When people talk about the revitalization of Pittsburgh, it usually involves the tagline meds and eds — and meds and eds it is in College Town. You’ll find the sprawling buildings of Carnegie Mellon University, Carlow University and the University of Pittsburgh as well as several UPMC medical complexes. Here, you can climb to the top of the second-tallest educational building in the world. Whether you’re working on your degree or visiting someone who is, you’ll never be bored, thanks to a wealth of cultural opportunities.
photos by kristi jan hoover
It’s easy to think of Oakland as a rowdy neighborhood of college students, but a walk through North Oakland’s Schenley Farms Historic District will give you the chance to contemplate the architectural grandeur of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A favored undergraduate enclave, Central Oakland offers plenty to do. Every block is packed with people hopping between the very many places to eat, drink and play.
You can be anything you want to be in South Oakland. The neighborhood raised artist Andy Warhol and footballer Dan Marino; it births babies at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC and innovates at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center.
Terrace Village runs alongside the Middle and Upper Hill districts, where the culture of the Hill runs into the University of Pittsburgh’s sports complexes. The neighborhood also is home to the Oak Hill apartment community.
Dominated by the campus of Carlow and a portion of Pitt’s massive footprint, West Oakland is home to education, innovation and — thanks to ample programs for both students and the public — community engagement.
Learn about Iranian culture (until the restaurant changes its focus) at Conflict Kitchen in North Oakland. Try the cold yogurt soup abdoogh khair. A project supported by CMU, Conflict Kitchen focuses its rotating menu on cultures with which the United States are in conflict. 221 Schenley Drive, conflictkitchen.org.
Combine your Pittsburgh ethnicities with a pie-rogi at Papa DaVinci’s in South Oakland. This delightful treat is a pizza with mashed potatoes, onions, mozzarella, provolone and cheddar. 3526 Boulevard of the Allies, papadavinci.com.
When the weather starts to turn cold — but before you vow never to leave your house again — we recommend one of the hoagie options at Oak Hill Market in Terrace Village. The cheesesteak, garlic chicken or chicken Parmesan varieties will spark your tongue and warm your insides. 504 Oak Hill Drive, facebook.com/oakhillmarketpgh.
A cup of peppermint tea is the perfect drink for an afternoon at The Corner in West Oakland. This space thrives on social justice, community education and the simple — and sometimes difficult — task of getting to know your neighbors. 200 Robinson St., cornerpgh.org.
Even if school’s out for the summer, you still can have a mason jar cocktail at student hotspot Hemingway’s Café in North Oakland. We recommend The Forbes Field (strawberry-lemonade vodka, sours, strawberry syrup and Sprite) while enjoying the café’s namesake summer poetry series. 3911 Forbes Ave., hemingwayspgh.com.
You’ll find outstanding cocktails both custom and classic at Butterjoint, the bar attached to Legume. Hungry drinkers can indulge in some of the top pierogies and hamburgers in Pittsburgh. 214 N. Craig St., butterjoint.com.
When was the last time you hit up your local metaphysical shop? If you can’t remember, then get on over to Hocus Pocus in Central Oakland. The friendly and knowledgeable staff will help you with everything from card readings to essential oils. 113 Meyran Ave., facebook.com/hocuspocus1313.
Maybe when you were young, you broke the Russian pecking-chickens paddle game at your grandparents’ house. We’ve all been there. Surprise your grandparents — or anyone who enjoys offbeat gifts — with traditional favorites from the Nationality Rooms Gift Center inside the Cathedral of Learning in North Oakland. 4200 Fifth Ave., nationalityrooms.pitt.edu/gifts/gift-center.
As the city becomes more and more bike-friendly, you’re going to need to up your game and your gear. Iron City Bikes in Central Oakland has been ahead of the curve for more than a decade; the staff can help you hit the streets, trails or the next big thing. 331 S. Bouquet St., ironcitybikes.com.
Spend a night at the museum at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Third Thursday 18+ events each month. You can see the exhibits after dark, listen to live music and order from the cafe’s late-night menu. 4400 Forbes Ave., cmoa.org/third-thursday.
If you’re willing to go on a bit of an adventure, you can discover the beautiful treasure that is Panther Hollow in Central Oakland. There you’ll find a park that celebrates Pittsburgh’s Italian heritage. End of Joncaire Street.
Stretch out and run around at Kennard Playground in Terrace Village. In addition to being a general hangout, the park also hosts an annual Community Appreciation Day as well as other health, wellness and justice events. Reed Street at Kirkpatrick Street.
Food Critic's Pick
One of my favorite chefs in Pittsburgh is Tamilselvan Thanguardi, who runs the kitchen at All India Restaurant in North Oakland. The journeyman chef grew up in southern India and after years of moving around Pittsburgh kitchens has comfortably found a home at All India. There’s a buffet, of course, but I recommend ordering from the restaurant’s menu. The chaana masala and goat curry are especially good. (315 N. Craig St., allindiapgh.com) — Hal B. Klein
Austrian Nationality Room/photo provided by university of pittsburgh
At the University of Pittsburgh in North Oakland, The Nationality Rooms Holiday Open House is both a celebration of the 30 rooms and their heritage and a celebration of the holidays. The free festival, always held the first Sunday in December, brings together people and customs from cultures that otherwise might not have much in common. Expect traditional food, crafts and choreographed dances in the Cathedral of Learning Commons Room that will keep you entertained all afternoon. Make sure to visit the rooms themselves while you’re there. (nationalityrooms.pitt.edu) — Lauren Davidson