As a long pandemic winter looms, and outdoor dining becomes less attractive (though still possible in some limited fashion), Pittsburgh restaurants are doing everything they can to keep the lights on.
Simply put, this is going to be the toughest winter for restaurants, ever.
Luckily, getting takeout is still a great, safe way to support your favorite restaurants — and to switch up the often monotonous task of cooking and eating at home.
Here are 10 (more) of our favorite places to check out for takeout in Pittsburgh:
Heir to the late, legendary Legume — which had a massive impact on Pittsburgh dining for the better — is Butterjoint. Helmed by one of Pittsburgh’s best chefs, Trevett Hooper, Butterjoint is focused on simpler scratch-made bar food, like the hamburger, featuring 4 oz. local beef patties on a homemade bun. The Reuben Burger is an interesting twist, with Emmental cheese and sauerkraut. There’s generally not a lot of innovation on the bar food front, but the Raclette Fries with Pickles with Spring Brook Farm Raclette cheese melted over fries, topped with sour dill pickles is a favorite. In a refreshing bit of honesty, the menu mentions that French Fries with Aioli “may be soggy and weird by the time they get to your house,” which is, of course, true. You can also get takeout cocktails, like the classic Negroni and the Full Stop with local Boyd & Blair Vodka, Green Chartreuse, St. Germain and Lemon.
Onion Maiden, Allentown
Yes, a place that specializes in vegan food and heavy metal puns is one of the most consistently great restaurants in town. Their Burning Witch Soup, as one might guess, is a little spicy, with notes of tamarind and lemongrass setting off the murky red lentil concoction. I’m fairly certain that no witches were harmed in the making of this soup (which would not be vegan). You can also go with the Fistful of Curry which oddly eschews the menu’s usual metal references in favor of a Bruce Lee one. Of course, it’s got a bit of a kick, but just enough coconut milk to make it go down without a fight. There’s also the War Pig Hot Dawg, a veggie dog topped with a lot of jalapeños.
Bae Bae’s Kitchen, Downtown
Downtown may lack some of its pre-pandemic bustle, but there’s a little nook on Liberty Avenue with a creative yet simple Korean-inflected menu that seems to be going strong. Bae Bae’s Kitchen has a build-your-own plate system that works well — first, start with stir-fried glass noodles and veggies, mixed ancient grains rice or a mixed greens salad. Then add either grilled local ribeye, Korean fried chicken, spicy fire chicken or crispy tofu. Their signature dish is the spicy Korean Fried Chicken Wings, which really has no competition in town. Bae Bae’s Kitchen is also open for pickup and delivery.
Mi Empanada, Lawrenceville
Empanadas are the perfect takeout food — you can even walk and eat them right out of the bag if you want. These are empanadas in the Argentine style, made by a native. There are Beef Empanadas in a butter puff pastry with rustic seasonings, onion pancetta, eggs, olives and onions. There are also Ham & Cheese Empanadas with meat hand-chopped off the bone and béchamel sauce. Spinach, Sweet Potato and Humita Empanadas — which are filled with savory squash, corn and sweet bell peppers — are vegan.
Tacos with a little Asian-Mexican fusion and a “So-Cal surf vibe” rule at this Downtown spot from the relentlessly creative Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group. There are Korean Tacos with flatiron steak, spicy cucumber and peanut salsa, and the Charred Shishito Tacos, featuring shishito peppers with tomatillo morita salsa, avocado and red onion cilantro salad. You can also get Street Corn with Sriracha mayo, covered in cotija cheese.
B52 is a vegan Middle Eastern restaurant, with a particular emphasis on baked goods, via proprietor Omar Abuhejleh, who also owns the excellent Allegro Hearth Bakery in Squirrel Hill. Some dishes are meatless to begin with, like falafel with pickled turnips, pickles and preserved lemon. Other dishes are successfully reimagined without meat, like the Seitan Shawarma and Spicy Kofta Tofu. Make sure you don’t forget the sauces, like the fiery, garlicky Zhoug and the piquant Toum dressing. For breakfast, they’ve got filling sourdough buckwheat pancakes and an energizing Kofta Scramble, with spicy seitan kofta, kale and tofu. They are takeout-only at the moment. B52 also happens to be a really good coffee shop, so you can get your cortado or cappuccino to go, too.