The Reborn 'Burbs
This is where the city’s southern suburbs begin, at the edge of the city limits and drifting into the areas closest to Pittsburgh proper. Along the south bank of the Monongahela River — in an area with heavy industrial roots — you’ll find neighborhoods in the midst of revitalization, with plenty of business and more quaint places to live.
photos by kristi jan hoover
The neighborhood where the storied Homestead Grays once played has long been a center of culture and industry as well as a residential center. The wealth of businesses, restaurants and companies located in Homestead today maintain that legacy.
This charming community of 2.4 square miles has big yards and sidewalks and was shaped by the steel industry from its beginning in 1879. It has re-emerged as a destination for first-time home buyers.
A wee borough located (you guessed it) across the western border of Homestead, West Homestead is the home of Sandcastle Waterpark. It has two primary residential communities: the historic district and the Village, a hilltop community.
Across the Rankin Bridge from Rankin Borough lies the tiny borough of Whitaker, which has native actor Jeff Goldblum of “Jurassic Park” as a claim to fame.
The Pittsburgh metropolitan area is full of tiny of boroughs, townships and neighborhoods. West Mifflin isn’t one of them: This huge suburb, home of the historic Kennywood Park (4800 Kennywood Blvd., kennywood.com), has more than 20,000 residents and 14.4 square miles of space.
This isn’t actually a suburb but rather a city neighborhood in the 31st Ward of Pittsburgh. The neighborhood lost most of its population when the Hays Army Ammunition Plant closed, but the mostly undeveloped area still has at least two famous residents: a pair of nesting bald eagles.
What? A third Homestead? Yes, and this tiny community also is part of the city’s 31st Ward. Some families have lived for generations in this quiet, tucked-away neighborhood.
Located at the far southeastern tip of Pittsburgh, this city neighborhood has a Mayberry-like country feel to it. Wander long enough and you’ll find wild turkey and deer roaming.
Bishop’s Pizza, a popular local mini-chain with five locations, has two in The Reborn ’Burbs: Whitaker (114 Whitaker St.) and West Mifflin (428 Lebanon Road). Check the website for each location’s menu, as selections can vary. bishopspizza.com.
Secrets Bar & Grill in West Mifflin has this motto: “So good, you’ll have to tell.” The real secret here is the ownership’s Philadelphia roots and the subsequent Philly Cheesesteak on the menu. 633 McGowan Ave., facebook.com/secretsismybar.
If you’re craving sugar, check out the Mantsch Blue Bonnet Bakery in Homestead, where customers rave about confections including coconut crullers, chocolate-chip cookies and apricot pockets. Mmmm. 338 E. Eighth Ave., 412/462-4957.
The Happy Hour Saloon in Whitaker is a family-owned business of more than three decades. Play some pool and sip a draft beer while jockeying for jukebox control. The place has a selection of draft and bottled beers and other cocktails, along with pool tables and a jukebox. 129 W. Schwab Ave., facebook.com/thehappyhoursaloon.
You can enjoy music, food and drinks at Mulligan’s Sports Bar and Grill in West Mifflin. When it’s not filled with the sound of live music, Mulligan’s is a popular gathering place for those looking to catch a game over a drink or a meal. 1013 Lebanon Road, mulliganspgh.com.
For a laid-back hangout with good drinks, visit Pisci’s Bar in Munhall. This is a place people congregate during sports games — and don’t overlook the food menu. 4501 Main St., 412/464-5181.
To find just about anything you seek, go shopping at The Waterfront. This destination along the shores of the Monongahela River brings together more than 70 stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, including the AMC Loews Waterfront 22 Theater, waterfrontpgh.com.
If you’re a fan of the Steel City Con events, you’ll love Too Groovy Pop Culture Toys in Munhall. This store, which also buys toys for resale, sells retro everything, from “Star Wars” to Barbies and G.I. Joe figurines. 3905 Main St., toogroovytoys.com.
Still rocking plates from your college apartment? Upgrade your kitchen at Annex Cookery in Homestead. You’ll find everything from pots and pans to one-of-a-kind decor. 218 E. Eighth Ave., annexcookery.com.
West Homestead caters to the large population of Pittsburgh-area residents of Eastern European descent at the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center. The center hosts ethnic activities all year. 449 W. Eighth Ave., bmnecc.org.
For those looking to enjoy underwater fun outside of a simple neighborhood pool, Sandcastle Waterpark in West Homestead is open daily from early June through Labor Day. The park has everything from kiddie slides to thrill attractions — such as its newest draw, the Dragon’s Den. 1000 Sandcastle Drive, sandcastlewaterpark.com.
The region’s biggest concerts may happen at Consol Energy Center and First Niagara Pavilion, but you can find plenty of top artists giving intimate performances at the Carnegie Library Music Hall in Munhall, which in May 2016 hosted ’80s pop icon Cyndi Lauper. 510 E. 10th Ave., librarymusichall.com.
Food Critic's Pick
There’s a lot of hip happening in Pittsburgh today, so sometimes it’s important to get back to your roots. That’s why I love the Old School Italian Sandwich Shop in Munhall so much. Everything from the warm welcome at the door to the crushable food on the plate speaks to comfort and family. Go for the “The Playground,” a classic Chicago-style beef sandwich with sauteed sweet peppers or spicy giardiniera, or grab a meatball sandwich with peppers and Parmesan cheese. (609 E. Ninth Ave (rear), oldschoolitalian.com) — Hal B. Klein
photo courtesy the abraham hays foundation inc.
Tour Hays Mansion in Munhall as part of the Hays Mansion Memorial Day Weekend Celebration. Nearly two years after the approximately 150-year-old mansion was removed from a projected demolition list, the community came together in 2015 to host an annual celebration of the holiday and local history. The event includes music and remarks from members of The Abraham Hays Foundation, which maintains the historical site. The highlight is the 25-room home, which is purported to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. (munhallpa.us/events) — Lauren Davidson