By Madison Blinn
One city, 90 unique neighborhoods. Plenty of hidden gems to discover.
There are tons of beloved neighborhood restaurants in the Burgh. Some are overrated, some are underrated and some are yet to be discovered by the masses.
Let’s talk about the latter. Those special places that can be put in the “IYKYK” (if you know, you know) category. The neighborhood spots that are adored by their community, thrive on word-of-mouth recommendations and continually shell out crowd-pleasing dishes.
So, where are these quietly unsung spots in the city? Here are five neighborhoods known for their restaurants and the lesser-known spots you should put on your list.
In the early 1900s, Pittsburgh had a flourishing Chinatown along Third Avenue between Grant and Ross streets. The well-established area was filled with shops, restaurants and other businesses owned by Chinese-American residents.
Unfortunately, the neighborhood began to vanish in the 1920s and today, only one original business still stands: Chinatown Inn.
The family restaurant has stood the test of time, continuing operation for more than three generations of the Yee family. Not only is the restaurant a part of Pittsburgh history, but the food is also 10 out of 10. Serving Cantonese, Szechuan and Hunan cuisine, the Yee family has perfected their menu. And it’s an expansive one. From lo mein, stir fry and egg rolls to Chinese hot pot or house special duck — every dish is flavorful, fresh and reasonably priced.
Step inside for an incredible meal that is sure to leave you planning your return visit.
Piazza Talarico and Papa Joe’s Wine Cellar
Piazza Talarico is a family-owned and operated Italian restaurant near Arsenal Park. Order anything on the menu and it will taste as if it came from an Italian grandmother.
Packed with fresh ingredients and the perfect blend of spices, the menu consists of Southern Italian-inspired pizza, pasta, sandwiches and more.
Better yet, wash it down with a glass of Papa Joe’s homemade wine. Heck, he might even be behind the bar to serve you himself!
Diners are welcomed as a part of la famiglia as soon as they enter the restaurant. The family-friendly atmosphere cannot be matched, and the family’s passion shines through in the food. Have a quick meal with a glass of wine at the bar, sit down and take your time in the dining room or enjoy the open-air piazza in the rear of the building. For an authentic meal made from scratch by a wonderful family, stop by Piazza Talarico.
Note: Piazza Talarico and Papa Joe’s Wine Cellar posted on social media that the restaurant will close for a “transition” starting March 31.
Speaking of a family business, Groceria Merante in Oakland has been family owned and operated for more than 40 years. The Italian grocery store was originally opened by the Merante brothers when they immigrated to South Oakland in the 1950s to focus on sharing Italian heritage and traditions with the neighborhood.
The tiny groceria at the corner of Bates and McKee offers local and imported ingredients including bread, pasta, veggies and olive oil. But the corner store is much more than a walkable spot to grab some essentials, it’s home to the best Italian hoagie in the area, no questions asked. The shop has a deli serving up killer sandwiches packed with meat on fluffy bread with all the toppings.
Pro tip: Don’t pass on the sweet and hot peppers!
Even better, the sandwiches are huge and affordable. What’s not to love? Next time you have a hankering for something authentic from a deli, skip the chains or supermarkets and head to Merante to snag something delicious and fresh from a friendly face.
Squirrel Hill is home to many eclectic and authentic eateries. Eighteen, the Cafe at Pinsker’s Judaica, is a real treasure.
Pinsker’s Judaica Center is a local shop on Murray Avenue that brings a little bit of the Holy Land of Israel to the Steel City. The term “Judaica” signifies artifacts pertaining to the Jewish religion, culture and ritual objects. Pinsker’s has every piece of Judaica you could imagine with overflowing shelves of trinkets, jewelry, children’s toys, wine and more.
The cafe, Eighteen, is located inside the shop and offers a relaxed but elegant atmosphere and an impressive all-Kosher menu. But don’t let that fool you, the restaurant could be described more so as fine dining that also happens to be strictly kosher.
The menu consists of classic Jewish dishes, impressive traditional entrees and even a selection of sushi and poke. The food is simply excellent.
S&D Polish Deli
I’ll admit that S&D Polish Deli might not be as under the radar as the others on this list, but it’s not a trip to the Strip without a stop to this classic deli.
S&D Polish Deli started out as a delicatessen selling high-quality head cheese, smoked kielbasa and bacon — as well as traditional Polish sausages like kisza, krakowska and zywiecka.
S&D also cooks their own dishes right from grandma’s recipe book! Patrons can enjoy “home-cooked” pierogies, borscht, stuffed cabbage and more.
Get the Polish Platter for a sampling of a few items. It’s a niche deli that is worth exploring.