PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It should come as no surprise to the people who live here, but Pittsburgh has been named Zagat's top food city of 2015.
Zagat says Pittsburgh has long been known for Italian bread sandwiches from Primanti Bros., but it's now becoming known for its abundance of more refined food.
From 17 to number one they rank: San Diego, Miami, Charleston, Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Dallas, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Baltimore is number two, and Pittsburgh number one.
Zagat mentions area restaurants like the Vandal, Morcilla, Chaz & Odette to name a few.
"I think the number one on the list thing was a big surprise for everybody," says Chef Curtis Gamble of Station in Bloomfield, "but it's humbling because there are some pretty big food cities on that list."
If you haven't been paying close attention to the restaurant scene in Pittsburgh you probably have missed what Chef Gamble calls all the new "progressive, exciting, young, and modern" offerings spread out throughout Pittsburgh.
In addition to Station, Zagat mentions Morcilla on Butler Street, Chaz & Odette in Shadyside, and Joey Hilty's Vandal in Lawrenceville. "You don't think you'll be mentioned in an article like that," says Hilty, "We're just a neighborhood kind of casual spot but we take a lot of care in what we do and it's nice to be recognized for that."
The Vandal's menu us a unique cuisine – it's almost an insult to call their creations sandwiches or burgers – virtual works of culinary art on a plate. And with each new restaurant come new creations, some homegrown, some a result of an out of town experience brought back home. Chef Gamble says, "What you are seeing is a lot of people leave and come back with all these great ideas and this excitement and see the change that's happening in their city and they want to be a part of it."
Chef Bethany Zozula sharpened her knife and skills in the Big Buritto Group Kitchens of Pittsburgh before joining pastry chef Casey Shively to create with Brent Young "Whitfield" in East Liberty.
Opened just a week ago in the first floor of the new Ace Hotel across from East Liberty Presbyterian Church Whitfield was also held up by Zagat as evidence of Pittsburgh's taste bud tempting offerings. "It's a lot of pressure to live up to and I think I'm ready for it," says Chef Zozula. She adds it's not really surprising Pittsburgh would be getting national attention, "I think we're a bunch of people who love to eat food, and go out, and we work hard, and we like to enjoy ourselves and I think this is kind of reaffirming that."
While Zagat puts the local restaurants in a national spotlight, the local owners like the attention because it's awakening folks here about what's available away from the chain restaurants of the suburbs and just a short drive away in Pittsburgh's neighborhoods.
Zagat also talks about Pittsburgh's location straddling both the East Coast, and Midwest, and says the city has a high likelihood to poach more chefs.
Pittsburgh was ranked #1 of 17 cities nationwide for the award. Zagat says the Burgh is poised for an even more exciting 2016.
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