Many of the participating restaurants I have been to. Many I have not. But when places are offering three course pre-fixe meals for $30 a person how can you not take advantage? You can check out the full list of participating restaurants by clicking here (many have their Restaurant Week menus posted so you mentally order your meals ahead) but the following four are my favorites, along with one I have wanted to try for years. Perhaps 2013 Winter Restaurant Week will be the charm.
I discovered what I believe was Pittsburgh's first Ethiopian restaurant in the fall of my senior year of college. Located in the city's Highland section which is adjacent to East Liberty, it's definitely in an area that wants to achieve re-gentrification and in many instances it has. The restaurant is small and only takes reservations for groups of more than eight people; however, I've never had to wait to get seated. Ethiopian cuisine is all about the community and while you can order individual dishes at Abay, the popular choice is selecting various things for the whole table to share using injera, Ethiopia's answer to the fork and knife. (Injera is a spongy like bread you use to scoop up your food.) Another plus for Abay is that it's byob.
Six Penn is the first restaurant where I started to hear the term "farm-to-table" being used (when restaurants purchase their food directly from local farms as opposed to going through suppliers). It's an extremely popular restaurant (on the slightly pricier side) located in the city's Cultural District, making it a great pick for meals before or after an event. Its menus offer comfort food-style dishes but with a twist. (Buffalo chicken flavored macaroni and cheese was one of the more unique dishes they offered when we dined there a couple of years ago.) Although its brunch is not part of Restaurant Week, it's a favorite spot of ours to go for breakfast/lunch noshings.
The first time I went to Verde was for last year's winter restaurant week. Located in the city's Garfield section, the restaurant had literally just opened when I dined there at the end of January and I was greatly impressed by our terrific meal, especially since many new restaurants experience some issues initially . The menu is upscale/noveau Mexican (it doesn't just offer your basic enchiladas suizas or tacos), as is the incredibly eclectic yet warm decor. Verde started offering brunch in the spring and that is something else I would highly recommend trying, especially since it's offering a Restaurant Week two course brunch special on Sunday, January 20 for only $13.
I've only eaten at Tamari once and it was at their suburban location (their original location is in the city's Lawrenceville section) but I absolutely loved my meal. Tamari is a blend of Asia meets Latin, as one chef is from Argentina, the other from Hong Kong if I remember correctly, and so its menu of mainly tapas reflects this. (It also offers an extensive sushi selection.)
While some people would write off a restaurant that years ago said reservations weren't accepted when you called them to ask but then when you went in person, you were asked if you had a reservation, to which you responded with "no" and were forced to walk embarrassingly and disappointingly away, I still want to try Girasole. It's one of the city's only authentic Italian trattorias (sorry Olive Garden, but you're just Italian chain in my opinion). I've heard that it does accept reservations now and so perhaps I should give it another chance. When I visited Italy in 2006 I didn't indulge in the most awesome authentic fare and from the times I've looked at Girasole's menu, it does look pretty darn authentic. What I like is that they have a menu for each of the quattro stagioni (four seasons); this is something I haven't seen in many places in Pittsburgh. Stay tuned to see if I make it there.
If you feel that eating out can be a pricey affair, I agree, especially since the higher quality restaurants are typically more expensive. However, you can truly score some good deals by taking advantage of restaurant week specials, so don't delay and make your reservations today for that special meal.
One of the awesome dishes that awaits you...