Published by Angie. Last Updated on August 25, 2021.
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When Pusadee's Garden closed in 2017 for renovations, we thought they'd be open the following year. 2018 came and went, so did 2019, and so did 2020 all without hearing a single update about the project. After enough time passed, we really thought this one was closed for good and were rather sad at the prospect of losing such a great restaurant in Lawrenceville.
Cut to early 2021 and the restaurant announced that they would finally be opening again, and we knew we had to visit as quickly as possible.
It only took about two steps after walking into the door for us to realize we should forget everything we remember about this one. To call the upgrade extensive would be an understatement- it was a complete transformation that was executed flawlessly. The restaurant went from being a good Thai spot to becoming one of the finest restaurants in Pittsburgh– Thai or otherwise.
Pusadee's Garden is Simply Perfect in Every Respect
Prior to the renovation, Pusadee's Garden was a small restaurant with a modest indoor dining space and a quaint garden that was not unlike a backyard space you'd expect to find in most Pittsburgh homes. The renovation changed this completely.
The owners bought the building next door and renovated it for more indoor dining space, built gorgeous walkways to connect the two buildings (with the host station in the front and the bar/kitchen in the back), and increased the garden footprint many times over while converting it into a true urban oasis.
We really felt like we were walking into a high-end restaurant just off the beach in Thailand and immediately forgot that we were, in fact, on the outskirts of Lawrenceville. This is where our description of the space will end, because, to be honest, we want you to experience it for yourselves- just be prepared for an ambiance you simply won't find anywhere else in the city.
So, how about the food?
Much like the space, the menu at Pusadee's Garden has gone through a major overhaul. Classic Thai dishes still can be found while also being intermixed with chef-driven creations that use Thai ingredients and flavors as their starting points.
On the classic side, there are dishes like roti with sweet potato and chicken yellow curry as well as spicy green papaya salad which are every bit as good, if not better, from what we remember when traveling in Thailand (don't sleep on the roti, it will be our go-to appetizer every time if available). On the novel side, think dishes like grilled scallops with a lime and chili sauce, yellow curry with slices of smoked brisket resting on a bed of noodles, lamb shank massaman, or slow-cooked pork belly to name a few.
The brisket was one of the more fascinating dishes of the evening not just because of how the curry and beef components were executed on their own, but on how the flavors worked together overall (not to mention its size- it was delightfully large). They even serve small dishes of pickles, onions, and hot sauce on the side and suggest pairing these with the meat for an even more pronounced Thai-meets-barbecue blend. One bite of meat with these sides is a full-on barbecue experience, the next with the curry is completely Thai, and if you mix it all together you get a weird hybrid that simply works.
It really is one of those dishes we still think about weeks later.
Beyond the food, Pusadee's Garden has a robust bar menu including ample wines (by the glass, carafe, or bottle), cocktails, and craft beer- many from local Pittsburgh breweries. We were able to sample a few cocktails including the Heckin' Bamboozled (an amontillado sherry base with coconut fat washed vermouth, Giffard Banane du Bresil, tamarind, orange, and bitters) and Long Time Listener, First Time Caller (spiced rum base with green chartreuse, basil, and lime) and quite liked how some unique Thai flavors were woven into the recipe- subtly and perfectly balanced. That being said, the cocktails here come at a sufficient premium and you may find the best value here is the carafe wine option overall!
If there was only one misstep that we could highlight (other than perhaps the cocktail prices), it would be that the restaurant simply did not offer dessert during our visit. Considering how stuffed we were we can overlook this. But with how good everything else was, we would've kept ordering more if only we had the opportunity. We really did not want this meal to end.
How to Get Garden Seating at Pusadee's Garden
Now, we normally would end our restaurant reviews here. But because the garden experience at Pusadee's is so sought after, we thought we'd take a step back to highlight how to snag these coveted seats as the process can be somewhat confusing. It wasn't until after we visited that we fully understood how it all works and we want to share more on this here.
The reason things are confusing is because the restaurant only takes reservation for indoor seating on any given day. As reservations tend to book up weeks in advance, they do not have the luxury of knowing the weather and thus only reserve indoor seating to ensure all guests can enjoy a meal on their chosen night.
The garden, which has enough seating to likely double the restaurant's capacity, is only opened if the weather is clear and can be a day-of call. This presents two key points that must be kept in mind.
First, if you have a reservation and wish to sit outside, all you have to do is add a note that you would prefer to sit outside if the weather is accommodating. If it rains, you still get to eat inside, so overall you'll still get a stellar meal either way.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, for those who do not have reservations, days where the garden is open means the restaurant is able to accommodate walk-ins much easier. There may still be a wait for a table, but you could have luck (indoors or outdoors) simply by showing up. We'd not try this on a night where the weather was bad, tables will likely be fully booked, but on a nice night you may find you are able to get a seat despite not having a reservation.
To give an example, we arrived at 5:45 on a Tuesday and only had a 20-minute wait to get a garden seat. But if you visit on a night later in the week (where we'd expect longer waits), you could also kill some time with a glass of wine at Allegheny Wine Mixer across the street or a cocktail at Lawrenceville Distilling around the corner if they're open. You won't hear us complaining if we got a bonus stop at one of these before dinner.
While we would say that Pusadee's Garden was truly worth the wait in their long renovation, we most certainly will not be waiting four years for our next visit. For a restaurant this good, we intend to be regulars.
Pusadee's Garden is located at 5319 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
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