A sandwich with French fries on it.
Paper-thin hotcakes loaded with whipped cream and bananas.
A greasy slice of pizza from Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
What do these three things have in common? They’re all iconic foods from Pittsburgh.
While Pittsburgh is known around the world for being a passionate sport city, if there’s one thing that could rival our love for the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates, it would be our love for old-school, classic Pittsburgh restaurants.
So far in our “Ultimate Road Trip” series, we’ve covered the best routes for conquering pittsburgh’s Donut, Ice Cream, Pierogi, and Bloody Mary scenes. However, we figured it was high time paid tribute to the classic spots that laid the foundation for Pittsburgh’s booming food scene. And thus, the “Ultimate Iconic Pittsburgh Restaurant Road Trip” was born.
Send this article to any visitors, or recent transplants to Pittsburgh! It’s Pittsburgh Food Scene 101.
If you stop by any of these locations, we would love to see your pictures! Be sure to tag @goodfoodpgh and #goodfoodpgh.
How To Take The Ultimate Iconic Pittsburgh Restaurant Road Trip
Stop 1: Pamela’s Diner
When it comes to “iconic Pittsburgh,” it’s hard to beat Pamela’s.
This old-school diner serves the city’s most famous pancakes. Prepared in their signature crêpe-style, Pamela’s hotcakes are buttery, paper-thin, and nearly the size of a steering wheel. Every Pittsburgher has a favorite set of toppings, usually including some combination of chocolate chips, strawberries, bananas, and whipped cream.
The original Pamela’s Diner in Squirrel Hill opened in 1979. Since then, five other locations have opened across the city.
Pamela’s Diner (various locations)
Stop 2: Original Oyster House
The name says it all. Located in the heart of Market Square, the Original Oyster House is the oldest bar and restaurant in Pittsburgh, ringing in at 148 years old.
When the Oyster House first opened in 1870, oysters sold for a penny and beers was 10 cents a glass. Today, the restaurant is known for their signature fish sandwich, which was introduced by Louis “Silver Dollar Louie” Americus, the proprietor from 1916 to 1970. These fish sandwiches are so enormous, they are served on homemade buns which are specially designed to accommodate the fish fillet.
Original Oyster House (20 Market Square)
Stop 3: Primanti Bros.
What started as a sandwich stand in The Strip District in 1933 has grown into a sandwich empire that encompasses all of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh cannot, and I repeat cannot, get enough of Primanti’s. Every sandwich served by Primanti’s includes coleslaw, tomatoes, and French fries. Yes, Pittsburgh is obsessed with a French fry sandwich. Try one for yourself – the original location in The Strip District is open 24 hours a day.
Primanti Bros. (multiple locations)
Stop 4: S&D Polish Deli
This classic Polish store and deli in the Strip District offers hot pierogies for lunch and dinner, and frozen pierogies to take home with you (they ship nationwide, too). S&D’s pierogies are made with a Polish flour, which they say causes the dough to be soft and stretchy, resulting in pierogies that have “a thin and delicate shell of dough.” They have 15 different types of pierogies, including Mushroom, Strawberry, Kraut, Spinach and classic Potato & Farmers Cheese.
S&D Polish Deli (2204 Penn Avenue)
Stop 5: Mineo’s and Aiello’s Pizza
Like any respectable food city, Pittsburgh has its own local pizza fued. Located only a few doors apart on Murray Ave in Squirrel Hill, tensions are high between Mineo’s and Aiello’s pizza. For forty years, these two pizza shops have gone head to head as the “best pizza” in the ‘burgh. Both shops serve classic, no-frills pies, but each with their own twist. Mineo’s offers hand-tossed, Scilian pies, loaded with toppings. Aiello’s is known for thick-and-chewy crusts, and a slightly-sweet red sauce. The obvious solution? Try both and decree for yourself which pie reigns supreme.
Stop 6: Tessaro’s
The Legend… the Tessaro’s burger. 🍔✨ (and Yes, it lived up and was all I’d dreamed it would be! 😋👍 So good!!!) 📍 @_tessaros . . . #latableenrose #lavieenrose #rose #foodaddict #foodblog #foodbloggers #fooddiary #foodforfoodies #foodforthought #foodoftheday #foodphotography #forkfeed #foodstyling #instafood #followforfollow #like4like #photooftheday #instadaily #beautyblog #beautyblogger #fashionblog #fashionblogger #styleblog #styleblogger #lifestyleblog #lifestyleblogger #flatlay #minimalism #pittsburgh #neworleans
There’s nothing like a juicy, piping-hot burger from Tessaro’s. This Bloomfield burger bar is a point of orientation on Liberty Avenue – everywhere can be described by its distance from Tessaro’s. When Kelly Harrington bought the space over 20 years ago, he knew exactly he wanted to serve: “a genuine, authentic and honest hamburger.” Today, you can’t say “burger” in Pittsburgh without thinking of Tessaro’s. The patties are pulled together by Tessaro’s in-house butcher, and then grilled on the establishment’s signature hardwood grill.
Tessaro’s (4601 Liberty Ave)
Stop 7: Prantl’s Bakery
#CPCityGuide spotlight: Prantl's Bakery in #Shadyside. They have many fine baked goods at this four-decade-old bakery, but it's actually against city code to go there and not buy the burnt-almond torte. (#Prantls photo by Mike Schwarz) Discover more of #Pittsburgh's hot spots and cool events in our City Guide magazine, on stands now and on our site (link in bio!)
The Burnt Almond Torte at Prantl’s isn’t just Pittsburgh famous – it is famous famous. A quick Google-search will yield a “copycat recipe,” and the Huffington Post calling it “The Greatest Cake America Has Ever Made.”
This legendary cake was devised by founder Henry Prantl after he visited California during an almond surplus, and the Almond Board was teaching bakers unique ways to cook with almonds. Henry experimented with a few of these techniques, and thus the recipe for the Burnt Almond Torte was born. Prantl’s now serves full cakes, slices, and even bite-sized portions of their famous torte. Stop by any of the Prantl’s locations to see what all of the buzz is about.
Prantl’s Bakery (multiple locations)
Stop 8: Grant Bar
Get your hands on a slice of pie at Grant Bar – if you can. Grant’s coconut pie is so famous, it has world map showing how far customers have traveled to get a bite. To snag a slice of this elusive pie, you have to come in early, as it sells out most days. Grant Bar opened in Millvale in 1933, and has been a staple in the neighborhood ever since.
Grant Bar (114 Grant Ave)
Stop 9: Grand Concourse
For many years, the Grand Concourse has been the spot in Pittsburgh for a celebratory night out. Located in the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Station in Station Square, this upscale restaurant is known for its high-quality seafood menu. Every Pittsburgher has celebrated some occasion (Prom, birthdays) at The Grand Concourse. With a stained glass cathedral roof and mahogany accents, the history of the Grand Concourse makes it an unparalleled dining experience in Pittsburgh. Guests transported to 1901, the year the station first opened, just by walking through the front door.
The Grand Concourse (100 W Station Square Dr)
Stop 10: The Original Hot Dog Shop
An Oakland classic since 1960, “The O” opened right next to Forbes Field during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1960 World Series Championship season. In the nearly 60 years since it opened, Oakland has undergone a lot of changes (ie: Forbes Field no longer exists), but to this day, the restaurant serves fries, burger, and hotdogs to passersby on Forbes Avenue. This spot it always filled with regulars, and noisy college students.
The Original Hot Dog Shop (3901 Forbes Ave)
Stop 11: Oakmont Bakery
For the third time in 30 years, the Oakmont Bakery is undergoing a major expansion to accommodate the insatiable hunger of their fans. This bakery is so popular, it doesn’t matter the day or time you visit – there is always a crowd of waiting to get some of Oakmont’s signature treats.
The aptly-named Oakmont Bakery is currently located on Allegheny Avenue, aka the “lower boulevard,” in Oakmont. The bakery is also building a brand-new, expansive shop, located next to the Hulton Bridge and Riverview High School. This new building will be a major expansion for the business, providing a much needed upgrade with 15,000 square-feet of production and retail space, and a 100 car parking lot.
Oakmont Bakery (531 Allegheny Ave)
Where is your favorite “classic” Pittsburgh spot? Leave it in the comments below!
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