Pittsburgh Dining Guide – Comfort Food

This is part 2 of my guide to Pittsburgh.   Part 1 is on  ethnic food.


Many, many restaurants in Pittsburgh have buffets for Sunday brunch.   Additionally, there is no shortage of diners to eat at.  Here are some of my favorites.

Kelly O‘s is an old fashioned style diner with a lot of heart.  It has a location in the Strip District but I went to the original one in North Hills.  Since 2001, it has been owned by Kelly O’Connor, a working Mom who has worked in the food service business her whole life.   I got the biscuit and sausage gravy along with eggs benedict.  Both were fabulous and I highly recommend them.

Sausage gravy and eggs benedict at Kelly O’s Diner

Pamela’s Diner is another famous diner, serving the “best breakfast” in Pittsburgh since 1980.  It has locations all over the city, but I’ve been to the ones in the Strip District and  in Shadyside.   They have all manner of dinner food from eggs, pancakes, and french toast, to burgers and sandwiches.   I had the burger my first trip and the “famous corn beef hash” on the second.  This was solid diner food.  My companion had the grilled cheese, which was generous with the cheese and quite filling.

Pittsburgh has brunch choices other than diners.  Another favorite of mine is Cafe Moulin in Shadyside.   This is a French crepe restaurant with both sweet and savory crepes.  I got one of each type and both were fantastic!   Be prepared for long lines, though, as this is a popular place.

Crepe at Cafe Moulin


When I told people I was going to be in Pittsburgh, everyone said the same thing “You have to try Primantis!”  Shortly after arriving there, I made it a point to go there.  As the photo shows, they do indeed make a mean sandwich:  thick cut Italian bread, generous portions of meat, and layers of coleslaw and fries.  Primantis is not a place to be missed.

Primantis signature sandwich

But they are not the only sandwich shop in town.  Located along the old Lincoln Highway, on Penn Avenue, is an old school style sandwich shop known as Peppi’s.  Known mainly for their cheese steaks, Peppi’s is a worthy competitor to Primantis and worth a stop in.   They have other locations, but the Penn Avenue one has the best ambience.

Peppi’s, a classic sandwich shop along the old Lincoln Highway


I didn’t explore the steak scene in Pittsburgh all that much, but two places do stand out.   For good grass fed steak, I was recommended to a place in East Liberty called Whitfield.(Thanks, Carson!)  It is on the ground floor of a hotel in an old YMCA.   It is known for local vegetables and grass fed beef.  While normally I get steak at a steak place, the day I went I was really in the mood for a burger so that is what I got.  Delicious!

Burger at Whitfield

But the king of all steak places in Pittsburgh is an Argentinian steak house in the Strip District called El Gaucho Parrilla Argentina.   They have four different kinds of steak you can get: flank, sirloin, fillet, ribeye, or NY strip.   Or if you are feeling hungry, you can get the Asado platter which has a sample of each!    El Gaucho has other kinds of food besides steak, but why would you want to do that?!   I ended up getting the sirloin.

Sirloin platter at El Gaucho

Fish Frys

During Lent, fish frys are big in Pittsburgh.  Really big.  So big that KDKA  news showed this story about Pittsburgh eateries gearing up for Lent.  It specifically mentioned three restaurants:   Wholey’s, The Original Oyster House, and Primanti’s.  Along with a couple of other restaurants and churches, I tried all three.   Each one had impressive showings.

Fish Fry from my local parish

Wholey’s, located in the Strip District, is a fish wholesaler that also has a counter where freshly made food is sold.  It is probably the best place in Pittsburgh to buy seafood.    Besides the fish fry, I recommend the lobster bisque.

The Original Oyster House is located in Market Square in the heart of Pittsburgh.  Market Square in general is a great place to visit.  It feels like an old European style market plaza with a great big center and shops along the edges.  During the summer, concerts and dances are hosted there.   I only had the fish sandwich at Oyster House, so I cannot comment on the other food.

For Lent, Primanti’s added two sandwiches: the Redemption and the Last Temptation.  The Last Temptation is a corned beef and pastrami sandwich, while the Redemption is a fried fish sandwich with haddock, shrimp, Cajun tartar sauce, pepper rings,  lettuce, tomato and onions.

My verdict: you just cannot top Primanti’s Redemption, although all three were quite good.

Ice Cream

I was greatly impressed by the freshness and quality of the ice cream available in Pittsburgh.  You almost cannot go wrong and many places such as Dave & Andy’s Homemade Ice Cream in Oakland and Millie’s Homemade Icecream  in Shadyside make their own ice cream fresh every day.  Millie’s in particular has a very unusual list of flavors which change up frequently, so I recommend trying something new whenever you visit.   For an old fashioned ice cream parlor,  Klavons in the Strip District is the best.  Italian style gelato can also be found at Mercurios, also in Shadyside.

The line outside Millie’s in Shadyside

But for something truly unique, I recommend heading over to Lawrenceville and trying NatuRoll, which makes the ice cream fresh right in front of you! You pick the flavors and the ingredients and they will make it for you. This place is quite popular, with the line going not only out the door but down the street. But it certainly is worth it!

Freshly made ice cream at NatuRoll



In the Strip District there is a fantastic candy store called Grandpa Joe’s.  At it you can get any kind of candy imaginable, including a hundred different kinds of soda.   One of the more unusual soda flavors, which I found out through the courtesy of KDKA news, is a pickle flavored soda.   Of course I had to try it.   Believe it or not, it works.  It has the sweet and salty flavors in  good balance.


One thought on “Pittsburgh Dining Guide – Comfort Food

  1. Pingback: Joey’s Bakery and Restaurant – Jim's Dining Guides

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