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

Strip District & Polish Hill

The sushi counter at Wholey's
The sushi counter at Wholey's

One Day in Town

Get on your bike! Parking in this area can be a nightmare, especially on weekends, and the neighborhoods have some of Pittsburgh’s most bike-friendly paths. So explore the two contrasting neighborhoods on two wheels, or on two feet since the neighborhoods only stretch a couple of miles.

Start in Polish Hill at Lili Coffee Shop (3138 Dobson St., 412-682-3600) for a caffeine boost before your ride. The hilltop cafe exemplifies the community spirit present in the once-immigrant enclave; it contains a small community library and Black Lives Matter signs in the window. Polish Hill has over the years experienced an influx of young, liberal residents looking to create their own lefty paradise, in harmony with Polish old-timers. (The small neighborhood has two community gardens and two punk-rock venues.)

Roll down the hill and bike or walk along Penn Avenue to enter the heart of the Strip District. Since you probably have Poland on your mind, stop in at S&D Polish Deli (2204 Penn Ave., for locally made kielbasi, stuffed cabbage and an array of authentic Polish soups. 

The Strip District is transitioning from manufacturing hub to one of the city’s premier live/work/play neighborhoods. (Apartments there have the city’s second-highest average rent.) High-end lofts, mixed-use developments and hotels sit next to the ethnic grocers, specialty shops, fishmongers and butchers that line Penn.

From the heart of the neighborhood, it is just a few hundred yards down 21st Street to the entrance of the Strip District Trail (, where you can ride or jaunt along the Allegheny River all the way to Point State Park and beyond.

click to enlarge Strip District & Polish Hill
Photo by Luke Thor Travis
Klavon's 28th Street Ice Cream Parlor


Deluca’s. Big portions of typical, greasy-spoon breakfast food served in crowded, intimate setting. Lines almost always present, especially on weekends. 2015 Penn Ave., 412-566-2195

Edgar’s Taco Stand. Sidewalk stand serving street-style Mexican tacos, such as carne asada or al pastor and sometimes exotic favorites like lengua (beef tongue). 2627 Penn Ave., 412-849-8864 

Gaucho Parrilla. Flame-charred beef and seafood fill this casual Argentine grill with smoky, irresistible aromas. Try the chimichurri sauce. Expect lines in evening. 1601 Penn Ave., 412-709-6622

Kaya. Caribbean, Southern and Latin flavors are fused into appetizers and entrees, ranging from conch hush puppies to jerked pulled-pork quesadillas. 2000 Smallman St., 412-261-6565

Klavon’s 28th Street Ice Cream Parlor. Several blocks down from the neighborhood action, this old-timey soda fountain is worth the trip for a banana split or an ice-cream soda. 2801 Penn Ave., 412-434-0451

Osteria 2350. Non-pretentious, locally sourced Italian fare including gnocchi and broccoli rabe antipasti; craft beer, too. 2350 Railroad St., 412-281-6595

Penn Avenue Fish Company. A great place to eat seafood in the city, whether the fish is grilled, blackened or served raw in sushi. 2208 Penn Ave., 412-434-7200 

Pho Van. Specializing in its namesake beef noodle soup in a clean, casual and attractive space. Try the fresh shrimp rolls, if it’s too hot for soup. 2120 Penn Ave., 412-281-7999

Primanti Brothers. You can’t do better than the original location that started the legendary Pittsburgh combo of French fries and coleslaw on a sandwich. 46 18th St., 412-263-2142

Salem’s Market and Grill. Away from the Strip, but easy to spot in a colorful building, this no-frills space offers grilled lamb, falafel, varieties of curries, and all your Middle-Eastern food desires. 2923 Penn Ave., 412-235-7828

Thin Man Sandwich Shop. Fancy sandwiches galore at this side-street space, including mortadella with a fried egg and chicken-liver mousse with local bacon. 50 21st St., 412-586-7370

Bars & Clubs

Bar Marco. Dedicated bartenders make this small space a go-to for creative cocktails. Wednesday through Friday from 5-6 p.m. is happy hour with half-priced food and $6 select beverages. 2216 Penn Ave., 412-471-1900

The Beerhive. Laid-back spot to watch a Pirates game, take in some trivia, or just enjoy some craft beer and wings. Growler fills available for beer to go. 2117 Penn Ave., 412-904-4502

Cruz Bar. Popular LGBT spot always has a busy dance floor. Enjoy a drink at the swanky lounge or the marvelous patio. Cabaret and drag shows are a hit. 1600 Smallman St., 412-471-1400

Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery. Tucked away on the edge of the neighborhood, enjoy some award-winning rum in a select array of cocktails in the never-empty, yet-never-too crowded space. 3212A Smallman St., 412-709-6480

Real Luck Cafe. This famous LGBT dive bar is affectionately known by locals as “Lucky’s.” Dancing on the second floor, a sweet happy hour and no cover. 1519 Penn Ave., 412-471-7832 

Smallman Galley. New to the neighborhood, this hip haven has a great local beer list, rotating themed cocktails, and your choice of four food stands. And plenty of exposed brick. 54 21st St., 412-904-2444

Arts & Culture

Attack Theatre. Based at Pittsburgh Opera headquarters, this provocative dance group supplies audiences with entertaining shows that directly engage the community. They are also regular collaborators with other arts groups. 2425 Liberty Ave.,

Heinz History Center. It’s more than ketchup and condiments at this interactive museum that delves deep into Western Pennsylvania’s history, including African-American heritage, the British-French-Indian War and a very popular sports annex. 1212 Smallman St., 412-454-6000

Society for Contemporary Craft. Spacious gallery for artists specializing in textiles, ceramics and woodworking. Workshops are also offered to those exploring their crafty sides. 2100 Smallman St., 412-261-7003

click to enlarge Strip District & Polish Hill
Photo by Sarah Wilson
The Lopez performs at Gooski's


Gooski’s. Legendary dive rock bar that hosts a multitude of local bands as well as national acts. Great beer list and food, but it’s hard to not just order bottles of Iron City. 3117 Brereton St., 412-681-1658

Mullaney’s Harp and Fiddle. Chilled-out pub to soak up some softer acoustic sounds. Live Irish music and dancing weekly. Enjoy it with a pint of the black stuff. Sláinte! 2329 Penn Ave., 412-642-6622

Pittsburgh Winery. Off the beaten path a bit, this local wine producer hosts local and national musicians multiple times a week in its cozy cellar. 2815 Penn Ave., 412-566-1000


Alfred’s Deli and Market. Newly remodeled, this Polish Hill neighborhood grocer offers traditional Polish fare and is also friendly for the gluten-free and vegan crowds. 3041 Brereton St., 412-682-3100

Copacetic Comics/Mind Cure Records. Get your geek on, with comics and records. Located above Lili Coffee Shop, Copacetic and Mind Cure have your special editions and unreleased-LP needs covered. 3138 Dobson St., 412-251-5451 / 412-621-1715

Enrico Biscotti Company. Specializes in its namesake crunchy Italian cookie, this bakery offers more than a dozen flavors of the coffee-tea dunkers. The adjoining café makes pizzas fresh to order, too. 2022 Penn Ave., 412-281-2602

Hot Haute Hot. Funky little spot in the Strip District that specializes in international furniture and unique finds. 2124 Penn Ave., 412-338-2323

Kindred Cycles. Ultra-friendly pedal shop where you can purchase new bikes, or get all your repair needs met. Make sure to stop in if riding by — the staff love talking cycles. 2515 Penn Ave., 412-471-2656

La Prima Espresso. Long-time local coffee-roaster’s outpost specializes in authentic Italian preparations of cappuccinos, americanos and macchiatos (but not trendy “caramel macchiatos”). 205 21st St., 412-281-1922

Lotus Foods. Easy-to-shop Asian grocery store, even for those without extensive knowledge of Far Eastern cuisine. Great selection of Asian herbs and produce, like young ginger and cabbage varieties. 1649 Penn Ave., 412-281-3050

Mancini’s Bakery. The smells of baking bread will easily pull you off the sidewalk and into this tiny storefront. Grab a rustic Italian loaf to share with friends. 1717 Penn Ave., 412-765-3545

Parma Sausage. Offering dry-cured, cooked and fresh pork products since 1954. This storefront is unmatched for locally produced processed meats. 1734 Penn Ave., 412-391-4238

Roxanne’s Dried Flowers. While gorgeous dried flowers are its specialty, Roxanne’s also offers fresh-flower arrangements, aromatic fragrances and high-end pottery. 2115 Penn Ave., 412-281-6950

Wholey’s. A Pittsburgh institution that offers the widest array of fresh and frozen seafood available in the area. They will even fry you up some fresh fish while you shop. 1711 Penn Ave., 412-391-3737

Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest
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Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest

By Pam Smith