Dine: Cheap eats in Pittsburgh for diners on a budget

Here's where and when to find dishes for less than $15 at any time of the day


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Over the past year, new restaurants have opened here and other places have added items to their menus that provide some tasty but cheap eats for the college student on a budget as well as the discerning diner looking for a bargain.

Here's where and when to find dishes for less than $15 at any time of the day.


Breakfast/brunch

Skinny Pete's (538 California Ave., Avalon; 412-415-0338; skinnypetes.com) opened in February as a charming restaurant named for co-owner Tina Grindeland's husband. The restaurant that she started with friend Danielle Mashuda promotes a hangover breakfast, which she described as "everything breakfast in a bowl," including eggs, potatoes, onions and meats for $7. Also popular is the breakfast burrito ($7) with the requisite ingredients including cheddar and salsa. Skinny Pete's has unconventional hours, open Mondays 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; closed Sundays.

The Porch at Schenley (221 Schenley Drive, Oakland; 412-687-6724; theporchatschenley.com). Although outdoor dining with a view of Schenley Plaza are draws, a seasonal menu and chef Kevin Hermann's meticulous sourcing ensures repeat customers. The breakfast sandwich with cheddar or parmesan, bacon or prosciutto and egg on an English muffin is $4.50. And a cup of Joe is a buck before 11 a.m., all of which are sold at the walk-up window starting at 7 a.m. The Porch also sells half-price pizzas, Monday through Thursday from 9 to 11 p.m. Plan on saving some for the next day's breakfast.

For a reasonably priced Sunday brunch, head to Penn Ave. Fish Company (2208 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412-434-7200; pennavefishcompany.com) for all-you-can-eat fish tacos. For $12.99, customers can pile tortillas with grilled swordfish, tuna and salmon for a BYO brunch that includes a bloody mary, michelada and mimosa bar. Brunch is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Lunch

Tootie's (93 S. 16th St., South Side, or the cart at Smithfield Street at Fourth Avenue, Downtown; 412-254-6501; tootiesfamous.com). The cart from Karl Horn's South Side shop debuted earlier this summer at the Downtown corner. For Downtown workers, it's a convenient spot to buy a terrific Italian roast beef or the new chicken sandwich that's sweet and salty with a hint of black pepper. Both sandwiches are $8.50 and can be purchased at the cart from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays through the fall as well as year-round in the shop.

Toss't (222 Fifth Ave., Downtown). This new sibling to Vallozzi's Downtown offers signature salads and made-to-order versions for about $10, which includes a choice of greens, meats, four vegetables, cheese, dressing and a choice of nuts. All salads can be made into wraps. Toss't is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Lydiah's Coffee House (200 Grant St., Downtown; 412-281-4701) brews its own ginger beer to wash down mandazis ($1.10), a slightly sweet fried dough that's a meal in itself. Daily specials run $6 for a heaping plate of braised beef and greens, chapati and rice. Lydiah's also sells Kenyan samosas for less than $2 a piece.


Bar food and barbecue

YinzBurgh BBQ (4903 Baum Blvd., Oakland; 412-621-9469, yinzburghbbq.com). Owner Richard Coursey smokes pork ($7), babyback ribs ($12), brisket ($8), chicken and wings over a combination of wood in the shop's smoker. All meats are dry-rubbed, with a choice of three sauces -- vinegar and tomato vinegar from North Carolina as well as a mustard-based sauce from Georgia, Mr. Coursey's home state. Although mixing barbecue from different states may offend a purist, they're pleasing for those willing to try an array of regional styles.

Take advantage of the outside tables while the weather is nice at Wilson's Bar B-Q (700 N. Taylor Ave., North Side; 412-322-7427). It's a family affair at the institution started by George Wilson, 85, who has been making ribs and chicken here for more than 50 years. A small chicken plate with sauce and bread is $4.60 while a plate of ribs is just under $8. Collards, mac and cheese and slaw run $1.25. All are big servings that just may feed two.

Smokin' Joe's Saloon (2001 E. Carson St., South Side; 412-431-6757; smokinjoessaloon.com) is a destination for happy hour and wings, which run 25 to 40 cents a piece. Seasonings range beyond mild, medium and hot Buffalo wings, including honey garlic, sweet and smoky, seasoned salt, sweet Italian and the dubiously named dry ranch rub. For late night diners, the kitchen is open until midnight weekdays, 1 a.m. weekends.


Ethnic

Stop at Everyday Noodles (5875 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412-421-6668; everydaynoodles.net) for soup dumplings ($9) also known as Xiao Long Bao. Watch the open kitchen as cooks ladle broth and seal dumplings or transform dough into noodles through an elaborate pulling technique. Soups feature pork, chicken, beef, shrimp or greens ($9-$11) as well as the more challenging beef tendon. Adventurous eaters should plan a visit here for a jellyfish salad ($8) or tofu skins with wood ear mushrooms ($5), two items among many on this interesting menu.

Noodlehead (242 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside; noodleheadpgh.com). Hotheads love this Thai noodle shop, the sibling to Pusadee's Garden in Lawrenceville. Soup and noodles can be ordered hot enough to render a diner speechless. The Love Boat ($6) is a favorite, with its rich, spicy pork broth with rice noodles topped with strips of beef, vegetables and pork cracklings.

All India (315 N. Craig St., Oakland; 412-681-6600; allindiapgh.com) features a lunch buffet with 12 items for less than $10 but take note of the kathi rolls ($7-$8), a flatbread sandwich filled with chicken or lamb tikka, paneer (cheese) or vegetables topped with seasoned cabbage, tomato, onions and condiments. A kathi roll is among the most flavorful, underrated sandwiches around.


Late-night

An after-hours menu every night of the week from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. can be found at Salt of the Earth (5523 Penn Ave., Garfield; 412-441-7258; saltpgh.com). The Tuesday $1 oyster night introduced earlier this season has been among the busiest nights. Other favorite plates include Korean fried chicken ($6) and an absurdly delicious burger ($10), sloppy with condiments and a slice of house-made American cheese. Once in a while chef de cuisine Chad Townsend makes pierogies ($6) using the recipe from Holly Sousa, the wife of chef/owner Kevin Sousa.

Owner Stamitas Bournias of Pastitsio (3716 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412-586-7656) has ventured into late-night dining weekends only until 2 a.m. He grills kabobs, lamb or whatever variation on Greek street food suits his fancy. Lately it has been grilled chicken or pork shoulder in a pita with pickled onions, tzatziki and tomatoes for $5.

Mineo's (2128 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412-433-9467; mineospizza.com) is in the middle of expanding by 40 seats, which the restaurant hopes to complete by October. Open until 2 a.m., the restaurant that currently serves beer will also add wine and spirits to its menu by fall. In addition to pizza, fried foods and regional Italian specialties will be added to the menu, the first additions in several years. "We'd like to add things we have never served before," said Giovanni "John" Mineo Jr. Mineo's is open until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.




Correction: This story has been updated to show the correct opening hours for Skinny Pete's in Avalon.

dining

Melissa McCart: 412-263-1198 or on Twitter @melissamccart. First Published August 25, 2013 4:00 AM


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