Mount Washington
August 11, 2022

Mount Washington is best known for its views. And don’t get us wrong: They are spectacular. From numerous points along Grandview Avenue, residents and day-trippers alike peep panoramic views of the city, Downtown and beyond.

It’s also home to two of the few remaining funiculars in the country, practical transportation that provides one of the coolest ways to travel, period. (For now, take the Duquesne Incline, while the Monongahela is closed for an $8.2 million repair job that’s expected to last into November.) So grab that ride, or drive a long, winding road upward, ready to explore all the Mount has to offer.

That very much includes food, courtesy of an array of 20-some restaurants, plus plenty of shops. There’s takeaway-only Kavsar, a tucked-away Uzbek spot; numerous choices along Grandview, date-night ready (LeMont) to after work hangout (Steel Mill Saloon); and the many options along Shiloh Street, tried-and-true Redbeard’s on through longtime institution Grandview Bakery.

“There’s something for everyone,” says Jolina Giaramita, daughter of Joe and Carmella, owners of decades-long mainstay La Tavola Italiana. “You can do everything while you’re up on the Mount.”

Here are six favorites that cover the gamut — from white tablecloth fine dining to cozy-up-to-the-bar casual. We hope it provides a jumping-off point to keep exploring everything you’ll find on Pittsburgh’s perch.

A note: Technically, plenty of those restaurants with views are in the Duquesne Heights neighborhood. Practically, they’re considered to live in Mount Washington, and we are nothing if not practical.

KEY
$ = $15 and under
$$ = $15-$25
$$$ = $25-$45
$$$$ = $50 and up

Coughlin's Law Kitchen and Ale House

Gastropub | inventive menu | 43 taps | $-$$
Crab Rangoon Nachos. (Ian Jones/Post-Gazette)
The Blackberry-Basil Old Fashioned is smoked tableside. (Ian Jones/Post-Gazette)

Though it opened a little over four years ago, the core of Coughlin’s Law has been strengthening since 2006. The four active partners — Tracy Molyneaux, Callen Pisone and Frank and Brian Vetere — all worked together at Carson City Saloon, which is run by the Veteres’ dad, Jay.

They brought on chef Ryan Grace, a known entity from his time at Carson City’s sister restaurant, the now-shuttered Easy Street.

The original plan was more to be a bar that served food — “it’s a relatively small kitchen,” Molyneaux notes — but, “obviously not everything turns out how you think it will.

“We knew we were going to do food, but we didn’t know it was going to explode like it did.” 

The food: The creative menu certainly has familiar touchstones — wings, strip steak — but, as Molyneaux puts it, “Things will be familiar, but have a twist to them.”

That’s summed up in one of Coughlin’s Law’s more popular items, the Chipotle Peach & Bacon Burger. “It’s crazy. The flavor profile, that shouldn’t work. But you have it, and, holy moly.”

The same is true of the Crab Rangoon Nachos — wonton chips topped with cream cheese-crab filling, then drizzled with a glaze of sweet chili and — attention-to-detail alert — sprinkled with black sesame seeds.

Keep an eye on the weekly specials, which recently included a labor-intensive specialty: fried squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese. Brunch switches up weekend to weekend, Molyneaux notes, but always includes a sharable brunch board with, say, waffles, pancakes, egg, bacon, berries and more. The Breakfast with a View (recently, eggs, bacon, pit ham, hash and toast) is a nod to the restaurant’s positioning, perched on steep Virginia Avenue with ample outdoor patio spaces.

The drinks: The 43 taps translate to good variety for beer lovers. Three to four taps are reserved for ciders, another seven for wines with the aim, Molyneaux says, to keep half of the brews local. The current list finds lagers (from North Country Brewing Co. and Evil Genius, among others), wheats (Lancaster Brewing Co.), sours (Levity), plenty of IPAs (Spoonwood, Dancing Gnome) and … we could go on. There are even a couple of stouts on tap, fairly rare for this time of year.

“We try to have something in every category,” she says. “We change them up a lot. A lot a lot.”

But let’s get to the cocktails, because a gastropub named after a philosophizing bartender (in Tom Cruise’s guilty pleasure, “Cocktail”) better lean into the mixed drinks. And bar manager Brad Weimer, who’s been with Coughlin’s since the start, does. For starters: a blackberry-basil old fashioned that’s smoked with cherrywood tableside. It’s built off of a reserve barrel of Knob Creek, and the bourbon also makes its way into other drinks, including a coffee-black cherry Manhattan. You’ll find an array of seasonal specialty cocktails; current offerings are a watermelon mezcal margarita and the vodka-based Orange Crush, whose bubbles come from childhood staple (this reporter’s, anyway) Sierra Mist.

​​10 Virginia Ave.; eatatcoughlinslaw.com

Crab Rangoon Nachos. (Ian Jones/Post-Gazette)
The Blackberry-Basil Old Fashioned is smoked tableside. (Ian Jones/Post-Gazette)
Tortellini with crab and shrimp in a roasted red pepper cream sauce. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
A Chicken Caprese special, with the poultry breaded panko style, stuffed with prosciutto and topped with cherry tomatoes and basil cream sauce. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

La Tavola Italiana

Family-run Italian | pizza | neighborhood staple | $$-$$$
Tortellini with crab and shrimp in a roasted red pepper cream sauce. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
A Chicken Caprese special, with the poultry breaded panko style, stuffed with prosciutto and topped with cherry tomatoes and basil cream sauce. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Technically, La Tavola Italiana opened in 1994. But it was built on a foundation established in the mid-1960s, when Joe Giaramita’s parents opened a pizzeria. Joe worked there from the age of 18. His daughter Jolina Giaramita says customers still come in and say they can remember him as a high schooler, cracking textbooks in between serving pies.

The pizzeria remains, in the same building as La Tavola Italiana, with Joe and his wife, Carmella — both natives of Sicily, though they met in the U.S. — running the show. Jolina was La Tavola’s chef for 20 years.

“When it’s family owned and operated — operated being key, because you’re there every day — this is a great way to meet people and build relationships in the community, and that’s something my parents really fell in love with.”

Jolina, who now oversees the restaurant’s private events, is joined there by her sisters, Gabriella Giaramita and Giovanna Lein. And the current chef, Joe Long, is “quasi-family”: “He started washing dishes at the restaurant as a teenager,” she says, and is now making the dishes that have helped establish La Tavola as a Mount Washington classic.

The food: Several pizzas are on the main dinner menu, including a folded pizza with spicy soppressata and a margherita with prosciutto. Italian-American staples are well represented, with comforting pasta Alfredo, eggplant Parmigiana, shrimp scampi and veal piccata among the options. A longtime popular entree is the Tortellini Crab and Shrimp, which is prepared with a roasted red pepper cream sauce that has a bit of a kick.

“We serve Italian-American food, all the favorites,” Jolina says, adding that she particularly loved creating specials that “are a little more Sicilian.” Her mom’s specialty, Pasta con Aglio, a simple dish that puts garlic front and center, pops up from time to time; same with the scallops limonata.

“The food isn’t pretentious. It’s like going to a friend’s house to eat,” Jolina says. “You eat, and don’t have to do the dishes.”

The drinks: BYOB.

1 Boggs Ave.; latavolaitalianarestaurant.com

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto

Seafood | stellar city views | special occasion | $$$-$$$$
Crab cakes are a signature item. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
Black grouper from the Sea of Cortez, blackened and with a salad of heirloom tomato, dill and cucumber. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto is the kind of special occasion place where, say, Mick Jagger might choose to dine. The Rolling Stones frontman did, indeed, visit the Mount Washington restaurant the night before the band played Heinz Field — now known as Acrisure Stadium. So yes, your body could occupy the same space as Jagger’s, if you’re into that sort of thing.

We’re guessing the British icon stopped by the longtime favorite — 26 years and counting, GM John Bellan notes — for two better reasons: the food and the view.

The food: Executive chef Edwin A. Smith III is so into seafood that a recent vacation found him bluefin fishing in Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas. In the kitchen, he can be found butchering whole fish — mako or halibut, maybe some king salmon — for a menu that skews toward the sea.

“On a regular basis, we have eight species of fresh fish,” Bellan says, adding that sourcing is a priority. “We really believe in sustainability. Chef will look into how they’re caught.”

For a recent special, Smith prepared a black grouper from the Sea of Cortez with Cajun blackening spices, balancing the heat with a fresh salad of heirloom tomatoes, cucumber and dill. Arctic char, Chilean sea bass and swordfish are among the fish currently swimming on the regular menu, along with a crustacean option that’s been there since opening day: crab cakes. Crafted from the original recipe, Bellan says, “we will only use Indonesian blue lump crab meat” for the signature item.

A long list of Steelers pop in — Najee Harris is the most regular — and find land options, too: a Wagyu strip steak or Kurobuta pork tenderloin prepared with soy, ginger and scallions.

“We have not rested on our laurels with the view. We focus on striving and putting out the best possible plate of food every single time,” Bellan says.

That extends to the kids menu, rare in that it doesn’t simply put forth the likes of chicken tenders. Those are surely available (the poultry’s from Gerber Amish Farms), but they join options such as a 6-ounce filet mignon and pan-seared Aukra salmon. Younger guests get their own bound menu, plus a swag bag with snacks and trinkets.

Half a dozen or so desserts — Key lime pie, cappuccino crème brûlée — compete for your attention. But the Jagger of this bunch is the Angel Food Grilled Cheese Sandwich, which marries caramelized cake with a cream cheese filling, topped with a berry compote, vanilla bean ice cream and almonds.

The drinks: More than 15 wines by the glass, plus many by the bottle (20 cabernets alone). The 10-strong custom cocktails menu includes the old fashioned-inspired Don’t Run with Bagpipes, with Wigle Kilted Rye and the local distillery’s mole bitters.

1411 Grandview Ave.; montereybayfishgrotto.com

Crab cakes are a signature item. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
Black grouper from the Sea of Cortez, blackened and with a salad of heirloom tomato, dill and cucumber. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
Orange Chicken is among the most popular dishes. (Vanessa Abbitt/Post-Gazette)
The veggie-packed Basil Chicken. (Vanessa Abbitt/Post-Gazette)

Sesame Garden

Chinese | large menu | lunch specials | $-$$
Orange Chicken is among the most popular dishes. (Vanessa Abbitt/Post-Gazette)
The veggie-packed Basil Chicken. (Vanessa Abbitt/Post-Gazette)

Martin Villegas’ first foray into Chinese cuisine was doing prep work for Sesame Inn in the North Hills. At age 18, and a fairly recent transplant from his native Guanajuato, Mexico, he started out chopping vegetables and worked his way up to cooking.

“It’s a story,” Villegas says of the intervening years, which, after about five years at Sesame Inn, included stints at New Dumpling House in Squirrel Hill and the now-closed Mallorca. For a time he was part-owner of Emiliano’s on the South Side.

He returned to his Chinese culinary training in November 2019, when he took over ownership of Sesame Garden (no affiliation with Sesame Inn), which is housed in a wide building flush with large windows on a walkable stretch of Shiloh Street. Villegas notes that he kept the menu pretty much the same. “So far it’s been working fine.”

The food: He has experimented a bit — a recentish addition of Chow Fun, he says, has gone well: The Cantonese rice noodle staple is now among the more popular offerings. It’s in good company with other customer favorites, including Orange Chicken and General Tso’s Chicken.

The lengthy menu has plenty of those comforting dishes, anchored by sauces such as the tangy, slightly spicy dressing that elevates the Family Style Bean Curd, which is stocked with well-cooked snow peas, mushrooms and carrots in addition to the buoyant fried tofu. It’s easy to keep your meal vegetarian here, with selections also including eggplant and garlic sauce, vegetable lo mein and, on the small Thai menu, curries and pad Thai. Seafood is also well represented, from Tangy Spicy Scallops & Shrimp to Kung Pao Shrimp.

Lunch specials, which are kindly served on Saturdays as well as weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., are a total bargain. Entrees are paired with soup (including that warming favorite, hot and sour soup) or egg rolls. The egg rolls are especially notable: perfectly fried and stuffed with fresh napa cabbage and carrot.

The drinks: Order hot tea and, even if you’re solo, you’ll get a full pot.

202 Shiloh St.; sesame-garden.com

Bigham Tavern

Comfort food | neighborhood hangout | serious outdoor space | $
Loaded Mac and Cheese with grilled chicken and bacon. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
A two-patty smashburger, with bacon and American cheese, was a recent featured burger of the day. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Bigham Tavern has an organic origin story: Jessica and Joe Rewis were looking for a hangout, so they created their own.

“We couldn’t find a neighborhood bar that suited what we wanted — that Cheers vibe, that neighborhood watering hole, a comfortable place to just go for happy hour and after work. We felt the neighborhood here was lacking that,” says co-owner Jessica Rewis, a Monroeville native.

She and her husband Joe lived on the Mount, right across the street from Kaib’s Bigham Street Tavern, which happened to be for sale. They purchased it in 2010, and over the years crafted their very own Mount Washington Cheers in a residential pocket that’s a bit removed from the action of Grandview Avenue and Shiloh Street. (Co-owners are friends Brad Yoder, who runs a law practice nearby with Joe Rewis, and Terry Malsch.)

Jessica Rewis notes the employees — “our staff is our family” — infuse Bigham with personality, “and our customers really bond with them.” A former staffer was into axe-throwing, so two targets now sit at the end of one of the two outdoor spaces.

Another was growing flowers in her backyard, and now a half-acre behind the restaurant is a flower garden, fueling a side business, Armful of Flowers. Look for open-mic nights in the future, Rewis says, anchored to another employee’s interest in stand-up comedy.

“It's always family-friendly, and very safe and welcoming,” Rewis says, adding that, “on any given Sunday, you'll see my daughter behind the host stand trying to help.” That tiny hostess is 9.

The food: With 40 wing sauces and rubs on the menu — sorry, on the separate wing menu — that seems like an obvious starting point. From the familiar (garlic Parmesan, honey barbecue) to the palate torching (including Clucking Hot), wingheads have options.

Among the many offerings between bread is the Travel Channel-famous Hangover Helper burger, which got its own feature on “Food Paradise.” It’s a meaty affair that joins Angus beef with baked pork, bacon, capicola, a fried egg and more. Or, go for the burger du jour. There’s also the Rueben, which is built off of slow-roasted corned beef.

This is a stacked menu, overseen by longtime chef Les Murphy. Three clever mac and cheeses include the Smokehouse (curly cavatappi, smoked gouda and pulled pork), a fitting follow to the pork rind appetizer. Also popular, Rewis says, is their take on the Pittsburgh salad, with those greens and fries bolstered by hard-boiled egg and pepperoncini.

Weekend brunch brings similar variety and includes Southern favorites (biscuits and gravy, “loaded” grits) on through avocado toast. And if you’re in the mood for pierogies covered with pulled pork and an egg, well, look no further.

The drinks: The 12 taps skew toward Pittsburgh-area breweries and “rotate so fast,” Rewis says, led by the proclivities of “Mike the Beer Guy,” aka her brother/bar manager Mike Lazor. Cans and bottles follow suit. You’ll also find seasonal cocktails, and, with 15-some options, a lot more wines than Cheers likely ever stocked.

321 Bigham St.; bighamtavern.com

Loaded Mac and Cheese with grilled chicken and bacon. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
A two-patty smashburger, with bacon and American cheese, was a recent featured burger of the day. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
Smoked Ham and Brie sandwich, deviled eggs, Potato Salad cocktail and ditalini mac and cheese. (Leila Fadel/Post-Gazette)
Picnic-themed cocktails include, from left, Watermelon, Peach Cobbler, Hot Dog and Strawberry Pretzel Salad. (Leila Fadel/Post-Gazette)

The Summit

Cocktail bar | creative eats | cozy hangout | $-$$
Smoked Ham and Brie sandwich, deviled eggs, Potato Salad cocktail and ditalini mac and cheese. (Leila Fadel/Post-Gazette)
Picnic-themed cocktails include, from left, Watermelon, Peach Cobbler, Hot Dog and Strawberry Pretzel Salad. (Leila Fadel/Post-Gazette)

The Summit started as a cocktail bar back in 2013, and that’s still a key part of its DNA. But, as co-owner Dan Peach notes, “We just always have to evolve. We've always kind of done what we wanted to do.”

A couple of years in, that meant bringing on chef Brandon Davis, who expanded upon the limited snack options — the garlic and herb popcorn is a favorite holdover — with a curated menu that fits the cozy space that encourages hanging out. (Board games tucked in the corner underscore that vibe.)

Exposed brick walls meet hardwood floors, with the brown hues playing nicely with swaths of Kermit the Frog green, sunlit, when weather allows, by numerous garage door windows. And in what could be considered a controversial move in this sports town of ours, you will not find a TV.

Peach and fellow co-owner Logan Persun had previously worked a sports bar together, and “this was trying not to be that.” Converse, play Boggle, order a drink, and don’t overlook whatever food is on offer.

The food: The Summit recently switched to a smaller menu on Sundays and Mondays, and a fuller one, with Davis creating specials, the rest of the week. (This is where evolution meets the challenges of fully staffing a seven-days-a-week business.)

Regardless of day, customers can currently order the smoked gouda mac and cheese, smoked ham and Brie sandwich, and a spin on al pastor tacos that finds braised beef, instead of the typical pork, paired with grilled pineapple. Details are important here: That ham and cheese, for example, utilizes a rich double-cream Brie, elevated further by caramelized onions, arugula and an apricot dijon.

On Davis’ days, specials might include oysters, nigiri or a curry entree. (“He does a really good curry,” Peach says.) With culinary passions that range from Southern cooking to Asian cuisine, and a resume including Lola Bistro on the North Side, the chef “can do whatever he wants.”

The drinks: A new themed menu of specials rotates in several times a year; eight picnic-centric offerings launched in late July. The BBQ mixes pineapple bourbon and Appleton rum, with sweet and spicy additions of brown sugar and chipotle; Hot Dog joins caraway gin and pickled bourbon with, naturally, tomato and mustard. This being Pittsburgh, yinz also can order the Strawberry Pretzel Salad, with bison grass-infused vodka and yogurt soju.

Classic cocktails are an important part of the drink offerings — the most popular, Peach says, is currently the old-fashioned, with Four Roses bourbon as the base. You’ll generally find at least two fizzy cocktails from Larimer-based Goodlander, with current options a mojito and and a Moscow mule.

An IPA fan, Peach has four on tap, including one from Sharpsburg’s Dancing Gnome. An oatmeal stout and golden ale from Blawnox-based Old Thunder are pouring, too, as is an Arsenal Cider. Cans and bottles expand your choices and include a sour from Ever Grain Brewing, near Harrisburg.

200 Shiloh St.; thesummitpgh.com

Stories

Polly Higgins

Video

Steve Mellon

Photography

Steve Mellon

Vanessa Abbitt

Leila Fadel

Ian Jones

Design

Ed Yozwick

Development

Laura Malt Schneiderman

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