By Erin Marton

Pittsburgh is a bit of a college town, and there’s a whole new group of ‘Burghers (the incoming freshmen), who hit the books hungry to learn, and hit the streets just plain hungry. Fortunately, Oakland has no shortage of great places to eat. It’s hard to get bored, since the menus and locations are as diverse as the student population. Here are some of our top selections.

Hours: Bar open 11am-2am; Kitchen open 11am-1am
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This South Oakland location of Big Burrito Restaurant Group’s flagship chain was the first! Although located in a congested neighborhood, students find it convenient to Pitt’s campus, and the restaurant is full and lively almost every night of the week. They offer the best student-friendly special, with their “Student Halfsies”, featuring half-off food Monday-Thursday from 2-4pm. Everyone can enjoy the special from 11pm-1am 7 nights a week. There is also a strong beer selection. As for the menu, we recommend you try the Chicken Mole Enchilada, or the Black Beenie Quesadeenie. If you are brave, give the latter a try with a side of their famous Pineapple Habanero Salsa. Also delicious is the Black Bean dip, which we recommend you try with the Picka Dippa appetizer.

(Photo credit: Thinkstock)

Hours: Lunch Mon to Fri 11:30 – 2:30; Dinner Mon to Sun 4:00 – 9:45

Vegetarians will love the options at this restaurant featuring Middle Eastern fare. The sampler platters offer a wide variety, and substitutions are welcome in most. Most regulars rave about their Baba Ghanooj, and swear it to be one of the best in the ‘Burgh. We are also a fan of the lemony Fatoosh, and paired with a side of feta and olives it makes a perfect lunch. Ali Baba is BYOB, and is a popular spot for both weekday lunch, and weekend dinners, so if you are planning a trip for either of those times, you may want to prepare for a short wait.

Hours: Daily 11am-9:30pm

Of course, if the wait is too long at Ali Baba, you will find Lulu’s right next door. Although some criticize Lulu’s for not being “authentic”, it doesn’t seem to make the food any less delicious, or keep the crowds from filling the tables at lunchtime. We have heard rumors that the Chicken Pad Thai is addictive! We keep coming back for the refreshing bubble tea, which is a necessity while shopping on Craig Street. Prices at Lulu’s are extremely reasonable; you will easily be filled up for under $10!

Hours: Daily 11am-2am
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You are guaranteed to leave completely stuffed from this campus staple, located in the heart of Oakland. Popular for their brick oven pizzas, Fuel and Fuddle also features hearty sandwiches and burgers (Joe Mama’s Meatloaf is one of our weaknesses), and an extensive appetizer list. F&F can also boast its very own house beer, brewed exclusively by Smuttynose Brewery. Almost all entrees come in under $10, making it another affordable choice on our list.

Hours: Mon to Thurs 7am-7pm; Fri 7am-5pm; Sat to Sun 9am-3pm
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You will find this delightful cafe located conveniently on Forbes Avenue. The goal of the restaurant is to “provide high quality foods without the time and expense of a sit down meal”, and it’s a goal they gracefully achieve. Because they cook with real ingredients (mmmmm, butter), the resulting dishes are filling yet healthful (a rare find in a college neighborhood). They also serve breakfast all day, so you can satisfy that egg sandwich craving at 4pm. Speaking of eggs, theirs come from a “local farm with pasture raised organic fed chickens”. These guys aren’t messing around!

This list will easily get you started with some of the more popular and affordable selections, but according to Urban Spoon, there are over 130 restaurants in the Oakland area! Get out and explore, and share some your favorite discoveries with us.

Erin Marton is a REALTOR® and the Social Media and Marketing Director for PPM Realty in Pittsburgh, PA. She is also the author of the ‘Burgh Living Blog, and you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.