Welcome to Pittsburgh, the home of fries-over-everything and pierogies fried in butter. But wait, what’s that? The Steel City has turned a healthful corner.
The Burgh now boasts more diet- and lifestyle-friendly options than ever before. And we’re not even talking about spots catering to vegan and vegetarian, gluten-free, or super healthy eaters. Here’s the rundown on regular restaurants working some good-for-you meals onto the menu.
Let’s face it — if you’re grabbing lunch out, a greasy burger and soggy fries is no longer going to cut it. Enter Choolaah: a fast casual authentic Indian BBQ restaurant in Fairfax (and Sterling) that is here to make sure the lunch you’re eating is healthy, responsibly sourced, and never boring. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or meat-a-tarian, Choolaah’s customizable tandoor BBQ meals with tangy masalas and freshly-baked Naan will take your taste buds on a joy ride.
Gluten-free pizza crusts, build-your-own salad bowls, edamame hummus, salmon burgers, and kale pesto? Okay, we’re listening… and drooling… and now driving to East Liberty. Social, we’re coming.
Earth Inspired Salads
The downtown stop, formerly known as Toss’d, will blow you away with their impressive (and fresh) salad creations. Are you competitive? (We know you are.) Then view this as a challenge to create the most colorful and healthy salad combos possible. We dare you.
Don’t let the name fool you – Bakn has an impressive menu outside of the sow that even vegetarians can get behind. Try their Supergrain Quinoa salad to fill up on the healthy side, or vegetarian sandwich – it comes with grilled marinated zucchini, squash, onion, bell pepper, lemon dressed arugula, fresh mozzarella, balsamic aioli, all hugged by whole grain bread if you need convincing.
You’d think a place that hosts a weekly bacon night (it’s Tuesday, BTW) would be far from healthy, but at Shiloh there are plenty of healthy options for vegans, vegheads, and those of us who prefer zoodles over noodles. Try their “Best O Pesto” entrée or the “I’m Oh Kale, You’re Oh Kale” salad while you ‘lol’ over their menu.
Smiling Banana Leaf
This Highland Park neighborhood restaurant will keep you smiling with their quick, healthy, and authentic Thai food concocted in their cozy corner spot. Fitt tip: You can order online for quick service if you’re lunch break isn’t much of a break, but more of a “what-can-I-pickup-in-five-minutes” mad dash.
If you’re on the North Shore of Pittsburgh, chances are you’ve visited all of the new restaurants popping up next to PNC Park. But have you sat down at the original hidden gems? Head up to Benjamin’s for a veggie burger made on a gluten-free bun. Typically, this would take all the fun out of grabbing a burger, but with their gooey cheese and fresh toppings, the gratification is still there, sans guilt!
Bakersfield, downtown on Penn Ave., serves up fresh, house-made Mexican street fare with a modern twist. If you’re in a rush and want to avoid a second trip to the gym, grab their Johnny ensalada (it’s Spanish for ‘delicious’ – okay, it’s not, but should be). The Johnny is a mixed green salad with cotija cheese, hearts of palm, avocado, red onion, almonds, and a cider vinaigrette. Fill up with the good stuff. Check, please!
You may want to (sigh) pass on the poutine fries, but Emporio’s gourmet meatball selection includes a mushroom, white bean, and cauliflower-based ball that has vegetarians’ seal of approval. And when you top it off with the spinach-almond pesto and a chilled quinoa salad on the side, you don’t have to feel guilty about your meatball-themed lunch.
Café IO is one of those places you can relax while enjoying a cup of their delicious tomato basil soup (it’s heavenly) and the day just magically slips away. But if you’re on-the-go, they have a sister shop on the same block serving up fresh and simple soups, salads, and sandwiches.
D’s Six Pax & Dogz
D’s might be the most surprising entry on this list. They are best known for their hot dogs and impressive beer selection but – get this – D’s offers vegan-friendly dogs with a wide variety of toppings, and a handful of vegan apps. And with over a thousand(!) beers available in their walk-in “Beer Cave,” you’re sure to find a brew to wash it down… it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
Big Dog Coffee
South Side’s Big Dog Coffee may want to consider renaming their cozy little coffee shop “Big Dog Soup” because their daily soup selections (made in-house) are delicious, nutritious, and scream “mid-day me-time.”
Fresh From the Farm Juices
If juice cleansing isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Fresh From the Farm in Wexford also has a menu of salads, sandwiches, soups and noodle dishes that will (actually) fill you up. But seriously, just try a juice too. It’s good for you.