Amazing Cafe. Photo by Leah Lizarondo
Amazing Cafe. Photo by Leah Lizarondo

Amazing Café, South Side (Permanently closed)

Subs and tacos for lunch are all well and good—if you can fit in a nap afterwards. If you need to be a functioning human, however, try Amazing Café. The South Side restaurant is part of a yoga studio, so all of the dishes are vegan, organic and a handful of other hip labels. But there’s more here than kale salads and green juice. The menu is filled with creative and surprisingly hearty dishes that will keep you full and energized all afternoon, like homemade veggie burgers and brunch bowls packed with superfoods. Though the names get a bit Portlandia (salads are called “Alive” and “Goddess”), Amazing Café is an oasis of tasty, healthy cuisine in a neighborhood of fried food and bar snacks.

Taj Mahal, North Hills

If you’re in need of a crunch lunch, it’s hard to beat a buffet. Everything is ready and waiting: just grab a plate and load up. And of the many Indian buffets around Pittsburgh, Taj Mahal is consistently one of the best. Though getting there requires braving the stop-and-go nightmare that is McKnight Road, you will be rewarded with a colorful and fragrant bounty of soul-satisfying food. Unless you are intimately acquainted with a range of Indian dishes, it can be hard to know exactly what you’re getting. But never fear: whatever spicy stew or buttery meat you scoop, it will be excellent. The vegetarian options are particularly good, and dishes like channa masala burst with fresh, vibrant spices. And the best part? All this midday indulgence can be yours for about ten bucks.

Lili Café, Polish Hill

Most coffee shops take a halfhearted stab at food: a tray of shrink-wrapped muffins or scones, perhaps. At Polish Hill’s Lili Café, however, you can get a full lunch alongside your espresso. The menu reads like a trendy California café: grab a kimchi rice bowl with tempeh or a huge black bean burrito. Vegan and gluten-free options are clearly marked (and there are lots of them), and nothing on the menu costs more than six dollars. The atmosphere is funky and relaxed, the perfect place to do some work or have a lunch meeting. And Lili recently teamed up with Onion Maiden to open Liliput Café at Pittsburgh Filmmakers in Oakland, which boasts a similarly veggie (and wallet) friendly menu.

What’s your favorite place for lunch in Pittsburgh? Let us know in the comments!

Drew Cranisky is a writer, bartender and recent graduate of Chatham University's Food Studies program. He enjoys cats, pinball and fancy burgers.