Published June 28, 2018
The definition of a gastropub can be fairly fluid but a good one should hit a lot of sweet spots: an equal emphasis on quality food and drinks; a menu for both that’s adventurous but approachable; and friendly service and neighborhood vibe (even if its not in a neighborhood) that’s never stuffy or snooty.
Here are 10 Pittsburgh spots that fit the bill.
Butcher & The Rye
Sister establishment Meat and Potatoes bills itself as a gastropub on its website, but that’s always felt more like a chic restaurant. With its Americana aesthetic and snug bars on two-levels, Richard DeShantz’s Butcher fits the bill much more appropriately. The bar was the first in the city to be nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Bar Program and the 600-bottles deep whiskey wall is a heavily Instagrammed drinking landmark in the region, while the rustic menu features entrees like pan seared rainbow trout with charred broccolini or braised rabbit and buttermilk dumplings with root vegetables and mushrooms.
212 Sixth St., Downtown
Of this fantastic Oakland haunt, I’d written earlier this year, “If Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ painting was set in contemporary Pittsburgh, it’d be done looking through the window [here] and the patrons wouldn’t be drinking coffee but rather mowing down on chef Trevett Hooper’s hamburgers and pierogi.” Those pierogi are filled with white potatoes and cottage cheese from grass-fed cows and can be served with a house goat Merguez sausage, grilled escarole and sauerkraut. Other bar snacks include grass-fed beef tartare, smoked bluefish pate and pork and pistachio pate with pickles.
214 N. Craig St., Oakland
Carmella’s Plates and Pints
At this stately wooden bar with a hunting lodge motif, cool antiques and slate floors, they stock over 300 varieties of whiskey and 125 tequilas and mezcals. The kitchen is on solid footing under Andrew Hill, a Station and Stagioni alum who is turning out excellent fare on a revamped menu, including a beautiful Pennsylvania lamb ragu with house-made cavatelli, pecorino and a one-hour egg that adds wonderful creaminess to the sauce when mixed all together.
1908 E. Carson St., South Side
The Foundry Table & Tap
An oasis of fresh food in the otherwise chain-laden North Shore, you can wash down your pregame or pre-concert shots and beers with Yukon gold potato pierogies or duck confit haluski or one of chef Mike Godlewski’s elegantly composed seasonal dishes like a beautiful bright bowl of asparagus risotto with poached egg yolk, fiddlehead ferns, king oyster mushrooms and red-ribbon sorrel, or a 24-hour beef short rib with peas, charred spring onions, king oyster mushrooms, and a buttermilk jus.
381 North Shore Dr., North Shore
Independent Brewing Company
A slate of excellent local beers, an all-vinyl playlist, artwork by Alternate Histories’ Matthew Buchholz and food from chef Jamilka Borges have in just a few years made the IBC an indispensable destination for Squirrel Hill denizens. Their mission statement is “good beer deserves good food” and they do both well.
1704-06 Shady Ave., Squirrel Hill
Insurrection Ale Works
Upon its opening in 2015, Insurrection immediately set a new standard for nanobreweries with food via its excellent wings and gourmet pizzas and sandwiches and an outstanding selection of meats and cheeses to build-your-own charcuterie board. Oh, and the beer is easily among the best in the region.
1635 E. Railroad St., Heidelberg
In its 20th year, this South Side institution is the most traditional of Scottish pubs, but also has been a consistent trendsetter: years ahead of the curve of the craft beer explosion and a whiskey destination long before the great revival of brown spirits in the last decade. Food wise, it’s the little things that set them apart: house-baked baps and savory pies; scratch stews, hand battered fish with true British chips, and once a week a proper Sunday roast with fresh roast beef, brandied pan gravy, whipped potatoes, and Brussels sprouts with bacon and Yorkshire pudding.
1828 E. Carson St., South Side
They celebrate the “demon rum” at this Downtown spot, where more than 200 varieties are available to go with a pan-Caribbean menu and a healthy dose of social conscience and activism, such as on July 9 when they’ll host a five-course Anthony Bourdain Tribute Dinner and Suicide Prevention Awareness Fundraiser.
274 Forbes Ave., Downtown
Scratch Food & Beverage
This place has serious bona fides in both the gastro and pub department. Gastro: Chef Brandon Blumenfeld is a local gent who’s previously worked in the rarefied Manhattan air of places like Momofuku Noodle Bar and designed a menu that includes barramundi, Elysian Fields lamb chops and game hens. Pub: the place is converted from beloved former neighborhood institution Billy’s Troy Hill Bistro and boasts a killer cocktail, booze and beer list and late night snacks like an oxtail melt or a griddled peanut butter sandwich.
1720 Lowrie St., Troy Hill
Easily the most ambitiously gourmet spot on this list, where they do suckling pig loin and popcorn panna cotta, Station retains an approachability factor via a burger that is among the tops in the city and wings that are an absolute masterpiece. The bar includes a century-old hand-carved wooden bar back with modern touches by John Walter of Iron Eden, also in Bloomfield.
4744 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield
To paraphrase the opening sample of a Public Enemy classic, a visit to Roger Li’s Lawrenceville izakaya — a Japanese gastropub — is a journey into sound … and sight, and taste. On a Saturday night, a live DJ spins Kendrick Lamar and house music. Beautiful people, illuminated by sleek neon lights and red Japanese lanterns, abound. And a team of cooks in an open kitchen make excellent sushi and charcoal-grilled robatyaki dishes.
202 38th St., Lawrenceville
Photo by Dan Gigler, Post-Gazette