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Best Specialty Food Shops In Pittsburgh

By Christine Mouser

Pittsburgh may not be the biggest city around, but it's certainly packed with a lot of fantastic food options. Sometimes it might be hard to know what really is the best of the best. So, here's a guide to food spots that have a specialized focus on one specific product — like marshmallows, popcorn, baklava and more. And since their main focus is that one special product, you have to know it's good… really good.

Marshmallows: Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory
Pittsburgh Public Market
Located between 16th and 17th Streets on Smallman Street in the Strip
(412) 281-4505
Hours: Fri, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Most people never think twice about those soft, sweet pillows of goodness usually found floating in your mug of hot chocolate. But one company that isn't taking the art of marshmallows so lightly is the local gourmet marshmallow company, the Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory (PMF). This company previously held a booth in the Pittsburgh Public Market, but has recently ventured off into some retail locations as well as an online business.

The PMF produces 1.5 inch squares of marshmallows sold in quantities of 6 or 12 and are made as natural as possible. New flavors are introduced each month, keeping the menu fresh, exciting and rather inventive.

While the factory offers your basic flavors like chocolate, mint, vanilla and root beer ($1), they've got plenty of other options that will knock your socks off—literally. Take the Ghost Pepper Marshmallow ($3). This pepper is known as the world's hottest pepper, yet the PMF skillfully combines the sweetness of the marshmallow along with the excruciating heat of the ghost pepper.

If you're looking for something a little less stifling for the palate but still interesting, check out these bold options: Guinness ($1.50); Hot Chocolate Marshmallow Mixed Pack: combo of vanilla, cinnamon and peppermint ($18 for 12); bacon and maple: cured bacon mixed with a sweet maple marshmallow ($1.50); and bananas foster: bananas, rum, brown sugar and butter. If you want to start off your marshmallow experience a bit on the milder side, try the peanut butter, caramel coffee, lemon or honey.

While the company is in the midst of a location transition, customers are always welcome to order online. They can serve as perfect gifts or just a sweet treat for yourself.

Meats: Parma Sausage
1734 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Hours: Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.; Sat, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Everything about Parma Sausage Company is a recipe for success—a small family business, high-quality and fresh ingredients and a genuine commitment to serving the finest product. Their specialty food product is Italian pork products that they've been serving since the company was established in the 1950s. From salami, pepperoni and prosciutto to Coppa Secca and pancetta, PSC pulls out all the stops.
With their own custom-built aging rooms house, all of the products are given the necessary time to garner the intense flavor garnered by the aging process. Using old family recipes and techniques, the authenticity of the salami really shows. You can choose from several different recipes, like the Chorizo, hard salami or the hot Italian Salami, among others. The pepperoni is also top-notch, totally aged with a smoky flavor.

But perhaps the crown jewel of this pork palace would have to be the Gigi Brand Prosciutto—a high-end, high-quality product. Last year, Parma Sausage began selecting Fresh Berkshire Pork Hams of the highest quality to create their authentic prosciutto. Aged for 15-18 months, 3,000 pieces of prosciutto are on rotation throughout the year.

The company produces many other fine products, including Coppa Secca, pancetta, sausages, bratwurst, kielbasa and andouille. No matter your preference, you're guaranteed nothing but the best pork product here at Parma Sausage Company.

Popcorn: Pittsburgh Popcorn Company
3710 Fifth Ave. (Oakland)
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(412) 605-0444
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sun, noon – 5 p.m.

209 21st St. (Strip District)
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 281-5200
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

822 Liberty Ave. (Cultural District)
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 281-2499
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sat, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Popcorn has been an American snack food staple ever since the late 1800s, and the popularity hasn't come close to dying down. In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans gobble up more than 17 billion quarts in a single year or nearly 70 quarts per person. So, it makes perfect sense that Pittsburgh has its very own popcorn-lovers joint—the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company.

With three different locations throughout the city, the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company must be doing something right. While they're still popping the classic favorites like Buttery Movie Style, Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese, Sweet 'n' Salty Kettle and Crunchy Caramel, what really sets them apart is their unique concoctions that deliver a punch of flavor.

If you like a little bit of savory with your sweetness, Chicago style features a mixture of caramel corn and cheddar corn. But if salty is more your style, check out the Smacker Jacks mixture of heaps of roasted peanuts, mixed into all natural caramel corn.

Other tasty creations include the chocolate waffle cone, chunky chocolate caramel, Buffalo wing, chocolate raspberry, S'Mores, spicy bacon cheddar and salt n vinegar. There are even more flavors than that, and the pricing is reasonable with the largest bag ranging between $6.50-$10.99. With fun flavors and great prices, popcorn just doesn't get much better than that.

Milkshakes: The Milkshake Factory
1705 E. Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sun, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

When actor Tom Cruise was in town for the filming of his movie "One Shot," he and his family were spotted all throughout the city. One spot the family of three stopped at was the Milkshake Factory, located in Southside. A few days later, the famous family was back for more. But while a celebrity endorsement is always welcome, the Milkshake Factory's decadent creations speak for themselves.

With over 55 different flavors of handmade milkshakes made using an old-fashioned Bastian-Blessing Soda Fountain, you can find just about any flavor you're looking for, from traditional creations to funky concoctions all using the freshest ingredients possible. For a more classic shake, try the strawberry, mint chipper, hot fudge, strawberry banana or cherry whitehouse. For shakes with a punch of unique flavor and ingredients, check out the strawberry cheesecake, dulce de leche, toasted almond fudge java, dark chocolate blueberry and Cajun chocolate.

For chocolate fanatics, you won't be disappointed. The Milkshake Factory is in a partnership with the local shop, Edward Marc Chocolatier, which creates beautifully hand-crafted chocolates. Combined together, the Milkshake Factory brings to you some decadent sundaes. Like the Chocolatier: a hot chocolate brownie topped with chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, chocolate curls, whipped cream, and an Edward Marc Dark Chocolate Heart. Or the Chocolate Covered Strawberry with strawberry ice cream covered in chocolate sauce, topped with chocolate curls, whipped cream and an Edward Marc Strawberry Cream. Other dessert options include egg creams, floats and ice cream spritzers.

Having been opened for nearly 100 years, this family-owned ice cream parlor has become a favorite for locals looking for that perfect sip of bliss.

Baklava: The Baklava Company
Pittsburgh Public Market
Located between 16th and 17th Streets on Smallman Street in the Strip
(412) 281-4505
Hours: Fri, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Public Market really brings in some of the best products in town, and the Baklava Company is at the top of that list with their hand-crafted Mediterranean pastries. All are created with light rose, lemon and orange blossom water, topped with European clarified butter and filled with over 30 different varieties of nuts and fruits. Some delicious options include the swirled cinnamon walnut orange, apricot pistachio, sweet cheese with red raspberries and chocolate cashew.

The Baklava Company also features some other handmade pastries like the Namoura (Dense Sweet Farina Cake, made with almonds and coconut) and the Pistachio Ma'amoul (rose water cookie, flakey semolina butter cookies filled with pistachio).

You can stop by the Pittsburgh Public Market for some treats or order them using their website. If you decide to pick up one for a gift, be sure to grab one for yourself—you won't regret it.

Hot Dogs: Franktuary
325 Oliver Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Church and hot dogs usually aren't synonymous with one another, but if you're a Pittsburgher, one thing comes to mind: Franktuary. Franktuary is a gourmet hot dog joint that serves up their meals from the back of Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh.

The dogs are known for their delicious toppings and combinations and that all starts with the organic, grass-fed beef frank, the Locavore. Other choices for the franks are the standard (all-beef, natural casing) and the veggie (vegan tofu frank). Then on top of that, you can go one of two routes: the classic franks or the gourmet franks.

For the classic, go New York-style with sauerkraut, Vidalia onion sauce and brown mustard. If you're more of a southwestern fan, try the Texan with chili, cheddar cheese and jalapenos. The gourmet franks are quite the feat, like the Mexico frank (cheddar cheese, mango pineapple salsa and guacamole) and the Athens dog (feta cheese, kalamata olives and artichoke hearts).

If you're downtown for a meeting, Franktuary is a great option for a quick lunch. It's even been voted best downtown lunch spot by Pittsburgh Magazine in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Those numbers don't lie. In addition to their location downtown, they also have a food truck located on the South Side. Whether you're looking for lunch or a quick snack, grabbing a Franktuary dog is quite the heavenly experience.

Related: Read our full review of Franktuary

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