It’s been a fast month here in the Steel City- too fast! I’ve been acclimating to work, commuting like I casually memorized the bus schedule, and have been writing bench briefs like it ain’t no thang. It is a thang! And it’s hard! I’ve also been casually eating my way through the city, enjoying the most of each neighborhood. I’ve spent the most time in Lawrenceville in the last two weeks, overshadowed only by Squirrel Hill, my own neighborhood, and Shadyside. In that time, I’ve had amazing treats, from homemade pierogies to beautiful burgers to macarons that taste like they’re straight out of Paris. Continuing my on-the-road tradition from last year, albeit souped up (disclaimer: this article contains no soup), here’s my Top 15 in 30.
1. Wigle Whiskey, cereal milk cocktail
As you can see from my empty glass and malfunctioning phone camera, I more than relished this taste of Wigle’s infusion of rye, Golden Grahams-soaked milk, turbinado sugar, and mole bitters. While their white gin was top-notch, this was a beautiful crash at the intersection of Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday morning hangovers.2. Dobra Tea, iced IPA + fire dragon
While Dobra is a franchise, each location has clever takes on tea. Sitting next to pots of assam leaves, a future DIY experiment by the owner, I’ve been enjoying both the non-alcoholic, but full-bodied, alchemistic iced beer teas, with dextrose foam and hoppy flavors, and the fire dragon, a mainstay set of flavors including lapsang souchong, almond milk, cardamom pods, and honey.3. Local Press Juice, black + yellow
Four ingredients, a truckload of flavor. With pineapple, blackberry, orange, and lavender, this made the perfect breakfast juice en route to the office. Better yet, they’re sold right next door, so it’s easy to pop in for a fresh juice any time of day.4. The Pub Chip Shop, fried chicken and ham biscuit
While they were out of their beloved ‘White Chapel’ burger by the time I arrived starving at ten, tucking into their enormous deep-fried ham, chicken, and jalapeno syrup biscuit was an easy substitute. By far one of the best biscuits in town, possibly even the country, both fluffy and able to soak up all of the savory and sweet I could handle. Seriously, this made two meals for $5 and change.5. Pop Stop ice pops, pineapple basil + honeydew pistachio
This has been my weekly stop on hot and steamy afternoons in or out of work. Pop Stop has a wide array of rotating flavors, but their herb and nut-infused fruitier ones do the trick during the dog days of summer. Pineapple basil was like a frozen agua fresca, and honeydew pistachio tasted like baklava on a stick.
6. Market Square + Squirrel Hill Farmer’s Markets, and the Pittsburgh Public Market (Good L’Oven, Homegrown Ice Cream, Caffè d’Amore, Sand Hill Berries, and Eliza’s Oven)
The farmer’s markets in Pittsburgh have an exotic bent on traditional fruits and vegetables, incorporating the season’s bounty into every treat imaginable. My favorites thus far include the locust blossom ice cream from Homegrown, d’Amore’s fresh golden plum and balasmic shrub mixed with homemade seltzer, Sand Hill’s pecan-toasted boysenberry cream pie, the boozy, fruity confections from Eliza’s, and the cookies (not fruity, still delicious) hot from the oven and warmed by the sun at Good L’Oven.
7. Primanti Bros. steel city sandwich
What can I say about Primanti’s that hasn’t already been said for me? Oh, yeah- it’s dank. As a sandwich connoisseur, I was excited and nervous for Pittsburgh’s finest. Results varied from godly to banal, but the pastrami, smoked turkey, ham, and beer mustard extravaganza, replete with fries and an egg on top, was perfection in two meals. My only regret was not eating more.
8. Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches, speculoos + brown butter tangerine blackberry at the Staghorn
I’ve been spending my late afternoons at the quiet Staghorn cafe in Greenfield, home to midcentury modern schooldesks, an amazing coldbrew, and an endless freezer full of these babies, thick ice cream sandwiches with homemade ice cream, cookies, and a ton of flavor, from bold, spicy speculoos to delicate brown butter tangerine with a smear of homemade blackberry preserves.
9. Gaby et Jules Paris-Pittsburgh + macarons
This French bakery combines Pittsburgh iconoclasts with Paris classics, and the result is the grilled almond and meringue spin off the Paris-Brest. The smokiness of the almonds beats out hazelnut cream any day of the week, and the macarons in flavors like butterscotch liqueur and white chocolate basil are not to be missed.10. Wood-Fired Flatbreads steak ‘n’ ranch pie
There’s a smell in the air, and it’s coming from the mobile wood-fire oven next door to where I work. Yeah, that’s right. Food trucks have grills, but pizza trucks haul ovens like motorboats. The weekly specials rotate, but I snagged an amazing pie with the steak ‘n’ ranch- parmesan-garlic oil, slices of steak, roasted shallots, mozzarella cheese, ranch dressing, and smoked crispy potatoes on top. Ruth’s Chris who?
11. BRGR truck, tropical island burger
The courthouse is apparently a magnet for incredible food trucks- following the flatbread, this doozy stopped by on a lazy Thursday afternoon, touting a special burger with mango slaw, housemade habanero barbecue sauce, and smoked cheddar. While I’m a condiment fiend, the real star was the meat, a perfectly cooked blend of shortribs, chuck, sirloin, strip, and ribeye, tender and flavorful. The island heat and sweet sent it over the top.
12. Bread & Salt honey ricotta
Possibly one of the finest meals I’ve had here, with such simple components. The trick is doing them all perfectly, and owner Rick Easton does so with finesse. The thick country bread buckles with a swift crunch, yet holds up impeccably to the dripping layers of honey and fresh ricotta. Creamy, sweet, buttery, and savory all at once, with a dusting of pistachios to coax out the nuttier flavors in the whole-grain bread.13. Aiello’s Pizza
When I first got wind of my move to Pittsburgh, I recalled an article years back about Pittsburgh pizza- thin-crust, with a thick layer of cornmeal, crispy on the bottom, sweet sauce, sweet crust, and sweeter blends of cheese. Needless to say, I was curious, and my taste led me to Aiello’s, with garlic sauce-spiked slices. Honey, garlic, and tomato works cleverly here, and makes for a delightful slice.
14. Cop Out Pierogies, watermelon/habanero/tequila/chicken pierogies
Pierogies are the pizza of Pittsburgh- not to say that pizza isn’t popular, but the Polish dumplings are as omnipresent and varied as pies are in New York. But Cop Out has the best of them, with over 20 flavors that change seasonally. I caught an amazing summer set- banana split dessert pierogies and an incredible savory watermelon, habanero, tequila, and chicken ‘rogie with a hot lick of heat and fruit.15. Church Brew Works, snake + habanero pierogies and Bazaar Berliner/ParaWeisse (rose + macaron weisse, pineapple/peach/mango/banana)
This brewery offers a religious experience, both in their architecture, housed in an old church, and in their beer and bites. From their untraditional pierogies, rotating daily- mine were a bang-up snake and habanero with a mango gastrique and peppers, and their beer, brewed in many flavors and varieties, their selection is top-notch. The pink-hued Bazaar Berliner was refreshing and nutty, accentuated by the light sour lychee and floral rose notes.
Check back next month for The Bedfellow’s visit, including mugging at Fallingwater, more burgers, wood-grilled steak in the Strip, famous pancakes, and more!