1300 Bingham St., South Side
412-431-2489 or www.citytheatrecompany.org
City Theatre's unique in town: It's a big, established company that stages all new work, including commissioned world premieres, by both up-and-coming playwrights and names like Daniel Beaty, Jessica Dickey and Christopher Durang. Enter City's converted church (or its adjacent studio theatre) and you're likely in for a polished and satisfying evening of theater.
2nd: Pittsburgh CLO, Downtown
3rd: Bricolage Productions, Downtown
Most Wanted Fine Art
5015 Penn Ave., Garfield, and 143 W. Bridge St., The Waterfront, West Homestead
412-328-4737 or www.most-wantedfineart.com
This busy hub on the Penn Avenue arts corridor showcases local talent year-round, and ups the ante with its big annual open-call show. Owners Jason and Nina Sauer are known for their commitment to art as a community-building enterprise; local artists have even more exhibition space at the gallery's new satellite location at the Waterfront.
2nd: SPACE Gallery, Downtown
3rd: ModernFormations Gallery, Garfield
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
2900 Liberty Ave., Strip District
412-454-9107 or www.pbt.org
PBT's 45th season is a characteristic blend of classics like The Sleeping Beauty and the Pittsburgh premieres of both a new full-length Beauty and the Beast and works by contemporary masters like Mark Morris. The acclaimed company is also known for its special annual Pittsburgh-themed production of The Nutcracker every December.
2nd: Attack Theatre, Strip District
3rd: Texture Contemporary Ballet, various venues
Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side, and the Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown
The nationally known, New York-based public-radio show and podcast for true stories, told live by the people who lived them, has two local stage incarnations. Both the monthly StorySLAMs, at the Rex, and the annual touring program at the Byham routinely pack the house, which speaks volumes about the continued popularity of an ancient art form.
2nd: Free Snake Poems About Snakes, Garfield
3rd: City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, North Side
PNC Broadway Across America
Back by popular demand, the Tony Award-winning Wicked played last winter to sold-out audiences. The Broadway musical presents a new take on a classic story — The Wizard of Oz, as told from the point of view of the witches. In Pittsburgh, the exceptional vocal range of the cast and extravagant set design made this show shine.
2nd: Once, PNC Broadway Across America
3rd: Evita, Pittsburgh CLO
Bastard Bearded Irishmen
This rock band with an Irish flair has come a long way since playing the produce aisle in Giant Eagle back in 2008. Now the group can be found playing amped-up Irish classics, as well as their own tunes, year-round across the region. And this past spring, the Irishmen released their second record, Rise of the Bastard.
2nd: Wreck Loose
3rd: Meeting of Important People
It seemed novel at first. It seemed like a joke. A metal band where the members dress up as knights and make Dungeons & Dragons references? Could they sustain it? The answer is apparently yes, as Dethlehem is celebrating its second consecutive — and third total —Best Metal Band title.
2nd: Lady Beast
Repeat winners The Armadillos have what it takes to keep 'em coming back: sweet vocals, rhythms pounded out on an upright bass, and songs of love, longing and drinking. And in November, the quartet has a new album coming out, following up 2012's Better Off a Stranger.
2nd: The Hills and the Rivers
3rd: The Beagle Brothers
Jill West & Blues Attack
A longtime staple of the local blues scene, this hard-working, hard-playing band couldn't have a more fitting name. Even on her own, West could command an audience's full attention with her soulful, tough-as-nails vocals. But paired with a swaggering, rollicking backing band like Blues Attack? She's a force to be reckoned with.
2nd: Phat Man Dee
3rd: Sean Jones
The one-time teen sensation from Point Breeze now spends most of his time in California, but still supports Pittsburgh artists through his label and other ventures. And he's nothing if not prolific: It seems he and his alter egos, Delusional Thomas and Larry Lovestein, have something new to release every few months.
2nd: Kellee Maize
3rd: Jasiri X
400 North Shore Drive, North Side
412-229-5483 or www.stageae.com
Stage AE is tough to beat, in part because it's actually several venues in one, with indoor and outdoor performance space and a more intimate club setting. Its calendar also reflects that versatility: Just this year, it's hosted everyone from Counting Crows to Chvrches and from Tyler the Creator to Swedish metal band Ghost.
2nd: Mr. Small's Theatre, Millvale
3rd: The Altar Bar, Strip District
1222 Carson St., South Side
412-742-4024 or www.twelvepgh.com
If you're looking for Twelve, in Pittsburgh parlance, just go to where Rumshakers used to be. Stop in for weeknight half-off drafts specials or the free Sunday-night buffet. And stay tuned as Twelve moves toward its new identity: part whisky emporium (with at least 50 varieties) and part barbecue joint.
2nd: Butcher and the Rye, Downtown
3rd: BZ Bar and Grill, North Side
216 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside
412-362-5837 or www.buffalobluespittsburgh.com
It's a toss-up whether to talk about the food or the game-day atmosphere of this Shadyside sports bar. The wings — all-you-can-eat on Wednesdays — come in a variety of tasty sauces, and the barbecue ribs are exceptional. Add in more than 30 draft beers, plus all the games you care to watch, and that's a recipe for success.
2nd: Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, North Side
3rd: Local Bar + Kitchen, South Side
5801 Video Lounge and Café
5801 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside.
412-661-5600 or www.5801videolounge.com
With three bars on three floors, 5801 can handle a crowd. Its expansive outdoor deck with plenty of seating gives the place a roomier feel even on busy Friday and Saturday nights. And if a weekend bar atmosphere isn't your thing, drop in on a happy hour or check out the weekly darts and poker nights.
2nd: Cattivo, Lawrenceville
3rd: Blue Moon, Lawrenceville
Tender Bar + Kitchen
4300 Butler St., Lawrenceville
412-402-9522 or www.tenderpgh.com
Booze is taken to another level at this historic-bank-turned-bar; an expert staff curates a seasonal cocktail list, and can make just about any drink you ask for. If you ask for a rum-and-Coke, though, they might just try to sell you on something a little more original.
2nd: Acacia, South Side
3rd: Olive or Twist, Downtown
Richie Walter, Cavo
While Cavo hasn't been open as long as other Pittsburgh hot spots, bartender Richie Walter has quickly become a hometown favorite. With more than a decade of experience, Walter says that being able to connect with patrons is the "most important part of the job." His efficiency and winning smile are one reason guests flock to Cavo.
2nd: Joel Hollies, Hough's
3rd: Angela Rebeiro, Local Bar + Kitchen
Cheerleaders Gentlemen's Club
3100 Liberty Ave., Strip District
412-281-3110 or www.cheerleaderspittsburgh.com
Something of a sports-bar/strip-joint hybrid, this upscale gentlemen's club offers a comfortable, low-key atmosphere: If you've never been to a strip club, this might be a good place to start. Offering an extensive food menu and daily drink specials, it also features private booths, party packages and high-profile guest dancers.
2nd: Blush, Downtown
3rd: Club Erotica, McKees Rocks
1916 Smallman St., Strip District
412-610-1384 or www.cavopgh.com
Since opening last year, Cavo has brought a more elegant and extravagant experience to Pittsburgh's nightlife. In addition to décor the owners liken to "an underground lair," the dance club brings in international acts, and hosts some of the most novel events in the city, including drag shows, burlesque and acrobatics.
2nd: Diesel Club Lounge, South Side
3rd: Cruze Bar, Strip District
Almost nine years in, Pandemic Pete can still pack the house, and with good reason. Where else can you get down to Middle Eastern hip hop, Balkan beats, Romanian reggaeton and other dance music from around the globe? Happening the first Friday of each month, the dance night also consistently features local, national and international guest DJs.
2nd: Third Thursday Twerk-Off, Cruze Bar
3rd: Emo Night, Lava Lounge