The 14 Hottest New Restaurants in Pittsburgh

Melissa McCart

Published April 12, 2018

A pizza at Driftwood Oven
Photo: Driftwood Oven / Facebook (Adam Milliron)

Today Eater visits Pittsburgh, where the restaurant boom continues, with indie fast-casual spots picking up steam. Yet there’s no slowdown of boundary-breaking big-money projects, either.

Back in 2015, Eater’s national critic Bill Addison asked whether Pittsburgh was the country’s next destination food town, noting “the dining scene is still shaping a distinct identity, though the dynamism among its strongest players is tangible.” That shaping is still in effect, says dining critic for the Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMelissa McCart, who’s offering her picks on the 14 hottest restaurants that have opened in the past year, though rents are on the rise and the cost of doing business is watering down the city’s DIY culture.

During this recent blizzard of openings, the city has gravitated toward fried chicken (Carmi), French fare (Poulet Bleu, Twisted Frenchman), seafood in general and oysters in particular (Penn Cove Eatery, Merchant Oyster Co.), a veg-centric lunch counter (Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette), and destination dining across from a working steel mill from one of Pittsburgh’s most recognized chefs (Superior Motors).

Without further ado, and in geographic order, here’s the Eater Heatmap to Pittsburgh:


1 Federal Galley


The second food hall from the Smallman Galley team features burgers and banh mi from Provision PGH; tacos, tortas, and sides from El Lugar; Detroit-style pizza from Michigan and Trumbull; and farm-to-table-inspired fare from Supper. The 5,000-square-foot space is anchored by a bar in a former vault, serving cocktails, house wines, an array of local and national craft brews. With the warmer weather, look for the 100-seat outdoor patio to debut.

Ube cocktail
Photo: Federal Gallery / Facebook
200 Children's Way
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 517-6400

2 Fl. 2 at the Fairmont Hotel Pittsburgh


Chef Julio Peraza has landed in Downtown Pittsburgh, following stints in Florida and in Dallas at Madrina (now closed), which in 2015 was named best new restaurant by D Magazine. The publication called his opening menu “a revelation.” The restaurant is a revamp of what had been called Habitat, and the overhaul, engineered by a designer from Barcelona, is eclectic and cool. Pronounced “floor two,” it’s turning out bar food like a short-rib burger, addictive shoestring fries, and duck wings. But the large-format plates on the main menu are the gets, like kuri squash with ham, almonds, roasted chicken, or whole trout.

Fried oyster tartine
Photo: Official
510 Market St
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 773-8848

3 Penn Cove Eatery and the Warren


From the folks behind Penn Avenue Fish Company in the Strip, this Downtown eatery offers seafood during the day to go or for counter service, including sushi, soups, salads, and sandwiches, like an English-style cod sandwich and salmon on ciabatta. At night the focus is the Warren, a top-notch cocktail bar from Spencer Warren and Carrie Clayton, two of the city’s best bartenders. Housed in a room adjacent to the eatery, the domino-themed bar with a midcentury vibe offers a menu with fish and chips, wings, frog legs, and burgers. Take note that due to recent changes in state liquor laws, the spot is a wine shop, too.

Tuna sandwich
Photo: Official
245 7th St
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 201-5888

4 Threadbare Cider House


From the folks behind the Wigle Whiskey Distillery comes this cider and meadery, a 1,500-square-foot, family-friendly space with a bar, communal tables, and a giant Lite-Brite-style wall. Ciders are intriguing, and the selection includes dry, off-dry, and pear versions, as well as hopped ciders; beer and cocktails are also options. Snacks pair well with the drink menu, from the pickles to cheeses and charcuterie, moving into thin-crust pizzas and desserts, like just-baked cookies.

Cider, cocktail, and draft beer
Photo: Threadbare Cider House / Facebook
1291 Spring Garden Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 322-5100

5 Carmi Soul Food


A former North Side staple, Carmi brings soul food to the South Side in bigger, brighter digs: a Victorian row house from the 1900s. Here, owners Carleen and Michael King serve classics like chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken dinners, which include three pieces served with five-cheese macaroni, cornbread, stuffing with gravy, and fish stew.

Fried chicken and waffles
Photo: Official
1825 E Carson St
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
(412) 231-0100

6 Poulet Bleu


This French bistro from chef Rick DeShantz and business partner Tolga Sevdik is a candlelit stunner with floral wallpaper, blue-tile accents, and an open kitchen anchored by a blue French Hestan range. Look for a menu of terrines, mussels, dolled-up chicken, pot-au-feu, and steak frites. But the desserts steal the show, in particular the chocolate souffle for two served with creme Anglaise, chocolate sauce, cherry compote, and more.

Bistro burger
Photo: Poulet Blue / Instagram
3519 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 325-3435

7 Driftwood Oven


This former roving wood-fired oven from Neil Blazin and Justin Vetter fed the hungry and sometimes drunk masses at brewhouses and events since 2015. Today, the duo has a brick-and-mortar spot in Lawrenceville, swapping wood-fired for a gas-deck oven. Here, they’ve expanded their menu to include naturally leavened, 16-inch pizzas; grandma slices; and focaccia sandwiches, as well as baba ghanoush on pizza bianca, seasonal sides, and desserts. A liquor license is in the works.

A pizza at Driftwood Oven
Photo: Driftwood Oven / Facebook (Adam Milliron)
3615 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 251-0253

8 Merchant Oyster Co.


Look for reclaimed nautical details at this Lawrenceville spot, featuring lights from an old ship, glass buoys, oars, and deck chairs. The downstairs has wooden bar stools artfully etched using electricity, while the cozy upstairs space is outfitted with rocking chairs so it feels like a dock. Grab a seat for raw bar offerings like oysters and steamers, mussels, clams, and soft-shell crabs. More substantive orders include three types of chowder, lobster rolls — and a nod to Jersey with Shore-style foot-long hot dogs, as well as a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich.

Chowder in a bread bowl
Photo: Official
4129 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 932-2553

9 Ki Ramen


A reasonably priced neighborhood go-to opened in the summer by Lawrenceville veterans Domenic Branduzzi and Roger Li, who overhauled this trilevel space with murals framed by soft lighting and bamboo accents. Serving lunch and dinner, the spot features house-made noodles as the star of curry, shio, miso, and shoyu ramen with add-ons like the black-garlic butter bomb. Don’t miss the pig ears or the chicken skin for sides. And consider a stop-in after 10 p.m. for sake or Tiki punch at the bar.

Braised chicken ramen
Photo: Ki Ramen / Facebook
4401 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 586-4796

10 Baby Loves Tacos


Former Philly resident Zachary Shell opened stealthily in Bloomfield, debuting with a sign that read “Jim’s Wraps and Salads” and a pay-what-you-will menu. A surprise visit from the health department ended up a blessing in that it fast-tracked the restaurant’s inspection — and official opening in January. Today, you’ll find a proper sign along with Shell’s quirky DIY style. Expect a menu of Mission-style burritos, tacos, bowls, and nachos with options like grocery-aisle El Paso beef, chorizo, and sweet potato with feta, almonds, and scallions.

Tacos at Baby Loves Tacos
Photo: Baby Loves Tacos / Facebook
4508 Liberty Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(267) 973-9295

11 Bitter Ends Garden and Luncheonette


Grab a stool at the counter of this enthralling little mint-green gem — though at around 10 seats, it’s hard to score one at peak hours. Chef and co-owner — and James Beard “Rising Star” semifinalist — Becca Hegarty tends to a vegetable-centric menu of snacks like peach jam and goat cheese toast, griddled butterball potatoes, and more substantive orders like veggie hoagies with bread baked on site, slathered with cannellini bean puree and dressed vegetables. Come spring, look for produce from the restaurant’s garden.

Bruschetta on grilled bread
Photo: Bitter Ends Garden / Instagram
4613 Liberty Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(412) 450-0229

12 Acorn


Scott Walton, the chef who helmed Chicago’s Markethouse and Howells & Hood, has relocated Pittsburgh with his wife to open an ambitious New American neighborhood restaurant in Shadyside. Service is tight at the mellow little bar with a short list of straightforward cocktails, craft beers, and wines by the glass. The dining room references Nordic minimalism, where Walton is serving lively dishes like smoked beets with a hint of barbecue potato chip flavor, or sausage plated with mustard seeds that sidle up to halved links dressed with celery and chives. Larger plates include lasagna riffing on pastitsio with bechamel and mushroom ragout, while trout is swaddled in a chickpea aquafaba infused with maple. As for dessert, don’t miss the baked Alaska that’s flambeed tableside.

Parsnip, beet, turnip, sesame seed, and za’atar spice
Photo: Acorn / Facebook
5528 Walnut St
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
(412) 530-5950

13 The Twisted Frenchman


The extensive buildout for 42-seat East Liberty destination makes a statement in a 120-year-old building chef-owner Andrew Garbarino purchased with partners. Details in the dining room point to iconic fine dining temples such as chairs and lighting identical to Alinea in Chicago, while a blue porcelain-tiled wall riffs on the dome framed by the restaurant’s windows, formerly East Liberty Market, commissioned by the Mellons and built by Peabody & Stearns in 1900. Upstairs from his more casual Bar Frenchman, this tasting-menu spot offers menus with dishes like baby aubergine, beets six ways, salmon, foie gras, smoked duck, and 50-day dry-aged beef.

60-day dry aged prime NY strip, chimichurri, black garlic, bone marrow powder, potato nest
Photo: Official
5925 Baum Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 665-2880

14 Superior Motors


Chef-owner Kevin Sousa’s striking restaurant in a former car dealership out in Braddock allows minimalist design to showcase a working steel mill across the street and the open kitchen inside the restaurant. Look for a New American menu of highly composed dishes like chilled melon soup infused with coconut and curry; diver scallops with buckwheat noodles, cuttlefish, and mushroom; and grass-fed beef layered with polenta, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and bearnaise.

A tasting menu dish at Superior Motors
Photo: Superior Motors / Instagram
1211 Braddock Ave
Braddock, PA 15104
(412) 271-1022

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