90 Neighborhoods and What We Love About Them
Explore the ins and outs of Pittsburgh’s incredible, diverse neighborhoods with fun things to do in every part of town.
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Root 174 chef/co-owner Keith Fuller says he spent six years “loving” his job as executive chef at Six Penn Kitchen but eventually decided to strike out on his own in 2011. His approach to cooking is simple — “to make good food and have fun.” Fuller’s restaurant is an expression of his desires: He wants the staff to feel like family, the customers to relax and the vibe to be rustic. Anyone can see his dedication to Root 174 — check out the restaurant logo tattooed on his neck! For this venture, Fuller brought together a great team that will add to your dining experience; his staff will greet you at the door with a smile and check on you throughout your meal. The restaurant’s name represents the square root of the sum of Regent Square’s two zip codes. Root 174 fills the space of much-loved Legume, which relocated to Oakland, so Fuller transformed the interior to offer a different experience. Superb offerings range from vegan vegetable cakes to hanger steak, with interesting flavor combinations and sauces — all of which remain in line with the restaurant’s comfort-food focus. Unlike traditional comfort food, the presentation at Root 174 is simple yet neat, with appropriately sized portions. There are quite a few indulgent options available, too.
[1113 S. Braddock Ave.; root174.com, 412/243-4348]
Make an appointment at Copper Kettle Brewing Co. (copperkettlepgh.com; 412/906-9400) to brew a case of your own beer.
You won’t find boring checkerboards and identical designs, standard-issue kitchens and bland clapboard siding in Swisshelm Park, an old-fashioned suburb of ranch houses and brick cottages. When you walk its wide streets, you travel back in time to the Rockwellian America of yesteryear. There are no chain stores in Swisshelm and no billboards or sprawl. This charming neighborhood is a little slice of houses and two-lane streets arranged the way Pittsburgh’s surrounding environs used to be. The highway roars above, but Swisshelm Park doesn’t trifle with an exit ramp. Pub in the Park nearly straddles the line between Swissvale and Swisshelm, attracting regulars from both neighborhoods. This inviting pub, tucked well out of the way, has become one of our favorites. It’s a true Irish pub; ’tenders cheerfully say “Slainte!” when they’re handing you a drink, and they can pour a Guinness just right (a true rarity outside of Ireland). They are absolutely not averse to a good time with live bands, karaoke, special parties for big sports events (easily visible on 10 new TVs), trivia and more surprises — be sure to get on the email list to receive the full rundown. There’s a dart room in the back. Bartenders will know you by name on your second visit. And the last time we stopped in, they offered a couple of barbecue ham sandwiches for no apparent reason. This pub is home. — Robert Isenberg and Sean Collier
[7034 Blackhawk St.; pubintheparkpgh.com, 412/241-9242]
When you start walking the Duck Hollow Trail, it doesn’t matter how close The Waterfront shopping complexes are — you feel like you’re in the middle of Appalachia. The trail forms a crescent along the riverbank, cutting through woods and skirting the water. Although you’re never far from a bridge or a barge, the most humanity you’re likely to see is a hiker or biker who silently nods as you pass. The trail is bookended by Hazelwood’s train tracks and the Homestead Grays Bridge, but in between lies the neighborhood of Glen Hazel. Duck Hollow is well worth a promenade. — Robert Isenberg
[Trail access and parking at the south end of Old Browns Hill Road]
Squirrel Hill South
With much more than an amazing view, it's not hard to while away the hours at the Schenley Overlook.
Feeling inspired to swing the bat after a Pirates win? Head to Batting Practice Softball & Baseball Batting Cages, on the border of Lincoln Place and West Mifflin, where you can face a full 100 pitches for only $9. The cages are wrapped in a circle beneath a big-top net (preventing your pop fouls from soaring back onto Buttermilk Hollow Road), and the machines can fire fastballs at big-league speeds of up to 90 m.p.h. Novices would be advised to not come anywhere near that velocity; in fact, Batting Practice offers softball pitches for those of us without professional experience. The cages are open until 9 p.m. every day, so drop by late to take your cuts under the lights.
[4635 Buttermilk Hollow Road; battingpracticecages.com, 412/462-5713]
There was once a time when hazelnut trees flourished along the hills that rose above the Monongahela River. There was also a man, Col. George Woods — the very man who laid out Pittsburgh’s downtown as we know it today — and he had a son, John, who did the drafting for “The Woods Plan.” The younger Woods went to those hazelnut forests in 1792 and built a stone house, 23 feet by 31. Two years later, he played a prominent role in the Whiskey Rebellion. Stand today at John Woods’ house, at the corner of Tullymet and Monongahela streets in modern-day Hazelwood, and try to imagine that. Clear out the cars and the contemporary houses and visions of the South Side. Peek inside and imagine a cooking fireplace in the cellar settled atop a dirt floor. Gaze in at the 19th-century Greek Revival fireplace in the front room, the staircase in the corner and another room with an additional fireplace in the back. More stairs to the attic. Think about how simple it all is. Think about how this house was called a mansion by a Pittsburgh newspaper somewhere around 1909 — when real mansions dotted the city. Stand there now and know how old this house is, one of the oldest in the city, one of three surviving 18th-century buildings. Know where we started and how very far we’ve come. — Amy Whipple
[4604 Monongahela St.]
The Carnegies and Mellons weren’t the only families to once rule this blue-collar town. Indeed, the Fricks were also prestigious members of Pittsburgh’s upper crust around the turn of the last century. The public has been able to visit this famous family’s “castle” (aka The Frick Art & Historical Center) since 1990. Take a tour of the Victorian-style home with an impressive art collection. In addition to the house (pictured here as part of photographer Vik Muniz's "Clayton Days" series), the Car and Carriage Museum showcases the Frick’s personal vehicle collection, including a classic Ford Model T. If all that history leaves you hungry, stop by The Café at the Frick, where you can enjoy a dish fit for royalty. —Caitlyn Kronket
[7227 Reynolds St.; thefrickpittsburgh.org, 412/371-0600]
The parks of New Homestead are much like the neighborhood itself — patches of land so tiny and tranquil that you might drive past without giving much notice. Most people don’t know the difference between Homestead and New Homestead, and the 900 or so residents don’t seem to mind. They have Panorama Field and Revenue Parklet (also known as Roland Lockridge Community Park), and the earthy baseball field and basic playground keep locals happy. Most of New Homestead is covered in greenery, and in the right spots, you can take in a remarkable, scenic view of the Mon. New Homestead is like a little slice of rural Pennsylvania, right on the edge of the city. — Robert Isenberg
[Revenue and Benezette streets]
If Pittsburgh has its own version of the fanciful paradise from the ’90s family flick FernGully, it would probably be Hays Woods. “Where is Hays Woods?” you ask. Adjacent to The Waterfront, this 635-acre swath of land is the largest undeveloped parcel in the city. You would be excused for not realizing this: From the Glenwood Bridge, Hays resembles a jumble of highways and warehouses, hardly worth exploring. Look closer, and you’ll find a vast urban forest, complete with bald eagles and a waterfall. If both of those things are startling — more fitting in some Rocky Mountain state than in Pittsburgh — we couldn’t agree more. Yet a bald eagles’ nest has been spotted in Hays Woods, and the woodland has long been home to its own waterfall. Not an Amazonian cascade, mind you, but remarkable to behold: The steady stream pours from a high cliff, splashing into the rocks and clay below. Meanwhile, a half-dozen perennial streams crisscross the forest. A century after the district was once used for digging coal, the sanctuary looks practically virginal. Entrepreneurs have long desired to level the trees and replace them with a strip mine or commercial developments. So far, activists have helped to stop these projects in the hopes that Hays Woods will remain intact. It’s hard to say who will win this debate in future years. For now, the land remains a well-kept secret, virtually unknown to longtime residents but an inspiration to all who visit. — Robert Isenberg