Strip District and Polish Hill | City Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Strip District and Polish Hill

La Prima Espresso's outdoor seating
La Prima Espresso's outdoor seating

One Day in Town

Whether you're a history buff or a fine-foods connoisseur, the grit and culture of Polish Hill and the Strip District will satisfy your curiosity. And if you've only got one day to explore, there are some must-sees that will ensure an enriching and fun experience.

Begin at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (3058 Brereton St.,, in the heart of Polish Hill. This turn-of-the-century church is the centerpiece of the historic neighborhood, and you can't miss its colossal size contrasted against the working-class rowhouses. Polish immigrants congregated in this hillside community, where there was easy walking access to industrial sites along the riverfront below. If you're lucky enough to be there on a Sunday, catch Mass in Polish at 9 a.m.

In the footsteps of immigrants, walk down the hill and into Pittsburgh's Strip District. Once the site of mills and foundries as well as a hub for wholesale merchants, this place is still hustlin' and bustlin', but mainly with retailers and foodies. The weekends are particularly busy for the area's stores and sidewalk vendors. The most famous among them is Robert Wholey & Co. (1711 Penn Ave., 412-391-3737), a fresh-seafood market known to locals simply as Wholey's. The seafood selection here is second to none, and Wholey's even sells hot foods, including a fried-fish sandwich.

Pop in to La Prima Espresso (205 21st St., and drink your coffee the Italian way — shoot your espresso right at the counter! The cafe even has Italian-language TV news playing on a flatscreen above, and lively sidewalk seating.

Turn the corner and you'll find yourself at Enrico Biscotti Company (2022 Penn Ave., 412-281-2602). Follow a narrow passageway to a back-patio-dining area if you'd like to snack on some pizza or get a big plate of pasta. Want to get your biscotti and get goin'? The well-used front screen-door leads to the take-out counter where you can order traditional anise almond cookies or the more decadent peanut-butter chocolate, among several other flavors.

click to enlarge Strip District and Polish Hill
Photo by Lisa Cunningham
Eide's Entertainment


Casa Reyna. An extensive menu of Mexican fare — from familiar tacos to regional specialties — makes this below-ground restaurant the perfect getaway. 2031 Penn Ave., 412-904-1242

DeLuca's. Large portions of good, old-fashioned breakfast fare, served in close but convivial quarters. Expect lines on weekends. 2015 Penn Ave., 412-566-2195

Eleven. This modern, multi-level venue offers new American cuisine, complemented by an impressive wine selection. 1150 Smallman St., 412-201-5656

Gaucho Parrilla. Customers flock to this newly expanded Argentine-barbecue joint for wood-grilled meat and seafood, flavored with chimichurri and other sauces. 1607 Penn Ave., 412-709-6622

Kaya. The flavors of the Caribbean are fused into snacks and entrees, ranging from spicy bean dip to fish tacos and Cubanos. 2000 Smallman St., 412-261-6565

Klavon's 28th Street Ice Cream Parlor. This perfectly preserved corner drugstore/soda fountain is a bit off the beaten path, but worth the trip for a cone or sundae. 2801 Penn Ave., 412-434-0451

Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille. Contemporary preparations of fresh fish and seafood are the top reasons to visit this low-key fine-dining restaurant. 2106 Penn Ave., 412-904-4509

Osteria 2350. Casual Italian fare, including pasta, antipasti, salads and sandwiches, plus beer, wine and cocktails. 2350 Railroad St., 412-281-6595

Primanti Brothers. You'll see outposts of this famed fries-on-sandwich restaurant all over the 'burbs, but if you're going to have one, go to the original source. 46 18th St., 412-263-2142

Savoy. This upscale restaurant features contemporary American cuisine with a Southern slant. Try the fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, or veal meatloaf. 2623 Penn Ave., 412-281-0660

Thin Man Sandwich. House-made sodas and upscale deli sandwiches, including goat, chicken-liver mousse and smoked local ham, place this joint above the rest. 50 21st St., 412-586-7370

Bars and Clubs

Bar Marco. Creative cocktails, excellent wine list and a comfortable but upscale atmosphere. Make a reservation in the Wine Room for the full treatment. 2216 Penn Ave., 412-471-1900

Cruze Bar. This LGBT spot offers an active dance floor as well as a hip lounge and outdoor deck. Also a great location for cabaret and drag shows. 1600 Smallman St., 412-471-1400

Maggie's Farm Rum. Cocktail hours are only Fridays and Saturdays, but it's well worth the wait. Try a cocktail with Maggie's award-winning rum and get a look at the facility while you're at it. 3232A Smallman St., 412-709-6480

Real Luck Café. Known to locals simply as "Lucky's," this iconic LGBT dive bar has great happy-hour specials and a second level for dancing. 1519 Penn Ave., 412-471-7832

Wigle Whiskey. Tour the distillery and see how what you are drinking is made. Events galore and tasty organic booze rooted in local history make this place worth the trip. 2401 Smallman St., 412-224-2827

Arts and Culture

Attack Theatre. This lively dance troupe is based at Pittsburgh Opera headquarters, but its shows there are just the start for a company that regularly engages the community and collaborates with other arts groups. 2425 Liberty Ave.,

Heinz History Center. While this museum can have a corporate cast — one current exhibit celebrates its namesake food company — it's also done a lot to honor regional African-American history and much more. The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum is a popular annex. 1212 Smallman St., 412-454-6000

Society for Contemporary Craft. Artists from around the world take textiles, ceramics and woodworking in far-out directions in this spacious gallery. 2100 Smallman St., 412-261-7003


31st Street Pub. This gritty club is mostly punk, metal and bar rock, and frequently hosts some well-known national names. 3103 Penn Ave., 412-391-8334

Altar Bar. This former church has a lineup that's all over the board, from emo to metal to hip hop. Don't be surprised to see a line of teenagers stretching down the sidewalk. 1620 Penn Ave., 412-263-2877

Gooski's. Everyone's favorite dive bar, Gooski's is a popular spot for local and national garage rockers, experimental noise-makers and up-and-coming metal bands. 3117 Brereton St., 412-681-1658

Pittsburgh Winery. This boutique winery, a relatively new addition to the scene, began hosting music two years ago. These days you can see local and touring acts multiple times a week. 2815 Penn Ave., 412-566-1000

The Rock Room. This is pretty much the place for punk shows these days. Hold tight to your PBR, or it might get moshed out of your hand. 1054 Herron Ave., 412-683-4418


Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange. If you want to skip the $4 mocha and just buy your beans in bulk, check out this shop. You can pick and choose from the self-serve barrels and even make your own blend. 2005 Penn Ave., 866-569-5865

Copacetic Comics / Mind Cure Records. Housed on the upper floors of Lili Coffeehouse; Copacetic is a nexus for local comics/graphic-novel culture, and Mind Cure a hip spot for used records and reissues. 3138 Dobson St. 412-251-5451 / 412-621-1715

Eide's Entertainment. Caught in the no-man's land between the Strip and Downtown, this shop is a geek's dream with thousands of comics, movies, books, music and collectibles. Prepare to spend some time. 1121 Penn Ave., 412-261-0900

Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop. All the best in new candy, bulk candy and classic candy from your youth. Also features a bottle shop of new and classic bottled sodas. 2124 Penn Ave., 412-499-3700

Hot Haute Hot. Two interior designers run this funky space in the Strip District where you can find furniture from around the globe. 2124 Penn Ave., 412-338-2323

Marty's Market. This grocery store/restaurant touts its commitment to "transparency" and sustainability with its GMO-free produce, artisanal meats and cheeses, and other locally sourced products. 2301 Smallman St., 412-586-7177

Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. Affectionately called "Penn Mac" by locals, this Italian import grocery store has been doing business in the Strip District for more than a century. Stop by for homemade pasta and all the stinky cheeses you could want. 2010 Penn Ave., 412-471-8330

Roxanne's Dried Flowers. In addition to beautiful dried flowers, Roxanne's also offers live plants, terrarium supplies and high-end toiletries. 2115 Penn Ave., 412-281-6950

Strip District Meats. Have you ever wanted to try elk? How about ground ostrich? If you're adventurous, or just want to stick with a good T-bone steak, this is your kind of place. 2123 Penn Ave., 412-391-1762