Quest for the Best Burger in Pittsburgh: ROOT174
I continued my quest around the city to find the best burger in Pittsburgh this Saturday. After Over the Bibycle last Thursday, I tried a local spot next to me beloved Swissvale neighborhood: Root174.The place always attracted me. To me, it sounds like a beautiful and wonderful girl seating alone at a bar without anybody to speak with: the outdoor space looked often empty while many people tell good stories about it. So, if it is so attractive and good, why they are not so many folks eating there? Places in the same block (such as Square Cafe) are pretty packed and you have to wait to get a table while you do not have to wait at root 174. This was time to make my own investigation.
It was a nice day. After helping my partner in crime to organize the Swissvale 1 mile dog walk, I went for a short 10 miles run. So, we needed to refuel. Since a long time, I wanted to try ROOT174 and their burger. Unfortunately, they do not propose it for dinner – only during lunch time. That was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.
I wanted to try this spot because this sounds to be a place where people reason about what is in your plate and how they cook it. Many places serve frozen food ordered from big companies (such as sysco). It can taste good but everything comes from the same place. So, why bothering to go in different places where all the restaurants reheat the same frozen package? On the other hand, Root seems to be one of the fews guys (such as Legume or the Penn Avenue Fish Company) that really cares about the basics: the ingredients. As a french guy that used to taste the dishes from his grand mother (that cooked the family dinner all Saturday with the vegetables from our family garden or fresh from the local market) this is something I learned when I was young …
So, I ordered the root burger. Simple stuff: a brioche bun with mustard, a patty with a pork belly underneath and an egg on top (at least, you cannot say you do not have protein in your meal!). Some fries are served on the side. No ketchup but a home made hot sauce. First impression: the bun is too small. But you quickly realize how wrong you are: size does not matter. The bun is really thick and tasty and makes you full after two bites. The combination of the ingredients is very tasteful and I really liked it. Not light and not too heavy. Surprisingly, this burger does not have cheese, but I did not miss the taste at all and the pork belly was a good addition. The fries were ok – if this was not the best fries I had, they were definitively good. Also, my partner in crime tried the tacos and it seems to be a good as the burger.
The beer and wine selection is decent ; the beer selection is definitively small, even if they have good ones (especially some from Dogfish Brewery). Having more good beers on tap would be appreciated, especially because there are a lot of good micro breweries across the city! On the other hand, the wine list is decent with good options.
Is it the best burger in Pittsburgh? Probably my favorite so far with the one from Legume (which still needs to be reviewed). One downside: there is no ketchup, which is a bummer when eating fries! The home-made hot sauce was really good but having ketchup for dipping the fries is definitively my favorite.
But the most important is what this spot demonstrates with this meal: good food can be affordable. Many folks will argue that such places are expensive. That is a fact: good food come at a price! But this burger is proposed at $10 and the tacos were at $4. The same price as the ones from all the spots in the same street and serve frozen food. Many other spots (Square Cafe, D’s) propose burgers for $10, but there is nothing to compare in terms of quality. Since this meal, this difficult to understand why others places are still crowded in this street at lunch time while better food is available next door without having to wait …
To summarize, try root174, especially at lunch time, when the burgers, tacos are available and you can enjoy a nice outdoor seating! The place is great and I will probably come back soon. On another note, the restaurant will have a special barbecue platter with a beer on July, 4 for $19. Bummer: I will be away for a wedding, I will have to wait next year to give it a try …