This guide is brought to you courtesy of Corinne! She moved to Pittsburgh to study medicinal chemistry with her boyfriend and cat in tow back in August 2014, and while she has been drowning in schoolwork, this hasn’t prevented her from exploring all the city has to offer. I don’t know why more people aren’t calling in the San Francisco of the East Coast because it is. I decided since Pittsburgh is a little low on people’s lists of places to visit (and it should be significantly higher), I’d ask her to whip up her version of a quick guide to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- Sake [South Side]- Sundays and Mondays all sushi is 50% off!
- Double Wide Grill [South Side] – Where I bring all my visitors! They have the best combination of vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and carnivorous meals, so this is a great place to bring anybody.
- Ichiban [Robinson] – It’s a bit of a trek (about 15 minutes west of the city), but it’s worth it. $20 will get you an amazing hibachi dinner as well as leftovers for lunch the next day. And since the people of Pittsburgh are so insanely friendly, you don’t have that awkward “I’m sitting with 8 other strangers at a joint table” feeling.
- Eat N Park [multiple locations] – Coming from eastern PA, I had never heard of this chain, but they’re everywhere out here. It’s more or less a nicediner, but this is our go-to “I don’t feel like cooking tonight” location – not to mention they give out free smiley cookies with each take out order!
- Hofbrauhaus [South Side] – It sounds German because it is. This is a restaurant/bar/brewery, and all of the above are wonderful. The German pretzel and the Hefe Weizen combination hits the spot every time.
- Eden [Shady Side] – My sister introduced me to this gem when she (and Sam) came to visit. It’s a vegan restaurant that does brunch and dinner (but be sure to check the hours before you go!). They also have these cards at the tables, so while you’re waiting for your food you can get to know your friends better with the random questions they have printed on them.
- Steel Cactus [South Side & Shady Side] – Who doesn’t like a great Mexican restaurant? My favorite is the “naked burrito” option, where they just give you the contents of a burrito in a bowl, so you can look slightly classier than having burrito falling out all over your face and shirt.
- Primanti Brothers [multiple locations] – This restaurant originated in Pittsburgh, so I find it more of a tourist attraction than anything else. You go up to the counter or sit at your table and order the “meat” you want (ie. turkey, roast beef, tuna salad, etc.) and your desired sandwich comes out on wax paper (no plate!) with coleslaw, tomato, and fries all loaded on top. There is no graceful way to eat this monster sandwich, so just dig in!
- The Milkshake Factory [South Side] – Holy hell I wish I had gone to this place earlier. I took my undergraduate lab assistants here to celebrate the one’s acceptance to the pharmacy school, and one foot in the door I fell in love. It smells like chocolate perfection, they have old fashioned movies playing at all time, and you can create any form of milkshake/sundae your heart desires. Not to mention they also make their own chocolates and other snacks. My goal is to sneak in there overnight and eat the entire contents of the store.
FAVORITE PLACES TO VISIT
- Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art – This is one of the first places we went to back to in August. We actually stayed until they closed the place down looking at the natural history museum (even though my boyfriend wouldn’t let me play in the archaeology dig site meant for children), and didn’t even make it to the art section of the place.
- Schenley Park – This huuuuge park is right past Pitt, and it’s one of my favorite places. I go there to run (I’ve shaved off 3 minutes per mile since August thanks to this place!), but they also have a pool, walking trails through the woods, playgrounds, pavilions, and in the winter there is an ice skating rink. When it’s warm I’m definitely going here to read and picnic one weekend!
- East Carson Street – This place literally (literally) has over 140 bars and restaurants, just on this one road. In case you wanted to go to a bar with an indoor waterfall (The Tiki Lounge), an imitation speakeasy bar (costume encouraged; Acacia), a bar that is Halloween themed all year long (Jekyll & Hyde), a BYOB pay by the hour arcade (Games N’ At), and a bar that is modeled after the inside of a volcano (The Lava Lounge) all in the same night.
PLACES TO AVOID
- The Hill District – This is honestly the only place I’ve heard people say “don’t go here”, and I don’t think it’s anything more than a neighborhood, so you’re not missing out on anything by not going there.
- Any tunnel at 9 AM and 5 PM – Since Pittsburgh is mostly rivers and mountains, there are tons of bridges and tunnels. Don’t plan on driving through any of them at these times! My normal 10 minute commute home takes ~30 minutes when I leave school exactly at 5:00 PM.
WHAT TO WEAR
- Scarves – Pittsburgh is a pretty chilly city between November and March, and I think I’ve been wearing a scarf every day since the temperature has dropped below 30 F. My favorite is my periodic table of elements scarf (yeah I’m a nerd), which has every color, and I can pair it with everything.
- Sweater Dress, Tights, Long Socks, and Boots – Layering is key! Again, typing this at the end of February it’s currently 16 F outside. So when I have to TA and look presentable or just want to switch from the usual ‘yoga pants and ZTA spirit jersey’ look, this is my go to. Warm AND comfortable.
- Good Walking Shoes – Pittsburgh is lumped into ‘neighborhoods’, and once you get to one there’s tons to do. I made the mistake of wearing new shoes to the Strip District one day and had blisters for a week!
PLACES TO SHOP
- The Strip District – I’m excited for spring mostly to get back to here. Every weekend they set up the entire street with produce (I stocked my fridge full of fresh fruits and veggies for under $15), Pittsburgh garb, and clothing ($12 fleece lined patterned leggings? Yes, please). Not to mention they have loads of international grocery stores, so there’s always fun foods to try.
- Walnut Street in Shady Side – This is the very first place I ventured to when I moved here, and I absolutely love it! Since it’s pretty close to Pitt, it’s geared towards us young 20-some’s (ie. J. Crew, an Apple Store, Francesca’s) and also has a great bookstore (Kards Unlimited, where I buy 98% of my greeting cards) as well as The Coffee Tree Roasters (a huuuuuge coffee shop, and in the summer they open the whole front garage door wall to let the sun shine in).
FAVORITE TOURISTY THINGS TO DO
- The Incline – There are 2 inclines that take you up the mountain to Mount Washington (for only $3 up and down!). Mount Washington has the most amazing view of the entire city, so be sure to bring your camera.
- Light Up Night – This applies to one night of the year, but still very touristy. Right before the Christmas season starts, they have a night where they light up all the Christmas trees in the city at different times, have a firework show, a live band playing Christmas songs, an ice skating rink downtown, ice sculptors, and different sales stands for early shopping,
- Any Pittsburgh Sporting Event – Even if you hate the Pittsburgh teams with all of your heart, I highly recommend going to at least some sort of sporting event. The Steelers, Pirates, and the Penguins stadiums are all within a 10 minute drive of one another, and no matter when you come to visit at least one of the sports teams is in season. I recommend a Pirates game – the tickets are cheap, and for each game they shut down all the bridges leading to the stadium so you can walk in and not have to worry about the traffic.
- Pittsburgh festivals/street events – Almost every month the city plans SOMETHING new and exciting to do! For example, there’s Art All Night, a 24 hour art festival in May; Pittsburgh Wine Festival in April; the Greek Food Festival in August; and the Three Rivers Film Festival in November (plus dozens more!).
BEST PITTSBURGH MOMENT
I’d have to say Halloween at Duquesne. Apparently I did not get the memo of “go hard or go home” with a costume, because my PhD advisor showed up in a full sized guinea pig onesie costume (which he walked to and from his home in); another professor dressed up as a pirate (and taught all day in his pirate accent); and another professor dressed up as a Viking, jumped on the table at one point during class, and demanded an answer from us with his cardboard axe he had made.