One Day in Town
Though widely considered a unit, Pittsburgh’s North Side actually comprises 18 separate neighborhoods stretching from the Allegheny River into the residential communities in the hills beyond. There’s plenty to do, even if you haven’t exhausted the possibilities afforded by such large-scale riverfront attractions as two sports stadia, a casino, a concert venue and the Carnegie Science Center.
Speaking of the river, the North Side’s signature outdoor activity is Venture Outdoors, which rents recreational craft in season from beneath the Roberto Clemente Bridge, right near baseball’s PNC Park. A morning paddle will prepare you for the nearby National Aviary (700 Arch St., 412-323-7235), a top-flight bird zoo with 500 specimens representing some 150 species from around the world, some in rooms where they fly free. From a golden-crested mynah to an Andean condor, find them here, along with popular African-penguin exhibit Penguin Point.
For a little history, wander the adjacent Mexican War Streets, among Pittsburgh’s most tightly woven communities, full of lovingly restored Victorian homes. Attractions here include Randyland (1501 Arch St., 412-342-8152), a free courtyard museum of found objects and original art by local character Randy Gilson. Blocks away, visit the internationally known Mattress Factory (500 Sampsonia Way, www.mattress.org), a museum of installation art whose newest acquisition is German artist Hans Peter Kuhn’s Acupuncture, which literally alters the neigbhorhood’s skyline.
For dinner, try Scratch (1720 Lowrie St., 412-251-0822), a newer joint blending neighborhood ambience with that craft-beer/new American cuisine thing; try the carrot soup and award-winning beef-tongue Reuben.
Drinking culture is big on the North Side: No fewer than three craft breweries were slated to open here within months of press time. While you await those, Wigle Barrelhouse (1055 Spring Garden Ave., www.wiglewhiskey.com), a satellite of the award-winning local distillery, is open evenings for cocktails; on Saturdays in season, enjoy live music outdoors amidst cocktail-themed plantings.
Arnold’s Tea Shop and Café. Hot and cold specialty teas, coffee, fresh sandwiches and pastries in a capacious double storefront. 502 E. Ohio St., 412-322-2494
Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar. Barrel-aged cocktails meet custom-blended burgers at this informal but intimate spot. 900 Western Ave., 412-224-2163
Bistro To Go. Soul food and healthy variations are the specialty at this restaurant, known for its outdoor patio and Sunday breakfast buffet. 415 E. Ohio St., 412-231-0218
Carmi Soul Food Restaurant. Smother chicken, fish and grits: You get the picture at this Southern soul-food establishment. 917 Western Ave., 412-231-0100
Commonplace at the Mexican War Streets. Newest location for the popular regional roastery. 1501 Buena Vista St., 724-427-5442
El Burro. Big, flavorful burritos are a staple at this mostly takeout joint, which also serves Mexican Coke. 1108 Federal St., 412-904-3451
James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy. Live music several nights weekly (jazz is the specialty) complements the tasty food and drink menus at this historic pub. 422 Foreland St., 412-904-3335
Legends of the North Shore. Traditional Italian is the specialty at this established restaurant. 500 E. North Ave., 412-321-8000
Lola Bistro. “Contemporary comfort food” (carbonara; Sumatran chicken curry) is the calling card at this cozy neighborhood spot. 1100 Gavleston Ave., 412-322-1106
Max’s Allegheny Tavern. A family-style atmosphere is apt for your sauerbraten, potato pancakes and other hearty German specialties. 237 Suismon St., 412-231-1899
Nicky’s Thai Kitchen. Top-notch traditional Thai cuisine, with patio seating as weather permits. 854 Western Ave., 412-321-8424
Subba Asian Restaurant. Nepalese, Chinese and Indian food meet at this second-floor spot; you’ll ask for mo’ momos. 700 Cedar Ave., 412-586-5764
Wilson’s Bar B-Q. Southern-style pork ribs, chicken and sides, mostly for takeout, at this neighborhood institution. 700 N. Taylor St., 412-322-7427