What’s for Lunch?

One drawback of working on Washington Road is that the what’s-for-lunch conversation can take a while. Italian? What, like pizza? Thin crust, thick crust? Hoagies? Sicilian street food?  I don’t know, maybe Asian? Thai? Sushi? Chinese? Now, when you say “Chinese,” do you mean pan-Chinese or just Sichuan? Middle Eastern? Mexican? American? By this time it’s quarter to 1, and whoever’s hangriest generally wins the argument. But it’s a good problem to have. We know most of you don’t work Uptown but you still love to lunch here. To streamline your discussion, here’s an overview of places to try.

Aladdin’s: If you are seeking healthy options or have certain dietary restrictions, Aladdin’s is a go-to, with many delicious vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.  Most lunch items are under $10. This casual Mediterranean restaurant is family friendly with plenty of kids’ menu choices. The fresh fruit smoothies are a must try! You can order carryout online or by phone, if you don’t have time to eat in,  or enjoy their outdoor dining in nice weather. Service is quick, friendly and attentive.

Il Pizzaiolo: This Neopolitan pizzeria with a wood fired oven has stood the test of time. If the service is a bit slow, well, just pretend you’re in Italy. The pizza and pasta are always worth waiting for. (We love the antipasto.) Great place for a leisurely lunch, especially in the summer when you can enjoy the lovely garden.

Lunch rush diners enjoy the cuisine of Little Tokyo.

Little Tokyo: Recently celebrating its 20th anniversary, Little Tokyo consistently delivers an excellent Japanese dining experience in a comfortable atmosphere. Maybe it’s the steaming  hand cloths you receive when seated or maybe it’s the creamy sauce that accompanies your hibachi chicken. It also could be the dependability of fresh ingredients for your eel roll and seaweed salad. Whether trying something different, like osuimono soup or sticking to the familiar, Little Tokyo feels like visiting a good friend for lunch.

Arancini House: One of the most affordable (and unique) options for an Uptown lunch. This spot specializes in arancini, a delightful Sicilian street food that comes in the form of a stuffed, deep-fried risotto ball. Arancini House also offers antipasti, pizza, stuffed rolls, dessert and more—all delicious! The restaurant can be hard to find, as it is located on the basement level of 615 Washington Road, but take the entrance nearest their orange sign, go down a flight of stairs and you can’t miss it!

Lebo Subs: These folks really know how to make a sandwich. While admittedly on the expensive side for a sub, the veggies are fresh, the meats and cheeses are sliced in front of you, and the “Jersey Style” toppings (oil, vinegar, salt, pepper & oregano) take these subs to the next level. Earn free subs by joining a rewards program, and you can also order meats and cheeses by the pound—perfect for that Isaly’s ham barbecue recipe Pittsburghers have memorized.

Patrons can enjoy inside or sidewalk dining for lunch at Bistro 19.

Bistro 19: An upscale space with an inventive menu. Specials are a welcome change from the regular menu, which stays pretty much the same because people love it. Salmon salad seems to be the hands-down favorite. Staff responds nicely to special requests—dressing on the side, salmon medium rare, don’t make the haricots vert too al dente. OK for a business lunch, even better for a friends’ get-together because no one rushes you.

Thai Touch Kitchen: At Thai Touch Kitchen, you’ll find tasty, healthy Thai food at a reasonable price, and you’re in and out so fast your co-workers might not even notice you were gone. There are  so many good options—one guy polled an entire lunch crowd to ask about their favorite curry, for his future reference—but the mango salad, with the chili lime sauce and choice of chicken or tofu, is in a class by itself.

Totopo: When we announced that a fresh Mexican restaurant would open Uptown, our social media blew up with more than 100,000 people on our pages that week. Clearly, Mt. Lebanon was ready for this delicious—and reasonably priced—lunch. Whether you choose a hearty salad or fresh tacos, you’ll find a meat or vegetarian choice to love. Can’t make up your mind? Combo plates fix that. Don’t miss the fresh guacamole made tableside. If you can’t grab a margarita at lunch, stop back for Happy Hour. They’re great!

Redwood Café: This new addition in the former CC’s space has drawn a cadre of fans quickly. Specializing in sandwiches and salads, the restaurant is earning kudos for its crab cake, which can be had as a sandwich or a salad. Cost with tax comes close to $15, maybe more than some people want to spend on lunch. If so,  have the crab cake once a week as a treat and enjoy something like the $4 grilled cheese on other days. There can be a wait for takeout, so call ahead if you’re not dining in.

Mezza: This family-owned restaurant is Mediterranean with a Balkan twist. The shish kabobs and chicken shawarma pita wraps get good marks, on Yelp, as do Bosnian dishes such as the Cevapi sausage in homemade lepinja flatbread. Kids will probably eat the chicken tenders and fries.

Sesame Inn: A standby for traditional Chinese food for three decades, Sesame Inn doesn’t make drastic changes—a fact most people appreciate because they have the menu memorized (although there are newish Thai and sushi options). People comment on the fast service, good-size lunch portions and fair prices. Atmosphere at lunch is quiet enough to do business. Heads-up: the second-floor location does not have an elevator.

The lunch crowd at Pamela’s Diner.

Pamela’s: You’re used to seeing a line out the door here for breakfast for good reason. The food is fresh and perfect. For heaven’s sake, these gals made hotcakes at the White House. The good news is, you can get in and get out quickly for lunch, whether you’re getting the hotcakes, salads, sandwiches or a burger and fries. Also remember: grilled cheese and bacon—comfort food at its finest. The Googie décor will make you feel like you’re out with your grandparents circa 1955. Bring cash; no credit cards. Parking can be tricky.

Chicken Parmesan at Rania’s.

Rania’s to Go: This is a go-to place for doctors, dentists, municipal staff and others who want  quick dine-in or take-out. Everyday specials—soups, salads, quiches—are listed on the chalkboard. Certain dishes like South Beach chicken and tuna salad are standard. Otherwise, you never know what you’ll find in the case, but they’ll let you taste if you’re unsure. Most lunches run under $10. Lines can be  long at noon, but move quickly. More popular than the food are the ladies behind the counter, who know everyone by name!

Mineo’s: Want to fill up fast and cheap? Mineo’s is the place. Nothing fancy, but who cares? Their pizza—white or red, thick and thin-crust—is Pittsburgh greasy great. It’s a fun spot to take kids for an under-$5 lunch. Even grownups like watching their pie come out of the oven. You also can grab a salad, and though there’s ice cream and yogurt aplenty on the road, Mineo’s offers lots of Perry’s flavors in a cake or sugar cone or a bowl. A perfect one-stop-lunch shop.

Jade Grille At Jade Grille, you can choose between authentic Sichuan and pan-Asian fare, or you can stick to traditional American Chinese dishes. The venue used to be home to the Union Trust Bank, and owner Justin Liu has retained some of the original features. The vault is now a private dining space. Free delivery within five miles and order online. Staff favorites include the jade roll, a tasty and innovative mix of seaweed and sweet potato; spicy tangy fishy fillet and dan dan noodles. Everything is fresh and the noodles are handmade. Be sure to get an order of the dumplings—enough for two people to share or three people to fight over.

A’Pizza Badamo: Casual eatery dishing up classic New York-style pizza by the pie or slice plus hoagies, calzones and salads. Try the Wayno pizza (garlic, anchovy and chunky tomato) or the white pizza with tomato and ricotta. If you’re craving greens, try the grilled chicken Caesar salad. Check out the daily specials and seasonal homemade soups, chili and pasta. The recently expanded eat-in space is still cozy. 

Photos by John Schisler