The City of Bridges is in the throes of a full-on nose-to-tail, barrel-aged, small-plates culinary renaissance. And if you didn’t know it, yinz (that’s “you all” in Pittsburghese) probably don’t know anyone from there. Locals are as psyched about their stylish new cadre of chef-driven restaurants as they are about their Steelers. (Okay, almost.) And it’s about time that we all started paying attention, because once the Ace Hotel opens this winter, the secret will be officially out. Now is the time to determine how many types of charcuterie it’s possible to consume in a single weekend and to get an earful of that one-of-a-kind Pittsburgh accent. Here are six different and delicious ways to tackle the Steel City.
1. EAT THE NEW
Pittsburgh’s recent crop of restaurants is lively and fiercely beloved. Four standouts:
Cure Named one of Bon Appétit‘s 50 Best New Restaurants in 2012, Justin Severino’s vaguely Mediterranean, inarguably Pittsburghian spot is as on-point as ever. Dishes like squid-ink-and-leek-ash gnudi are executed with unparalleled finesse.
Bar Marco This subway-tiled wine bar in an 1860 fire station keeps the vibe low-key and pretense-free. It overdelivers with small touches such as complimentary splashes of sparkling wine for all.
Butcher and the Rye At his woodsy tavern, Richard DeShantz offers his take on Pittsburgh food tropes of the moment—pork a thousand ways, treatise-length beer and whiskey menus, and dry-aged steak tartare. Don’t skip the charcuterie plate.
Bread and Salt Three days a week, bread obsessive Rick Easton bakes unbelievably flavorful loaves from local wheat in a former slaughterhouse. The dough is also the foundation of outstanding Roman-style pizzas.
2. WAKE UP TO A LIQUID BUFFET
The Bloody Mary bar at the Hotel Monaco’s restaurant, The Commoner, is reason enough to book a room. Choose from add-ins like Aleppo pepper, a hard-boiled egg, even a mini grilled cheese.
Up for some Arn Cities?
3. TALK LIKE A PITTSBURGHER
This city is home to America’s most, um, unique accent. We asked a native speaker to decode something you might hear on the street (we are not making this up):
“Wanna go aht1 dahntahn2, grab some Arn3 Cities, ’n’ watch dem Stillers4 n’at5? One of yinz6 get me a pop7 and quit bein’ so nebby8 about it. By the way, Kennywood’s open9.”
Footnotes: 1. Opposite of “in” 2. Downtown 3. Iron, as in Iron City beer 4. The only NFL team anyone here acknowledges as legit (just say the name and you’ll be embraced) 5. And so on 6. You all 7. Soda (don’t even think about ordering one another way) 8. Nosy 9. Your fly is down
The scene at Gooski’s bar.
4. ACE A BAR CRAWL
Brent Young, the owner of the Meat Hook in Brooklyn and self-described “guy who really loves Pittsburgh,” is overseeing the Ace Hotel’s 110-seat restaurant. Until it opens this winter, he’ll be at one of his (many) favorite bars.
Gooski’s “The bartender is the friendliest—unless you act like a fool.”
Pollock’s Cafe “Order a shot and a beer, then head to Tessaro’s for a burger.”
Max’s Allegheny Tavern “A fantastic old German restaurant. Great pre-Pirates-game stop.”
Kelly’s Bar & Lounge “Cocktail bar that’s been around for 50 years.”
Nico’s Recovery Room “Saturday-night karaoke here is a must. Average age of bar patrons? Seventy!”
5. GO OLD-SCHOOL ITALIAN
Part of what we love about Pittsburgh is how much it hasn’t changed, from the Art Deco architecture to the neighborhoody vibe to the classic restaurants. For a glimpse into the city’s Italian-American past, head to the Strip District where you can…
1. Take part in a local initiation ritual: the Primanti Bros. sandwich. Here, the menu’s on the wall, the fries go on the sandwich (you want pastrami or corned beef, always thinly shaved and piled high on cottony Italian bread), and the brassy ladies keep the grill hot round the clock—the original Strip District location is open 24-7.
2. Stroll the aisles of Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, stocking up on chipped chopped ham, Italian bread, and frozen pierogies.
3. Grab a sfogliatelle flecked with orange zest at Colangelo’s bakery.
4. Pop into La Prima to join the old men for an espresso at a standing table.
6. BE A STEELERS FAN (AT LEAST FOR THE DAY)
“Only in Pittsburgh would an airport greet visitors with statues of George Washington and…running back Franco Harris. The people who live here bleed black and gold. On game day there’s only one place you should be: tailgating at the parking lot of Heinz Field. If you’re wearing the hometown colors, anyone would be happy to share their kielbasa with you.” —Jill Baughman, Pittsburgh-proud BA digital recipe editor