If you don’t live in the South Hills, it might never occur to you to pay a visit to Mt. Lebanon, but I definitely suggest giving it an afternoon of your time. Washington Road is a good starting point. The Mount Lebanon trolley stop lets you off right across the street from several good restaurants, not to mention various shops and boutiques offering an array of goods, from specialty textiles, organic food and nutritional supplements, to fine art, fashionable second-hand clothing, and paper goods. All in all, the business district is only a few blocks, easily encountered in a Saturday afternoon, or split the time between Washington Road and Beverly Road, another business section that features a similar mix of dining and small independent shops.
Mt. Lebanon has no shortage of upscale restaurants, but visitors and nearby residents can often mistake its high-income reputation for a lack of lower-priced options, a misconception that when proven false can lead to a delicious and economical dining experience. You just have to know where to go.
– Sushi Three – Far from my favorite sushi place in the city, but if you’re looking for decent, affordable sushi in the South Hills, you could do a lot worse than Sushi Three. A sunny golden interior matches the low-key charm of the menu. Not only does the restaurant offer a moderately-priced sushi menu, you can take your pick from noodle bowls, teriyaki, and curries, so this is a perfect place to take the beginning sushi taster as well as the devoted sushi hater. Best during lunch, when the prices are the best and the portions just right. (297 Beverly Road)
– Cocina Mendoza – Like Sushi Three, Cocina Mendoza isn’t the best place to get Mexican food in the city – if you count the weekend taco stand at Tienda La Jimenez, it’s not even the best place in the area – but it’s pretty good. The menu is a fairly regular assortment of Tex-Mex and includes a lot of items that other places leave off, like huevos rancheros. Order the chorizo, pork, or stick with one of the many vegetarian options and definitely try their Chile Relleno, which coats the cheese-stuffed pepper with a flaky fried crust. (300 Mount Lebanon Boulevard)
– Il Pizzaiolo – If you’re used to getting passable pies at low prices, then Il Pizzaiolo might not be for you. But if you’re looking for a nice place to go for a crispy, wood-fired pizza covered with fresh toppings and full of flavor, this is the place to go in Mount Lebanon. The prices have risen, but the quality of the food has not decreased. The menu has expanded to include various Mediterranean entrees and salads, most of which are delicious (if a bit over priced, but I tend to believe that the majority of Italian restaurants charge far too much for their food – you want value, make it at home) and the wine bar is a particularly popular with the after-work crowd. It’s getting late in the season, so make a trip to the restaurant to enjoy the outdoor patio seating before it’s too late. (703 Washington Road)
– Luma – My particular fancy in local upscale dining is Luma, a little restaurant with a lot of the same characteristics that make its downtotwn counterparts must visits. The menu is pretty typical – American-international fusion, a little bit of Italian, little bit of French, little bit Asian – but it’s all of top quality, especially the duck, the pumpkin ravioli, and the crab cakes. Wash it down with one of the choice drinks on the cocktail menu, a Garden Basil Lemonade or Luma E spresso Martini, and enjoy the understated but sophisticated atmosphere. Granted, at these price levels, I can’t exactly make regular trips here. But if I’m ever looking for a fancy place to take a loved one or celebrate a special occasion, Luma is at the top of my list. (186 Castle Shannon Blvd)
– Tamarind Savoring India – I get Indian fairly regularly at Namaste on Banksville, but a few friends of mine recommended trying Tamarind on Greentree Road. While my allegiances haven’t entirely changed (admittedly, mostly due to location – Namaste is right down the road from me), I see their point – for comparable prices, you get some of the best South Indian this city can offer. The vegetarian dishes here aren’t just spiced mushes of cheese and sauce or piles of bright yellow or orange vegetables. The meat is cooked tender and juicy, properly seasoned and sauced. Even the naan is ideal – fluffy, dense, seasoned mildly, and serving as a perfect companion to any entree on the menu. The Gobi Manchurian has single-handedly made it possible for me to consider liking cauliflower. If you’re a South Hill resident and a lover of South Indian cuisine, you MUST pay a visit. ( 2101 Greentree Road)
– Aladdin’s – In case you haven’t been fortunate enough to dine there, Aladdin’s is a small chain specializing in Middle Eastern cuisine. Falafel, hummus, pita wraps, salads, pretty much everything here is a decent bite to eat, affordable and satisfying. If you’re like me and picky when it comes to baba ghanoush, try the stuff here. It’s flavorful without being overwhelming, with a mild bite to the chunks of eggplant, and beats the hell out of its runny counterparts at other Mediterranean restaurants. The pastries and smoothies are also worth noting, and if you’ve only got time to grab something quick, order a falafel roll and Tropical Storm smoothie to-go. Yes, it’s a chain, but the food is of consistent quality and the atmosphere in the Mt. Lebanon location is pleasant and casual, with a pleasing low-key decor and friendly staff. (630 Washington Road)
Disagree with my picks? Did I leave out one of your favorites? Have another place to suggest? Let me know in the comments and I’ll make sure to follow-up on the recommendation!