Satur­day

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL -

creative ideas with­out need­ing a huge fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment.

Some, like chef Pete Tol­man’s Iron Born Pizza (Detroit-style deep dish with a wickedly good fer­mented crust that caramelize­s as it bakes in steel pans), move on to open their own brick-and­mor­tar restau­rants.

Oth­ers shift to a new con­cept: Chef Sum­mer Le had a hit with the Viet­namese pop-up Bah­n­mi­li­cious at Small­man Gal­ley in 2017, and re­cently opened Shaka (Hawai­ian poke bowls and Viet­namese pho) at Fed­eral Gal­ley.

Brian McCol­lum, who has been or­ga­niz­ing Pitts­burgh Restau­rant Week since 2012, says in­de­pen­dent chefs like Le are “driv­ing more of the in­no­va­tion,” and that’s had a pos­i­tive rip­ple ef­fect on restau­rants in gen­eral.

“It’s al­most as if the more cor­po­rate restau­rant groups are hav­ing to be just as in­no­va­tive” to com­pete, he says.

Chef Bethany Zozula, who helms the Whit­field restau­rant at Pitts­burgh’s Ace Ho­tel, says the city’s close-knit com­mu­nity of chefs en­cour­age one an­other. In this rel­a­tively small city, “every­body knows each other,” she says. They’re will­ing to help each other source the right in­gre­di­ents, “or if you need a phone num­ber of a for­ager.”

So what should you try on a week­end of din­ing in the Steel City?

Fri­day night

Din­ner at Small­man Gal­ley in the Strip District will give you a choice of four pop-ups, all of­fer­ing el­e­vated com­fort food. Try the chicken and bis­cuits at the popup called Home and fin­ish off your meal with sweets from the pop-up Sul­try.

If you’d pre­fer a more up­scale vibe, try Zozula’s restau­rant, Whit­field in East Lib­erty. She sources beef from a ranch two hours away in Bed­ford, Penn­syl­va­nia. The cock­tail menu is strong (try the Queen Bee: bour­bon, chamomile honey syrup, lemon and pineap­ple) and the vibe in­side this re­habbed Y.M.C.A. build­ing is ef­fort­lessly cool.

Then hit one of the many craft­beer tap­rooms a short drive away in Lawrencevi­lle. Eleventh Hour Brew­ing Com­pany is among the best, of­fer­ing a sub­lime ni­tro stout and a range of other brews.

Crav­ing a late-night snack? There’s a lit­tle iza­kaya called Umami tucked up­stairs on the sec­ond floor above the Round Cor­ner Cantina on But­ler Street. They serve authen­tic Ja­panese skew­ers un­til 2 a.m. on week­ends.

Sleep in, then wan­der in the Strip District and grab an early lunch — ei­ther authen­tic pier­o­gis at S&D Pol­ish Deli or fresh seafood at Who­ley’s Fish Mar­ket.

For din­ner, make a reser­va­tion at chef Kevin Sousa’s Su­pe­rior Mo­tors in Brad­dock (about a 20-minute drive from down­town Pitts­burgh), named among Food & Wine’s Restau­rants of the Year for 2018. Plates are small but ex­quis­ite, and the location in­side a former car deal­er­ship across the street from U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thom­son Works couldn’t be more dra­matic.

Sun­day

Dig into break­fast at Coca Cafe, where an am­ple av­o­cado omelet served with ap­ple-smoked ba­con, jalapeno muen­ster and house salsa man­ages to feel in­dul­gent and healthy at the same time.

Have time for one more meal be­fore leav­ing town? Pitts­burgh’s long­time fa­vorite, Pri­manti’s, serves huge sand­wiches on thick Ital­ian bread with French fries and vine­gar-based coleslaw tucked in­side. It has lo­ca­tions all over town, in­clud­ing a new one in­side Pitts­burgh’s air­port.

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