In post-lockdown Pittsburgh, you’re going to see lots of restaurants with outdoor tables wherever they can find the space, including taking over some streets. It makes sense since it’s safer to dine in the open air, it allows for greater social distancing than indoors and hey, it’s the season.
Here are 14 of our favorite places for outdoor dining in Pittsburgh, with more coming soon. Feel free to check ahead to find out more about each restaurant’s efforts to keep diners safe.
Federal Galley, North Side
Ten years ago, the least likely spot for great food in Pittsburgh — other than, maybe, Brunot Island, or inside the Liberty Tubes — would have to be the dead mall at Allegheny Center. It was a ghost town, featuring a lot of bleak, sun-blasted cement and not much else. But in the past few years, the mall has been reborn as a campus for tech companies and features an innovative food hall with four different micro-restaurants, Guapo (Mexican), Provision PGH (sandwiches and burgers), Shaka (poke bowls), and something new coming called Sultry. The outdoor beer garden, in particular, was quite a transformation — and now seems better suited to IPAs and lagers than the ghosts of Zayre’s and Woolworth’s. It’s amazing how much atmosphere a few strings of lights can conjure.
Con Alma, Shadyside
This is the perfect little jazz club that Pittsburgh has needed forever, that happens to have great food. Like the Dizzy Gillespie tune it’s named for, Con Alma bops along to its own Latin-inflected rhythm, touching on the cooking styles of several Caribbean nations: Chicken Empanadas, Lechon Asado (Cuban slow-roasted pork with garlic mojo sauce) and even a Jerk Chicken Taco Dinner with mango chutney, plantain chips and guacamole. There’s always music —sometimes inside, sometimes on the sidewalk for takeout, sometimes live-streamed to an online audience. There’s also an immensely charming, if tiny, back patio, with wrought iron furniture, and shade from umbrellas and a large pine tree.
Over Eden, Lawrenceville
Over Eden went pretty bold with that name. But this is a bold space, perched at the top of the stylish TRYP Hotel, which opened last year in Lawrenceville. Now, big garage doors open out onto the roof, giving you terrific views of the city in several directions. The menu is creative and eclectic, and very friendly to vegetarians, with menu dishes like Fried Chicken or Seitan and Slow-Roast Pork or Tempeh giving you some good options.
Walter’s Southern Kitchen, Lawrenceville
They’re only opening the gigantic front yard so far — which was a used car lot not long ago. There’s a lot going on here: picnic tables, cornhole, giant Connect Four, catfish sliders, cornbread, collard greens, as well as brisket and pulled pork from the smoker.
Penn Brewery, Troy Hill
The city’s oldest and historic craft brewery sticks mostly to German food, which, unsurprisingly, goes well with German beers. The Butcher Plate is an obvious place to start, packed with German sausages, pickles, local cheeses and spent grain bread. There’s also a lovely cobblestoned Biergarten, wedged in between the warren of historic 19th-century brewery buildings, with plenty of room to sip a Penn Pilsner in peace.
Roland’s Seafood Grill & Iron Landing, Strip District
One of the best people watching perches in Pittsburgh is right above Penn Avenue on the second-story balcony at Roland’s in the Strip. You can eat big pots of mussels or lobster roll sliders while you watch the city hustle by, bound for groceries and black-and-gold gear.
Scratch Food & Beverage, Troy Hill
One of our favorite places in Pittsburgh, like many, isn’t designed for outdoor seating. They’re doing it anyway, on an adjacent side street closed for diners. Expect to see a lot more of this in summer. Grab a Banh Mi or Tiki Turkey Sandwich, or try something unusual like the OK Boomer, with fermented vegetables and three types of mushrooms, or A Reason To Try Zhug, which showcases the Yemenite green hot sauce with roasted root vegetables on a pita. (We tried this last night indoors and swear by it.)
Sadly, one of Pittsburgh’s best live music venues has been rendered dormant by the pandemic. However, Spirit also happens to serve some of the city’s best pizza. The pies are all interesting, but check out the Garden Pie with Tiny Seed Bok Choy and Joddo’s Turnips. The labyrinthine layout of Spirit also includes a big back patio, with ample space for social distanced dining. They’re expanding seating into their parking lot soon, allowing for even more room to dine outdoors.
Round Corner Cantina, Lawrenceville
The Cantina’s cabana is easily one of Pittsburgh’s best back patios, featuring an open-air bar, wooden tables, greenery and strings of tiny lights. The kitchen serves up Mexican food until late, and there’s often top-shelf DJs spinning records — even though people are mostly there to eat and talk (not dance). You’ve got to reserve ahead of time now, and social distancing guidelines are put front and center.
Pennsylvania Market, Strip District
This surprisingly massive complex includes a generously portioned, 4,000-square-foot open-air courtyard. Inside, there are five independent food hall stations to choose from, and a wine library (!). Pick from paninis, sandwiches, charcuterie platters and carne asada entrees, and then take it outside to eat in a festive atmosphere.
The Abbey on Butler Street, Lawrenceville
It’s usually a bad idea to try to be all things to all people. But this former funeral home has a lot of space to work with and makes it all count. There’s a bar, a coffee shop, a sit-down restaurant, an outdoor patio and probably some other things. It’s an architecturally fascinating space, which isn’t apparent from the street. Think: stained glass, cast iron fountains, bronze French doors, even garden landscaping for the outdoor patio.
The Porch, Oakland
This is one of Pittsburgh’s most iconic settings, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Learning, on a soft green expanse between the largesse of the libraries (Carnegie and Hillman). The Porch’s expansive patios face Schenley Plaza and feature impressive stone fireplaces for chilly nights, and an unobstructed view of college town Pittsburgh, where you can imagine napping on the lawn between classes, like the future is still far away.
Il Pizzaiolo, Mt. Lebanon
NOTE: This restaurant was hit with 11 violations after inspection from Allegheny County as reported after publication of this article. One violation was the staff not wearing masks. A great back patio in the middle of the South Hills’ most walkable restaurant row, with lots of shady greenery and space to stretch out and catch some fresh air. These guys were the among first to bring real Neapolitan-style pizza to Pittsburgh and still rank among the best. They boast training in Naples, and a wood-fired oven made with “bricks and volcanic sand from Mount Vesuvius,” which is way cool. The Salsiccia E Rapini pie features sweet fennel sausage contrasting with the slight bitterness of rapini, and is great, as is the self-explanatory Prosciutto E Arugula.
Perhaps Pittsburgh’s most unusual patio, this spot has walls and a roof, and just enough space between the two to keep fresh air circulating — while managing to keep out the rain and traffic noise from the strip mall next door. This place has been around, and has been great, for a long time. Almost an entire a generation of Pittsburgh culinary talents have come through Casbah to hone their kitchen chops, on a creative, pan-Mediterranean menu, heavy on the seaborne dishes.
Have a favorite outdoor dining spot you want us to know about? Mention it in the comments below or write to us here.