Keystone Vedge: A Guide to Eating Vegetarian in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh offers a plethora of vegetarian-friendly eateries, more than ever before.
While the number of restaurants specializing in strictly vegan and vegetarian cuisine are few, the number of locales that feature meat-free menu items alongside carnivorous fare are too numerous to count. The vegetarian culinary landscape is both exciting and accessible, whether you’re going meatless for the rest of your life or just for Monday night.
The city’s vegetarian dining scene benefits from the inclusion of cuisine from all over the world. It is the restaurants the feature East Asian, Mediterranean, Indian and Ethiopian that form the backbone of the city’s vegetarian eating experience. Vegetarians can look to places like Lin’s Asian Fusion
, Spice Island Tea House
and the Silk Elephant
for Pan-Asian inspired vegetable, tofu, rice and noodle entrees. Mediterranean powerhouses like Aladdin’s Eatery
, Ali Baba
offer meat-free meals with excellent hummus, vegetarian grape leaves and pilaf galore. If you’re craving something with a little spice, Indian restaurants like Tamarind
and Cafe Delhi
will satisfy your pallet, while establishments like Abay Ethiopian Cuisine
and Tana Bar and Restaurant
serve up a taste of Ethiopia.
And we’re just getting started. As I began to ask my various vegetarian buddies to contribute their favorite restaurants to my list, the variety of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh became increasingly evident. Although everyone polled has a favorite watering-hole, there are some places that nearly everyone seems to agree upon.
Quiet Storm Vegetarian and Vegan Cafe
Located in Pittsburgh’s East End, Quiet Storm Vegetarian and Vegan Cafe is one of those rare restaurants where a vegetarian can walk in the front door and eat anything
that’s on the menu. It is often the first restaurant that comes to mind when thinking of vegetarian food, and is regularly voted the city’s best vegetarian restaurant.
The restaurant features a down-home diner aesthetic and weekday, Saturday and Sunday brunch menus full of creative, satisfying meat-free meals. Quiet Storm specializes in ingredients from local farms, offers daily specials like the pumpkinseed-spinach ravioli, and carries treats from local bakers like My Goodies Vegan Bakery
and Gluuteny Bakery
. All dishes on the menu are clearly labeled as either vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, making the restaurant particularly accessible to clientele with food allergies or special restrictions.
On a recent visit, the Hangover Hash, a mix of Roasted potato & TVP chorizo hash, with onions & bell peppers, tofu or eggs, wheat toast and fruit or beans & salsa, and the three bean house blend of coffee converted me to Quiet Storm fandom.
From the Apple Panini, a grilled cheese with Granny Smith apple slices & seisage (house-made braised and roasted pinto bean seitan) on sun-dried tomato bread, to the Graham Street Tofu signature sandwich, with sesame-soy tofu cutlets, tomatoes, baby spinach & pickled onions on wheat or pita, Quiet Storm is guaranteed to serve up something the vegetarian in your life will love.
The first moment you walk into The Zenith you might not realize you’ve entered one of the city’s best vegetarian restaurants. As you meander your way through the aisles of vintage merchandise, you’ll find a back room filled with antique tables and mismatched place settings. This is the restaurant.
The most unique eatery on the list, The Zenith is as eclectic as its location in Pittsburgh’s Southside. The restaurant, which is also a vintage retail store and art gallery, serves vegan and vegetarian cuisine for hungry vegetable lovers Thursday through Sunday.
Famous in vegetarian circles for its Sunday brunch, where $10 will get you an entree like Coconut Pancakes with Raspberry Topping, or Scrambled Eggs with Black Olives and Romano Cheese, an excellent cup of coffee and access to the buffet, The Zenith is a special venue with a uniquely vegetarian menu.
On a recent visit, The Zenith’s Linguini and Artichoke in White Bean Sauce, featuring sundried tomatoes, celery, red onions and red peppers, struck me with its well-rounded flavors and hearty composition, while the tangy Ginger Tofu Wrap made for an excellent vegan lunch.
I suggest arriving early to check out the furniture, paintings, clothing and other vintage goodies before taking a seat at an antique table for a satisfying meal.
One of the newest arrivals to the vegetarian dining scene, Eden is Pittsburgh’s only predominately raw Cafe. Located in the city’s Shadyside neighborhood, Eden specializes in gluten-free and vegan cuisine created from hand-picked ingredients sourced from local farms and cooperatives.
Two-thirds of Eden’s seasonal menu features raw dishes such as the cold Cucumber and Watermelon Soup or the Stuffed Tomatoes with curried corn and sun?ower seeds, served over red pepper cream and a cucumber and garlic salad.
The raw cuisine lends itself to vegan and vegetarian combinations, but if you’re in the mood for something warm, Eden offers entrees like the Pickled Vegetable Tacos which feature grilled, organic tempeh, house pickled veggies and raw cashew cheese served on corn tortillas, or the Three Chili Stew with ancho, chipotle, and cayenne peppers, roasted tomato and coconut milk, spinach, onions, chickpeas and hominy, topped with avocado and served with brown rice and corn tortillas.
The restaurant occasionally features a meat-based dish, but for the most part it’s a vegetarian’s dream. If you’re not sure where to start, I suggest dropping $15 on the Three Course Sample dinner special where you can try a sample of every item on the menu to discover what you like the best.
Spak Brothers Pizza and More
While a cheese pizza can be a godsend to a famished vegetarian, those that are lactose intolerant or vegan-leaning know that finding a place to enjoy pizzeria style food can be a challenge. Well, fret no more concerned readers. Spak Brothers Pizza deftly combines carnivorous, vegetarian and vegan cuisines all on one menu.
Located in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood, Spak Brothers serves up homemade seitan, vegetarian hot wings, and a menu free from refined flour and sugar. Though Spak Brothers is not an exclusively vegetarian restaurant, the menu features a number of meat-free entrees and just about all the meat and cheese substitutes a vegetarian could desire.
Whether you order the crispy Seitan Wings, the Seitan Pittsburgh “Steak” sandwich, a pizza with soy cheese and vegetarian peperoni, or the Ginger Tempeh with ginger marinated tempeh strips, lettuce, tomato and red onion, Spak Brothers is an excellent place for carnivores and vegetarians to sit at the same table, you’re bound to find something for vegetarian taste buds.
The cuisine at Root 174 in Reagent Square captures some of the best trends in Pittsburgh dining. Owner and Chef, Keith Fuller, continues to capitalize on the localvore movement to produce vegetarian cuisine of the highest quality.
If at first glance Root 174 doesn’t appear to be a contender on the list of best vegetarian restaurants, don’t be fooled. The restaurant consistently features one or two vegan or vegetarian entrees in addition to a vegetarian soup on its, artfully crafted menu. Seasonal ingredients rule here and the menu changes frequently to accommodate local produce.
During my most recent trip, I ordered the “Butternut Squash Soup” with crostini and butternut marmalade and the “Vegan Falafel” on a bed of quinoa, fennel-lime salad and vegan dill yogurt. The butternut squash was rich, flavorful and the best I’d ever had. It was so good that I wasn’t sure the entree could top the soup, but Root 174’s lightly fried falafel patties possess a creamy internal texture that I think would convince even the most voracious meat eater to temporarily abandon the pork belly.
Fuller explains that “there is always at least one vegan option on the menu,” and that the restaurant also tries to give customers gluten-free options.
Root 174’s menu may only feature one vegetarian entree, but give it a try. It might turn out to be the best vegetarian meal you’ve ever eaten.
The list below features even more of Pittsburgh’s most popular vegetarian dining options.
Pastries, Coffee, Vegetarian Lunch Specials
7061 Steubenville Pike Oakdale, PA 15071
Mexican and Caribbean
2102 Broadway Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Double Wide Grill
American, Vegetarian and Vegan Options
2339 East Carson Street Pittsburgh, PA 15203
East End Food Co-Op
Natural and Organic Food Market, Vegetarian and Vegan Cafe
7516 Meade Street Pittsburgh, PA 15208
Turkish and Mediterranean
4130 Butler Street Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Caribbean, South American, Pacific Islander
2000 Smallman Street Pittsburgh, PA 15222
225 West Station Square Drive Pittsburgh, PA 15219
214 North Craig Street Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Vegan, American, Pan-Asian
5474 Campbells Run Road Pittsburgh, PA 15205
220 South Highland Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Oh Yeah! Ice Cream & Coffee
Ice Cream, Soy Ice Cream, Coffee
232 South Highland Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15206
OTB (Over the Bar) Bicycle Cafe
2518 East Carson Street Pittsburgh, PA 15203
5321 Butler Street Pittsburgh, PA 15201
5439 Babcock Blvd Pittsburgh, PA 15237
5847 Ellsworth Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15232
American, Breakfast, Lunch
1137 South Braddock Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15218
2103 Murray Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15217
The Tin Front Cafe
American, Coffee, Brunch
216 E. Eighth Ave Homestead, PA 15120
4050 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15224
5849 Ellsworth Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Nichole Huff is a long-time vegetarian who works at Scenic Pittsburgh as director of communications.
Captions: Seitan meat loaf, mannequins, and tea at Zenith; at Quiet Storm, egg with home fries, pickled onion, cheese and potato (top) and bahn mi salad (below).
Photographs copyright Brian Cohen