If you can get over the serious football rivalries in Pittsburgh, you’ll find all kinds of cultural and culinary temptations. Thanks to endowments by successful industrialists, the city has great architecture, three professional sports teams, world-class universities and a symphony orchestra. A wide ethnic base has added to the cuisine.
Today’s generation has revived older neighborhoods and reclaimed formerly polluted areas – including the riverfront.
Where to eat: The Strip is a neighborhood that used to house only food wholesalers, but now it’s mostly retail food shops open to the public. You can find food from every corner of the globe.
Start out at the iconic Wholey’s (pronounced like “woolies”) for fresh fish sandwiches.
Primanti Bros., in business since 1933, is famous for their eponymous sandwich with French fries, first made for busy truck drivers. Mancini’s Bakery is famous for their hot pepperoni cheesy rolls made daily.
Sweeten up at the Enrico Biscotti Co.; take a bread-making class while you’re at it.
The Milkshake Factory is nearly 100 years old, using the finest chocolates and ice creams to make their sinful 55 milkshake flavors. Salted caramel is particularly irresistible. On Wednesdays from 4-6, they have a half-priced milkshake Happy Hour.
One of Pittsburgh’s best health conscious restaurants is Coca Café. Breakfast and lunch are both available in a funky, ramshackle neighborhood all day. Whether you order an exotic freshly pressed juice or vegetarian eggplant Benedict with basil pesto hollandaise, you’ll feel decadenteven while being good to yourself.
Church Brew Works, which has been featured on lots of the food and travel shows, Pittsburgh’s German immigrants have left a solid beer heritage – and their beer is good. They stand out, even without the tourist hype. The restaurant is located in a former church; reflect on their many styles of beer with a sampler.
For an urban-chic lounge vibe with the freshest local produce, Savoy is the place to go. Owned by a former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have a deck with a wonderful city view, fine liquors and a terrific chef combining soul food and Mediterranean flavors.
Where to stay: SpringHill Suites Marriott Southside Works is within walking distance to the fun, historic South Side district. It’s also thorough in its ADA accessibility. Some hotels just pay lip service to the needs of the physically challenged, but not this one. Not only are designated rooms intelligently laid out, the indoor pool and hot tub have special lifts. There’s a complimentary local shuttle van.
What to do: The Heinz History Center focuses on what makes Pittsburgh and surrounding western Pennsylvania great. It’s housed in an interesting industrial-style building and encourages you to walk the stairs. It’s a terrific repository of Heinz 57 artifacts.
Before he spread his coolness all over the world, Andy Warhol was from Pittsurgh. The museum devoted to him and like-minded current artists features wild multimedia and interactive exhibits. There’s also an update on “The Factory” where you can create your own Warhol-esque projects.
Art has permeated all of Pittsburgh
Western Pennsylvania’s Whiskey Rebellion couldn’t stop Wigle from making Pittsburgh’s own whiskey. They have tours where you get to taste the product and they’ll even fix you a modern or classic cocktail. The tours are so dynamic and entertaining, they should be on YouTube.
Pittsburgh’s three rivers – the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio – figure prominently in its destiny. An amazing way to discover the city’s riverfront and skyline is by kayaking the rivers. Kayak Pittsburgh offers kayak and bike rentals; you can get a guided tour by prior arrangement.
Another breathtaking view of the city can be had from above: the Duquesne Incline is a vintage trolley car traveling up Mount Washington that’s $2.50 a person each direction and parking’s free.
In Pittsburgh, art is in all kinds of public areas
Pittsburgh’s art mavens have been active in pushing out scary, undesirable tenants and making way for art. Their walking tour connects galleries with architecture and public art displays, including “Cell Phone Disco” in an alley.