Photo courtesy of Slice on Broadway's Facebook page.

I have a confession to make: Although I consider myself an honorary yinzer after living here for 20+ years, I’m not from Pittsburgh. When I first arrived in town, I had never eaten a pierogi, I never considered putting fries *on* a sandwich, and I had never experienced the burnt almond torte from Prantl’s Bakery

I have since remedied all these things (of course), but I continue to find Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene fascinating and constantly evolving. That’s why I’m so thrilled to be (re)joining NEXTpittsburgh as its new Restaurant Editor, to help Pittsburghers stay informed and engaged in the vibrant local dining scene and all it has to offer.

Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte is one of America’s best cakes. Photo courtesy of Prantl’s Facebook page.

I’m hoping to rethink how we cover restaurants, writing not just about the food they serve, but the chefs and entrepreneurs who keep them running. I’m a business writer, not a food critic, so my approach to writing about Pittsburgh’s restaurants will go beyond the standard critiques of menus and ambience. We’ll talk about food, for sure, but not just about what’s on the plate, because I believe there’s more to a restaurant than the ingredients in its kitchen.

We’ll do roundups of restaurant openings and closings (hopefully more of the former), but I’m hoping that we can also talk about the day-to-day experience of the business of restaurants, the challenges facing the industry, the people who run the kitchen, the front of the house, the bartenders, and everyone in between. We can write about Pittsburgh restaurants even if they’re not the newest kid on the block, and highlight the people doing the hard work behind the scenes.

Restaurants are often anchors in a community, whether that’s a geographic neighborhood or a community of expats seeking the familiar flavors of a home far away. We want to know what places draw you back time and again: what restaurants give you the comfort food you crave?

Restaurants in Pittsburgh and restaurant workers have had a rough few years, and after going through a pandemic, the industry is still in recovery mode — and that’s not unique to this region. I’m interested in hearing from those who struggled through the lockdowns and delivery services and changing dining habits about what lessons or takeaways they gained from the pandemic, and how things are going now. 

I’m also interested in what you think is missing from the regional dining scene; where could we improve and how should we go about it? How challenging is it to launch a restaurant in Pittsburgh, and how could it be easier? 

We can’t write about the restaurant industry in a meaningful way without also covering its problems; from sustainability initiatives to how restaurateurs treat their workers and vendors, there’s a lot of room for improvement. We won’t shy away from tackling some of the tougher issues. 

And I recognize that Pittsburgh’s food scene includes a lot of beloved restaurants that aren’t in the city center; I want to write about those places too. I also recognize that the way we define what is a restaurant has evolved in recent years as well; food trucks and pop-up eateries have become meaningful additions to the places we dine. 

Photo courtesy of GoodTaste! Pittsburgh.

For those who don’t know me, here’s the elevator pitch: I’ve been fortunate to write for many publications in Pittsburgh and elsewhere; my work has appeared in the Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Magazine, Pittsburgh City Paper, The New York Times, The Verge, The Pennsylvania Capital-Star and other local and national outlets. Writing for NEXT about Pittsburgh’s restaurants at this moment in time feels like exactly the right fit; what a privilege to cover an industry that touches so many people in a city that keeps punching above its weight, defying expectations and surprising outsiders with its resilience and ingenuity. 

As for my go-to Pittsburgh restaurants, I have many favorites (and this is by no means an exhaustive list). For coffee, nothing beats walking into Nicholas Brothers in Market Square and inhaling all the amazing scents. I’ve also been frequenting Potomac Coffee in Dormont and Oak Hill Post in Brookline lately for my caffeine fix (their breakfast is also excellent).

Photo courtesy of Oak Hill Post Facebook.

For breakfast, Mediterra in Mt. Lebanon and Pamela’s in Shadyside (and really any Pamela’s or P&G location) are in my current rotation; love the brunch at Casbah in Shadyside, and Zenith on the South Side, which also has an amazing vegetarian menu and is just an overall fun vibe. Pitaland in Brookline and Kassab’s on the South Side are great for Mediterranean food, and even though I can’t quite tolerate the spiciest level, Taste of India in Oakland and Taj Mahal on McKnight Road (yes, I get out of the city on occasion!) are favorites as well. 

But wait, I left out pizza. That’s because no matter which places I mention, I will be inundated with contrary opinions and arguments for everyone else’s favorite pizzeria. But If I had to choose a couple of my top pizza spots, I’d go with Slice on Broadway in Beechview and Aiello’s in Squirrel Hill. There, come at me with your opposing viewpoints, I can handle it. 

All joking aside, I do tend to be a creature of habit, and once I find a restaurant I like, I stick with it. But that loyalty doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try new places and new cuisine. So I’ll rely on NEXT’s smart readers to help keep me up to speed. Send me your pitches, your ideas, your insights, your favorite pizza place, coffee shop, noodle spot, whatever it is you love to eat and where you like to eat it.

I can’t wait to dig in.

Kim LyonsRestaurant Editor

Kim Lyons is an award-winning writer and editor always on the lookout for a great story. Her experience includes writing about business, politics, and local news, and she has a huge crush on Pittsburgh.