Housed in the old Alcoa headquarters building, Talia offers Italian cuisine—including pasta, pizza, and traditional entrées, as well as a nice bar with the region’s largest collection of amaro, including vintage bottles.
Vallozzi’s has an extensive Italian menu at lunch and dinner, and an equally extensive wine list that won a 2019 Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence.
Eleven is the swankiest of the Big Burrito Group restaurants and the one within walking distance of the convention center. Cheese course, oysters, or salads, in addition to the warm house-baked bread, to open, followed by entrées worth the ~$30, and a good wine list. The “tavern menu” and slightly more extensive lunch menu—both with a very good $16 burger and similarly priced option—provide an option to enjoy the atmosphere and strong kitchen of this renovated warehouse somewhat more economically.
For more than 10 years, Derek Stevens was Executive Chef at Eleven (after 15 years in West coast wine country and at some of Pittsburgh’s other well-established restaurants); then he opened Union Standard in the beautiful Union Trust building. It is known for its raw bar and fish, as well as a good burger at the bar and, generally, excellent and creative cuisine.
Meat & Potatoes and Butcher and the Rye are two of the original offerings from restaurateur Richard DeShantz. The latter is known for its extensive whiskey collection (with two bars), as well as creative cuisine (though small plates begin at $12); twice it was a James Beard Semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program. Meat & Potatoes offers flatbreads, two burgers, and some small plates and salads, as well as full entrées, good wines by the glass and prohibition era cocktails.
Another DeShantz offering, Tako is tiny and thus hard to get into. Better and more creative tacos are to be had at Smoke in Lawrenceville anyway. And, DeShantz’s Pork & Beans has the primary virtues of being downtown and open for a $12 lunch entrée (also open at dinner), if you don’t mind a motto of “let’s pig out.”
Pizzaiolo Primo has Neapolitan cuisine, including salads, pizza, pasta, and meat entrée—all excellent. None of the dishes is inexpensive, but some sharing of pizzas or even pasta and salad is quite possible.
Sienna Mercato offers three dining options on three floors: a rooftop beer garden, a “meatball joint” on the first floor, and on the middle floor wood-fired pizzas, pasta, charcuterie, cheese plates, and wine.
Some less expensive, but still interesting options? Walk 20 minutes to the Smallman Galley (in the Strip District), Pittsburgh’s firsts accelerator for restaurants. Four pop-up restaurants and food trucks are given bricks and mortar space to experiment before launching off into their own spaces. Thus, the specific establishments change periodically, and it is always busy and always good. Wine, beer, cocktails, and long tables make for a convivial, fairly loud, scene. A second food hall accelerator, Federal Galley, on the Northside, offers four more restaurants and another 200 seats.
The Pennsylvania Market, in the Strip, has a food market with five kitchen stations and a courtyard with food venders, including Romulus Pizza al Taglio, sandwiches at Bistro 108 and Edgar’s Tacos, plus East End Brewery, wine, and full bar.
Ten Penny, with its salads and sandwiches, has some less expensive options, and is very popular.
Bakersfield: tacos, tequila, and whiskey. Other than prices posted on its on-line menu, what more could one want? Still, this very popular small chain should have less expensive dining options (including “sharable salads”), as well as five different margaritas on their “large format cocktail” list.
Condado: tacos, tequila, and margaritas, in contrast, does list its prices, which are $3.50-$4.50 for each build-you-own taco, which are their signature item. Though with margaritas for only $7, their drink menu items could quickly undermine one’s penmanship (especially as they also offer whiskey and craft beer).
Christo’s —Lisa refuses to call it Christo’s Mediterranean Grill because back when she was a grad student, it was Suzie’s, the Greek restaurant, where students would go after a symphony concert. The menu hasn’t changed since Christo, always the chef, bought the place. All of the dishes are reasonably priced and good—and the avgolemono (Greek egg, lemon, chicken soup) is superb. Only the Onassis Dessert may slightly disappoint, but once Christo has explained that he used to make it for Jackie Onassis on her yacht, how can you resist?
Across the street, Salonika’s Bar & Grill on 6th Street is good for a gyro, slice of moussaka, or other simple Greek fare.
Sree’s (at 7th Avenue & Smithfield) has authentic Indian food and provides a quick lunch. Indian Spices (on 6th Street) is another option. Neither is the best Indian food in town, but both have vegetarian options, are inexpensive, and are downtown.