After living in Pittsburgh for five years and eating our way through neighborhood after neighborhood, Kaya is definitively one of our favorite restaurants in the city.
The laid back yet classy Caribbean vibe, awesome bar and happy hour, one of the best burgers we've ever had (just about anywhere), and a creative menu with Latin American and Caribbean influences combine to make this an all-around standout restaurant.
But to truly get the best out of this great restaurant in the Strip District, you'll have to visit at least three times.
Come First and Foremost For the Kaya Burger
We have tried dozens of items on the menu, and in fact we often say we've had everything, but ignoring all of those delicious combinations the reason we keep coming back to Kaya is for the Kaya burger.
This massive and flavorful burger comes with enough toppings to make you exhausted just reading about them: bacon, avocado, tomato, pickles, Chihuahua cheese, a dippy egg, and Kaya sauce (a spicy mayo). It's crunchy, creamy, tangy, and very drippy – so drippy, in fact, that when eating it we can usually be found with juices dripping all the way down our arms to our elbows.
And as if that wasn't enticing enough, it comes with a side of the best sweet potato fries in the world. (Or waffle fries or salad, but if you order those, shame on you.)
Vegetarians fear not, you can also order the Kaya burger with a veggie patty instead of the beef patty- not that we've ever tried it (or likely ever will when the meat is so good).
Come Back for Brunch or Happy Hour
Okay, so you've visited once, love the burger, and want to come back? Make it a Sunday brunch or weeknight happy hour visit.
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Kaya has one of the best happy hours in Pittsburgh. Monday through Friday from 4:30-6:30 pm, all single serving drinks are half off.
Delicious cocktails? Half off. Draft beer? Half off. Glasses of wine? Half off.
We highly recommend any of their creative, seasonal cocktails which always make us want go back for seconds and sometimes thirds as some cocktails end up being staples, but others are only around for a limited time.
Recent menu favorites include The Graduate cocktail which combines Art in the Age Sage liquor, limoncello, lemon, and sparkling wine. Another favorite from the past was a combination of spicy serrano-infused Wigle ginever, chartreuse, cucumber, and grapefruit.
If you're not the drinking type check out the Sunday brunch on your second visit. One of our favorite brunch staples at Kaya is the roasted pork eggs benedict. Piled on top of sweet cornbread is tender, smokey pulled pork, poached eggs, and a perfectly spicy chili lime hollandaise sauce.
There are also several delicious Mexican-inspired dishes on the brunch menu including huevos rancheros and chilaquiles, as well as unique flavor fusions from around the world including banh mi tacos, Jamaican green curry vegetables, and a tropical paella (or, if you're hooked, the Kaya burger and sweet potato fries) plus a rotating country feature with special menu items for a limited time only.
Come A Third Time With a Group
One of my favorite things about Kaya is that you can order anything off the menu and you know it's going to be amazing.
If you fall in love with Kaya as we have and come back a third time, come with a group of people and just order a bunch of things to share at the table (unless you come with our families, in which case the group meal is six Kaya burgers and one salad for the vegetarian).
If you've never been to Kaya then stop reading this and get yourself there immediately. You know what you're going to get: inspired flavor combinations, the most amazing burger ever, creative cocktails with a stellar happy hour, solid service, and a whole lot of happy.
Kaya is located at 2000 Smallman Street in the Strip District. Reservations are recommended but from our experience you can find a seat on a weekend if you go right when they open. Be sure to check out their annual festival, Kayafest, in May as well!
For more delicious restaurants in the Strip District, check out Smallman Galley, Penn Avenue Fish Co., Gaucho Pittsburgh, or head over to Wigle Whiskey for a drink! Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!