The beloved Strip District is known for many things but mostly for its glorious food. If you’re in search of the best meat, cheese, fish, bread and produce, go to this lively and colorful half-mile stretch on Penn Avenue for a one-stop shopping adventure.

Among its stores and street vendors, you will find anything from artisanal salt to olive oil taps to tortilla chips hot from the fryer and fresh cannoli. There’s plenty of food on the go, but what about places where you can sit down at leisure and eat?  Lucky for us there are quite a few options in the Strip, ranging from authentic ethnic spots to fine dining.

Let’s start with BREAKFAST.

The long lines at DeLuca’s and Pamela’s Diner are evidence that these places are favorite go-tos, especially with the weekend brunch crowd. But there are other breakfast options just as tasty.

At first glance, Café Raymond looks rather unassuming, like a place to pick up a pastry snack. Don’t be fooled. Not only does Chef Ray make the best breakfast sandwiches around, but he’s baked bread eaten by U.S. presidents and major league ballplayers.

Further afield, on Smallman St., is the second location of Kelly O’s Diner, where people go for one of three things—eggs any style, haluski or to see why Kelly O’s was featured on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.” On Steeler game days there is a line, which moves fast, and chances are you’ll see a player of the opposing team—or you could end up dining next to one of our own.

Across the street is Marty’s Market where the bright and airy café is a great spot to meet for coffee and breakfast as well as lunch. Known for their local, seasonal and fresh food, the place really rocks on the weekends for brunch.

Then stop for LUNCH.

Midday in The Strip is a bustling time of day and a great time to grab a table for lunch. In fact, there are places that do not even offer dinner such as Café Enrico, associated with the bakery known for its authentic biscotti. During the day, the café opens for lunch with a menu boasting wood-fired pizzas, hot and thick sandwiches and big bowls of homemade pasta. Most days the server will approach with glasses half-full asking “if you’d like to try today’s homemade wine.” You do. 

Expanded dining area at Penn Avenue Fish Company. Photo by Rob Larson.
Expanded dining area at Penn Avenue Fish Company. Photo by Rob Larson.

Another good bet for lunch is Penn Avenue Fish Company. Here you can buy your fresh fish or sit down for one of the dozens of fish dishes or rolls of sushi or fresh salads. Don’t miss Taco Tuesdays!

And speaking of sushi, Andy’s Sushi at Wholey’s is a long-standing establishment where Andy will roll sushi at warp speed right in front of you. You can then eat at the cafeteria tables nearby.

Kaya, best known for Caribbean cocktails and chicken (fried or jerk) dinners has an equally bold and flavorful brunch menu, so if you missed a Fried Chicken Thursday Night, you can always get the chicken and waffles on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Their vegetarian dinners are not to be missed, period.)

Café on the Strip is worth a lunch visit for their soup of the day alone, but you might want to try the lasagna or gourmet pizza while you’re at it. This intimate and friendly place also features a mean tiramisu.

Gaucho. Photo by Rob Larson.
At Gaucho Parilla Argentina. Photo by Rob Larson.

If you’re jonesing for a sandwich, one that goes a beyond protein, fries and slaw (no hard feelings, Primanti Bros., you’re always a top choice), pop into Thin Man Sandwich Shop where everything is farm-fresh and seasonal and signature sandwiches keep customers coming back. Even in the thick of winter, their house Pittsburgh Seltzer infusions are worth the ice cubes. In a neighborhood known for food, this place stands out.

At Thin Man Sandwich Shop at the corner of 21st and Smallman. Photo by Rob Larson.
At Thin Man Sandwich Shop at the corner of 21st and Smallman. Photo by Rob Larson.

Café Raymond mentioned under breakfasts makes extraordinary sandwiches, too.

Chicken Latino is where you will find the best rotisserie chicken in Pittsburgh, cooked Peruvian style in a brick oven with peppers, cumin and paprika. Try some of their other Peruvian favorites, like the weekend ceviche special, which sells out early, or the authentic beans and rice.

Gaucho's in the Strip. Photo by Rob Larson.
Gaucho’s in the Strip. Photo by Rob Larson.
Gaucho’s in the Strip. Photo by Rob Larson.

One of the more recent additions to Penn Avenue is the remarkable Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, a wood-fired grille where seats fill up fast, because Gaucho’s protein-heavy menu draws a crowd any time of year. It’s BYOB to go with your lomo, chorizo or pescado.

At the other end of The Strip is an eco- and ethically-conscious halal butcher shop owned by the Salem family, and right next door, Salem’s Market and Grille serves some of the best Mediterranean cuisine cooked to order. Grab your curries to go or sit and enjoy your spanakopita at a table. It’s not fancy but it’s very good.

And make a DINNER Reservation.

Yes, The Strip is known for shutting down early if you’re grocery shopping or buying a cup of coffee. But dinner is available here, too. In fact, there is plenty of authentic foreign cuisine to choose from.

Reyna Foods, which sells Mexican meal provisions in their store and tacos from their street stand, now features a restaurant downstairs. Casa Reyna has colorful tile, big wooden tables, a giant menu of Mexican dishes and margaritas that come by the carafe.

Pho Van is one of the few places in Pittsburgh to get Vietnamese cuisine—delicious noodle soups and bowls of vermicelli with no-nonsense service. Linger as long as you like with a pot of Dragon Eye Oolong tea because if there’s no crowd, there’s no reason to leave.

Little Bangkok is The Strip’s Thai food restaurant where you can find anything from Pad Thai to the most traditional dishes served just as they are in Bangkok.

The wood-fired oven at Cafe Enrico. Photo by Rob Larson.
The wood-fired oven at Cafe Enrico. Photo by Rob Larson.

Across the Street from The Cork Factory Lofts is Cioppino, a restaurant and cigar bar that features a seafood and chophouse style menu and posh atmosphere. The wine list at the bar is extensive and there is usually some live entertainment to enjoy. Next door is the very pleasant Osteria 2350 on Smallman St., where you can often find a last minute table on weekend evenings. The menu ranges from meatballs to antipasta and pizza–all quite good and reasonably priced–and the wine and beer selection is first rate.

Roland’s occupies a big wide space in The Strip and features a very big bar and seating upstairs and on the deck. Here you’ll find seafood, soups and sandwiches, including their signature lobster rolls.

Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaskan Grill is the newest addition to the Wholey family business. Reserve a table for dinner (they fill up fast) and choose from an endless menu of seafood—fresh catch, oysters, sushi, crab, scallops. If you’re looking for a place to watch the game, post up on the bar side where you can order anything on the full menu, including lobster pizza.

A few doors down, Bar Marco now occupies the old firehouse building. Now famous for their no-tipping policy which begins in April, the mixologists behind the bar like to create their own cocktail for you. Come for No Menu Monday when the restaurant owners swap out their menu for that of a local chef.

You can never go wrong at Lidia’s Pittsburgh, a beautiful restaurant with outstanding Italian food. Yes, it’s owned by the famous Lidia Bastianich and the gorgeous interior was designed by David Rockwell. Try the pasta tastings and the Osso Buco.

At Eleven Contemporary Kitchen it’s usually necessary to make a reservation except in the stylish and comfortable bar area which is a great place to hang. For over a decade, this restaurant—with Chef Derek Steven’s culinary innovations made from local ingredients and the staff’s flawless execution—has been a favorite choice for those looking to celebrate an occasion or enjoy an evening out. Try one of the two tasting menus, and for the full experience, don’t skip out on the wine pairing. Both Eleven and Lidia’s are open for lunch, too.

Savoy, with its lush interior and lively bar is quite popular with the dinner crowd and has valet parking plus a lot next door. Enjoy live music and a big menu ranging from Delmonico steak to seafood and chicken marsala.

At the end of the Strip closest to town, in the 1200 block of Penn, is Sushi Kim for Japanese and Korean food, including of course, sushi.

What you might not know about dining in The Strip District

Harp & Fiddle has free wings at happy hour on Fridays. You can grab take out, buy a growler and sit down to dine at East End Brewery’s Growler Shop in The Pittsburgh Public Market. Leaf & Bean is the only place in The Strip where you can get a coffee (or fresh beans) after 5 p.m. At Marty’s Market you can grocery shop, get a coffee, build your own terrarium or sit down and order off the menu at the Café. Lucy, who’s in her 70s, runs a food stand (weather permitting), and she will make you the best banh mi in the city. She’s one of the best things about The Strip and that’s saying a lot.

Janna is happily rediscovering Pittsburgh after spending nearly a decade living New York City. She’s a writer by trade—magazines, blogs and a book called He Never Liked Cake. And she’s also a yoga teacher. Her classes can be found pretty much all around this city.