Where to eat & what to do in PGH
April 8, 2008 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be visiting Pittsburgh this weekend with four friends, staying downtown (I think City Center is the correct term?) near the Mellon Arena. We're already planning on visiting the Church Brew Works on Friday and seeing a Pirates game on Saturday. What can you recommend in terms of places to go and great eating options within walking distance of downtown/PNC Bank park? Two of us are vegetarians, and we're into cool record stores, bike shops, pubs, brunches, great independent restaurants and shops, and things unique to the city.
posted by The Michael The to Travel & Transportation (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Welcome to Pittsburgh! Never heard the term "city center." It's Downtown.
Previous thread with a lot of ideas

I'll ask it again here: Do you have a car, or do you want the transit rundown?
posted by ALongDecember at 12:17 PM on April 8, 2008


I'd tell you to visit Primanti Bros (in the strip district or Oakland) for some of the more unique sandwiches around (coleslaw and fries inside the sandwich), but it's definitely not a vegetarian-friendly place, unless you're the chill type of vegetarian who can deal with eating things that have been cooked on the same grill as meat.

The Warhol museum isn't too far from PNC park and is worth a visit if you've never been there.

To combine a good meal with a good view, you might try the Top of the Triangle, located on the top floor of the USX building downtown. A bit pricey (for Pittsburgh standards), but the great view is totally worth it, especially on a clear day.
posted by ripple at 12:18 PM on April 8, 2008


Gotcha on the Downtown. We'll have a car, but we're all experienced public transit riders, so we'll take the rundown if you don't mind.
posted by The Michael The at 12:19 PM on April 8, 2008


If you can get there, check out the Point Breeze / Point Brugge area. The place I ate (I believe) was the Point Brugge Cafe -- very hip microbrew place.
posted by salvia at 12:20 PM on April 8, 2008


Having lived in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for multiple years, I've never heard Center City being used to refer to the 'burgh's downtown, except in a hopeful "Gee, it'd be great if our downtown was a bubbling center of culture like Philly has!" sense.

The good places to go I know of mostly aren't downtown, other than maybe the Carnegie Science Center. No, wait - right by PNC Park is the Andy Warhol Museum.

As for veggie-friendly food: Abay - a quite-good Ethiopian BYOB, and the only Ethiopian place in Pittsburgh I know of - is a modest bus ride away on the border between Shadyside and Lawrenceville.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:20 PM on April 8, 2008


Also, you might want to check out Eide's, which is downtown's best comics/collectibles/music/alt literature place. It's located at 1121 Penn Ave; would be a good stopping place if you're walking from downtown to the strip district.
posted by ripple at 12:28 PM on April 8, 2008


Ripple, I think Top of the Triangle closed in 2001.

Depending on what you consider walking distance, The Strip is in between where you're staying and ChurchWorks. For vegetarians, I'd recommend Kaya - check their menu because they do a monthly vegetarian prix fixe that is great. They're "island cuisine" but yummy. And their umbrella owners (The Big Burrito Group) is supposed to be one of the biggest vodka importers in the east coast. (Meaning they take drinking seriously, and drinks are good and strong.)

Also kind of fun, and not often recommended is a trip to Klavon's. They're a locally owned ice cream parlor that makes fresh different flavored whipped cream each day. The building survived the great St. Pattys Day Flood and they've got lots of historical and interesting artifacts in the area. Again, they're in the same neighborhood between downtown & ChurchWorks.

The Heinz Regional History Center is in the same neighborhood. You really can't get better when it comes to interesting tidbits about the city. A sports section recently opened, and it's now Smithsonian affiliated.

I've recommended it before, but Piper's Pub has what I consider to be the best Sunday brunch in the city. We've taken vegetarians there without any problem. (We've also stayed there from brunch until dinnertime, but that's because the drinks are good and the soccer lively.) In a different neighborhood, but certainly doable on public transit. Same neighborhood (South Side) has lots of interesting little locally owned shops, and a record store.
posted by librarianamy at 12:29 PM on April 8, 2008


If you're going up Liberty to the Churchworks, go a little farther (and cross the street) and go to Paul's Compact Discs. You might enjoy walking around the Strip District too (particularly on Saturday a.m. when everybody is out shopping -- stop in at Enrico's for a biscotti, sfogliatelle, or polenta bar)-- which is on Penn avenue and not a bad walk from Downtown. You could stop in at the Heinz History Center for an overview of the region.

If you want another beer experience, after you're finished in the Strip, before you head to the ball game, walk across the 16th st. bridge and up past the old Heinz plant (now Delmonte and Bay foods) to the Penn Brewery. You could even hit the Warhol on your way down to the stadium if you wanted -- although, I think the Warhol's a little over-rated. I'd say go to the Mattress Factory -- instead.

If any of you like to run or even stroll -- there's a nice path along the north side of the Allegheny River - both paved and crushed limestone.
posted by nnk at 12:32 PM on April 8, 2008


Also -- skip the coffee at Enrico's. Get your treats and, if it's nice, go get a coffee (cap or espresso) around the corner at La Prima
posted by nnk at 12:35 PM on April 8, 2008


Yea, plus one to the Mattress Factory. I just googled up the the link myself. It's sorta unsane, but pretty cool.
posted by TomMelee at 12:37 PM on April 8, 2008


I seond the Warhol Museum. In fact, before visiting I was not that interested in Warhol and actually disliked him a little. As a result of visiting it, I "got" Warhol much better, and developed an understanding of his work. It's a good/fun thing to do in a group, too, very informal. They have evening hours and sometimes have an art activity available, like screen-printing, so you can take home your art.

Another thing I really enjoyed was riding the city's incline railways. They are fascinating and fun in a steampunk, industrial way. I rode uphill on the Duquesne Incline. There's a little history exhibit at the top. We chatted with the attendant and he ran the cables for us a little so we could go below and watch the gears work. Then we walked along a very nice pathway that runs along the ridge and has a number of cool viewpoints over the city, finally descending on the Monongahela Incline. The Monongahela has a more basic public-transportation feel, but it ends at Station Square, where there are a bunch of touristy restaurants and places to get beer - basically a dumping ground for conference attendees, but fine enough for us. We walked back to our hotel over a nearby bridge. All that made a fine post-5 PM evening out.
posted by Miko at 12:38 PM on April 8, 2008


Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
posted by nnk at 12:44 PM on April 8, 2008


Lawrenceville -- probably better on Sat. than Sunday, but the brunch at Dozen on Sunday is really good. Here's more on Lawrenceville's 16:62 Design Zone
posted by nnk at 12:48 PM on April 8, 2008


Sadly, Top of the Triangle closed 7 years ago. Also, East Liberty now has another Ethiopian place called Tana.

Yeah, take a look at the Cultural Trust who supervises the Cultural District, which is the part of Downtown that is still alive after dark, except for stadiums.

All right. The Pittsburgh transit agency is the Port Authority of Allegheny County (still called by its old nickname PAT by many residents), which luckily is on Google Transit. Most trips out of downtown will cost you $2. Sorry, no passes shorter than a week are available.

I'll assume you're staying at the Marriott next to the Mellon Arena, which means you're near 5th Avenue and Forbes Avenue. Running on these corridors (5th Avenue going downtown, Forbes coming back) are a variety of buses that head to Oakland: the notable being the 61 series heading to Squirrel Hill, the 71C heading to East Liberty and Shadyside, the 71D heading to Shadyside, and the 500 heading to East Liberty and Highland Park.

Weekend service is curtailed though, especially on Sundays. Of course, a lot of other routes are available around downtown, which is the terminus for most of PAT's routes. The best advice is to use Google Transit to see whether it is an option for you to take a bus from here to there. We also have a subway/light rail system called the T, your closest stop would probably be Steel Plaza. It's a decent (and free) way to get around downtown, but walking may be faster. Other than going to the other downtown stations, Station Square and the Mon Incline, it may not be of much use to you. Feel free to ask me anything about the system.
posted by ALongDecember at 12:49 PM on April 8, 2008


Seconding:

Primanti's
The Strip District
Paul's Compact Disks

Firsting:

Lemongrass (Thia/Cambodian food) on 6th st
Shree's (Indian, vegan-friendly) right dahntahn. (7th and smithfield).
Udipi - best vegetarian Indian food in town, but hard to find and you have to drive.
the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern (Polish food, may not agree with vegetarians, but it's a good place to drink).

To me, the Church is lousy with hipsters, the beer is awful, and it costs 5 bux a glass.
If this is what you're into, you should check out Station Square, The Waterfront in Homestead, and the South Side works.

Otherwise, try the South Side flats for a bar-crawl, the strip district on a Saturday morning, the Gateway Clipper for a cruise, a ride on the Incline at night, and maybe a nice drive through our neighborhoods: Polish Hill, Lawrenceville Bloomfield, Oakland, Squirrel Hill, etc.
posted by stubby phillips at 12:52 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have not yet done their brunch, but I've heard good things about the new Dozen Bakeshop. In the great Pittsburgh cupcake rivalry, I fall on the Dozen side, and will tell you that their buttercream is so good it makes me swear. It's in Lawrenceville (their cupcake only store is in Sq. Hill) which also has some interesting and quirky shopping - it's one of the "up and coming" neighborhoods. It's just past The Strip, in the other direction from Bloomfield (where Churchworks is).

If you do the incline walk as suggested by Miko, the Mon incline will drop you off very close to The Grand Concourse. It is known for it's Sunday Brunch as well - but perhaps more interesting is that it's our old train station, and a lot of the interior is still original. Reservations might be needed, but it's sort of a tradition around here.
posted by librarianamy at 12:54 PM on April 8, 2008


If you take a bus, it's probably worth buying the transfer (another 50? cents), which is good for 3 hours after your trip, and can be used for the ride back for a shorter excursion.

Downtown is small, walking from one end to the other is probably about 15 minutes at most.

Mexico City is a pretty tasty downtown restaurant that makes guacamole fresh at your table. Christos is a tasty Greek place across from Heinz Hall, but it may not have the largest selection of vegetarian items (the menu's small to begin with).

bus.maya.com is also a good way to check on times at certain stops. Google transit runs into some issues when it comes to inclines and rivers, so I wouldn't always trust it (it often suggests that I take a quick jaunt down a cliff to catch a bus).

I would definitely suggest trying to walk through either the strip district (Up Penn Ave), or the south side (Carson Street), and just checking out all of the little shops. If there's anything the city of Pittsburgh has going for it, it's the collection of local shops and restaurants--it's actually pretty hard to find most types of chain restaurants without getting out of the city, and Home Depot is the only big-box store within the city limits.
posted by that girl at 1:01 PM on April 8, 2008


Also, just as a point of info. and because you're interested in bikes, you might find Bike Pittsburgh interesting and if you're on flickr -- there's a pretty active Pittsburgh group.
posted by nnk at 1:04 PM on April 8, 2008


Just a note on the "city center" thing-I believe Philadelphia calls their downtown "center city."
posted by Chrysostom at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2008


The Grand Concourse is where we ate - perfectly good food, and yes, the architecture and atmosphere were really memorable!
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on April 8, 2008


You should spend some time on the South Side (E. Carson St around 13th st). Lots of small indie shops, bars, restaurants, and my favorite Pittsburgh spot of all, Beehive Coffee.
posted by the jam at 1:48 PM on April 8, 2008


a quick search for "Pittsburgh City Center" turns up this Mariott Hotel which, as others have noted, is probably where you are staying.

unless you're *really* into baseball, I would recommend skipping the Pirates game. They stink. and while PNC Park is nice, there's a lot you could be doing (see above) instead of watching them lose. Go to the Science Center instead, see the Bodies exhibit.

for nightlife, if you like the hipster scene, you'll want to check out the brillobox in Lawrenceville, as well as http://www.rockbottomrestaurantsinc.com/RockBottomWeb/ss/pittsburgh.asp">Sing Sing, the dueling piano bar down at the Waterfront.
posted by namewithoutwords at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2008


bah, sorry for the botched link. should be Sing Sing
posted by namewithoutwords at 1:59 PM on April 8, 2008


Also, if you want to get ON the river (Allegheny) I am pretty sure that Kayak Pittsburgh is open despite the fact that their website has not been updated.
posted by nnk at 2:56 PM on April 8, 2008


Whether the Pirates suck or not, a trip to PNC is important just to see what a real ball park should look like.
posted by rocket88 at 3:01 PM on April 8, 2008


I wasn't impressed with Dozen's brunch, but I've only been there once and haven't given them a second chance yet. But a few more blocks up Butler (the 3800 block) there is Piccolo Forno, a great Italian place for lunch and dinner, and Coca Cafe, which is funkier fare for lunch and breakfast and Sun brunch.
posted by booth at 3:34 PM on April 8, 2008


Saturday Night Get Your Pittsburgh On:

1) Have dinner on 6th street. This is the heart of the theater district and there are many restaurants to choose from, including Lemongrass and Christos mentioned in this thread. It's easily walking distance from any downtown hotel, but take a winding path and you'll see ALL of downtown Pittsburgh. It's that small.

2) Walk less than 1 block to the Roberto Clemente Bridge. It will be blocked off to traffic, so you can easily cross it and arrive at the ballyard (also less than one block). Remember to give the trumpet player on the bridge a quarter or a buck as you pass.

3) Enjoy a night of subpar baseball. Drink the Yuengling. Don the free Pirates Fleece they give you, cuz the boat might be a little chilly.

4) After the Bucs lose embarassingly, make your way down under the bridge to the river and get on one of the riverboats parked there. It will take you to Station Square.

5) Station Square has a bunch of bars and shops and things. It's a tourist trap, but if you want to get buzzed for the incline, do it here.

6) Across the street from Station Square is the Duquesne Incline. Hop on. Ride it to the top of Mount Washington and look down on our fair city Lit up on a Saturday night. Kissing and/or smoking is encouraged.

7) Take the incline back down Mount Washington and get on the Trolley (also conveniently located at Station Square). Enjoy the lights of our fair city reflected in the Monongehela River as you cross it on a rickety trolley bridge.

8) The second stop is Steel Plaza. Hop off. You're only a couple blocks from home.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:08 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Note: I think that the above algorithm describes a Hamiltonian graph. My brother has my graph theory book, so I'm not exactly sure.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:13 PM on April 8, 2008


Also Note: If you see a drunk but well dressed 28-year-old guy at the ballpark wrestling with the cops, take a picture. That's probably our mayor.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:34 PM on April 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


I will tell you what I tell anyone when they want to do something in Pittsburgh:

Go to Lulu's Noodles. It's also called Yum Wok. It's a few blocks down from the Cathedral of Learning down from the history museum.

The absolute best noodles. Ever.

They have lots of vegetarian options, too.
posted by odinsdream at 7:17 PM on April 8, 2008


Thanks for all the info, everybody.

namewithoutwords - our primary mission is to see a Pirates game. We're huge baseball fans, losers or not.

stubby phillips - look for drunk Luke Ravenstahl, check.

everybody else - thanks. And I did indeed take "City Center" from the Marriott's name. Damn you Marriott!
posted by The Michael The at 7:35 PM on April 8, 2008


I'll reprint here what I wrote in the earlier thread linked by ALongDecember:

If you want to do a couple of things here, though, that you truly cannot do anywhere else, and you have a high tolerance for weirdness, then let me recommend:
1. The so-called "Bayernhof Museum." Hard to get to by public transportation. Built in the 1980s, this pseudo-Bavarian-style hunting lodge contains a large collection of automatic-playing musical instruments (organs, even violins, etc.), but is mostly notable for being a monument to its builder's surpassing weirdness. Is there an indoor waterfall? Yes. Is there an artificial cave, accessible via hidden doorway? Oh, hell yes. Um, really words fail me when I try to capture this place.

2. St. Anthony's chapel. Supposedly the location of the greatest number of holy relics outside the Vatican. I have no religious interest in this place, but it's an interesting nonetheless. Washington Post article here.
And also add: Try the coffee at 21st Street Coffee in the strip - they serve the best espresso I've ever tasted in the United States (consistently better than La Prima, in my opinion, though La Prima is quite decent - I should add that Tazza d'Oro makes a good cup, and I still haven't been to Aldo). Anyway - the owners, Luke and Alexis, are delightful.

Go to East End Brewing, on the border of Point Breeze and Homewood, when it's open for a few hours on Saturday - a neat, tiny brewery in a warehouse. Buy a half-gallon of Big Hop Ale in a growler, and help yourself to the generous samples while you're there.

The best Indian food is slightly outside the city at a hole in the wall called Udipi. And it's Southern Indian, which is pretty special. For vegetarians who like Indian food, this would be ideal. (No web site; get address here.)
posted by chinston at 8:50 PM on April 8, 2008


Be sure to look at the previous link to the earlier thread - lots of advice in that one that might appeal to you.

If you are staying up by the arena, do note that is the less interesting part of downtown. Walk towards the north side/Allegheny River to find the downtown cultural district, which has some free galleries and good resturants - Lemongrass, Six-Penn and Eleven are all in that area and have good ovo-lacto vegetarian options. Lemongrass and Six-Penn are right by the Clemente/Sixth Street bridge that crosses over the Allegheny River to PNC Park - Eleven is on the edge of downtown, a little ways past the Convention Center. See the big burrito link above for info on Eleven. Kaya also has exceptional vegetarian selections, though it's located a little further away in the strip.

If you are looking for things to do before the game on Saturday, you can go over to the North Side in the morning and see the warhol as mentioned (though admission can be pricey) or the National Aviary - both of those are within walking distance of downtown and pretty close to the ballpark. The mattress factory is really neat, but a little longer of a walk.

Downtown is pretty sleepy on Sunday. I'd recommend heading over to the south side. The best vegetarian brunch in town, by far, is over there at Zenith Tea Room, from 11 am to 3 pm on Sundays. All you can eat vegan buffet, incredible desserts, your choice of main dishes, plus coffee or tea for only $10 (cash only). The non-vegetarian friends I've taken there love it too.

If you are depending on public transit, you can get there on one of the "51" buses from Sixth Avenue at Smithfield, just down from the arena - bus service is sparse on Sunday so you'll want to check the schedule first (www.ridegold.com or pick up schedules from the racks at the train station or wood street T station). From Zenith, you can walk 2-3 blocks over to South Side Works, which is a "new urbanism" style development - mostly chain stores but you will find an REI there and a Crazy Mocha, a local coffee shop. Or if you are up for a farther walk, head up along Carson Street to find the Beehive and more unique, independent shopping.

I would recommend avoiding the Waterfront entirely - just an outdoor shopping mall, with nothing special about it and lots of traffic. Go to Station Square only if you are planning on going on the inclines, which really are a Pittsburgh must. If you take the T to station square from downtown, make sure to ask to purchase a transfer as you exit. Save this to use on the T to go back downtown. You can also ask to buy a transfer for your return incline ride, which will be cheaper than paying for two trips.

Finally, if you are really into urban biking you might try to visit free ride for a different perspective on a bike shop - but I don't think they are open on Sundays.
posted by buttercup at 9:12 PM on April 8, 2008


Just to correct stubby phillips's excellent guide, the Mononaghela Incline is next to Station Square and the trolley stop. (I love saying trolley, this is Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, after all.) The Duquesne is nicer and a symbol of Pittsburgh, but the bottom spits out to nowhere.

Also, note that the T will be free unless you cross the river to/from Station Square, where it will be $1.50. Transfers are good for 3 hours on anything and cost $.50. Also note the schedule if you plan to take it late, last call is at 2am and the T will have ended service.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:51 PM on April 8, 2008


Oh, and a further note as far as getting around on public transportation: happily Pittsburgh is one of the cities served by Google Transit, so that makes it pretty easy to plan routes and times - much better than using the Port Authority's own web site, I've found.
posted by chinston at 7:19 AM on April 9, 2008


the bottom spits out to nowhere.

That's why I recommend riding up on it and down on the Monogahela. Take a cab to the stop at the bottom, and you can walk everything else.
posted by Miko at 7:48 AM on April 9, 2008


Well, how did it go, the michael the?
posted by stubby phillips at 12:28 PM on April 15, 2008


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