’ll have front row seats at Cure, watching the antics and brilliance of the kitchen while eying the last slice of duck speck.
If any cocktail could, the Sergeant Pepper’s Old Fashioned at Meat & Potatoes could make an alcoholic out of me. On the rare occasion I venture beyond my favorite black pepper and thyme concoction, the rest of the prohibition style cocktails are sure to impress. Though we’d probably be stuffed by that point in this Pittsburgh foodventure, there always seems to be room for poutine or one of the other “small” plates. Plus, sitting at the beautiful, marble-topped bar enables one of my favorite pastimes: people watching!
Live: Lawrenceville Work: Lawrenceville How Long: 2 years
Coca Café is a Lawrenceville standard. Tamari, another neighborhood gem, serves up their own spin on brunch with their signature Asian-Latin and sushi menus. Eleven is still the go-to for a classic, boozy brunch of champagne and oysters. Brunch tip* Make sure you grab coffee at Espresso a Mano before or after.
Smoke, in Homestead (coming soon to L-Ville!) for BBQ delivered in homemade flour tortillas or grab buttery baguette sandwiches from La Gourmandine and a growler of Arsenal Cider for a picnic in the park.
If you’re looking for innovative farm to table dishes and some of the best chefs in the city; Legume, Cure, and Root 174 are my absolute favorites. Another obvious choice is Meat and Potatoes– Spreading bone marrow like butter on toast is encouraged and they have Fernet on tap (which is a necessity after ordering the entire menu)!
Any guest of mine should be prepared for a Pittsburgh bar crawl. I always take friends to Kelly’s. This is the first bar that I began frequenting when I moved back to Pittsburgh. You can count on familiar faces and old punk records. Plus, they have a feminist curated cocktail menu. If you like your whiskey served neat, I’m pretty sure that Butcher and the Rye’s collection of bourbon could rival the state of Kentucky. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to spot a few bottles from some of my favorite craft distilleries. I am also a big proponent of Pittsburgh’s late night offerings. You can find me during the week post 10 o’clock at Salt of the Earth. I’m loyal to their house-made American cheese on their deluxe burger and bartender, Jeremy Bustamante.
Live: East Liberty Work: East Liberty How Long: 4 years
Does brunch count? I hope so because brunch at Verde (#49) is fantastic. Starting off a morning meal with Verde’s delicious chips and freshly made tomatillo salsa or guacamole makes me one very happy lady. For a main dish, I usually go for the Huevos Benedictos (translation: traditional-eggs-benedict-meets-Mexican-deliciousness) paired with a glass or two of Brunch Punch — a perfect way begin a leisurely day.
If a casual, quick breakfast is on the agenda, then I enjoy stopping by 21st Street Coffee (#65) in the Strip District for a carefully crafted, amazingly flavorful latte. And because it’s just down the block, I can’t say no to ducking into Peace Love & Little Donuts for their miniature versions of a classic breakfast treat.
Union Pig & Chicken (#21) (and I’m not just saying this because I work nearby). Union serves up some seriously tasty BBQ for both lunch and dinner, though the lunch combos are a sure bet. 7-some bucks for a generous serving of fried chicken, a side of mac or vegetable, and a beverage? I don’t think you can beat that.
Nicky’s Thai Kitchen (#30) in the Northside is great for lunch especially when I can pair a visit with an afternoon spent strolling through the Warhol Museum or National Aviary. I’m not big on curry, so for me some Nicky’s fresh spring rolls and a spicy Pad See Eaw hits the spot. With a new Downtown location, I’m hopeful to be able to enjoy this restaurant a little more often.
I love sushi, sashimi, maki…all of it. My new favorite spot for dinner (it’s so hard to choose!) is Fukuda (#37). Hats off to the guys that started Fukuda because they certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to preparing fresh, simple dishes that are capable of calming my Japanese food cravings. What started off with pop-ups and food truck stops, Fukuda’s venture into the formal restaurant world definitely exudes passion and authenticity.
Meat & Potatoes (#11) is the kind of restaurant where I could drink, eat, take a nap, and then eat some more. I love the dim lighting, comfy chairs, Prohibition-era cocktails, and of course, the wonderfully meaty aromas that waft from the kitchen. A totally indulgent meal here for me would start with the bone marrow and tartare appetizers, then some mushroom flat bread, and finally, the Wagyu beef with all of its wasabi and miso flavored bites.
For beer and that somewhat gritty experience: Kelly’s (#101) in East Liberty. For craft cocktails, knowledgeable bartenders, and a relaxed hang-out-and-talk vibe: Harvard & Highland. I’m apt to stop by both places in one night.
Live: Lawrenceville Work: Lawrenceville/Warrendale How Long: 7 years
I’m not much of a breakfast person. If I’m up early, I’ll usually head down to Espresso a Mano (#68) in Lawrenceville for coffee.
I find myself always going to Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill. It’s Taiwanese cuisine and the closest to my Mom’s cooking in the city. I also like Smoke Barbeque Taqueria (#48) in Homestead. It’s owned by one of my former employees and is hands down the best tacos around.
For dinner, its a a little more difficult to choose just one. Pittsburgh has transformed into a fantastic culinary city with great chefs doing some very innovative things. Spoon (#20) in East Liberty, Cure (#6) and Piccolo Forno (#55) in Lawrenceville are usually at the top of my list.
If I finish work early enough, I’ll head downtown to Meat & Potatoes (#11) for some barrel aged Negronis or Manhattans. My go-to spot is new comer Acacia (#86) in the South Side. It took inspiration from Embury, which was the first speakeasy in the city bringing the same quality of hand crafted cocktails to Acacia.
Live: Lawrenceville, Loft over my studio Work: Lawrenceville How Long: 3 years
Coca Café (#58) is a place that deserves the crowd on weekends. These ladies pack their pancakes with constantly changing, local ingredients (try the pumpkin & side of thick-cut local bacon). Bluebird Kitchen (#57) is another great place to grab some exceptional pastries, coffee, or a breakfast sandwich on the go.
Kaya (#9) in the Strip District is a perfect place to grab lunch while giving an out-of-towner a tour of PGH’s historic market area; get a Kaya Burger with a side of sweet potato fries. They also have some of the best fish tacos in the city. When my mother visits, we head to Piccolo Forno (#55) for killer antipasti and wood-fired pizzas.
Cure (#6) is a gem. Sit at the four-seat bar along the kitchen and talk to Justin while he and his team create dishes that wow. In Downtown, stop into Meat & Potatoes (#11) for amazing drinks & rich plates that hit the spot. Mussels with salmon roe and bacon is a perfect start.
Three places have opened in the last year and have set the bar for craft cocktails in PGH. Bar Marco (#3) inthe Strip has brilliant cocktails that continue to impress. Acacia (#86) in the South Side takes craft cocktails to an entire new level, from the booze to the ice to the glass. Harvard & Highland (#90) in East Liberty should also be visited for its bold and creative libations.
Live: Shanton Heights Work: South Side How Long: 4 Years
Square Cafe is one of PGH’s brunch hot spots in Regent Square. Expect a short wait but it’s worth your time! The menu has seasonal fresh items like pumpkin walnut pancakes & the mediterranean chickpea Burger, with most items locally sourced. Great vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options too.
Osteria 2350 is a casual Italian spot in the Strip District. Enjoy fresh seasonal salads, pastas, pizzas, and paninis – all in true Italian fashion. Wash it all down with a cold beer or a delicious glass of vino. New Downtown location, Osteria 100, is great too!
E² (#52) is a BYOB gem located in Highland Park. This rustic Mediterranean restaurant features fresh and seasonal farm to table dishes by Chef Kate Romane. The gorgonzola mess with fresh Italian bread is my absolute favorite.
Verde (#49) is a new hip restaurant/bar in Garfield that features over 200 varieties of tequila/mezcal, a highly creative cocktail menu, and a nice variety of craft brews on draft. Scroll through their iPad-based Tequila menu or ask one of the friendly mixologists for their recommendations on a flight to explore new tequila flavors.