Best of Culture + Nightlife | Culture and Nightlife | Pittsburgh

Best of Culture + Nightlife 

Mars Jackson, winner of Best Local Hip-Hop Performer to be the Next Mac Miller - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Mars Jackson, winner of Best Local Hip-Hop Performer to be the Next Mac Miller

Best Local Theater Company 

City Theatre
1300 Bingham St., South Side 
412- 431-2489 or

Housed in an old church off the main drag, City Theatre is a perennial Best-Of favorite. The focus here is on new plays by both established writers and rising stars, and the current 2016-17 schedule boasts works by Sharon Washington, Marco Ramirez and City Theatre favorite Jessica Dickey.

2nd: Pittsburgh Public Theater
3rd: Quantum Theatre

Best Gallery for Local Artists 

812 Liberty Ave., Downtown
412-325-7723 or 

It’s hard to miss this gallery as you walk — the letters S, P, A, C and E are written huge on its large windows — and it easily draws in passersby from Cultural District hangouts. This gallery offers new artists a highly visible space to display their artwork and reach new viewers. 

2nd: Most Wanted Fine Art
3rd: BOOM Concepts

Best Dance Company

Attack Theatre
2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District

In its 22nd season, Pittsburgh’s longest-running contemporary dance company is still going strong with high energy, choreographic smarts and a highly developed sense of fun that often incorporates audience input into shows. 

2nd: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
3rd: Texture Contemporary Ballet

Best Local Stage Production

Morose & Macabre’s Atrocity Exhibition

This annual showcase of the bizarre, the dark, the disturbing, held at the Rex Theater, is no traditional play: It’s more a blend of burlesque, sideshow, drag show and goth pageant, with a thematically apt crafts bazaar for good measure.

2nd: Venus in Fur, Pittsburgh Public Theatre
3rd: Serpentine, Uncumber Theatrics

Best Local Visual Artist

Durty Art

The love for ’80s hip hop that Bob Freyer, a.k.a. Durty-1, has is heavily reflected in his street-style art. He primarily works with aerosol paints and hand-made stencils, and his paintings have found homes with Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Talib Kweli and others.

2nd: Baron Batch

Best Literary Event

The Moth

The nationally known storytelling series (true stories, no notes) has three incarnations here: a monthly StorySlam; an annual Grand Slam, for StorySlam winners; and The Moth Mainstage, which showcases talented touring tellers to sold-out houses at the Byham Theater.

2nd: Pittsburgh Speaker Series at Heinz Hall
3rd: Literazzi at Cattivo

Best Local Comedian

Derek Minto

A pioneer of Pittsburgh’s resurgent comedy scene, Minto has starred in local comedy festivals, and opened for the likes of Hannibal Buress and Jim Breuer. His excitable persona’s a hoot, whether he’s talking about taking revenge on 8-year-old hecklers or confirming that it’s a good idea to keep your plasma.

2nd: Bill Crawford
3rd: Davon Magwood

Best Local Comedy Troupe 

Secondhand Sketch

This group, made up of comedians Derek Minto, Mindy Cooper, Andy Roos, Sarah Wojdylak, Ian McIntosh, Zack Roach, Rachael Wonderlin, and Nate Hall, does a combination of live and video sketches (filmed by Alex Murphy). Delving into culture, media and society, their performances include skits, musical numbers and monologues.

2nd: Knights of the Arcade
3rd: Amish Monkeys

Best Local Cartoonist 

Rob Rogers

With more than three decades of experience under his belt, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette editorial cartoonist has highlighted issues like gun violence and satirized the likes of presidents Bush and Clinton. We’re still fans of his depiction of former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl as a juice-box-carrying child.

2nd: Joe Wos
3rd: Ed Piskor

Best Local Photographer

Dave DiCello Photography

Downtown by night. Downtown lit by fireworks. The three rivers at dawn. The city ignited by lightning strikes. The city from the air. DiCello is a wedding photographer, but he’s also widely social-media’d for his iconic images of the town he calls home. 

2nd: Paul Falavolito Photography
3rd: Robert Lee Bailey Photography

Best Local Poet 

Terrence Chiusano

With a debut poetry collection out last year, Chiusano has burst onto Pittsburgh’s poetry scene with tremendous success. The Pitt grad’s On Generation & Corruption blends narrative with word-play, multi-parted forms and provocative language to tackle existential themes.

2nd: Terrance Hayes
3rd: Stephen Lin

Best Local Writer

Tony Norman

It’s no surprise to see Norman, a long-time columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, taking the prize here. For two decades he’s spurred conversations (and, more recently, lots of Facebook shares) with his thoughtful perspectives on pressing political and social issues, as well as thoughts on day-to-day life. 

2nd: Gene Collier
3rd: Damon Young

Anthrocon, winner of Best Local Annual Convention - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Anthrocon, winner of Best Local Annual Convention

Best Local Annual Convention


For one wacky weekend in July, Downtown Pittsburgh is invaded by a large-scale menagerie of furry characters. There are wolves, cats, bears, foxes, dogs and more — but not the four-legged kind. This convention celebrates two-legged furries, folks who dress as anthropomorphic animals from art and literature.

2nd: Steel City Con
3rd: Handmade Arcade

Best Pop/Rock Band 

Nevada Color

Indie pop, as it’s done by Nevada Color, is an airtight, winsome thing. With two releases since 2013 — and a much-anticipated follow-up forthcoming — this Point Park University-bred five-piece has grown into one of Pittsburgh’s most reliably catchy and energetic acts.

2nd: OGWS
3rd: Donora

Best Metal Band 


Those magnificent armor-wearing bastards have done it again. The fantasy-metal band, whose members dress like knights and sell personalized foam swords on their website, are again the best metal band in the city. Lift your glasses in jubilation! Huzzah!

2nd: Greywalker
3rd: Solarburn

Best Alt-folk/Alt-country Band 

Justin Fabus Band

There’s no denying the roll that 29-year-old Justin Fabus and his band are on. (They are currently touring.) They might sound a bit mainstream country, but that can’t hurt: The band signed a record deal in February and played at the CMA Fest, in Nashville.

2nd: The Hills and the Rivers
3rd: Molly Alphabet

Best Jazz/Blues Band or Performer

Phat Man Dee

Phat Man Dee is a force on stage. She often croons her playful songs in collaboration with other Pittsburgh artists, burlesque dancers and drag performers. She also uses her low tones to perform classic jazz tunes, as well as songs she pens from her life experiences.

2nd: The Olga Watkins Band
3rd: Avi Diamond

Best Local Hip-Hop Performer to be the next Mac Miller 

Mars Jackson

Jackson, who grew up in the Hill District, is a proud Pittsburgh hip-hop artist. You can hear it in his rhymes, you can see it on his videos, and you can hear it when he talks about the local hip-hop scene: “If I can do my music and live here at the same time and touch people, that’s what I’m gonna do.”

2nd: SIKES
3rd: Hardo

Best Local Music Venue 

Stage AE
400 North Shore Drive, North Side

This relatively new concert venue brings in popular acts across the musical spectrum. The facility, which has spaces to accommodate both small and mid-size shows, also has a reversible stage, so in nice weather, fans can enjoy the show in the open air. Another plus: no traffic jams; walk or take the T.

2nd: Mr. Smalls Theatre
3rd: Club Café 

Best Music Festival

Deutschtown Music Festival

This two-day festival on the North Side offers an all-day, mostly local lineup of musicians. Nearby businesses such as Park House, James Street Gastropub and the Modern Café help host, while food trucks and kids’ activities make it a family event.

2nd: Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival
3rd: Strip District Music Festival

Best Place to See a Local Band

Club Café56 S. 12th St., South Side
412-431-4950 or

While it’s perhaps Pittsburgh’s most intimate venue for touring acts, this South Side institution is also ideal for getting up close and personal with talent from just around the corner, from local legends like Billy Price to scene stalwarts like Gene the Werewolf.

2nd: Smiling Moose 
3rd: Spirit

Adam and Nicole Kulik, winner of Best Couple and owners of The Goldmark, winner of Best New Bar; Adam, a.k.a. DJ Nugget, also won Best DJ. - CP PHOTO BY JOHN COLOMBO
  • CP photo by John Colombo
  • Adam and Nicole Kulik, winner of Best Couple and owners of The Goldmark, winner of Best New Bar; Adam, a.k.a. DJ Nugget, also won Best DJ.

Best New Bar (as of June 2015) 

The Goldmark 
4517 Butler St., Lawrenceville 
412-688-8820 or

The latest addition to Lawrenceville’s nightlife scene is owned and operated by Pittsburgh favorite DJ Nugget (a.k.a. Adam Kulik) and features a rotating list of DJs on the turntables. But with good food, cocktails and an inventive beer and shot list, this is more than your average bar.

2nd: Hidden Harbor
3rd: The Abbey on Butler Street

Best Bar (Downtown)

Butcher and the Rye
212 Sixth St., Downtown
412-391-2752 or

Butcher and the Rye has been a go-to destination for expertly made cocktails since 2013; it was a semifinalist in the James Beard Outstanding Bar Program award two years in a row. There is an intimate upstairs bar, plus a downstairs bar with a “Whiskey Wall” featuring more than 600 whiskeys.

2nd: Tako
3rd: Il Tetto

Best Bar (North)

The Park House
403 E. Ohio St., North Side
412-224-2273 or

This is the only place in town where you can knock back a glass or two from a variety of craft beers and throw your peanut shells on the floor. Head there early on Wednesday nights if you want a seat for the live bluegrass jam. 

2nd: Jergel’s Rhythm Grille
3rd: James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy

Best Bar (SOUTH)  

2108 E. Carson St., South Side
412-488-1800 or

The barely marked entrance on busy East Carson lends a speakeasy vibe to this Prohibition-themed lounge. But there is nothing nondescript about the cocktail program here, where patrons enjoy handcrafted potions in a quiet bar that’s a respite from the raucous South Side scene. Stay hep with a gin fizz.

2nd: Smiling Moose
3rd: OTB Bicycle Café 

Best Bar (East)

242 51st St., Lawrenceville
412-586-4441 or

Cheap beer, good pizza, fancy (but not too fancy) cocktails: This wood-paneled Moose Lodge-turned-ultra-hip-bar has it all. Drop in for a slice and a drink, a DJ night, or to see next year’s hottest indie band or hip-hop artist. 

2nd: The Goldmark
3rd: Kelly’s Bar & Lounge

Best Bar (WEST) 

Downey’s House
6080 Steubenville Pike Road, Robinson
412-489-5631 or 

This local spot is an oasis in Robinson’s expanse of chains. The craft-beer selection is great; Wednesdays feature 45-cent wings; and the homemade pepperoni rolls are no joke — soft, chewy, piping hot with a side of marinara, and worth a drive through the tunnels. 

2nd: Village Tavern and Trattoria
3rd: Bocktown Beer and Grill

Best Sports Bar

Redbeard’s Bar & Grill
201 Shiloh St., Mount Washington
412-431-3730 or

Perfecting the time-tested marriage of good bar food and hometown sports, this Mount Washington go-to offers fried-food classics, seafood and a robust beer selection, to accompany every Steelers and Penguins game on the tube.

2nd: Bigham Tavern
3rd: Hough’s 

Best LGBT Bar

Blue Moon
5115 Butler St., Lawrenceville

The bar can be a comfy neighborhood dive one minute, and then an excitement-filled drag catwalk in the next. It’s consistently unpretentious and inclusive for anyone who wants a drink. Inexpensive drinks range from mixers to beer, and, of course, there is plenty of Blue Moon on tap.  

2nd: 5801 Video Lounge & Café 
3rd: Cattivo

Best Place to take a First Date 

PNC Park
115 Federal St., North Side

The stadium is gorgeous, and the city skyline is a good conversation-starter. The game ends eventually, in case the date gets awkward or boring. And if you go on the right night, you could get a concert, fireworks or a Josh Harrison bobblehead.

2nd: Dish Osteria and Bar
3rd: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Best Place to Take a Tinder Date

135 Ninth St., Downtown
412-281-7703 or

Given Tinder’s focus on matching people with mutual interests, presumably you’ll go somewhere you’re both into. But if your date might dig dancers the likes of Romi Rain and Natasha Nova, a VIP lounge, bottle service, or maybe the sports bar upstairs, Blush is for you. 

2nd: The Ace Hotel
3rd: Cavo

Best Place to Dance

1916 Smallman St., Strip District
412-918-1068 or

Bright lights, private alcoves, high ceilings and a large dance floor make this the ideal nightclub to get your groove on. You’ll hear all the latest hits while you dance to DJs on Saturday nights. On Friday nights, shake it to salsa music.

2nd: Spirit
3rd: Belvederes Ultra-Dive

Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners

Mount Washington

For maximum effect, catch one of the inclines up (and back down) — but any way you get there, the panoramic view of Downtown’s skyline, the rivers, the stadiums and the hills beyond says “Welcome to Pittsburgh” like nowhere else.

2nd: Strip District
3rd: PNC Park 

Best Cocktail List

Tender Bar + Kitchen
4300 Butler St., Lawrenceville
412-402-9522 or

Whether you’re aiming to impress a date or just want a damn good drink, this old bank-building-turned-bar will do the trick. The menu is seasonal; skilled bartenders mix classic American potions with cutting-edge twists; and the atmosphere is cozy, not stuffy.

2nd: Acacia 
3rd: Hidden Harbor

Best Bartender 

Richie Walter, Cavo 
1916 Smallman St., Strip District 
412-918-1068 or

For the third year in a row, Richie Walter has been recognized for his charisma and kindness. With more than a decade of experience behind the bar, Walter provides customers with excellent and efficient service, whether he’s serving up shots or a classic cocktail.

2nd: Cecil Usher, Meat and Potatoes
3rd: Lou DiDonato, Grapperia 

Best Club 

1916 Smallman St., Strip District 
412-918-1068 or

With its warm, sophisticated décor — think exposed brick and red curtains — Cavo is an inviting night-on-the-town destination. Stop by for a DJ night and boogie on the dance floor; grab dinner and drinks; or, if high-rolling, book the space for a private event. 

2nd: Diesel Club Lounge
3rd: Cruze Bar

Best Bar to Pregame

1501 Sarah St., South Side

With specials like $2 beers and $3 mystery shots, it’s easy to see why this is the perfect spot for getting lit before a big night out or an important sporting event. But in this TV-filled bar, you might just feel like sticking around for the big game.

2nd: Rivertowne
3rd: Jack’s Bar

Best Bar to Day-Drink 

Local Bar + Kitchen 
1515 E. Carson St., South Side
412-308-5183 or

Three things are essential to day-drinking: a good selection of drafts and spirits; a menu with tasty booze-soakers, like nachos; and something to watch besides daytime TV. So yeah, grabbing a pint and a triple-decker reuben, and getting a window seat to watch East Carson Street stroll by seems like a good day.

2nd: Round Corner Cantina
3rd: Lot 17

Best Strip Club 

3100 Liberty Ave., Strip District
412-281-3110 or

More than just your average titty bar, this gentlemen’s club also boasts an extensive food menu, with selections like the “chocolate mousse eruption.” Stop in on Tuesdays for the two-for-one lap-dance special, and check the website for special upcoming acts. 

2nd: Blush
3rd: Club Erotica

Best Dive Bar

3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill

This dark, narrow bar is a favorite of those in search of cheap drinks and no-nonsense service. (Most regulars will pledge their undying love to long-time bartender Tim Quinlan.) Head to the back room for live music, which could be a touring punk band or local noise artists (or both).

2nd: Dee’s Cafe
3rd: Jack’s Bar

Best Trivia Night

4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield412-621-4900

Trivia nights abound at local watering holes, but at nearly a decade old, Brillobox’s Pub Quiz is among the liveliest and longest-running. Wednesday nights, don your thinking cap and improve your memory for factoids by indulging in the ’Box’s well-curated drafts list. 

2nd: Hough’s
3rd: Franktuary 

Best Karaoke Night

Nico’s Recovery Room
178 Pearl St., Bloomfield

Every Saturday night from 9:30 on, Nico’s is full of dedicated karaoke fans. The welcoming atmosphere and supportive crowd are enough to make newbies want to take the mic. Drinks are cheap and spirits are high, so bring friends and sing your heart out. 

2nd: Garage Door Saloon
3rd: Cappy’s Café

Best DJ

DJ Nugget

Though he’s lately focusing more on his Butler Street bar, The Goldmark, Nugget (a.k.a. Adam Kulik) remains one of the city’s hottest DJs. His seamlessly grooving mixes, which run the gamut from rock and reggae to house and hip hop, have earned him dozens of credits at clubs and events nationally.

2nd: DJ Get Nasty
3rd: DJ Scar

Jillian Swisher and Theresa Peranteau at Perle, winner of Best Place for a Girls' Night Out - CP PHOTO BY JOHN COLOMBO
  • CP photo by John Colombo
  • Jillian Swisher and Theresa Peranteau at Perle, winner of Best Place for a Girls' Night Out

Best Place for a Girls’ Night Out

25 Market Square, Downtown
412-471-2058 or

This champagne lounge features tasty drinks, a chic atmosphere and music to dance to. Every Saturday is ladies’ night — enjoy a free drink — and on Thursdays, you can grab your gals and learn to dance the bachata with DJ Bobby D. 

2nd: Cavo
3rd: Howl at the Moon

Best Place for a Guys’ Night Out 

135 Ninth St., Downtown412-281-7703

Blush has evolved in the past year or so. In addition to the exotic dancers, Blush also offers a pretty sweet sports bar on the third floor. There are 10 big-screen TVs, and plenty of food and drink, including wings, sandwiches, burgers and steaks.

2nd: Cheerleaders
3rd: Cavo

Best Haunted Attraction

118 Locust St., Etna
412-781-5885 or

With top-notch production values and outside-the-box premises — horror Christmas, anyone? — this nationally known haunted house has been scaring the bejabbers out of locals and visiting celebrities alike for years. And for true fear-seekers, there’s always the no-holds-barred attraction The Basement

2nd: Hundred Acres Manor
3rd: Phantom Fright Nights at Kennywood

Best Place for an Adult Birthday Party

Rivers Casino
777 Casino Drive, North Side
412-231-7777 or

You needn’t like slots or blackjack to spend your b-day here. Rivers boasts multiple bars, DJs, live music and dining options from casual to fine. Bonus: Visit on your actual birthday and qualify for a free lunch or dinner at the Grand View Buffet.

2nd: Dave & Buster’s
3rd: Hofbrauhaus 

Best Distance Race

Pittsburgh Marathon

Most locals would call this city-spanning marathon THE distance race. Runners gather from near and far — there were 39,000-plus participants this year — but if you’re not up for 26.2 miles, there are other ways to get in on the fun, even if that just means cheering from the sidelines.

2nd: The Great Race
3rd: The EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler 

Best Independent Movie Theater 

Row House Cinema 
4115 Butler St., Lawrenceville
412-904-3225 or

This newer but cozy movie theater has quickly become a favorite place to screen classic and cult films, as well as the occasional new movie. Kids’ shows, theme nights and easy access to malted craft beverages at the adjacent Bierport Tap Room make this a neighborly place to catch a film.

2nd: Hollywood Theater
3rd: The Manor Theatre 

Zumba during July's OpenStreets PGH, winner of Best Street Festival - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Zumba during July's OpenStreets PGH, winner of Best Street Festival

Best Street Festival 

OpenStreets PGH

For three Sundays this past summer, Pittsburghers took the streets, as a couple of major thoroughfares were closed to automobiles. Instead of traffic, there were bikers, walkers, yogis, dancers, skaters and giddy kids enjoying the asphalt. We loved it in 2015 and 2016, and hope Open Streets returns in 2017.

2nd: Jam on Walnut
3rd: Little Italy Days

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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