The Forks blog

Best New Restaurants, 2012: Round 1

Written by Melissa McCart on

noodlehead1This year in Pittsburgh marked the opening of niche restaurants, those that showcase a narrow concept and offer casual dining.

Many of them seat fewer than 50 guests.

Small size offers restaurateurs greater flexibility, as kitchens swap chefs, stage collaborative dinners, and try on late-night menus.

Asian-inspired cuisine is in demand, with Thai food and ramen capturing attention in the East End.

Breakfast and lunch places have added texture to the market.

And craft cocktails made their way on to many restaurant menus, regardless of the neighborhood.

Read on for the first installation of this year's noteworthy restaurant openings.

Noodlehead in Shadyside. October 2012

This noodleshop offers some of the most satiating Thai food in town from the folks behind Pusadee's Garden. With warm woods and Asian accents, this cavernous, stylish space is inviting, all the moreso when diners choose to make it an evening and bring their own booze.

It is here where the scale of spice, from 1 to 5, is truly hot. Try a level-3 Love Boat noodles, thin rice noodles, simmered beef and pork cracklings in a rich spicy broth.

If noodles aren't your thing, try sweet and spicy pig wings or the very popular pork belly steamed buns.

Fukuda in Bloomfield. October 2012

This slip of a restaurant in the former Stagioni space is helmed by chef Matt Kemp, alum of Tamari in Lawrenceville.

A tight menu showcases fresh, creative sushi, some of which is made with fish shipped from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market, the largest fish market in the world. House-made ramen and stylish Japanese street fare such as okonomyaki and takoyaki also seed the menu.

Decor includes compelling installations and light boxes made from old commercial signs as votives. Fukuda has also implemented industry nights and late-night menus on weekends.

Melissa McCart photo

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