At a bit over 2 square miles, Brookline is among Pittsburgh’s larger neighborhoods. Bordered by Beechview to the northwest and Carrick to the east, it’s also become a restaurant hub of the South Hills.
Its many options — Mediterranean, Mexican, pizza, eclectic cafe and more — are concentrated along its namesake boulevard, a walkable, pretty flat stretch with bars, shops and coffeehouses.
Brookline Boulevard’s oldest anchor is Pitaland, a 50-year-old bakery churning out fresh pita for grocery stores as well as its own cafe and market. One of its youngest is Oak Hill Post, which has quickly gained a passionate following.
“The food renaissance that Pittsburgh has been experiencing over the past 10 years or so, it seemed like it was being confined to a very small area — the East End, Downtown,” Oak Hill Post co-owner Christian Schulz says. “The South Hills deserves to have as much of a dining scene as East Liberty or Lawrenceville.”
Set your GPS, and start digging into that scene with these five spots.
$ = $15 and under $$ = $15-$25 $$$ = $25-$45
$$$$ = $50 and up
Oak Hill Post may be the new kid on the boulevard — it opened in August 2020 — but it’s already reinvented itself a few times. Restaurants born in pandemic times have to be responsive.
However, from an in-the-womb name change (it was intended to be a storefront for Menuette, the pop-up by co-owners Christian Schulz and Rebecca Nicholson) on through a recent paring down to just breakfast and lunch service, one constant has remained: the biscuits. Those flaky-yet-buoyant, worth-the-drive buttermilk biscuits.
Their genesis was years ago, when, Schulz says, “I really wanted biscuits with something. I don’t remember what.” So he looked through recipes and began experimenting — with the amount of sugar (increasing it added a nice texture) and with washes (he landed on buttermilk).
“Since then, I’ve made, I don’t know how many. It’s absolutely in the tens of thousands.”
On a “heavy biscuit day,” Schulz estimates the restaurant goes through 200 biscuits. Kicking into a “Zen biscuit state,” the chef can churn out about one biscuit every 45 seconds. That translates to 2½ hours of hands-in-dough work.
The food: Those biscuits frame the Breakfast Sandwich, with a fried egg, American cheese, tomato and shredded lettuce. Protein add-ons include fried chicken and bacon. (New Jersians take note: Taylor Pork Roll is an option, too.) Or, get the biscuits topped with sausage gravy or lemon curd.
Remain in the breakfast realm if you like, with an egg and sausage gravy burrito, or French toast served with lemon curd and whipped ricotta. The burger consists of two smashed patties, and the Korean-inspired No. 26 fried chicken sandwich is topped with kimchi and a spicy-sweet gochujang sauce.
Or grab a Martha My Dear sandwich (chicken salad with cranberry chutney, walnuts and greens) or chicken and dumpling soup to go.
Takeaway foods have been part of Oak Hill Post’s DNA since the beginning. When it opened, it was initially takeout only. Schulz estimates that about half of the menu changed in mid-January when they started closing at 3 p.m.
Check for specials, which just might end up on the evolving menu.
The drinks: If you care about how your coffee is brewed, you have numerous options, including Chemex (for two), French press, good-ol’ drip and cold brew (regular or nitrogen infused). Beans are from locals Der Fer. Also: kombucha on tap, Boylan sodas.
600 Brookline Blvd.; oakhillpost.com
Tell folks you’re headed to Pitaland and you’ll get one-word replies, all emphasized: “Tabouleh!” “Gyro!” “Fattoush!”
Yinzers know Pitaland. With reason: It’s been churning out fresh pita bread in Brookline for more than 50 years, since Joe and Jocelyne Chahine opened after emigrating from Lebanon. A renovation eight years ago added a cafe.
“We always wanted to have an eat-in area,” says Donna Tweardy, operations manager and one of the four Chahine children.
The food: The menu, initially developed by Tweardy’s mom and husband, Greg Tweardy, launched as a breakfast-minded affair. Breakfast remains, with shankleesh, an aged cheese, served with eggs, and foul (pronounced “full”), a fava bean and chickpea dish with fresh tomatoes and parsley.
The most popular item may be obvious ‐ “We are the home of the $5 gyro” — with the rotisserie meat carved and placed into a fresh pita. The pita is also a conduit for falafel and chicken or beef shawarma.
Mana’eesh has a following, too, with the flatbread topped with your choice of za’atar spice blend, cheese or meat.
And if you need a nosh while you decide what to order from the prepared foods counter — cheese or chicken pies, maybe some baba ganoush? — grab a small plate offering or two and sit down. It’s a casual spot where you wander to the counter to order stuffed grape leaves, grilled halloumi or rosemary garlic wings.
In addition to the fattoush and tabbouleh salads, the house — “our take on the Greek salad,” Tweardy says — has chickpeas, feta cheese, toasted pita chips and a pomegranate-sumac dressing.
620 Brookline Blvd.; pitaland.com
This is the original. Back in 2009, the Berumen brothers — Gabriel, Jose, Luis and Pancho — opened the Mexican grocery store. Years later, and even in frigid temperatures, the taco stand out front remains a hub of activity.
Mayor Ed Gainey stopped by the Beechview location just a few days after being sworn in, and he’s not the only one filling his socials with images of the satisfying, well-seasoned street food. (There are Oakland and Washington, Pa., Las Palmas offshoots, too.)
The food: This is fast food without the drive-thru.
You have eight pre-cooked proteins to choose from. Your beef (ground, ribeye, barbecue or dried), chorizo, chicken or pork (carnitas or al pastor) is warmed on the hot grill and served to you before you can pull out your money to pay (inside the market). It’s then scooped onto warmed corn tortillas and into your container.
Quesadillas are your other option, with the same meats available.
700 Brookline Blvd.
“This is my home away from home,” Luciano Defelice says.
He’s talking about Brookline, which he moved to from central Italy in the early 1980s at age 19 and never left, but the sentiment applies to Moonlite Cafe as well.
Defelice opened the bar-restaurant nearly a quarter-century ago, and it’s the kind of cozy spot that, if you’re a regular, makes sure your beer is poured by the time you hit your usual seat. That brew could be served by an original employee: One bartender, Defelice says, has remained since Moonlite opened.
Patrons hit the bar first and can sit there or continue to the large dining room (with two pool tables).
The food: Defelice, who attended culinary school in Italy, serves a menu of Italian favorites. Since the pandemic, he’s scaled back to focus more on bar eats, but favorites remain.
Among those is Defelice’s Chu Chu: focaccia he makes topped with veal (or chicken), hot peppers, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes and provolone. Similarly substantial options: spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Parmigiana and lemon chicken. A well-stocked Italian wedding soup is a nice warmer at $3 a cup, or, if it’s a family affair, order a pizza.
For starters, Moonlite doesn’t just serve fried zucchini. Here, you scale Zucchini Mountain, a pile of lightly breaded, thinly sliced curls of fried squash. Pair that with the fried Provolone Wheel and/or chicken wings, with more than a dozen sauce and rub options.
The drinks: The full bar is open until 2 a.m., with food available until 10 p.m.
530 Brookline Blvd.; moonlitecafe.com
We want to see a sampling of the pizza orders at Antonio’s. With 10 sauces and nearly 45 toppings (if you count the seven cheeses) to choose from, customers have a lot of possibilities to be creative..
That massive list of choices (think of all the prep work!) was, in part, inherited, co-owner Tina Betters says. She took over Antonio’s, open since 2004, with her husband, Domenic Betters, midway through 2019. Thoughts of cutting the toppings list back were quickly abandoned. Betters says she went online to get a sense of how the Brookline community felt about changing up some of the offerings and the feedback was pretty clear: “You can’t change things.”
Instead, the couple expanded. “We decided to add on a vegan menu,” she says. “It’s hard for them to find pizza or an Italian hoagie.”
The food: Though they initially ordered plant-based cheese and meat substitutes, high shipping costs pushed the couple to try making seitan and other items themselves. “So now the majority of it, we make in the restaurant,” Betters says.
Vegan protein toppings include bacon, sausage and capicola, as well as the plant-based mozzarella. Have it or don’t: Additional toppers include the usuals (mushroom, pepperoni and that whole gang), but they’re joined by the curiously clever (Granny Smith apple, corned beef) to the things that make you go hmmmm (cherry topping, seafood mix).
And customers are hardly limited by a mere 45 options: A January special, with hot dogs (or “not” dogs) and french fries, honored the late Betty White. Antonio’s plans to donate $1 of each pie sold to local animal advocacy organizations.
Hand-tossed pies are the default but you can — naturally — opt for Chicago-style, super-thin or keto crusts. Also on the menu: calzones, stromboli, hoagies and wings.
758 Brookline Blvd.; antoniospizzeriapgh.com
Laura Malt Schneiderman