We're planning a trip and the Burgh is high on our list of destination choices. But I haven't been there for any length of time since the 1980's so don't know my way around. I've been reading all the postings for dining suggestions and there seem to be a great number of options, which is terrific. Only problem is, I'm having a tough time figuring out where all the neighborhoods mentioned are, how close they are together, and if they are walkable.
Our ideal vacation is one where we check into the hotel and don't have to get into a car or public transportation most of the visit. Some of the most appealing dinner options are Downtown, including Meat & Potatoes and Root 174. We also feel obligated to hit one Primanti Bros location. I have seen more casual dining suggestions for South Side and The Strip, and we tend to eat more casually most of the time. We also like to have bars close to the hotel so we can stumble home.
As big beer drinkers, we know we'll have to get in a car/cab/bus to hit Penn Brewery and Church Brew. But which neighborhood gives us the most walkable options for eating?
Allow me to thank those who replied for what is probably the best listing of Pittsburgh restuarants I have seen on CH. My wife and I always try to stop in Pittsburgh at least once a year. The only thing I can add is that last August, we stopped at the Primanti Bros on East Carson on the South Side for our first Primanti sandwich. The advantage of that Primanti location is that it includes a cigar bar so we also came away with a Primanti Bros matchbox as a souvenir. Sharp Edge is on our list for next time. Looks like an appetizer with a beer for the best value. Again, thanks to all.
Here’s what I would set up as the “Pittsburgh Downtown Weekend for an Out-of-Towner.” Everyone, please add comments.
Check into the Westin Convention Center or Hampton as Budget permits. Or the Courtyard by Marriott which is right beside Sonoma Grill on Penn, just a block or so from the Westin.
If it’s evening, head over to Market Square to find somewhere to eat. There’s Nola, Sienna Sulla Piazza (formerly Bella Serra), Primanti’s, lots more that I don’t know…Other good places to eat are on Penn: Seviche, Sonoma…what am I forgetting?
Check out the city’s events at the Cabaret and Backstage Bar at 655 Penn. (There are a lot of brochures in the lobby of what’s going on in town. City Paper also has online listings for the music and performances each night.) Nola has live music, I usually like the late-night jazz/vibe at Little E’s on Liberty, YMMV. The jazz at the Fairmont Hotel is ALWAYS great, but food/drink expensive. Other places have different types of live music Downtown.
If it’s daytime, head down to the Strip and eat and shop up and down Penn Avenue, making sure to stop in Penn Mac (Pennsylvania Macaroni) on the far east end and Wholey’s on the close west end, with street food nibbling along the way.
If you want to have breakfast out, Pamelas and Deluca’s in the Strip are both good bets, but long lines on Saturday.
Next day: I’d probably do it all over and pick up what I missed, or take a bus to Squirrel Hill or CMU/Pitt/museum area in Oakland — another good walking area. Oakland has a couple good restaurants: Legume Bistro and The Porch, which is right in the middle of everything.
Or cross the river from Downtown to the Warhol museum and then walk down along the riverfront park for a great view of the city.
What I would avoid: the casino (unless you’re into that), Station Square.
On the beer thing... couple of suggestions:
Downtown - Sharp Edge Brasserie. Sharp Edge has 4 or 5 locations around the city. Largest Belgian selection in PA plus a ton of fairly high ABV domestics. Servers are knowledgeable about their brews. If you order food, it's expensive and kinda not worth it. I'd stick to beer.
Southside - Fathead's. Better sandwiches than Primanti's and a very deep and wide selection of microbrews. It's right in the middle of Carson so walkable to wherever you want to eat when you're on the Southside. There are plenty of other bars, but Fathead's has the best beer selection. Although for something very different, there's the Hofbrauhaus German beer hall in Southside Works. They brew their own.
If you're set on Church Brew Works, keep in mind there's nothing else for a few blocks. You could combine it with a meal on lower Butler St. (Tamari, Round Corner, Piccolo Forno) as it's a relatively save walk of 10-12 blocks or so. I find Church Brew Works is somewhat hit and miss and I'd stick to the pilsener styles or Marzen as I think they're more consistent.
If Root 174 is in your plans, keep in mind Regent Square is a bit of a hike. There are a couple of decent bars over there, but nothing really special. D's Six Pack shop has a great beer selection if you need to take something back to your hotel. You might be better served going to E. Liberty and a place like Spoon (or even BRGR) and hanging out at Kelly's (which usually serves a couple of East End Brewing selections on tap).
Personally, I'd skip Penn Brewery, but that's just me. It's good, but not great, beer, IMO.
Have fun. There's plenty to eat and plenty of beer to keep you occupied for a few days.
re: Panini Guy
Root 174 is actually about seven miles from Downtown, according to GoogleMaps.
One thing about the Strip, it's hopping during the day (crazy fun on Saturdays) and pretty dead at nights, although less so on Saturdays. You might have a wait for a table at some of the restaurants for lunch on Saturday. No problem, eat from the excellent vendors outside the stores.
Anywhere you need to take a cab to, you're going to need to be able to arrange for a cab through your friendly bartender/waiter to get home. You can't just grab one on the street like you can in larger cities. And check current bus schedules; I don't use the bus system, but I'm aware they've been cutting routes and late night service.
Is the beer list your top priority? Do you have a type of food you’re looking for? Are you looking for sightseeing kind of walking?
If you’re looking for a casual evening stroll with lots of people about, I’d send you to Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, between Shady and Murray, with a little bit of Murray heading south thrown in. Plenty of restaurants and dessert kind of places, window-shopping, lots of college kids on the street. Rita’s Ices, Wafflonia, a bubble tea place, Baskin Robbins, Cool Ice Taipei…all on a major bus line that I’m pretty sure is direct to Downtown. (Someone will correct that if I’m wrong.) Check Urbanspoon for restaurants. If you like Asian/Indian restaurants, there are quite a few options here, many BYOB.
By the way, lots of little places are BYOB, so you can pick up a nice six pack at a place with a great beer list and have it with you for dinner. There’s a Sharp Edge Bistro at 922 Penn Downtown that has a reputation for beer and though it doesn’t get great reviews on Urbanspoon, I would imagine sells six-packs (anyone?).
(p.s. I think I’m one of the few native Pittsburghers who never understood the appeal of Primanti’s.)
I would agree on the Hampton in the Strip district. Very easy walk to downtown, the North Side and of course the Strip. The Strip is best as a morning destination, on a weekend. You could also stay on the North Shore. There is a Residence Inn and a couple of other hotels there. It's an easy walk downtown and while there are not a lot of restaurants there, you have a choice of pretty good bars for later at night, and you would be close to the hotel at that point.
You shouldn't have to depend on public transportation or cabs, but I would highly recommend taking a cab to the Church Brew Works, and also a trip up to Mt. Washington on a nice evening for the view. It's truly unique. Have fun, and please report back!
For beer options if you decide to stay downtown there are two. 1) Sharp Edge on Penn. The beer list is quite good (lots of Belgians) but the food is worth avoiding. 2) Winghart's in Market Square has a short list (usually about 6 options) that rotates often but the selections are always very good.
The Strip/Downtown would absolutely be the way to go, I think. There's a Hampton Inn & Suites at the Downtown end of the Strip and the Westin Convention Center Hotel at the Strip end of Downtown, if you haven't chosen your hotel yet. Can't vouch for the Hampton but the Westin is quite nice. Both put you in perfect walking distance to both neighborhoods.
One great area to visit Downtown is Market Square, during the day or evening. It's been completely renovated during the last couple years and it's absolutely alive at night with music and people everywhere. Great restaurants. Try Sienna Sulla Piazza, our new favorite, right beside Nola. There’s a Primanti’s here, too.
Also, see http://www.neighborsinthestrip.com/ for some semi-helpful maps of the Strip.
These areas are pretty safe, even at night. We walk them frequently, as we go to the jazz clubs Downtown, and we've never had a late-night problem on the streets (and we're in our 50s so a little more wary of our surroundings).
Church Brew Works: get the pizza. While I'd take a bus to Church Brew Works, I'd have the bartender call a cab for me to go home. Late night, tipsy, out-of-town...I wouldn't stand on a quiet, semi-residential street waiting for a bus. But I'm an old lady.
Can't help you with beer, I'm a wine drinker. Sorry!
Downtown will do you, if you're looking for things in Meat & Potatoes quality. You can easily walk to the Strip from there. Bus should be relatively easy to get to church brewworks.
Oakland probably has the most per walkable area, but you probably won't be around for weeks, so... And it's college student fare.
How far are you willing to walk? What is walkable to you?
We're only going to be there a few days and may hit a Pirate game. Walkable depends a little on the quality of the neighborhood. Recently we stayed in Richmond, VA and one restaurant we really wanted to try was 15 blocks away. Usually not a problem, but we had to walk past some pretty sketchy parts of town and the sidewalks were broken. The food was great and I'd do it again, just not in flip flops!