The Sprawling Suburbs

Three major highways — the Pennsylvania Turnpike, William Penn Highway (aka Route 22), and the Parkway East — converge here. Roadways always have played a key role in this region’s growth; so has shopping. Developers built the Miracle Mile Shopping Center in 1954 to take advantage of the traffic, then other developers one-upped them with a 1 million-square-foot mall in the next decade. Research labs for U.S. Steel, Westinghouse and others attracted engineers from around the world, particularly India, and the new immigrants often built temples — one of which is a familiar sight perched on a hillside overlooking I-376

photos by kristi jan hoover

What’s Here?

​Long before retail crowded Route 22, Monroeville was a stagecoach stop on the Northern Turnpike, the forerunner of the William Penn Highway. Pittsburgh’s four Hindu and Sikh temples all are here or nearby, as are some Indian restaurants and groceries.

Another stagecoach stop, founded in 1820. It really boomed in 1878 when the Haymaker brothers, drilling for oil, struck a massive natural gas deposit instead. A pipeline soon ran from here to Pittsburgh. Today, it’s a booming suburb thanks to direct routes to Downtown.

Penn Hills
One of the first big post-war suburbs, Penn Hills nearly doubled in population between 1940 and 1950, then doubled again by 1960 to more than 50,000 residents. It remains one of Allegheny County’s most populous municipalities.

Plum is one of the original seven townships founded when Allegheny County was created in 1788 — which means that, by some measures, Plum is older than the city of Pittsburgh. It’s named after Plum Creek — which once had lots of plum trees and which originates in the highlands of Boyce Park, the only place to ski in Allegheny County.

The town was created for workers when the Pennsylvania Railroad put a massive freight yard on the other bank of Turtle Creek. It was named after the executive responsible, Scottish immigrant and self-made man Robert Pitcairn.

George Westinghouse built a railroad spur out to here in 1892, originally to supply the gas fields. The town later exported vast amounts of coal, hence its name.

​Tollgate Lane here is a reminder of the old highway. Early residents of this town, which was long known as New Salem, could do road maintenance in lieu of paying taxes.


The jerk chicken understandably is a favorite at Caribeana in Penn Hills. But let Donette Howell tempt you with some of her other Jamaican kitchen concoctions, such as sweet brown stew shrimp, curry goat or banana fritters.  6022 Saltsburg Road,

You’ll find genuine, expertly prepared Mexican fare at Madero Cantina in Murrysville, not frozen chimichangas or sour-mix margaritas. It’s all made from scratch, from the guac to the stock. Try the filet mango tacos, or munch on fried flautas filled with chipotle cream sauce.  4462 William Penn Highway,

His dad ran a Greek diner in the neighborhood for years, but Nick Papageorgiou says putting fries on top of the gyros at his Old Village Grill in Penn Hills isn’t exclusively a Pittsburgh thing — he saw a lot of it during two study-abroad semesters in Greece. Save room for the house-baked, honey-soaked baklava.  6277 Saltsburg Road, 412/888-9169.

photo by laura petrilla


Old-fashioned cocktails at the contemporary Eighty Acres Kitchen and Bar in Plum have an updated twist. Try the Dr. Sparks Cure All, a quaffable prescription of Wigle rye, orange bitters, fresh strawberry and lime juices, St. Germain and soda.  1910 New Texas Road,

If you can’t find a beer you like at Gateway Grill in Monroeville, you aren’t trying — besides the 34 on tap, they keep 700 in the coolers. The walls of this friendly neighborhood sports bar are crowded with framed yearbook photos of the Gateway Gators, whose football field is about a football field away.  4251 Northern Pike,

With 17 drafts made on site at Rivertowne Brewing Tap Room in Export, the challenge is deciding which one to try first. The Hala Kahiki pineapple beer is a big hit.  5578 Old William Penn Highway,


Name a song at Johnstonbaugh’s Music Center in Plum and the staff probably can find sheet music for it. Get “Uptown Funk” in four-part harmony for choir, and the girls can hit their hallelujahs at the next Sunday service.  140 Sandune Drive,

From jewelry to stationery to décor, Morninglory in Murrysville has just about everything you could want for home or gift ideas — plus more purses than Vera Bradley could shake a stick at.  4542 William Penn Highway,

Pick from the pizzelles at Leonard Labriola’s Italian Grocery in Monroeville, where the choices include lemon, orange, vanilla, almond and anise. Or buy a pizzelle iron and make your own; you’ll still find something to come back for at a business that’s been in one family for nearly a century.  4039 Monroeville Blvd.,


The area’s two Hindu temples, which welcome visitors, are a study of architectural contrasts. The white Sri Venkateswara Temple (1230 S. McCully Drive, in Penn Hills has a stepped tower entrance of the type commonly found in southern India, while the red Hindu Jain Temple (615 Illini Dr., in Monroeville has the bulging cupolas seen in the north.

Practice your Sidney Crosby moves without getting cold feet at the Greater Pittsburgh Dek Hockey Center in Penn Hills. The director, former Woodland Hills ice hockey star Billy Sullivan, plays for the U.S. men’s ball hockey team.  517 Twin Oak Drive,

Practice for American Ninja Warrior at Steel City Parkour in Export. The gym has a 14-foot warped wall, devil steps, jumping spider and salmon ladder, plus trampoline walls and features for free runners.  2080 Borland Farm Road,

Food Critic’s Pick

I’m a big fan of Udipi Cafe in Monroeville. The Indian restaurant’s 100-percent vegetarian menu is truly delicious. Don’t miss the dosas — thin rice crepes filled with a variety of toppings — or the uthappam, savory rice and lentil pancakes. Chana masala, chana palak and baigan ka bharta all are excellent choices if you’re craving a curry. (4141 Old William Penn Highway, 412/373-5581) — Hal B. Klein

Signature Event

Enjoy all of the fun winter can offer with three days of indoor and outdoor activities at Boyce Park SnowFest. Options include everything from snowboarding to skiing, from snowshoeing to a mini junior Olympics — and kids’ entertainment from a magician to a balloon artist. Friday and Saturday end with a Winter Wonderland Laser Light Show. ( — Lauren Davidson


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21 Great Communities

Around the Point

With exciting options for work, play and attractive new housing – these Pittsburgh neighborhoods are the places a rising number of urbanites want to call home.

The New North

If you venture to this neighborhood only to attend a sporting event or concert at PNC Park or Heinz Field, you’re missing out; the area is full of restaurants, museums, cultural landmarks and churches, as well as some lovely historic homes.

The Old Allegheny Slopes

No matter where you drive or walk in The Old Allegheny Slopes, you are probably going up or down a hill. This makes for a lot of good views, along with hidden surprises tucked into these city neighborhoods.

The Northern 'Burbs

The area commonly referred to as the North Hills maintains its long-held status as a fine suburban place to live or go for a walk in a nature park, but the area also offers plenty of shopping and dining and play options.

The Near East

There’s a reason all of the out-of-town trend pieces praising Pittsburgh’s 21st-century rebirth seem to focus on these neighborhoods. This thriving part of the city is where design, the arts, restaurant culture and high-end shopping are integrated into Pittsburgh’s working-class bones.

Where 8 Meets 28

The river communities that have been home to many families with histories in steel- and glass-making have a wealth of quaint, independent retail stores, restaurants and businesses, as well as much-loved libraries, festivals and community days.

Allegheny River Communities

Each borough and municipality in this northeastern corner of Allegheny County contains surprises. To those who live along the river’s edge, they’re familiar, hometown destinations and sights; to visitors, they’re spots worth making the drive out along (the finally construction-free) Route 28.

College Town

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.

Green Pittsburgh

Green Pittsburgh is a story of the birth and rebirth of our city: students and young professionals flock to Squirrel Hill and Shadyside, adding vibrancy that radiates from top universities. Meanwhile, redevelopment in Hazelwood and Glen Hazel offers new chances for affordable housing and a blossoming community.

The Hidden East End

The Mellons, Fricks, Carnegies and Westinghouses built their mansions in this most-stylish part of town. But their departure for greener and more secluded pastures — and the mass relocation of families here after the razing of the Lower Hill — left much of this area economically depressed for decades. Now the long-awaited renaissance of East Liberty is beginning to bring major reinvestment here, too.

The Eastern Border

Most of these communities, which lie to the east of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, are residential suburbs with small business districts. There also are tons of beauty in these hills, which are packed with historic homes, parks, schools and churches, as well as evidence of Pittsburgh’s steel-making and industrial past.
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The Sprawling Suburbs

Roadways, which prompted the construction of shopping malls, always have played a key role in this region’s growth. Research labs for U.S. Steel, Westinghouse and others attracted engineers from around the world, particularly India, and the new immigrants often built temples — one of which is a familiar sight perched on a hillside overlooking I-376

The Mon and Beyond

Past meets the present in the communities making up Pittsburgh’s eastern and Mon Valley regions. Here you’ll encounter reminders of where we started as leaders in the steel industry and — while plenty of these small towns still face challenges — you’ll find glimpses of where we’re going in neighborhoods moving towards revitalization.

Scaling the Mountain

There’s a lot happening in the area between the South Side and the Hilltop, and every time you visit, it seems a new business has cropped up. The communities around Mount Washington enjoy beautiful views of the city as well as parks, strong neighborhood associations and ethnic restaurants.

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.

Far Down the River

Pittsburgh loves its blue-collar industrial history, and at the heart of that are the communities that make up the Mon Valley. Where the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers meet is the beginning of a network of proud, tight-knit communities with lots of trails and woods to explore, plenty of fishing spots and — important for any community — a wealth of beloved soft-serve ice cream stands.

The Southern Suburbs

With their abundance of green spaces, thriving business districts and walkable sidewalk communities, Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs offer plenty of incentive for families looking for a peaceful place to call home. Though mere minutes from Downtown, these neighborhoods make residents feel as though they are worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The Midwest

The neighborhoods west of Downtown were among the region’s first. Most were part of Chartiers Township, which (like the creek) was named for Pierre Chartier, a local trader of French and Shawnee parentage who later became a chief. Formerly farmland, most of this area was transformed by industry into working-class neighborhoods, a legacy which persists today.

Down the Highways

While driving southbound on Interstate 79, don’t be scared to take an exit and explore. These townships and boroughs range from scenic farmland to busy main streets. Regardless of the surroundings, the areas in this region all offer plenty to experience.

The Far-Flung 'Burbs

These primarily residential communities have spent the past years growing — and becoming more and more popular. With Pittsburgh International Airport nearby and increasing economic development, it’s easy to see why so many call this end of the region home.

The Ohio River Valley

The lands north of the Ohio River became part of the Depreciation Lands used to pay Revolutionary War veterans for their service. The numerous small boroughs and townships along Ohio River Boulevard are collected into slightly larger (but still compact) school districts, befitting their continued status as popular hometowns to raise families generation after generation.
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Getting Around & More

Your Guide to Getting There

How to make your way through construction, inscrutable directions and traffic and (quickly) get to everything Pittsburgh has to offer.

Six More Things You Might Not Know about Pittsburgh

The thing that annoyed a young Andy Warhol. A typo broadcast over the city skyline. And how our first mayor outwitted hostile natives at age 13. All of this and much more in the latest edition of Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh!

The Easy and Practical Newcomer's Guide to Pittsburgh

Here's everything you need to know about getting settled in the Steel City.
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