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Where 8 Meets 28

The completed construction on Route 28 makes access to these northern neighborhoods a breeze — which is great because these boroughs increasingly are becoming destinations. 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 enjoyed by locals since well before their neighborhoods were starting to buzz.




photo by chuck beard
 

What's Here?

Sharpsburg
This little borough has an industrial history of manufacturing iron, brick and glass — notably glassware for the H.J. Heinz Company, which got its start here. Even though the borough is under 1 square mile, Sharpsburg claims some prime riverfront real estate with a public boat launch at James Sharp Landing.

Shaler Township
Home to smaller villages (the designations between an official municipality and something called a “census-designated place” are murky) such as Cherry City, Bauerstown, Elfinwild and Glenshaw, tree-covered Shaler Township is home to approximately 29,000 people.

Reserve Township
Covering 2 square miles of hilltop real estate, Reserve is a township that mixes quiet suburban living with hillside farms. The township was founded on lands “reserved” for Revolutionary War veterans.

Millvale
The secret of Millvale is out; the borough that lies across the 40th Street Bridge from Lawrenceville has become a destination for artists, craft-beer enthusiasts and those who enjoy outdoor recreation. Millvale is nearly 150 years old, and in that time, the former industrial community has retained its rural feel, brick roads and small, independent businesses.

Etna
This small town is the gateway to the communities along Route 8 as you head away from Pittsburgh. Plenty of variety can be found among Etna’s businesses and restaurants; you’ll find charming shops such as old-school hardware store Winschel Hardware (346 Butler St., 412/781-0593) and institutions such as the fabled Halloween attraction The ScareHouse ( 118 Locust St., scarehouse.com).

Aspinwall
This charming, tiny borough is home to many narrow, brick, one-way streets, beautiful Victorian homes and a vibrant, upscale business district perfect for a Sunday stroll.
 


photos by kristi jan hoover
 

Eat

If you’re serious about quality desserts, visit Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery in Millvale. The croissants and macarons are sublime — but make don’t leave without a fruit tart for yourself and another for your amour.  213 North Ave., jeanmarcchatellier.com.

Seafood is the star at Luke and Mike’s Frontporch Grille in Aspinwall. While there, take time to observe the historic building and the colorful neighborhood mural outside.  235 Commercial Ave., frontporchgrille.com.

You’ll wish you thought of the brilliant omelet-ingredient combos on the menu at Cafe on Main in Sharpsburg. If you aren’t in the mood for a savory breakfast, the cafe offers delicious, decadent waffles, too.  914 Main St., facebook.com/cafeonmainstreet.
 

Drink

Try a sour beer — and then try an even more sour beer — at Draai Laag in Millvale. Draai Laag brews an array of Belgian-style beers which you can enjoy while playing board games in the taproom.  501 E. Ohio St., draailaag.com.

Take advantage of the new patio area at Cornerstone Restaurant & Bar in Aspinwall to enjoy an old-fashioned cocktail with a twist. The bar also has happy-hour specials every weekday and touts an array of classic American beers, microbrews and international wines.  301 Freeport Road, cornerstonepgh.com.

Alioto’s in Etna is an ideal neighborhood spot for catching a Pens game. The bar has survived two major floods since it opened in 1965; the drinks and pizza will make you glad it endured.  17 Grant Ave., aliotos.biz.
 

Shop

Get ready to win a reputation as the best houseguest ever when you show up with a decorative plant from McTighe’s Garden Center and beer from the adjacent McTighe’s Drive Thru Beer Distributor in Shaler.  1609 and 1607 William Flynn Highway, 412/486-1909.

It’s a bit of a pilgrimage scaling the steep and winding Mt. Troy Road to Brenckle’s Farms & Greenhouses in Reserve, but claiming a lush hanging basket at the end makes it all worth it. Make sure to “like” Brenckle’s budding Facebook page for fresh updates on what the greenhouse is growing.  3814 Mt. Troy Road, brenckle.com.

Who doesn’t love receiving an elegant card? Nota Bene fine-paper boutique in Aspinwall stocks an array of beautiful stationery, paper products and gifts, as well as albums full of customizable invitations to life’s big events. 9 Brilliant Ave., notabenepaper.com.
 

Do

Rent a pontoon boat from Boat Pittsburgh in Sharpsburg with up to seven of your closest mates for half a day — or a full day if you want more time to explore the three rivers. Test out your skills as a captain, or simply relax on the water without the hassle of boat maintenance or dockage fees.  James Sharp Landing, boat-pgh.com.
 

Enjoy a concert at Mr. Smalls in Millvale, where you can see bands play in a converted, desanctified Catholic church. The popular venue recently opened a second event space, The Funhouse @ Mr. Smalls.  400 Lincoln Ave., mrsmalls.com.

Take advantage of the outdoor recreation facilities at Kiwanis Park in Shaler Township, which has three tennis courts, two basketball courts, two baseball fields, two playgrounds and a pool.  Kiwanis Road, shaler.org/355/kiwanis-park.
 

Food Critic's Pick

If you’re looking for a light bite in a part of the region that generally tilts toward heavier food, head to Randita’s Organic Vegan Cafe in Aspinwall. You’ll find a solid selection of lunchtime choices such as African peanut stew and an outstanding mixed-greens salad (go for the lime vinaigrette). The menu expands on Friday and Saturday evenings for weekend dinner specials. (207 Commercial Ave., randitas.com) — Hal B. Klein
 

Signature Event

For the last 10 years, Millvale has been celebrating breweries with its annual Brew Fest. Held at Millvale Riverfront Park in August, the fundraising event for the Millvale Community Development Corporation features more than 175 craft, micro, nano and specialty brews, picnic-style barbecue and vegetarian and vegan offerings. Spring for the VIBD (Very Important Beer Drinker) tickets, which include a T-shirt, special beer tastings, a private tent and special beer-food pairings.
(millvalepa.com) — Lauren Davidson
 

 

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