Last Updated on May 18, 2021 by Jeremy
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Whenever we think of dining in the Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh, our thoughts tend to go to the high-end restaurants that have a reservation waitlist on the order of weeks or months.
While there are restaurants in the area where you can walk in and get a seat with ease, these are becoming less and less common as higher-end restaurants open in the area. As such, we always think this part of downtown could use more approachable spots to balance out the options for those who do not want to plan that far in advance or pay an arm and a leg in the process.
Thankfully, the Cincinnati-based fried chicken restaurant known as The Eagle opened up in the heart of the Cultural District and checks a lot of boxes for us- most notably that, at the time of their grand opening at least, 50% of their seats are kept open for walk-ins!
We had the chance to check this one out at their soft open for friends & family night (thanks to our friends Bold Pittsburgh) and share more in this review!
The Eagle Offers Fried Chicken at a Respectable Price
At first glance, the menu at The Eagle Pittsburgh seems rather straightforward. They offer fried chicken either as 1/4 chicken (white or dark meat available), 1/2 chicken, or whole chicken at rather respectable prices when you consider current downtown prices.
From there, you run down the menu and have a list of snacks (appetizers), sides, sandwiches, as well as salads and soups. The snacks and sides here read a lot like a traditional southern menu with items like hush puppies, collards, spoonbread, and sweet potato crocks to name a few, and we knew we'd have to get a cross-section to try out the menu along with some white and dark meat chicken.
On the chicken front, the fried chicken here has a nice crispy exterior without being too crispy and the house brine really helps make this one juicy on the inside as well. Top it off with a liberal amount of the spicy hot honey that comes on the side and you will hear little complaints from us even if we like our chicken to have just a bit more crunch to it than what is offered here.
While we were partial to the 1/4 dark meat option for its flavor (we always go dark meat on chicken), we have to admit that the 1/2 chicken serving size is really ideal for two people overall as the 1/4 chicken option is more what we'd think of as a single-serving. Likewise, you have to like fried chicken to visit this one as it is all they serve on the chicken front- no grilled options are available on the menu.
On the side front, you really can't go wrong leaning into the southern dishes like the biscuits (three to an order), hush puppies (five to an order), and the sweet potato crock. The former two have a delightful texture that we would be hard-pressed to replicate at home, whereas the latter works simply because you can never go wrong with sweet potatoes and toasted mini-marshmallow.
It is also worth noting that the sides here are designed to be family-style so they're a bit bigger than conventional sides but not so large that they'd feed a small army. A good rule would be that each side can give a healthy serving to 2-4 people, and depending on your group size a mix of sides should be ordered to make it a proper southern feast.
The Eagle is Also One Part Bar
Apart from the restaurant element at The Eagle, this one could also be aptly described as a bar just as much. The reason for this is that the bar is the centerpiece of the restaurant, can only be described as massive in size, and they have a pretty respectable list of cocktails, sparkling cocktails, and beer available.
During our visit, we were able to try two cocktails- a Maple Bacon Old Fashioned as well as a Spritz.
The Maple Bacon Old Fashioned featured Four Roses Single Barrel whiskey, Grand Marnier, maple syrup, pepper ginger bitters, and a glazed bacon piece that was sweet and slightly spicy. While I do have to admit I think this one could use a bit more fortification in the whiskey department, the Grand Marnier, maple syrup, and bacon came together for a really nice sweet/savory flavor profile that I can get behind.
The sparkling cocktails here are set up in a build-your-own fashion in that you pick the base cocktail and select which sparkling wine you would like to pair it with (prices vary based on the sparkling selected). I went for a traditional Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine with the Spritz as it is a classic recipe, but I feel like the flavors got lost in the mix somehow.
As sparkling wine is a classic pairing with fried chicken on its own right, next time we'd skip the cocktail and go straight bubbly.
Overall, The Eagle checks a lot of boxes for us in that it is an approachable downtown restaurant, with some delicious fried chicken and southern sides, that does not require an insanely long wait on the reservation front. While they do accept reservations, having 50% of the restaurant as open seating (as of their opening in 2021, at least) is something we can really appreciate and hope that it does not change in the future.
It'll be hard to say no to fried chicken without a multi-week wait downtown if we can get it!
The Eagle is located at 737 Penn Avenue #2 in the Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh. We were guests of the restaurant during a friends & family preview night; however, all opinions are our own.