For Sylvia McCoy, finding Pittsburgh’s best places to eat isn’t just a hobby—it’s her job. As the founder of ‘Burgh Bits & Bites, McCoy creates and leads food-focused walking tours of the city’s most gastronomically exciting neighborhoods, including Bloomfield, Brookline and the Strip District.

Since founding the company in 2008, McCoy has scoured the city for fascinating stories and can’t-miss food destinations. Though her tours are popular among tourists, even a Pittsburgh native is sure to pick up a new tidbit or finally set foot in a bakery they’ve walked by a hundred times. Plus, all ‘Burgh Bits & Bites tours include samples, so there’s something in it for everyone.

Given her line of work, it’s no surprise that the best meal McCoy ate last week is off the beaten path. She shares a spot that serves up a great dinner in an unexpected atmosphere.

The best meal I ate last week was at Salonika Imports in Lawrenceville, where a group of my family and friends enjoyed a festive evening of Greek food, drink and music.

By day, this retail shop specializes in selling wholesale and retail Mediterranean foods, while by night the owners Chris and Chrysoula Balouris and Sotiris Aggelou host the occasional dinner event, preparing meals using their grandmothers’ recipes.
Some of the highlights from the four-course menu were Chrysoula’s grape leaves which are filled with bulgar instead of rice, adding a unique texture and taste. The marinated chicken souvlaki, grilled lamb chops and roasted lemon potatoes were a hit with everyone—the simple, fresh and flavorful ingredients were prepared perfectly.

Since I have a bit of a sweet tooth I was especially looking forward to the desserts and they did not disappoint! From the homemade rice pudding made with fresh vanilla bean, to the thick and creamy yogurt with fruit and Greek honey, all of it was a delight.

For me, dinner isn’t just about the meal, but the overall experience—the location, the people, conversations and connections. Dining in the shop amongst vats of olives, with live bouzouki music playing in the background, and enjoying a meal cooked by friends . . . it made for a truly special and memorable evening!

Keep an eye on Salonika’s Facebook page for more of these one-of-a-kind dinners.

Drew Cranisky

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