Emporio at Sienna Mercato
942 Penn Ave., Downtown
412-281-2810 or siennapgh.com
Lunchers can tuck into a variety of gourmet meatballs in sauces and gravies, such as pork Bolognese, chicken gravy, "government cheese" and spinach-almond pesto. Sliders, panini and grinder sandwiches can be filled with classic beef, spicy pork, vegetarian or turkey.
2nd: NOLA on the Square
3rd: Bluebird Kitchen
214 Sixth St., Downtown
412-471-8256 or www.takopgh.com
A funkily decorated space, a lively atmosphere, an inventive cocktail program and tacos! But this is where Latin American and Asian flavors playfully comingle, so these aren't any ordinary tacos. Look for Korean beef, duck confit and mushroom fillings, and don't miss the signature tako taco, featuring a grilled octopus tentacle.
2nd: The Commoner, Downtown
3rd: Mezzo at Sienna Mercato, Downtown
7795 McKnight Road, North Hills
412-364-1760 or www.tajmahalinc.com
It's worth the drive to McKnight Road to visit Taj Mahal, where a vast menu, representing cuisine from many regions of India, offers something for everyone. If you're the indecisive type, opt for one of the popular dinner or lunch buffets, and bring your appetite. And don't skip the yogurt and cheese, made in-house daily.
2nd: Tamarind, Cranberry and Green Tree
3rd: People's Indian, Garfield
1611 E. Carson St., South Side, and 10636 Perry Highway, Wexford
Popular Nakama is great for a night out, to see and be seen. (Steelers have been spotted dining here.) The restaurant offers both hibachi and sushi, where options range from the most elemental shrimp tempura roll to, for more advanced diners, sea-urchin nigiri. On the go, catch Nakama's cuisine via its food truck.
2nd: Little Tokyo, Mount Lebanon and South Side
3rd: Umi, Shadyside
3801 Butler St., Lawrenceville
412-622-0111 or www.piccolo-forno.com
Located in the heart of happening Lawrenceville, this cozy, casual family-run restaurant is always a lively spot. The menu offers wood-fired pizzas (including margherita and quattro formaggio), small plates and antipasti, panini and fresh-made pastas. It's also BYOB, so you can bring your own favorite Italian bottle selection.
2nd: Alla Famiglia, Allentown
3rd: Girasole, Shadyside
Nicky's Thai Kitchen
903 Penn Ave., Downtown, and 856 Western Ave., North Side.
At this long-time favorite, start with a fresh spring roll and tom yum soup, and move on to the green curry with chicken; for dessert, try custard with sticky rice. At the BYOB North Side location, dine outside on the lovely patio filled with plants and artwork. The Downtown locations features sakes and Thai beer, plus lunch specials.
2nd: Thai Me Up, South Side
3rd: Thai Cuisine, Bloomfield
Sesame Inn offers something for every palate. Classics such as General Tso's please those seeking comfort, while spicy Hunan and Mongolian dishes await those looking to branch out. (Fussy kids can get chicken fingers.) The restaurant also offers Thai dishes, including stirfrys and curries.
2nd: China Palace, Shadyside
3rd: Wai Wai, Bloomfield
This Mexican restaurant isn't "mad" as in angry, but "mad" as in a crazy, out-of-the-box fusion of Mexican, Southwestern and Asian cuisine. And if that doesn't sound mad to you, you've obviously never had a Gobblerito, featuring turkey, black-bean mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn and gravy rolled in a tortilla and served with a side of cranberry sauce.
2nd: El Campesino, multiple locations
3rd: Steel Cactus, Shadyside and South Side