This was my fourth year attending the Pittsburgh Magazine Best Restaurants Party, and it was my favorite by far. The party celebrates the region’s “best restaurants” as chosen by various critics, using whatever criteria they use. Really, I don’t know how the restaurants are picked, but every year the lineup consists of restaurants I like (see: Cure), restaurants I want to try (see: Wild Rosemary) and standard Pittsburgh staples (see: Mineo’s).
Each year Mr. Beez and I attend with our foodie friends, Christine and Trav. The party is not a cheap ticket, and it’s popularity has exploded with the Groupon specials that have run the last two years. The last three times, we attended with a standard ticket, and I seemed to have the same gripes every year: too crowded, too crowded, too crowded, running out of food because it’s too crowded. This year we changed things up and splurged for VIP tickets, meaning we got in an hour earlier and had an hour’s worth of an open bar. This made all the difference and we loved it. By the time the standard ticket folks started wandering in, we were already stuffed full of food, and ended up leaving kind of early (seriously, we were there for the FOOD, and we needed naps after gorging ourselves).
Each year ends up with more or less a food trend. Our first year, sashimi and other varieties of raw fish were all the rage. This was a disappointment to me because I was pregnant at the time, but did manage to console myself with copious servings of chocolate cake from the Gullifty’s table. A couple years back pork belly was the big thing, which is delicious for the first several dishes (the restaurants serve out “small bites” sized dishes), but quickly became much much too much. This year seemed to be the year of the crostini. Crostini is good, but not particularly exciting. I think of crostini as something I’m eating when I’m waiting for the real food.
My favorite dishes of the evening were the fresh sliders and mini java-chip shakes from Burgatory, pictured above, and the delicious steak salad from Wild Rosemary. Savoy and Cure took home the audience awards for the evening, but to be honest, I didn’t make it to the Savoy table and I can’t remember what Cure served.
The party is followed by an after-party at the Rivers Casino. We did not go this year because of the early onset of food coma. We did go last year, and I recall that there was an abundance of delicious snacks (we only sampled a few, since we were stuffed by the time we got there…this is an ongoing theme for the Best Restaurants party), and there was plenty of music and on the whole was a nice time.
If you are interested in the Pittsburgh food scene– whether it’s just trying new restaurants or chatting with chefs– the Best Restaurants Party is worth attending. Heck, you don’t even have to be a foodie to have a great time. We plan on splurging for the VIP ticket in future years to avoid the big crowd, but yinz all better not jump on that bandwagon, or you’ll crowd it all up!