Best Bang for Your Buck: Oakland Edition

You’ve heard the debates about which fast food chain has the best fries, which gas station is better: Sheetz or Wawa, or even where to get the best pizza , but have you ever heard of the Oakland restaurant debate? Where are the best places to eat in Oakland, the home of the University of Pittsburgh, and what makes them so special?

Students from far and near at the University of Pittsburgh, depending on their own perspectives and opinions, had a lot to say about what restaurants were top-tier.

Restaurants in Oakland come in all different shapes and sizes. Take Bao, which is located on Atwood St., for example. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant with amazing food, as described by Phoebe Appel, a junior majoring in legal studies.

“It’s like a secret little gift I forgot to open,” Appel laughed. “It’s so unsuspecting, but you go in and there’s tables, nice lighting, and a really great staff, too.”

Photo Credit: Kimberly Rooney | Pittsburgh City Paper

Appel has studied at Pitt since August 2019, and only lived  a short fifteen minutes from campus in Carnegie for the first 18 years of her life. However it was only by accident that she discovered her “new favorite restaurant,” as she described, when her mom chose it from a list on Google and said, “let’s go here.”

Ocha Thai, Appel said, is another hidden gem she recently discovered. Located beside Phat’s Bar on Semple St., Ocha Thai is the ideal destination after any night out, she said. 

“I highly recommend the Pad See Ew and the Crab Rangoon. It’s my go-to order,” she said, smiling.

For other students, Roots is a top pick for those in a hurry. It’s also a top choice for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, said first-year engineering major Isaac Ellis. After a rough week of demanding coursework as an engineering student, Ellis claims that Roots is his favorite place to chow down.

One of their signature bowls, called “The Apollo,” is made with brown rice and spinach as the base, and is topped with chickpeas, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, pita chips, feta cheese, chicken, and lemon za’atar dressing. A perfect combination of healthy ingredients, the Apollo is Ellis’ favorite bowl to get when he visits Roots.

Katelyn Osman, a junior education major, opts for the create-your-own feature at Roots, where she chooses a brown rice and spinach base and customizes it with chicken, corn, pita chips, and cheese.

“It’s definitely a staple for Pitt students,” Osman said. “People love it, and a few of my sorority sisters even work there.”

For others, there are a few more deciding factors that come into play when deciding where to eat on campus. For freshman psychology major, Maeve Sheehan, having a wide range of items on the menu and a reasonable price is important. Atarashi, she says, checks all the boxes for a customizable meal. However, when asked where she would take a friend who is visiting from out of town, she changed her answer. 

Sheehan said Stack’d Burgers has the “quintessential Oakland vibe, and they have really good food. I’d probably go either there or Fuel and Fuddle.” Fuel and Fuddle is a restaurant just a few doors down from Stack’d on Oakland Ave. It’s also a popular pick, but among an older generation of students, particularly those who are old enough to enjoy a beer from their extensive draft list. 

However, arguably the most famous and popular place to get food in Oakland is Frenchi’s Deli & Market, located on the 400 block of Atwood. Frenchi’s attests on multiple signs in their store that “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” There you can find a small market with items similar to those in a small grocery store such as assorted snacks, drinks, and pantry goods. And better yet, when you walk in and turn to your left, you’re met with a large deli counter where chefs create both off-the-menu and custom-made orders for students. Sometimes they cook as late as 3:00 a.m.

“Frenchi’s is definitely my go-to because it really just hits the spot after a night out,” said junior engineering major Lizzy Borchick. “If you don’t get ‘Le Frenchi’ when you go, then you’re just wrong. I love to add jalapenos to mine.”

Frenchi’s loyal following is evident through their Instagram, which has over 5,000 followers and almost 4,000 posts. Students are eager to stay up to date on their new items in stock and their famous wraps. 

“Frenchi’s is definitely my go-to because it really just hits the spot after a night out. If you don’t get ‘Le Frenchi’ when you go, then you’re just wrong. I love to add jalapenos to mine.”

Junior engineering major Lizzy Borchick.

Another popular choice among Pitt students is Antoon’s Pizza, which is also located on the 200 block of Atwood St.

“[Antoon’s] is definitely the best. You can get a large pizza there for only $6. To me, you just can’t beat that,” junior media and professional communication major Brayden Tinney affirmed. Several other students also listed Antoon’s as the best place to go after a stressful day. 

As far as Oakland restaurants, you truly can’t go wrong. Between amazing Asian cuisine restaurants such as Bao and Ocha Thai, sit-down and order-in restaurants like Stack’d and Fuel and Fuddle, and quick, on-the-go choices like Roots, there is something that satisfies everyone.

Students at Pitt, no matter their background or dietary restrictions, almost always find a place that they can rely on for a delicious meal. It turns out there isn’t just one place that outweighs the rest—dining in Oakland can be molded to you depending on the day you’re having, who’s in town, and how fast you need to be out the door.

You can all of the mentioned restaurants at the addresses listed below:

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