We’ve had these in the past — there was one Uptown, near Duquesne, and another near the old bowling alley in Squirrel Hill. I’ve (accidentally) dined with (by which I mean next to) Evgeni Malkin at Kavsar in Mt. Washington, which is the closest thing we have. Russian food is great — borscht is surprisingly delicious, and pelmeni are basically pierogies. But really, I mostly miss the crazy Russian rap videos and sentimental karaoke that got the whole place singing in Russian, of those aforementioned, long gone places. Anybody up for opening a new place with similar food and the same amazing vibe?
A truly authentic Jewish deli
With the closing of Smallman Street Deli in Squirrel Hill, we’re seriously lacking in the Jewish deli department. There’s Nu, A Modern Jewish Bistro adjacent to Pamela’s — which is outstanding (don’t sleep on their Shakshuka). But it has limited hours, open only on Saturdays and Sundays. There’s also the other, original Smallman Street Deli, which is great — but it’s tucked away in a still-industrial corner of the Strip District, and lacks that community meeting place vibe that great Jewish delis tend to have.
Corned beef, pastrami, real-deal knishes, matzo ball soup … Katz’s Delicatessen in Manhattan is perhaps the ultimate destination for all of this, but I doubt they’re franchising anytime soon. If we can’t have Katz’s, a giant high-quality sandwich factory like Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor would also do extremely well around here, too. Somebody steal this idea. Please.
An all-night diner with great food
Does this exist anywhere around here? Ritter’s has been rumored to be possibly closing for more than a decade, but they’re still open 24/7, and that’s a good thing if you’re in the East End. But my dream is some kind of elevated all-night diner, something that transcends “It tastes great after a bunch of beers at 3 a.m.” Imagine if Pie for Breakfast was open all night? Or if Pamela’s was open after midnight, instead of closing after lunch. Also, while I’m busy dreaming about omelets and French toast, a healthy, dedicated breakfast place Downtown would also be amazing.
Another grocery option (Wegmans, please?)
In cities all around us, there’s competition for groceries. But here in Pittsburgh, a certain large bird will not be frightened off its perch at the top, no matter what. There’s been some movement lately on this front — Fresh Thyme is a welcome addition. But honestly, Erie has the best grocery chain in America in Rochester-based Wegmans, and we don’t. That’s not right. It’s also been suggested that we could use a vegan grocery like Food Fight (great name!) in Portland.
More competition, according to an expert
I didn’t just ask friends, neighbors and coworkers what Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene needs. I also asked the experts, including Trevett Hooper, one of Pittsburgh’s best chefs and restaurateurs (Legume, Butterjoint, Pie for Breakfast), what else Pittsburgh needs food-wise.
Here’s what he said: “What we really need are more of the same things. That’s where competition comes in, and the bar naturally rises. When there is only one of something, it’s easy to slack. The challenge is, we’re a small city, so there is only so much that it can support.”
Let’s start solving that puzzle, people!