30 Years: Today's Pittsburgh more than just Primanti's, pierogies

Part of the 30 Years, 30 Changes series on the Pittsburgh region

Thirty years ago, Pittsburghers dressed up to go out to dinner at places such as Tambellini or Common Plea, Downtown; Minutello's in Shadyside; or the Georgetowne Inn on Mount Washington -- all of which closed this year.

How Pittsburgh became cool

Families, dates or colleagues tucked into tables dressed in white tablecloths in vast, carpeted dining rooms. Menus offered familiar foods: New York Strip, breaded scrod, chicken Marsala, stuffed peppers.

Now, tighter spaces, bare tables and reclaimed materials shape today's more casual dining rooms. With more focused menus and locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, restaurants try to strike a balance between comfort and challenge, nostalgia and progress. As far as the chefs, they're just as recognizable today by their covering of tattoos as with their traditional toque and white double-breasted jackets.

Eateries in 2013 have become community hubs, with lower prices, smaller plates and more money to be made on alcohol, whether it's craft beers, cocktails or wine from boutique vintners. Bars are often incorporated into the dining room -- creating lively spaces that are drawing the city's burgeoning population of 20- and 30-year-olds, as well as the young at heart.

Was there even a Thai restaurant here 30 years ago? Now many communities boast several -- as well as an assortment of Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Korean, Italian and other ethnic cuisines. Coffee shops and tart yogurt spots also have sprouted all over town.

Restaurants in the past few years also have driven neighborhood revivals, as seen on the South Side, Market Square, Garfield, East Liberty and Lawrenceville for now, the North Side and perhaps even Braddock in the future.

PG graphic: On the Menu, 1983 and 2013
(Click image for larger version)

An essential factor in the transformation of restaurants is social media, of course, with diners chronicling virtually every drink and morsel they consume on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Instagram.


First Published October 19, 2013 8:00 PM


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