Pittsburgh is a city rich in cultural heritage, a place where the past and present meld seamlessly. Besides steel bridges and historic inclines lies a vibrant culinary landscape, a melting pot of flavors that tells the story of its diverse communities and resilient spirit.
From hearty sandwiches that fueled the once-booming steel industry to delicate pastries reflecting its European immigrant roots, Pittsburgh’s food scene is an eclectic and delicious homage to its history.
Now, let us check the most famous food you can find in this wonderful city.
15. Pierogies at S&D Polish Deli
Pierogies are a beloved staple in Pittsburgh, reflecting the city’s strong Eastern European heritage and S&D Polish Deli is a revered institution when it comes to these stuffed dumplings.
The pierogies here are handcrafted with a tender, doughy exterior enveloping a variety of classic fillings, from savory mashed potatoes and cheese to the more gourmet options like sauerkraut and mushrooms.
They are a simple yet profound dish, often pan-fried to a golden crisp and served with a side of sour cream, embodying the comfort and tradition of Pittsburgh’s culinary landscape.
- To make traditional Pittsburgh pierogies, prepare dough from flour, eggs, water, and salt.
- Roll out and cut into circles, then fill with your choice of mashed potatoes, cheese, onions, or other fillings.
- Seal the pierogies and boil them until they float.
- Pan-fry in butter until golden brown and serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives.
14. Cheeseburgers at Tessaro’s
Nestled in the heart of Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy, Tessaro’s has been serving up some of the city’s most beloved cheeseburgers for decades.
The secret to their mouthwatering burgers lies in the hardwood grill that imparts a smoky flavor, and the expertise of their in-house butcher who ensures that each patty is ground and formed to perfection.
The ambiance of Tessaro’s, with its unassuming décor and friendly service, makes the experience of biting into one of their cheeseburgers even more delightful.
- Start with high-quality beef, freshly ground.
- Form into thick patties and season with salt and pepper.
- Grill over a hardwood fire until the desired doneness.
- Serve on a toasted bun with your choice of cheese and classic toppings like lettuce, tomato, and onions.
13. Moules et Frites at Point Brugge Cafe
Point Brugge Cafe’s Moules et Frites is a dish that transports diners straight to the cobbled streets of Brussels. The mussels are the star of the show, fresh and plump, bathed in a choice of aromatic broths that range from the wine-infused to the exotic red curry.
The frites are equally noteworthy, cut from the finest potatoes and fried to a golden crisp. The casual yet intimate atmosphere of the cafe complements the communal and convivial nature of this Belgian classic.
- Choose fresh, live mussels and clean them thoroughly.
- For the broth, simmer garlic, shallots, and herbs in white wine or a sauce of your choice.
- Add the mussels and steam until they open.
- Serve with hand-cut fries, twice-fried for crispness, and a side of aioli or mayonnaise for dipping.
12. Burnt Almond Torte at Prantl’s Bakery
The Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl’s Bakery is a confection that’s become synonymous with Pittsburgh itself. This torte is a marvel of textures, featuring airy layers of cake interspersed with rich custard, all enveloped in a crunchy coating of caramelized almonds.
The torte’s fame has spread far beyond the city limits, drawing sweet-toothed pilgrims eager to sample what has been dubbed the ‘best cake in America‘ by more than one national publication.
- Bake a light, buttery sponge cake and slice into layers.
- Fill with a homemade custard or almond-flavored pastry cream.
- Coat the cake with a thin layer of buttercream before pressing toasted, candied almonds into the sides.
- Dust with powdered sugar for a finishing touch.
11. Tako Taco at täkō
Downtown Pittsburgh’s täkō stands out with its Tako Taco, a dish that boldly combines the tenderness of sous-vide octopus with the punchy flavors of Mexican street food.
The octopus, prepared with precision, is placed atop a freshly made tortilla and adorned with a vibrant array of slaws and sauces that add crunch and zing.
The dish is a testament to täkō’s commitment to innovation and quality, and it’s become a must-try for both locals and visitors alike.
- Tenderize octopus by sous-vide cooking it with aromatics.
- Char-grill for a smoky flavor and slice.
- Serve on a warm tortilla with a mix of slaw (cabbage, carrots, cilantro), and top with a smoky chipotle sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
10. Mac & Cheese at Kelly’s Bar and Lounge
The Mac & Cheese at Kelly’s Bar and Lounge is a dish that has achieved legendary status among Pittsburgh’s comfort food offerings. It’s rich varieties of cheeses, melded into a creamy béchamel that clings to every macaroni noodle, baked until a golden crust forms on top.
The wait for this dish is part of the ritual, building anticipation for that first, scalding-hot bite. Kelly’s retro ambiance, complete with neon signs and vinyl booths, makes indulging in this Mac & Cheese an experience that’s both nostalgic and satisfying.
- Cook macaroni al dente and set aside.
- Make a roux, then whisk in milk to create a béchamel sauce.
- Blend in a mix of your favorite cheeses until melted.
- Combine with the pasta, top with breadcrumbs, and bake until bubbly and golden.
9. Smoked Bluefish Pâté at Butterjoint
At Butterjoint, the Smoked Bluefish Pâté is a dish that showcases the establishment’s dedication to local and seasonal ingredients. The pâté, with its rich, smoky flavor and smooth texture, is a favorite among patrons. It’s served with a heap of tiny crostinis, providing the perfect crunchy vehicle for the creamy spread.
This dish is a staple in the Butterjoint’s ever-changing menu and stands out as a testament to their culinary craftsmanship.
- Smoke bluefish until flaky.
- Blend with cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, and herbs until smooth.
- Serve chilled with a side of crostinis or crusty bread for spreading.
8. Boxty at Piper’s Pub
Piper’s Pub brings a slice of Ireland to the South Side with their Boxty, a dish steeped in tradition and comfort. The potato pancake is crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and filled with a hearty mix of sausage, ham, egg, and cheese.
It’s a versatile dish that can be enjoyed at any meal, embodying the spirit of Irish hospitality that Piper’s is known for. The pub itself, with its warm wooden interiors and welcoming atmosphere, is the perfect setting for enjoying this classic.
- Grate potatoes and mix with flour, baking powder, and salt to create a batter.
- Pour onto a hot griddle and fill with cooked sausage, ham, scrambled eggs, and shredded cheese.
- Fold and cook until golden brown.
7. Prosciutto-Arugula Pizza at Dinette
Dinette elevates the pizza game with their Prosciutto-Arugula Pizza, a dish that balances the saltiness of cured ham with the peppery bite of fresh arugula.
The pizza is a study in contrasts: the crust is thin and crisp, the toppings are rich and flavorful, and every bite delivers a satisfying crunch followed by a melt-in-your-mouth sensation. The minimalist and modern setting of Dinette reflects the simplicity and sophistication of the pizza itself.
- Prepare a thin pizza dough and pre-bake until crisp.
- Top with a simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and bake until the cheese is bubbly.
- Finish with a generous helping of arugula, prosciutto, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
6. Coconut Pie at Grant Bar Inc
The Coconut Pie at Grant Bar Inc. is a dessert that has become a local legend. Each pie is a masterpiece of flaky crust, creamy filling, and fluffy mousse, all infused with the rich flavor of coconut.
The pie’s texture is as impressive as its taste, with a contrast between the crisp crust and the soft, airy mousse that makes each forkful a delight. Grant Bar’s old-school charm adds to the allure, making the experience of enjoying their Coconut Pie all the more special.
- Bake a pie crust until golden and let it cool.
- Prepare a coconut custard filling and pour into the crust.
- Top with a light coconut mousse made from whipped cream and coconut cream.
- Garnish with toasted coconut flakes.
5. The Gobblerito at Mad Mex
The Gobblerito at Mad Mex is a whimsical creation that packs the essence of a Thanksgiving feast into a handheld burrito. It’s a seasonal offering that combines turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and corn, all wrapped in a flour tortilla and served with a side of gravy and cranberry sauce.
The Gobblerito is a beloved tradition for many Pittsburghers, offering a taste of the holidays in a fun and unexpected format.
- Layer a large tortilla with slices of roasted turkey, spoonfuls of black bean mashed potatoes, traditional stuffing, and sweet corn.
- Roll tightly and bake until warm.
- Serve with homemade gravy and cranberry sauce on the side.
4. Cold Noodles at Chengdu Gourmet
Chengdu Gourmet brings the bold and complex flavors of Sichuan cuisine to Pittsburgh with their Cold Noodles. This dish is a symphony of sensations, with the coolness of the noodles contrasting with the heat of the Sichuan peppercorns and the tang of the vinegar-based sauce.
It’s a refreshing dish, perfect for those looking to explore the authentic tastes of Chinese cuisine. The restaurant’s commitment to traditional Sichuan cooking methods makes this dish a standout.
- Cook noodles until al dente and rinse under cold water.
- Toss with a sauce made from chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic.
- Garnish with sesame seeds, peanuts, and sliced green onions.
3. Pitts-burger & Cheese at Primanti Brothers
The Pitts-burger & Cheese is the signature sandwich of Primanti Brothers, a culinary icon of Pittsburgh.
This hefty sandwich is a full meal in itself, with a beef patty, melted cheese, a pile of French fries, and tangy coleslaw, all stuffed between thick slices of Italian bread.
It’s a tribute to the city’s blue-collar roots, a no-nonsense, all-in-one meal that has fueled generations of Pittsburghers.
- Grill a beef patty and melt provolone cheese on top.
- Stack on Italian bread with a handful of hot French fries, coleslaw, and fresh tomato slices.
- Top with another slice of bread and press down to meld the flavors together.
2. Raw Pizza at Beto’s
Beto’s Pizza offers a unique take on the classic pie with their Raw Pizza. The concept is simple yet revolutionary: a partially baked crust is topped with cold, uncooked cheese and toppings after it comes out of the oven.
The result is a pizza that’s both hot and cold, cooked and raw, with a textural contrast that’s unlike anything else. Beto’s has been serving this unusual pizza for years, and it’s become a beloved quirk of the local food scene.
- Partially bake a pizza crust until it’s just firm.
- Remove from the oven and immediately cover with shredded cold cheese and your choice of raw toppings, such as fresh tomato slices, raw onion, and uncooked pepperoni.
1. Pittsburgh Salad at Whitfield
The Pittsburgh Salad is a dish that defies expectations, turning the concept of a salad on its head. At Whitfield, the salad is an indulgent affair, with a bed of greens topped with an array of vegetables, crispy fries, and chunks of buttermilk fried chicken.
It’s a dish that’s both comforting and satisfying, with a playful twist that’s characteristic of Pittsburgh’s innovative culinary spirit. The stylish and contemporary setting of Whitfield is the perfect backdrop for this modern take on a local classic.
- Start with a base of mixed greens and add fresh vegetables like cucumber, tomato, and red onion.
- Top with hot, crispy fries and pieces of buttermilk-battered fried chicken.
- Drizzle with homemade ranch dressing or your dressing of choice.
How has Pittsburgh’s food scene changed over the years?
Pittsburgh’s food scene has evolved significantly, embracing farm-to-table movements, international flavors, and modern culinary techniques while still honoring its traditional, comfort-food roots.
Can I find fusion foods in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh’s food scene includes fusion foods that blend traditional Pittsburgh flavors with international cuisines, offering unique and innovative dining experiences.
How do Pittsburgh’s seasonal changes affect its food offerings?
Pittsburgh’s seasonal changes bring a variety of fresh, local ingredients to the table, influencing the menus of restaurants and eateries throughout the city to reflect the flavors of each season.
How can I find the best Pittsburgh foods when visiting?
To find the best Pittsburgh foods, consider taking a food tour, visiting local food festivals, or asking locals for their favorite spots. Online reviews and food blogs can also be helpful.
As our culinary tour of Pittsburgh comes to a close, it’s clear that the city’s food is as characterful and robust as its storied past.
Each bite tells a tale of the immigrants who settled here, the hardworking locals who built the city, and the innovative chefs who are redefining its flavors.
The famous foods we’ve explored are a testament to Pittsburgh’s identity, a blend of old-world charm and new-world creativity.