Eleven Contemporary Kitchen in the Strip District. Owned by the big Burrito Group of Pittsburgh

Legume just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Their first location was in Regent Square; now they have a bigger space in Oakland. Legume shares a bar with Butterjoint, one of the city’s most meticulously-crafted bar programs. Soon, next door, they’ll open Pie for Breakfast, a made-from-scratch classic American diner focused on breakfast. Chef Trevett Hooper’s Craig Street mini-empire is perhaps the most delicious stretch of road anywhere in Pittsburgh. If it someday grows to devour Oakland entirely, that would be just fine.

Kaya, Strip District. Photo courtesy of big Burrito Restaurant Group.

3. Kaya, Strip District

Caribbean cuisine rarely seems to stick in Pittsburgh for reasons that remain unclear (we could really use a Cuban spot, for example). Maybe it’s just that Kaya has had it locked down for so long—since 1995—that only the occasional out-of-the-way Jamaican joint has the juice to even try. Kaya manages to keep the menu fresh, with a few standard exceptions, like the Cuban sandwich, Conch Fritters, etc. When the whole Caribbean ocean is your oyster, you’ve got a lot to work with.

lidia's pittsburgh interior
Lidia’s. Photo by Tom O’Connor.
Lidia’s. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

2. Lidia’s Pittsburgh, Strip District

In 2001, back when just about nobody outside the city took Pittsburgh dining seriously, cookbook author and famous TV chef Lidia Bastianich opened Lidia’s in the Strip. No, she’s not there most of the time, (though she does visit), but her affection for Northern Italian cooking is expressed amply through loving renditions of classic dishes like Frico, Osso Bucco and Zuppa di Pesce. They’ll also bring pastas to your table, so you can see and smell and pick out whatever looks best, which seems like a great (if labor-intensive) idea. They still have a great wine selection, arrayed attractively on a backlit wall. Recently, Lidia’s got a major remodel, enclosing the kitchen and emphasizing a white marble bar. It’s still got one of the best brunches in town, and remains a great choice for a big group of people.

Max’s Allegheny Tavern. Photo by Tom O’Connor.
Max’s Allegheny Tavern. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

1. Max’s Allegheny Tavern, Deutschtown

The undisputed champion. It’s been a bar and/or hotel for more than 100 years, taking its present form (which looks turn-of-the-19th-century) in 1977. This is the opposite of cutting-edge cuisine, but can anything really top the immortal combination of German beer, cheese and tubular meats? Expect the best; order the wurst—Weisswurst (mild veal sausage), Knackwurst (beef), Bratwurst (veal and pork sausage). Get the amazing deep-fried Bavarian stuffed pretzels and you can practically roll yourself home.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.