The Commoner at Biergarten, Downtown. Photo courtesy of The Commoner.

After delivery and takeout, outdoor dining is the safest way for your favorite restaurants to keep operating in the pandemic era. Some places have always done it; many others have had to adapt.

Following our recent article about outdoor dining spots, here more of our favorite spots in and around Pittsburgh for al fresco dining.

As always, help them out and wear your mask until you’re actually eating.

Hofbrauhaus, South Side

For a place with so many rivers, it’s a mystery why so few Pittsburgh restaurants seem to use them for anything. Hofbrauhaus, which now overlooks the city’s newest marina, is a major exception. Putting an authentic Bavarian beer hall on the water was a smart move, as it turns out. The back deck above the muddy Mon is so nice that the actual food and drink are sort of a bonus, rather than the main event. The menu is German, of course, and the obvious place to start is with Hofbrauhaus Pretzels and Bier Cheese.

Bob's Diner
Bob’s Diner in Carnegie.
Bob’s Diner in Carnegie.

Bob’s Diner, Carnegie

This Carnegie diner is making the best of it with 14 outdoor tables, and classic dishes whisked out the door at a brisk pace. It’s hard to get more traditional than meatloaf or stuffed peppers, lasagna and roasted turkey with stuffing and cranberries. Plus, breakfast is served all day, so you can scarf down a Diner Omelette or Claire’s Veggie Benny (a take on Eggs Benedict). Comfort food for uncomfortable times.

Pull up a chair at the Biergarten. Photo by TH Carlisle taken pre-pandemic.

The Commoner at the Biergarten, Downtown

Hotel Monaco’s excellent downstairs restaurant The Commoner is taking over the site’s rooftop Biergarten for the summer. So there’s everything from Pierogi and Sausage, to 16-ounce Dry-Aged Bone-In Ribeye, to a Wagyu Chicago Dog on the menu. You can still munch on Biergarten Pretzels with beer cheese and caramelized onion dip as you take in the panoramic views of Downtown.

Harmony Inn, Harmony

This beautiful converted hotel in the National Historic District of Harmony is worth the trip from any direction (yes, it looks like a giant face with a mustache — you can’t miss it). At this close relation of North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock (also great), you can expect to find their beers on tap, as well as a menu of hearty German food, burgers and plenty of sandwiches. Steak or Shrimp and Bacon Spaetzle are a great way to fill up, as is the Jagerschnitzel — pork flat-iron, hand-breaded and flash-fried, topped with bacon mushroom gravy. For dessert, there’s German Chocolate Cake, of course. The side patio is airy and comfortable and lit by strings of tiny lights at night. (Just beware of the outdoor bar where people tend to congregate without distancing.) And note: Union Brewing is nearby with ample outdoor seating.

Sprezzatura Cafe in Millvale.

Sprezzatura Cafe, Millvale

This little café is in a former Moose Lodge in Millvale, sharing space with 412 Food Rescue (who use it to turn salvaged food into healthy meals for those in need). Sprezzatura makes great family recipe-inspired Italian comfort food like spaghetti with meatballs, vegetable lasagna and minestrone soup. Their salads are quite amazing as well. And now they’ve got a line of slim tables along the side of the building for outdoor dining, for small groups. It helps to know that proprietor Jen Saffron is a stickler for safe dining in these trying times.

Fairlane, Mt. Lebanon

This former service station has always been optimized for indoor/outdoor cooperation, with big garage doors out front, so it makes sense that patio dining would be a smooth fit. Fairlane’s menu is creative and eclectic, with Asian-inflected dishes like Khao Soi — with a house-made Northern Thai curry — sitting next to Southern classics like Shrimp and Grits. They’ve also got a bottle shop with a strong selection of beers and ciders, and cocktails to-go, so you can grab a Manhattan or Negroni to drink at home.

Photo courtesy of DiAnoia’s Eatery.
Photo courtesy of DiAnoia’s Eatery.

DiAnoia’s Eatery, Strip District

Other than a fairly wide sidewalk, there wasn’t much to work with here. But in addition to setting up a few tables, they created an entirely new outdoor space out back underneath wooden pergolas, with a loose fabric roof and a wall creating a little intimacy (but still with tables six feet apart). Still one of the region’s best places for scratch-made pasta like Cacio e Pepe and Ricotta Ravioli, and classics like Escarole, Beans and Sausage.

Church Brew Works, Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh’s most beautiful brewpub can be enjoyed from the outside, too. They have a nice, spacious patio well off the street, and the tables have umbrellas. No, it’s not like being in the cavernous sanctuary of a beautiful decommissioned church, but it’s not bad. The menu has changed a bit over the years, de-emphasizing pizza, but still has some nontraditional pierogies, like the Buffalo Chicken Pierogie Saute.

Hidden Harbor. Photo by Brian Maxwell.

Hidden Harbor, Squirrel Hill

Pittsburgh’s ultimate tiki bar has outdoor seating, which blends in with its sister restaurant, the excellent Independent Brewing Company next door. Tiki seems like one of those ironic, kitschy, retro styles that comes and goes every few years. But Hidden Harbor tells another tale: an all-American melting pot of Eastern influences (Polynesian, Hawaiian, Cantonese), South Seas nostalgia and perhaps the best collection of original cocktails outside the pre-Prohibition canon.  The menu is also fun and surprising, featuring things like vegan Crab Rangoon and Coconut Shrimp. You can also order off the Independent menu, which features burgers and reubens.

Burgatory, Cranberry

To single out just one (out of many) location of this local better-burger chain, the Cranberry location does a great job with outdoor patio dining and social distancing. It’s in a great spot for breezes and makes the most of its suburban location. Plus, the beer selection is strong, and the burgers are always among our absolute favorites.

Photo courtesy of Senti.

Senti, Lawrenceville

This elegant, wine-centric, white-tablecloth Italian restaurant is new to outdoor dining, but they have also added a bit of patio dining on Pittsburgh’s preeminent restaurant row, Butler Street in Lawrenceville. Dishes range from comfort food like pizzas, gnocchi and Lasagna alla Veneta, to more unusual items like Ravioli con Polpa di Granchio. Great service is a specialty here and their takeout game is impressive.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Near the UPMC Lemieux Sports Works complex in Cranberry — the land of chain restaurants — there’s Firebirds, a good “polished casual” steak and seafood chain. What makes this location special is the outdoor patio out back, overlooking a miniature lake, which feels removed from its strip mall setting. It’s first come, first served, so you cannot make a reservation. Dishes range from a Grilled Tenderloin Salad to the 21-day-aged, hardwood-grilled Filet Mignon, wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon. They’ve also got an in-house butcher shop, where you can order ribeye and burger packs for grilling at home. And of course the pizza.

Want more suggestions? Read 13 great places for outdoor dining in Pittsburgh.

Michael Machosky

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.