Pittsburgh boasts multiple restaurant rows that are lined with popular establishments, but it’s fun to venture off the beaten path to discover new culinary wonders. Believe it or not, local gas stations and hospitals serve some top-notch munchies. Here are a few no-frills spots for surprisingly good food.
Sandwiches at Marshall’s Cigar
Once you refuel your vehicle at the Shell station at 1520 Spring Garden Ave., head inside Marshall’s Cigar to fill your belly. The purveyor of fine tobacco products serves breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays.
The menu boasts bacon that’s cured and smoked on-site and house-made, hand-ground sausages — including breakfast, spicy, Slovenian kielbasa and Cajun andouille. Other menu highlights include hoagies, burgers and grilled sandwiches on Mancini’s bread, mac and cheese and fried rice.
“I think our Italian hoagies are among the best in the city and they’re available sporadically at Spring Hill Brewing,” says Bob Spehar, who runs the joint with his brother Joey. “Our Reuben is really great, too. It takes three pieces of rye bread to make. It’s truly massive and takes an especially hungry person to finish the whole thing.”
Breakfast sandwiches at Redhawk Coffee in Sharpsburg
Every Saturday morning, the crew at Redhawk Coffee fire up the griddle outside of the Sharpsburg site at 1019 N. Canal St. The breakfast sandwiches and burritos are the perfect accompaniment to your cup of joe. The egg-cellent eats are available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or until they sell out. (Psst! They always sell out.)
Bagel sammies and vegan eats at Farmer x Baker
There’s a shipping container at Aspinwall Riverfront Park where you can get gourmet grub.
Farmer x Baker is a seasonal, 160-square-foot café offering window service. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with dinner hours Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. Owner Jen Urich sources ingredients from local growers, including her own Root & Heart Farm in Gibsonia.
The menu changes weekly but is always filled with big bites that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the stomach. Specialties include bagel sammies and summer salads. Every Thursday is Vegan Burger Night from 5 to 8 p.m. You can get meatless spins on the classic as well as pizza, polenta, soft serve and other desserts.
Nachos and breakfast burritos at Lawrenceville Distilling Co.
During the pandemic, chef Jesse Barlass launched a pop-up at Lawrenceville Distilling Co., at 5410 Harrison St.
The nachos and breakfast burritos at Bodega Off Butler were so popular, that construction is underway on a permanent kitchen inside the facility — which was named Absinthe Distillery of 2020 at the New York International Spirits Competition. The Swiss elixir, which became notorious for its hallucinogenic effects, was banned in the U.S. from 1912 to 2007. Distiller Joe DeGroot assures us it’s safe — and fun — to drink.
Barlass will be back in action this August, complete with vegetarian and vegan options. Stay tuned for special events leading up to his return, but, in the meantime, you can stop by the cocktail lounge from 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Grab a Killer Bee, a poblano pepper-infused riff on the Bee’s Knees made with Jaggerbush Gin, or go rogue with a red absinthe spritz called the Rouge.
Pizza at UPMC Montefiore
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s got a cure for what ails you … even if it’s only hunger pangs.
In 2017, the Brick Side Eatery opened on the UPMC Montefiore campus at 3459 Fifth Ave. in Oakland. The 2,225-square-foot space serves pizzas, as well as salads, sandwiches and desserts that’ll set your heart aflutter.
Brick Side serves a variety of 11-inch specialty pizzas (which can be vegan-ized upon request), including Chicken Caprese, Buffalo Chicken and Ranchero, or you can build your own pie. It’s just what the doctor ordered.
Celebrity-inspired chicken, tacos and cheesesteaks at The Pavilion at Star Lake
In-person concerts are coming back to Burgettstown!
Don’t fill up on tailgating snacks: The Pavilion at Star Lake (isn’t it great to officially call it Star Lake again?) offers plenty of applause-worthy food.
Enjoy Art Bird, a fried chicken chain founded by pop diva Lady Gaga’s dad, plant-based cheesesteaks from Grammy-winner Questlove and Trejo’s Tacos from Hollywood tough guy Danny Trejo. And if you do plan to party in the parking lot soon, or if you’re just feeling nostalgic for the concerts of your youth, grab some Star Lake Peach Wheat Ale from Allegheny City Brewing, a liquid tribute to the 31-year-old venue.
Fried chicken at the North Side Valero gas station
The Valero gas station at 820 Pennsylvania Ave. on the North Side is a destination when your tank, and your belly, are empty. Quik-It Chicken is nestled right inside the convenience store. Order wings, fried chicken dinners, a fish sandwich, smoked ribs and a whole host of hearty sides, including a literal pound of fries.
Chimney cake in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh itself is an unexpected place to find chimney cake, a yeast pastry that originated in Transylvania hundreds of years ago. Steel City Chimneys brings the Eastern European treat to Western Pennsylvania … and it might just become as iconic as Prantl’s burnt almond torte.
The desserts are hand-rolled onto a wooden cylinder and grilled on a special rotisserie, which caramelizes the sugar coating. The smoked stacks are then coated with sweet or savory toppings. Keep tabs on the food truck’s Instagram page to find out where they’ll be slinging chimneys. Bonus points if you can order them by their Hungarian (kürtőskalács) or Slovakian (trdelník) names.