Summer 2018


While Lawrenceville, Downtown, East Liberty and the North Side transform from quiet main drags to lively restaurant rows, Shadyside has been a Pittsburgh dining staple for decades. An ideal location, leafy environs, appealing architecture and cared-for buildings work in its favor, as well as big-name anchor brands and indie boutiques.

“There definitely has been an increase in tourism in the neighborhood,” says Jennifer Girasole, chef at Girasole (733 Copeland St.).

Open since 2000, the family owned restaurant carved its reputation in the first few years on salads and pastas, but “people’s palates have changed,” she says. “People are more educated about food.”

As a result she’s selling more dishes like farro salad with roasted spring vegetables. And the restaurant has expanded into catering.

Big Burrito’s Casbah is another mainstay, steered by chef Dustin Gardner, who took the helm in 2016. He has put his stamp on the place, turning out an array of Mediterranean-inspired small plates, pastas like gnocchi, canestri and orecchiette and entrees from halibut to half-chicken.

Before he took the helm at Casbah, he did a stint at Soba (5847 Ellsworth Ave.), where Lily Tran runs the kitchen and its Asian-influenced menu of char siu ribs, Sichuan chicken, miso cod and dolsot bibimbap.

Scott Walton, who opened Acorn (5528 Walnut St.) in September, recently returned from an “Acorn, In a Nutshell” dinner at the James Beard House in New York. Now you can try dishes he debuted at the high-profile event, including artichoke rigatoni, fiddlehead fern tempura and fava bean tabbouleh. Don’t miss the baked Alaska for two, a frozen treat that’s lit afire tableside.

Off the beaten path is the charming Cafe Zinho (238 Spahr St.). The great Tony Pais celebrated his 20-year anniversary in the fall and has been battling Parkinson’s disease. The chef works with the Moroccan-born Dounia Touil to turn out dishes like monkfish liver over caramelized pineapple or beet and goat cheese timbale. With Mr. Pais in the house, there’s no bad table inside or out at this BYOB.

For more casual eats, check out the family friendly Mercurio’s (5523 Walnut St.), where Anna and Michael Mercurio bake Neapolitan-style pizza in their Acunto wood-fired oven. (Also don’t miss the gelato.)

Noodlehead (242 S. Highland Ave.) is another quick and satisfying option for Thai street food from the folks behind the temporarily closed Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville as well as Burgh Thai, which just opened in Verona. This cash-only BYOB offers dishes like street noodle no. 2, egg noodles with tempura shrimp, bok choy, bean sprouts and cilantro, or kee mao, big flat rice noodles with bok choy, napa cabbage and chile garlic sauce.

The newest noodle option in the neighborhood is Fujiya Ramen (815 S. Aiken Ave.). From Tokyo-born Zen Yoshida, it’s one of a handful of Fujiya Ramen locations in the U.S. serving tonkotsu-based ramen, fried karaage chicken nuggets, chashu (pork belly) and takoyaki (octopus fritters).

If watching a game or sitting on a patio is on the to-do list, there’s Harris Grill (5747 Ellsworth Ave.) for a burger and a beer or a long list of wing flavors. Tuesday is bacon night.

To cap off a warm summer night, consider a cone from Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream (232 S. Highland). Its offbeat flavors include cardamom with rose ribbon, dulce de leche or fried pound cake with preserved berries.

Even with the constant addition and subtraction of restaurants, Shadyside is as tight-knit a neighborhood as any in Pittsburgh. Citing shop owners who direct tourists her way, Ms. Girasole says, “We’re grateful for the support as the restaurant continues to grow.”

Melissa McCart: