The Newcomers Guide to East Liberty | City Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Newcomers Guide to East Liberty

click to enlarge The Newcomers Guide to East Liberty
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Restaurants along Highland Avenue
If you haven’t visited Pittsburgh for a few years, you’ll have a hard time recognizing East Liberty. Of all the neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, it has gone through one of the starkest transformations in recent years. With new condos and development come a complicated crossroads of its community’s history and the effect of gentrification on the neighborhood. But there’s no denying East Liberty has become a crossroads of the art, culture, and food scenes. We recommend visiting places that celebrate East Liberty’s rich history, like the East Liberty Presbyterian Church (, which isn’t just one of the most striking buildings in Pittsburgh, it also hosts community events and intersectional congregations. The Kelly Strayhorn Theater (, the neighborhood’s artistic hub, hosts residencies that produce cutting-edge work in dance, music, spoken word, performance art, and community events. Along with the new hip restaurants remains longtime staple Tana Ethiopian (, providing a lovely family-style meal that’s easily shared among friends, with live jazz every Wednesday. For a detailed history of East Liberty, we recommend checking out the East Liberty Chamber of Commerce’s website (

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Housed in a remodeled former YMCA, the Ace Hotel ( has kept the original charm of the building while adding sleek modernity. Stop in for a drink, a meal at Whitfield, or a show in the preserved gym, which also hosts frequent markets.

Headquartered in East Liberty, Quantum Theatre ( puts on avant-garde, site-specific shows in surprising locations around the city. Each performance is designed to engage its audience beyond what meets the eye. 

It's worth going down the road a bit to Point Breeze's The Space Upstairs (, a jazz-focused space with curated art in an informal lounge. Come on Second Saturdays for shows with improvisational movement, art, and music.

click to enlarge The Newcomers Guide to East Liberty
CP photo: Jared Murphy
Two Sisters

Food + Drink

Bird on the Run ( is the place for fresh chicken fingers that can provide a serious spicy kick if desired. If you do try the hottest level, cool down with a choice of four different alcoholic slushies.

Dine casually but still in style at BRGR ( The gourmet burgers and spiked shakes put a delicious spin on American fare.

Where traditional Indian food meets the trend of fast-casual dining, Choolaah ( gets it right. Tandoor ovens cook up chicken and naan bread, enjoy them with specialty sauces in a fun, bright setting.

Thin California-style pizza, a great wine list, and fresh herbs give Dinette ( a fine-dining edge.

Lorelei ( is a new neighborhood favorite, offering tasty cocktails on one side and an authentic German beer hall on the other. Enjoy a braised-lamb hand pie with an old fashioned and then venture 20 feet over for some beer cheese and pilsners.

Pittsburgh may be 250 miles away from the ocean, but Muddy Waters Oyster Bar ( has your seafood fix for those moving from the coasts. Enjoy discounted oysters during their happy hour from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Step in the door at Paris 66 ( and be transported to a café in Paris. Why journey all the way to France when you can enjoy sweet and savory crepes, cheese-y sandwiches and other bistro faves right in here in town? 

Slice on Broadway ( is a local chain serving up hot slices in a casual setting. The joint specializes in thin New York-style pizza, as well as oven baked hoagies and big salads.

Spoon ( offers beautifully presented seasonal fare, and it’s the home of Pittsburgh’s Gin Club.

Two Sisters Vietnamese Restaurant (search Facebook for “Two Sisters PGH”) is Pittsburgh’s newest spot for first-rate pho and traditional Vietnamese cuisine. The team of sisters are “pho realz,” bringing serious depth to each dish.

With coffee roasted right here in the city, Zeke’s Coffee ( offers a great cup of coffee and plenty of tasty treats to go with it. Also find Zeke’s popping up at farmers markets, or go through its nearby drive-through location. 


The Bakery Square ( shopping center just down the road and features stores like West Elm, Free People, and Anthropologie, as well as eateries like Panera Bread.

Open year-round, the Farmers Market Co-op of East Liberty ( offers a selection of local produce, cheeses, flowers, and baked goods.

Newbies: Remember that Pennsylvania has fairly strict liquor laws, so if you want to buy spirits, you must visit a state sponsored Fine Wine and Good Spirits ( Luckily, East Liberty has the nicest one in the city; you can find local wines, celebrity gin, and more.

East Liberty is home to some recognizable favorites like Target (, Trader Joe's (, and Whole Foods (, all within a short walk of each other. For some more specialized shopping, Trim Pittsburgh ( has designer underwear and swimwear for men and is the perfect place for dudes to get their sexy on.

Warby Parker ( has modern and fashionable eyeglasses and sunglasses at affordable prices. Try on a few pairs, the staff is very friendly.

If you are new to the neighborhood and need to brighten things up at your new spot, Schoolhouse ( has chic light fixtures and home decor.

Where the locals go

Kelly’s Bar & Lounge (search Facebook for “Kelly’s Bar”) packs a lot of original charm — from its Art Deco bar to red fluorescent lights to cozy wooden booths — but folks also crowd in for economically priced cocktails, DJ nights, and a great no-frills back patio. No TVs, just good conversations with locals, not to mention the best mac and cheese in Pittsburgh.