I hated living in Pittsburgh. It was gloomy, bleak, and overwhelmingly homogenous. People said nonsensical things like “yinz guys” and “n’at”. They wore their Steeler jerseys in the off season and often struggle to drive through tunnels.
I moved there in 2010 after accepting a job with the University of Pittsburgh. I visited for less than 48 hours during my job interview, but the staff did an impressive job of selling the city. Moving back home to KY/TN was not an option, so off to Pennsylvania I went. I had only intended on staying for two to three years, but I met Mark, we moved in together, and the rest is history.
In 2015 Mark accepted a new job and we relocated to Charlotte, NC. After about a year I started to feel a tinge of nostalgia for Pittsburgh. As much as I disliked living there, I developed an appreciation for the city. I recognize it as a place with a strong identity (though I don’t relate to it) adapting to the current times and learning to progress forward. I’d never move back but I don’t mind a weekend visit. Below is my guide for the Steel City.
Where to stay
Downtown Pittsburgh is less generic than most, with a blossoming personality peeking through its steel exterior. Though pricey, the Fairmont Pittsburgh is steps away from Market Square and the Cultural District. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, a recent addition to downtown, is a quirky and cool alternative.
Housed in a century-old former YMCA, the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh is located in the popular neighborhood of East Liberty. Find the Ace Hotel signature amenities like a classic photo booth, hypoallergenic mattress as well as a turntable and an acoustic Martin guitar in select rooms.
Where to eat
Though Pittsburgh is known for putting french fries on sandwiches, the food scene is ethnically diverse and surprisingly innovative. Square Cafe, a local favorite, offers a seasonal breakfast and lunch menu 7 days a week. They are known for their creative specials and square speciality lattes. Get in line before 11:00AM for Sunday brunch at Point Brugge Cafe, a European-style bistro in Point Breeze. Order the moules bowl to share and an entree, side dish, and drink from the prix fixe menu. Bar Marco made the news across the US for making all of the employees salaried. They have regularly changing brunch and dinner menus as well as handcrafted “dealer’s choice” cocktails.
The Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group dominates downtown with Butcher and the Rye, Meat & Potatoes, Tako, and Pork & Beans. Find authentic Thai dishes at Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland Park. Make a reservation and bring your favorite wine as the restaurant is BYOB. Gaucho is an Argentinian restaurant with an extensive blackboard menu featuring wood-fired meats, empanadas, and camarones.
Where to drink
Many of the restaurants boast creative cocktails and local draft lists, but there are several bars and breweries worth visiting. Butterjoint is a full-service, cozy bar serving cocktails, beer, wine, and food from its sister restaurant Legume. Once a quarter on select dates, the bartenders donate all of their cash tips to a different nonprofit, so drink up and tip well. Visit Acacia in the Southside Flats for a speakeasy like experience. You haven’t experienced Pittsburgh until you’ve had a drink inside a former place of worship. Housed in a restored Roman Catholic Church, Church Brew Works has a globally inspired beer and food menu.
What to do
If you stroll through one of the many neighborhoods, you are likely to find a number of restaurants, clothing boutiques, and gift stores. Lawrenceville, Southside, and the Strip District are my favorite neighborhoods for an afternoon of browsing.
If it’s your first time to Pittsburgh, the Just Ducky Tour is a great way to familiarize yourself with the city by land and river. Pittsburghers know to quack when they see you. There are a number of museums throughout the city such as the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. Visit the Andy Warhol Museum on a Friday for half-price admission and cash bar.
If you are able to snag a ticket, I would recommend attending a Steelers or Penguins game. Pittsburgh loves its sport teams, so you are in for a unique experience. If you’re an art lover, attend Art All Night held at the end of April and Three Rivers Arts Festival for two weeks in June.
Where to shop
Venture 10 miles from downtown to visit House 15413. There you will find vintage finds, furniture, custom print art, and more. Kards Unlimited in Shadyside sells books, eclectic gifts, and Pittsburgh paraphernalia. For clothing, visit Pavement or No. 14. Boutique in Lawrenceville.
What do you like to do in Pittsburgh? Share in the comments!