Hands up who thinks Pittsburgh is a foodie town?
If you didn’t raise your hand, you’ve undoubtedly never visited the City of Bridges and tried its popular restaurants, delis, and bakeries.
Pittsburgh Tours and More sent Mr. Locke and I on their Flavor of Pittsburgh Tour recently and we came away from it with happy bellies, smiles on our faces, and a deeper love for the Pittsburgh culinary scene. The tour focuses on popular food destinations (as opposed to the Rust Belt Culinary Tour which focuses on dining along the Mon River) that locals love and visitors put on their not-to-miss dining list when in town. And, whether you’re a lover of savory or sweet (in my case- both!), there’s sample after sample of each.
So, with our guide, Sarah, and a dozen other curious tourists, we visited both tried and true, as well as up and coming, places to fill our foodie desires. The tour is both a walking tour and via bus shuttle which I’m very happy about. I needed to grab some exercise in between bites, after all.
Ready for some Pittsburgh foodie-cation and highlights from the tour?
Tie those napkins around your necks and get ready to drool!
In the heart of Pittsburgh proper, Market Square offers locals and visitors both traditional American and ethnic cuisine options. With just under 30 culinary hot spots, you don’t have to worry about choosing a favorite- you’ve got 29 visits to make a decision.
This bakery has an excuse to pop their proverbial collar and brag: Huff Post named their Burnt Almond Torte “The Greatest Cake in America” and they weren’t sugar coating the results. with the moistest white cake I’ve ever tried, toasted candied almonds, and a custard filling to die for, the torte is so popular that Prantl’s ships order after order across the United States to folks that just have to have a slice.
Say the name Mancini in Pittsburgh and folks in the know are going to mention the bread bakery. Since 1926 when Jim Mancini took old world instruction and put it to tasty use in McKees Rocks, the bread company has been famous for its Italian Twist bread. We stopped in for a sample of their delicious pepperoni rolls stuffed with cured meat and cheese. I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of the pepperoni roll- until now. Mancini’s Bakery offers locations all around Pittsburgh and they make over 10,000 loaves of Italian bread- everyday.
The Strip District
Known as “The Strip”, the district in Downtown Pittsburgh is roughly a half-mile square of flat land. Filled with wholesale fruit and veg companies, ethnic restaurants and stores, and is a foodie’s dream. The Strip has been going strong since 1814 and has evolved into a shopping mecca for not just restaurants looking to grab the freshest produce at the crack of dawn, but for locals that love variety in their cooking and baking.
Let’s talk sandwiches.
When I think of Pittsburgh sandwiches, I absolutely think of Primanti Bros. first. The Strip District is home to the company’s original location and since 1933 the restaurant has been serving happy truckers looking for a delicious and quick meal when they passed through town. The restaurant has been featured on the Food Network and The Travel Channel and it seems as through every customer turns into a walking promoter of its sandwiches.
The restaurant takes thickly-sliced Cibrone & Sons Italian bread, heats up whatever type of meat you choose, adds provolone cheese, freshly-cut French fries, and a savory slaw, builds a two-inch tall sandwich, and serves it on deli paper. We tried The Pittsburgher (the restaurant’s #2 best seller. Go ahead and ask what the number one is when you visit.) and couldn’t get enough.
Kelly O’s is known for serving breakfast all day, but we enjoyed an on-the-bus sampling of their Halušky. What’s ha LOOSH key, you ask? Yeah, don’t feel bad if you don’t know. I didn’t, either, until recently.
It’s total comfort food and its ingredients are simple: pan fried noodles, cabbage, and butter. Kelly O’s adds a little something special to its dish (bacon!) and the texture of both the noodles and the cabbage compliment each other so well.
Pittsburgh Public Market
Pittsburgh Public Market is both an homage to old school shopping in the city when several shops and retails would house themselves under one roof for the convenience of its customers. Fast track to present day when everything old is new again and the Market has just celebrated it one year anniversary.
Family Farms Creamery
What I love about Family Farm Creameries is their commitment to using 10 local dairy farms to create their dairy products including cheese, yogurt, and of course, fresh milk. We stopped at the creamery to sample their ice cream- my favorite food! The company uses rum from the Pittsburgh craft distillery, Wigle Whiskey, in their Landlocked Caramel ice cream (Mr. Locke LOVED this one!) and goat cheese from River View Farms in their Salty Goat Caramel style. The ice cream is so smooth and decadent, and there’s no way I could choose my favorite.
Technically not an “official ” stop on the tour (but after seeing her display I HAD to make a pit stop!), Eliza’s Oven creates traditional desserts with a boozy kick.
Blending delicious desserts with local craft breweries and distilleries is Eliza’s way to keep the local company love a-flowing, and that love is prominent in each bite of cookie, cupcake, and savory dish as well.
Just northeast of Downtown Pittsburgh sits Lawrenceville. the town is going through a rebirth in both the artistic and culinary scenes and The New York Times has called it a “go-to” destination.
The Church Brew Works
St. John the Baptist Church in Lawrenceville was once a thriving Roman catholic church for the local Irish and Scottish immigrant community in Lawrenceville. Its cornerstone was laid in 1902. compliments of the population’s gradual decline, the parish numbers began to decline and the Bishop of Pittsburgh put an act of suppression on the church and desanctified it in August of 1993. In early 1996, its doors reopened at The Church Brew Works.
Pizza and beer to together like peanut butter and jelly for folks 21 and over, and The Church Brew Works offers diners craft brew and delicious wood fired pizza. add the love of pierogies in and you’ve got a magic mix. We sampled pierogie pizza made with mashed potatoes, garlic, sauteed onions, and jack and cheddar cheeses. What a delicious combination! As for the beer, a pitcher of its award winning pilsner, Celestial Gold, went down very smoothly at our table.
All good Things Must Come to an End
And what a delicious end it was. We ended the Flavor of Pittsburgh Tour just as we began- in Market Square. We hit Nicholas Coffee Co.- the oldest coffee roaster and seller in Pennsylvania. The shop was opened in 1919 and has four generations of roasters under its belt.
I’m a lover of iced coffee and when I learned they offered a Cinnamon Pecan roast I was delighted. Mr. Locke adores all coffee but really favors a dark roast and found the Old Vienna variety delicious.
The shop sells old school candy, coffee and tea, and even classic tea strainers and other necessities.
About the Tour
Pittsburgh Tours and More’s Flavor of Pittsburgh goes heavy on popular foodie spots- perfect for folks that are new to the city or folks like we are that love revisiting favorites locations. The tour books once or twice a month and, at the time this article went to press, the cost was $80 per person with multiple tickets receiving a discount. A portion of the tour’s proceeds goes to The Market Kitchen at Pittsburgh Public Market, so stuff your stomachs full of great food and help a worthy cause.
Disclosure: I was hosted by Pittsburgh Tours & More to give you fine folks the scoop on what makes the Flavor of Pittsburgh Tour so great. I was not asked to state a particular point of view and all opinion are my own!