In 2015, Zagats named Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the number one food city in the country putting it ahead of cities like Boston, NYC and DC. Yes, you read that correctly. Pittsburgh. A city once known for its production of coal and steel is becoming better recognized for its artisanal cheese boards and duck rillettes. However, true to Pittsburgh’s blue collar roots, you can still find simple, dressed down food.
In the world of culinary creations, nothing is more down to earth than the good old hamburger. Although lately the hamburger has become a blank canvas for all things extravagant and experimental (an aged kobe beef burger with gruyere and black truffles, anyone?) and some eateries in the 412 have adopted this trend. A ton of Pittsburgh restaurants also still offer a damned good burger without a lot of pomp and circumstance. Here are some of the establishments that serve up some truly superb burgers:
1. Fat Heads
Located on East Carson Street in the South Side, Fat Heads is known for its impressive selection of craft beers and its massive sandwiches listed as ‘headwhiches’ on the menu.
Fat Heads has an impressive burger menu and also offers gluten-free versions of most, including the Fiery Voodoo Killer burger. This burger is one of the more daring items on the menu and includes house smoked pulled pork doused in “Killer sauce,” swiss cheese, roasted red peppers, fresh sliced jalapeños and ranch dressing. One bite of this burger gives you the perfect amount of spice and is enough to keep you smiling and sipping that cold beverage throughout dinner. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself searching for a doll that you can push some pins into. This voodoo burger is THAT good.
Tessaro’s, located in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, is deservingly known as the best burger joint in the city. Tessaro’s has one goal and that is to serve an honest hamburger. They are more than dedicated to this vision as evidenced by perfectly marbled, all beef, half-pound chuck burgers created daily by their in-house butcher.
Tessaro’s sticks to the classics and their dedication to keeping things simple shows in their cheeseburger. Topped with your choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, it is perfectly cooked to the customer’s liking and it is an excellent way to end a long day.
You can witness people actually sniffing the air as they walk down Liberty Avenue, just trying to catch the scent of these ground chuck masterpieces. As a matter of fact, if you listen carefully, you can hear the sizzle coming from their custom crafted iron grill. Tessaro’s has stood the test of time and after one juicy bite of their cheeseburger, you will understand why.
Another South Side (pronounced by the locals like, saahside) favorite, the Urban Tap is the perfect place for brunch, lunch or dinner.
The Tap Burger is a well-loved burger and is flavor-packed without being overwhelming. It includes locally sourced beef or turkey (depending on what you like), red leaf lettuce, tomato, red onion and roasted garlic aioli.
If you are looking for more excitement, the Urban Tap offers plenty of delicious add-ons like bacon, brisket, pulled pork, cheese, slaw and eggs. The black bean and smoked poblano burger is a nice alternative for vegetarians.
If you’re heading to the south side’s city theater to catch a show, the Urban Tap is a great choice for a pre-show meal. The atmosphere is industrial and hip and the City Theater is within walking distance.
Located on the East Side, BRGR’s menu is incredibly diverse and offers plenty of burger options (in fact, their menu is almost all burgers). If you are not a fan of a beef burger, there are five alternatives that can satisfy any craving, from salmon to mahi-mahi.
The shining star of BRGR is the BRGR, which consists of handcrafted dry-aged prime beef, pickled red onions, arugula, oven-roasted tomatoes (truly magical), and bleu cheese. The pickled red onions provide a tangy flavor that is met quickly by the creaminess of the bleu cheese; the combination works perfectly.
If you find yourself craving a BRGR creation while enjoying a Pirate game, never fear, BRGR has set up shop at the beautiful PNC Park. They also have a food truck cruising the streets of Pittsburgh (which can also be hired to cater events).
Burgatory is a recent Pittsburgh favorite. Burgatory uses mostly organic and local ingredients to make their famous shakes and burgers.
The best aspect of Burgatory is the option to come up with your own burger masterpiece using their Custom Creation Burger menu. Guests can choose everything from the type of meat they want in their burger, the seasoning on the burger and the type of bun they prefer to pull it all together, making this the perfect restaurant for anyone with dietary restrictions. Angel Dust seasoning is a fan favorite, along with the horseradish cheddar cheese and roasted garlic mayo.
Pair your burger with one of their creamy shakes, made either with or without alcohol, and you have a meal worthy of a perfect Pittsburgh night out.
Industry Public House can be found on Butler Street in the heart of Lawrenceville. Industry offers a slew of delicious appetizers (I suggest the Pot Roast Filament Fries) and a number of classic entrees, but their burgers are truly the high point of their menu.
The Blast Pig Burgher is one of the most exotic and flavorful burgers on the menu and includes candied bacon, candied jalapeño, caramelized onion, and fried zucchini. While the combination may sound strange initially, the amount of sweet and spice is truly a blessing and harmonizes perfectly in every bite.
Industry is located near lots of fun bars, galleries and shops and with its creative and unique cocktail menu, could serve as the perfect beginning or the satisfying end to a night on the town.
With locations on Forbes Avenue in Oakland and Copeland Street in Shadyside, Stack’d is a go-to for college students. Stack’d offers a BYOS (Bring Your Own Stack) menu where the combinations are endless. Possible toppings include peanut butter, jelly, cheese sticks, fried bananas and fried pierogis. There is a topping for every taste bud at this casual, laid-back eatery.
On any given night, you can find students from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Chatham and Carlow all scarfing down burgers and blowing off steam. Although some of the offerings on the menu may sound outlandish, this burger joint encourages a ‘don’t knock it ’til you try it’ mentality. Maybe a burger with Stack’d’s OMFG! sauce, Fritos and fried mac and cheese could be your new favorite.
Oh, and don’t forget about the Stack’d Burger Challenge. If you can devour 12 patties, 6 slices of American cheese, tomato, lettuce, ketchup, mustard, mayo, a side of fries and a milkshake, your meal is free and you win a t-shirt. You may need to buy an XXL after your gluttonous feast, but hey, a free t-shirt and bragging rights may be well worth those few extra pounds.
8. Bar Marco
Bar Marco is an intimate, cozy spot located on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District. Known for their unique take on cocktails and a stripped down menu, Bar Marco offers a wonderful happy hour Wednesday through Friday where the food is half price.
In addition to being on the cutting edge where their cocktails are concerned (there is no drink menu, you simply let the bartender know what tastes you fancy and he or she comes up with a beverage customized specifically for you), they are also ahead of the curve on social issues. Bar Marco doesn’t accept gratuity as they pay their staff a living salary.
On Saturdays and Sundays, Bar Marco offers brunch from 10 am-3 pm. A burger may not come to mind when thinking about brunch foods, but the brunch burger at Bar Marco is a must try. This creative burger is crusted with espresso and topped with tarragon aioli and bacon. It melts and your mouth and is meant to be savored. You can hear people let out satisfied sighs after they take the first bite of this juicy, mouthwatering slice of heaven. No exaggeration, this burger is scrumptious.
9. Bar Louie
Bar Louie, with three locations in Pittsburgh, offers an array of burgers that can satisfy any craving and their one dollar burger night on Tuesdays should be reason enough to make the trip to the Bar Louie closest to you.
The Backyard BBQ burger topped with cheddar, barbecue sauce, bacon, and fried onion strings is a classic burger that can make any burger-lover happy. If you end up at the Bar Louis in Station Square, you can work off some calories by heading to the incline, riding it up to Mt. Washington and strolling around the neighborhood with the most fabulous views the city has to offer.
Social offers a diverse menu with plenty of light and savory dishes. While their classic burger is quite the treat, the fan favorite is actually their veggie burger. This burger is perfect for any non-meat eater who still loves the texture and satisfaction of a good burger. It is topped with lettuce, tomato, crispy onions, and chipotle aioli, making it perfectly simple, delicious and PETA approved (check out this similar version you can make at home).
Social is located at Bakery Square in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh which also houses hip shops, an LA Fitness and Google’s Pittsburgh offices. Employees with the company can be found sipping on craft beers while blowing off some steam using Social’s outdoor ping pong tables.