Valentine’s Day is only a few days away, and there are a few ways to celebrate: doing something special with your significant other or basking in your independence (while enjoying an excuse to dowse yourself in sweets). In Pittsburgh, it doesn’t matter which category you fall under, there are plenty of options to satisfy your sweet tooth. That’s why I wanted to share my 10 Best Valentine’s Sweets in Pittsburgh (in no particular order):
In 2014, Huffington Post declared Prantl’s burnt almond torte The Greatest Cake America Has Ever Made, and I couldn’t agree more. If you haven’t had the opportunity to indulge in a bite of this cake, you need to stop what you’re doing and drive to Shadyside or Downtown. Now. Having been open more than 40 years, the German bakery has had time to perfect its recipe. According to its website, this cake was created by Henry Prantl when he came back from a trip to California. The state was going through an almond glut and asked bakers to use almonds in new ways. While you’re there, check out their more than 100 other sweets.
This bakery was so impressive, it even caught the attention of the New York Times this year. With native French owners, Fabien and Lisanne Moreau, these bakeries are the Steel City’s little slice of France. Lisanne was drawn to Pittsburgh since her grandma lived here, and her husband, Fabien, dreamed of opening his own business. Having studied at the famous Lenotre Culinary Institute in Paris, he opened La Gourmandine in 2010 in Lawrenceville and in 2014 in Mt. Lebanon. During your visit, make sure to taste their croissant aux amandes, a butter croissant soaked in syrup and filled with almond cream – yum!
Oakmont Bakery won “Retail Bakery of the Year” by Modern Baking magazine in 2010, and locals rave about it. Marc and Susan Serrao opened the shop in 1988, and the family owned business has only expanded since then. The shop features rows and rows of fresh breads, cupcakes, donuts, pies and cakes. However, don’t be fooled – Oakmont isn’t about quantity over quality. So pick up your sweetheart some cupcakes for dessert, and make sure to stock up on donuts (or a doughnut – their take on a cronut) for the next morning.
When my sister got married, she decided she didn’t want a wedding cake. Instead, she bought a bunch of pies from Bethel Bakery – one even better than the next. Now, if Bethel Bakery was able to satiate the taste buds of about 100 people at a wedding, I can pretty much guarantee it will impress your significant other. Formerly in the Navy, Morris Walsh opened the bakery in 1955 in the South Hills. It also offers delicious cupcakes (I recommend the peanut butter banana), cakes, scrumptious buckeyes and many more sweets that will earn you some major points during Valentine’s Day.
Perhaps the most obvious Valentine’s Day sweet spot is Sarris Candies. Even Sofia Vergara gave the famous chocolates some love in her Valentine’s Day Gift Guide in People magazine. Charmingly enough, Sarris Candies began with a love story. Frank Sarris presented his sweetheart, Aretha, with a box of candy. He made his chocolates in the basement, until he opened a store next to his house in 1963 (with wife Aretha). Go visit their impressive candy factory in Canonsburg, because can you really go wrong with chocolate for Valentine’s Day? (No, the answer to that is definitely no.)
For those with a bit of a playfully mischievous side, pick up your lady (or man, or yourself – you do you!) something sweet from Sinful Sweets Chocolate Company. Having started as a small shop in Lawrenceville, the shop’s popularity grew so much, they had to move to a bigger location in the Cultural District. You can opt for their more traditional sweets such as chocolate bars and chocolate covered varieties (pretzels, pecans and strawberries) or indulge in their more “sinful” sweets such as their chocolate bacon, gourmet candy apples or s’mores.
I can’t rave enough about the Milkshake Factory’s, well, milkshakes. They’re huge, delicious, creative, and every other positive adjective I can spout off to you. However, I want to talk about the Edward Marc chocolates offered inside. The little shop in Southside offers truffles, boxed chocolates, chocolate covered bacon and more – all more indulgent than the next. You can even order personalized chocolates! The chocolate store was created by a young Greek couple after they moved to America in 1914. Since then, the business has been handed down to new generations of that family. And while you are picking up your sweetie some handcrafted chocolates, who could blame you for picking up one of their awesome milkshakes? (Pro tip: half-off milkshakes on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
I know, I know, popcorn isn’t technically considered a “sweet,” but if my boyfriend got me a tin of popcorn from here, I would be super excited (*hint, hint*). These shops are popping up everywhere, from locations in the Strip District to Monroeville Mall. You can opt for some more traditional flavors such as caramel, kettle corn, butter movie style and Wisconsin Cheddar or opt for some more creative flavors such as the peanut butter chocolate or chocolate caramel. They also offer flavors of the week, which vary from BBQ to peppermint popcorn.
A true family-owned boutique bakery, right down to the namesake. Kristen and her sister, Kadee, joined forces to create this shop and named it after their three daughters, Alexa Christie, Bella and Zoe. They offer candies, cakes and other desserts. Customers insist you try their delectable donuts, cupcakes, deep fried Oreos and cookies. Head over to Aspinwall or Lawrenceville, and get your sweetie some sugar sweet treats!
When you walk into this shop, you might as well have walked into Candy Land. Candy is everywhere! They offer hundreds of candies and more than 325 flavors of Old Fashioned Glass Bottled Soda including Boylan’s, Johnnie Ryan and Frostie. They also offer vintage candies such as Wax Lips, Satellite Wafers and Candy Buttons. So if your significant other is more old-fashioned with their candy (and soda) selection, head to their Strip District or Beaver locations, because this is the shop for you.
There you have it, my picks for Pittsburgh’s sweets! I hope you have a fantastic Valentine’s Day no matter how you celebrate!
What are your favorite sweet spots in Pittsburgh?