These are mostly reviews of my bread-and-butter restaurants, not fancy places.
Tram’s Kitchen – 4050 Penn Ave, (412) 682-2688. The owner has a lot of character and may insist that you eat the vermicelli as instructed. Everything on the menu is great. Every meal should start with fresh spring rolls. I still intend to eat just those on one of my frequent visits.
Italian Village – 5886 Forbes Ave, (412) 422-1300. New York style pizza, $2.99 special for two big slices and a drink. Not the world’s best but it’s good and the price makes it one of my regular stops.
Uncle Sam’s Subs – 5808 Forbes Ave, (412) 521-7827. There is one close to CMU and Pitt but it’s much dirtier on the inside. The Forbes St location is quite nice and has a window seating area. Get the hot turkey or ham sandwich and save yourself from the Philly cheese steak.
Mad Mex – 370 Atwood St, (412) 681-5656. Loud and stinky from smoke, but has decent burritos. Lunch specials and half price after 11pm. Margs are big n’ tasty, wait staff surly.
Bangkok Balcony – 5846 Forbes Ave, (412) 521-0728. Changed their name and went upscale, prices too. Menu is the same quality food thankfully. Nice overlook of busy Squirrel Hill. Go here in the snow or rain to watch it come down.
Aladin’s – Forbes Ave. Soups are cheap and generously sized. I’m warming up to this place a bit based on their soups but I still don’t care for most of their entrees. I’ve recently moved it onto the Picks list because I’ve found a combination I really like: Foole M Damas appetizer, veggie chili with cheese main course. Smoothies are good too.
Mineo’s – 2128 Murray Ave, (412) 521-2053. Enough “Best Local Pizza” awards to paper the walls. Very tasty pizza. I recommend getting the pizza well done to make sure the cheese is nicely browned. Great cheese and sauce; good crust. Watch out that you don’t burn the top of your mouth on the super hot sauce! Atmosphere is marginal and the tables may be dirty, but you get to rub elbows with the whole town. Used to be on the Picks list but I’ve finally gotten tired of two things: The pizza is always so hot I burn my mouth (yes, I do wait) and because they have such cheap plastic utensils that they melt so they’re generally useless.
Kaya – 2000 Smallman St, (412) 261-6565. Pricey but worth it. Make reservations if it’s a weekend evening. Good place to take people to show them that Pittsburgh is changing into a nicer town. Not your typical midwestern fare. As you’d expect in an upscale place, they do a great job combining unlikey ingredients into a great dish. Kaya used to be on the Picks list but the past few times it’s just been so-so.
The Church Brew Works – 3525 Liberty Ave, (412) 688-8201. Divided into two sections and no, they’re not heathens and angels, this Church has been reborn (ha!) as a restaurant and beer brewery. On the one side, there is casual dining but reservations on busy nights are suggested. On the other side, you can belly up to the bar or grab an available table. The pizzas on the bar side are decent but you cannot order the full menu available on the other side. Sip a tasty beverage and pay homage to the shiny vats now adorning the altar. It is a beautiful building and although it feels wrong to be drinking beer there, I’m happy that the building was saved.
Pittsburgh Deli Company – 728 Copeland St, (412) 682-3354. Downstairs it’s all sandwich business. Upstairs it’s mostly beer business. They certainly do a sandwich right. Hot sandwiches here are worth the wait. Grab a pickle with hot sauce while you’re waiting. Absolutely mobbed on weekends and don’t bother trying to find parking in Shadyside at lunchtime. As of about 1/2003, the downstairs closes at 6pm M-Th and 9pm F,Sa. You can still order sandwiches upstairs in the bar area, but it’s sometimes way too smoky and way too loud.