Fifteen years ago the North Shore connection to the Light Rail Transit system, also known as the T, was just beginning construction. In 2012, only three years ago, service finally began and sports fans all over the city rejoiced: Heinz Field and PNC Park were now steps away from the T. But beyond our stadiums hides the North Side, a conglomeration of neighborhoods with restaurants, artwork, museums and history aplenty to offer any who decide to venture beyond Allegheny Commons Park. Bring your walking shoes and an empty stomach; you’ll run short on time but not on places to go.
Approximate time from Mt. Lebanon Station: between 30 and 35 minutes.
E. Ohio Street
The roomy, light-filled atmosphere may pull you in initially, but it’s the whole leaf tea and light, locally sourced fare that’ll keep you there all day. This new shop opened up a few months ago and is already gathering a loyal customer base and a reputation as the ideal place to sit down for a while, relax and get work done. Some rave about the croissants; others enjoy the variety of iced teas—none can deny that chocolate marshmallow maté tea intrigues even diehard coffee fanatics. Speaking of, you can grab a cup of coffee too, while your friend munches on a currant cream scone and refuses to give you even one precious bite.
Priory Fine Pastries
E. Ohio Street
While Arnold’s Tea is new, the Priory’s pastry shop is history in a cupcake. The building was the first home of the Clark Candy Company, which you may recognize as the company behind Clark bars, and later became home to a silent motion picture theater for years before it regained its sweetness nearly 10 years ago as this city-renowned pastry shop. Donuts galore, plenty of cookies and cakes to gorge on and—a hat tip to their history—a “North Sider” cupcake that topped with a Clark Bar.
Max’s Allegheny Tavern
When in Deutschtown, eat German food. Max’s Allegheny Tavern is an old staple of the neighborhood and makes sure Pittsburgh’s bratwurst, knackwurst, kraut and spatzle cravings can be kept under control. The décor may remind you of a distant relative’s old house, but you won’t even notice once your meal arrives and demands your full attention. Guten Appetit.
Legends of the North Shore
E. North Avenue
This is not the place to take your future in-laws, unless they’re into holes in the wall and unpretentious Italian fare—in which case, definitely take them to Legends and bring a bottle of wine. Each day has its own special, be it a $30 dinner for two on Mondays or corkage-fee free Wednesdays, and the family-owned business draws customers from all over the city.
W. North Avenue
Another newcomer to the neighborhood, chef and owner Michael Barnhouse created a bistro that puts farm to table into practice and doesn’t fail to impress taste buds, either. The tiny spot is comfortable, unfettered by needless decorations or table pieces and, true to the minimalist ambiance, is BYOB. The menu changes with the seasonal produce available and all meals are made from scratch, so budget in a little time to wait, kick back and enjoy the company you came with.
A homey neighborhood pub with Irish-themed fare, Monterey Pub is a great place to catch up with friends and snack on pub food in between laughter. Unlike typical pub food, though, Monterey Pub goes all out with a menu stretching from quesadillas and fried green beans to steak or chicken wraps, burgers topped with Guinness beef, to serious Irish food like shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash. If you’re having a tough time choosing what to eat, you’ll just have to come back—but not on a Thursday, when Mexican dishes come into play and it’s even harder to choose.
You may have spent plenty of time at Pittsburgh’s many museums, but have your kids? The Andy Warhol Museum holds a monthly screen printing class for children ages 1 to 4; the Mattress Factory has frequent workshops for 7-to-12-year-olds, where kids can explore creating films or crafting garden decorations, and the Carnegie Science Center still does the age-old ice cream liquid nitrogen trick that is plenty new to young eyes, among a host of other programs. If you don’t find anything on those calendars that excites the little ones, there’s an entire museum for kids, The Children’s Museum, not too far away either.
For those more captivated by the animals, don’t forget that the National Aviary has family programs like penguin painting, where penguins decorate pieces of paper by marching with paint on their feet, and informational classes about owls and other fascinating avian creatures. A little extracurricular learning may be just the thing your kid needs to start paying attention in science class, and if not, at least you can walk away with a piece of artwork or, if you’re lucky, a screen-printed T-shirt.
TAKE A WALK
The Mexican War Streets are hardly a place of conflict; the streets are lined with greenery and beautiful row houses, many of which are restored and well over a hundred years old. In the midst of the ordered homes stands Randyland, a strange, colorful outdoor walk-through exhibit created by the quirky Randy Gilson in his own backyard. Painted chairs, flamingos, colorful signs and characters, as well as a collection of painted doors and mannequin heads all create the chimerical atmosphere Randyland is renowned for.
When you’re ready to step back into reality, take a few steps away to Sampsonia Way, where the City of Asylum, a nonprofit which provides housing to exiled writers and artists from other countries, has transformed four houses into public art pieces. The most recognizable is the wooden House Poem, a home with Chinese symbols painted all over the façade, but keep an eye out for the House of Jazz, House of Wings and Pittsburgh-Burma House as well.
For George Mendel’s full gallery of images from the North Shore, please visit our photo store
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