Down at the bottom of Squirrel Hill is Chinese spot called Chengdu Gourmet. I heard rumors that it could produce some real Chinese food, so I went down with a wife and a friend to see just how true this was. It turned out the place has both a traditional Chinese menu and an American Chinese menu, so we ignored the latter.
Growing up near Detroit and then living in LA, I must admit I have been spoiled by good delis. Thus, when I moved to Pittsburgh I was shocked to learn that apparently the deli scene was pretty terrible. Because of this, it took me nearly two years to get to Smallman Street Deli – the biggest Jewish Deli in town.
In a land where they pronounce gyros like the beginning of gyroscope, a friend of mine never shuts up about the greatness of the gyros at a place called The Greek Gourmet in Squirrel Hill. The Greek Gourmet, by the way, is more of a quickie Greek market than a restaurant, seeing as it only seems to serve gyros alongside its packaged hummus, tzatziki, pita and whatever else you may expect from a Greek grocer.
Independent Brewing Company opened up in Squirrel Hill earlier this year to little fanfare. Yet, it has been on my list of places to visit for no reason other than that I love independent beer. Then, when I heard they had food to go with that beer I was sold. Then when I saw how little food was actually on the menu I was unsold. But then when I saw the menu would get expanded on Tuesdays I was sold again. It was a real roller coaster ride.
With a name like Green Pepper, you might think an unvegan like me would be scared away. But, upon hearing it called the best Korean spot in Pittsburgh from an actual Korean I knew I had to check it out (their awesome website and payment policy didn’t hurt either). After all, I got hooked on Korean food in LA and it was about as meaty as food gets.
Sometimes all you need is a quick and easy, uncomplicated meal in your neighborhood. Something good and American. And when you’re about to see the movie Chef, it has to be filling as well. Enter: Murray Avenue Grill in Squirrel Hill. The menu isn’t too big, but everything on it looks good and everyone in the place looks like they have lived in the neighborhood for the last 50 years. I wasn’t planning on doing the whole burger thing, but I couldn’t resist when I saw the options.
Over in Shadyside, Noodlehead may rule the Thai food scene with low prices and good eats. But atop Squirrel Hill, looking down upon Shadyside, sits Bangkok Balcony. This top-floor restaurant fancies things up a bit and has a whole lot more food to offer. Yet, we all know that more options doesn’t necessarily mean better food and I had every intention of finding out if Bangkok Balcony fell into this trap.
It’s no secret that Squirrel Hill is the heart of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. Typically such a place would be froth with delis, bagel shops and falafel, but not Squirrel Hill. Sure, some of those places exist, but not like one might expect. Luckily, though, this has left room for a new type of Jewish restaurant, called Nu. Calling itself a “Modern Jewish Bistro,” Nu means “well…?” in Yiddish and came into town at the end of last year from the people who brought the world Pamela’s. Since then, it has set about redefining Jewish food. After all, it’s time for a creative take on tradition.
On name alone, Everyday Noodles in Squirrel Hill might draw comparisons to Noodlehead. But, where Noodlehead is Thai, Everyday Noodles is pure Chinese. And I mean pure in the sense that this isn’t some Chinese restaurant catering to the desires of Americans. This is for real. With a near-constant noise of noodles being prepared by hand behind a viewing window that is sometimes displaced by the intricate construction of dumplings, Everyday Noodles is the place to be.
How do you know if an ethnic restaurant is authentic? You look inside and see if people resembling that ethnicity are inside. Or, better yet, you let one of them take you there. At least that’s how it went down for me when a Taiwanese friend of mine invited me to Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill (supposedly the Oakland location isn’t as good) to get some Taiwanese food. Rose Tea Cafe isn’t just some tea house, it’s a full-on restaurant with almost too many options to choose. So we turned to my friend to figure out what to get.