What Our Neighborhoods Do Best
The perfect neighborhood for every Pittsburgher.
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The Perfect Neighborhood for Going Organic
Where exactly is Friendship? Locals love to dispute its borders. Does it start at Friendship Park? Does it end at East Liberty? On a map, Friendship looks like a blunt arrowhead. But the actual perimeter is not important. When you turn onto South Fairmont or Emory Way, something in your gut just feels different. Rows of Victorian houses stand on bright, sloping lawns, and trees form a tunnel that looms above the quiet streets. Friendship feels so — well, friendly.
And all around the neighborhood, businesses cater to this joie de vivre. Locals find fresh produce at nearby Giant Eagle Market District and ingredients fit for the ultimate foodie at Whole Foods in neighboring East Liberty. They take a quick trip down Penn to dine at Garfield’s Salt of the Earth, one of the most celebrated culinary experiences in the city. They sip craft brews at the Sharp Edge Beer Emporium and host parties on their broad porches. They careen through the neighborhood on fixed bicycles, learn new positions at Yoga Hive and stroll up to Penn for the Unblurred art walk.
It’s not surprising that Friendship was once a colonial farm and that its name has Quaker origins. The people of Friendship like to taste Bloomfield’s action, but they also like quality meals, organic lifestyles, and some peace and quiet. It might just be the most
balanced place around.
Turn off Penn Avenue onto South Aiken Avenue, and look for the community garden on your left. Inside are nicely tended plots – but right smack dab in the middle sits a mosaic octopus with striped pipe for tentacles! It’s the Octopus’s Garden! The garden was the brilliant design idea of local resident Kristin Hughes; Octavia, the superbly wacky sculpture, was donated by Pittsburgh artist Laura Jean McLaughlin. Be on the lookout for the “Caution: Tomatoes” signs!
The Perfect Neighborhood for Diversity
All kinds of people reside in Shadyside. Grad students live there. Entrepreneurs. Professors. Artists and dishwashers. Asians, Africans and Latinos. In a single converted mansion, veterans and hippies cohabitate. They eat everything from sushi to tapas. Some wear American Apparel; others shop at Hey Betty! Vintage Clothing and Collectibles. Shadyside is home to more gay nightlife than anywhere else in the region. Even the art galleries are diverse — Gallerie Chiz sells modern canvases and sculpture, while Galerie Werner sells antique European oil paintings.
Shadyside is a cultural lodestone, attracting people from all over the world. Newcomers yearn to live here. They settle in renovated studios and houses, and they spend their free time browsing the storefronts on Walnut Street or taking in Ellsworth nightlife. Shadyside is a melting pot of disparate cultures and identities. This is the neighborhood that put Pamela’s P&G Diner and La Feria in the same building — Lyonnaise potatoes and Peruvian empanadas served within a close promixity.
The real diversity test: the delightfully wacky Kards Unlimited. Pittsburgh’s most eccentric novelty shop draws every kind of person imaginable. If you love to people-watch, this is the place to do it. No two customers are the same.
Cathedral Mansions – home to many Pitt and CMU students – is a big apartment building at 4716 Ellsworth Ave., officially in Shadyside (although some might consider it North Oakland). For more than 30 years, Fred Rogers rented a ground-floor, one-bedroom apartment here, where he wrote scripts for his TV shows and composed songs on an electric piano. He walked back and forth from here to WQED’s Fifth Avenue headquarters.
The Perfect Neighborhood for Hanging Out at the Corner Bar
You could call it la vita bella. In the afternoon, folks amble the wide sidewalks of Liberty Avenue as if they have nowhere important to go. They sip cappuccino at outdoor tables, they trade gossip, they chuckle. And when the sun sags low, they stand up and head for the bar.
Happy hour stretches long in Bloomfield. Some people arrive in the afternoon and stay ’til midnight and beyond. If the conversation is good, they might hobble home without bothering to check the time. People don’t get moody or bellicose — why would they? Everybody they know is here, sitting on the deck of the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern digging into a massive “Polish Platter.” Or they’re gathered around the inlaid wood of Lot 17. Or they’re signing up for karaoke around the jam-packed bar of Del’s Bar & Ristorante. Whether they sip Cabernet or Iron City, they share stories and elbow room, and the time passes dreamily. That’s how they roll in Bloomfield after the sun goes down.
And locals know where to cavort — secret spots like Sonny’s Tavern and Nico’s Recovery Room. They know the weekly specials and the bartender’s backstory. Spend some time in Bloomfield, and you’ll get to know everybody, too. You’ll end up with a go-to stool. Doesn’t take long to fit in.
It’s easier to love a neighborhood that still has a good bakery. Especially where fresh doughnuts fill the cases every morning – and cookies and cakes with French buttercream icing are part of the local landscape. Paddy Cake Bakery has been a delicious part of the Bloomfield scene since the early 1980s. Pittsburghers who love cream-filled lady locks, take note: Sometimes Paddy Cake bakers make giant-sized versions of that pastry that could satisfy a family of six!
The Perfect Neighborhood for Performances and Museums
Every local knows that U2 played in Oakland before the band became famous. They know that August Wilson taught himself how to write at the Carnegie Library, and that President Obama spoke at Soldiers and Sailors. It’s even rumored that Salman Rushdie visited Oakland during the Fatwa. The list goes on and on.
But those are special occasions — celebrity cameos, if you will. Every day, Oakland is a hub of museums, concerts, poetry readings and events. In five minutes, you can walk from the Dinosaur Hall at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to the annual Greek Festival at the Church of the Ascension. You could attend a Theosophy lecture and a Kuntu Repertory Theatre performance in the same evening. You can taste the cuisine of a dozen different nations. You can puff a shisha at The Sphinx Café and watch live belly-dancing. If downtown is our Manhattan, then Oakland is our Brooklyn — filled to the brim with activity, youth culture, excitement and illumination.
Oakland has changed a lot over time, yet much has stayed the same. Tela Ropa and the Oakland Beehive are long gone, Oishii Bento and Joe Mama’s Italian Deluxe have risen, and Dave & Andy’s Ice Cream still scoops frozen delights every summer. Whatever it looks like on the surface, this area will always draw crowds. For sheer vivacity, Oakland reigns omnipotent.
There’s no marker, but the right half of the modest yellow-brick duplex at 3252/54 Dawson St. was home to Andy Warhola from 1934 (when he was only 6) until 1949 (when he lost the “a” at the end of his last name and left for New York City). Folks in South Oakland recently put up a sign: “Welcome To The Boyhood Home of Dan Marino & Andy Warhol.”