Best of the 'Burgh 2012: Readers' Poll

Our readers pick the best of the best in Pittsburgh.

best appetizers
Asian and Latin fusion inspire the cuisine at Tamari, with locations in Lawrenceville and Warrendale. A tapas menu features not only classics like guacamole and egg rolls, but also more adventuresome fare like beef-tongue tacos, Peking duck quesadillas and chipotle-tuna tartare.

best family restaurant
Four generations of a family sometimes dine together at Eat’n Park, serving the region since 1949. Little ones receive crayons and placemats for coloring; there are menu niches for kids, seniors and those with special diets, and everyone can leave happy with an iconic Smiley Cookie.

best happy hour
Say adios to the tie and don a sombrero. At its seven locations around the Pittsburgh area, Mad Mex offers a Happy Hora on weekdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Specials include house margaritas and deals on drafts and wings.

best beer list
With 600-plus choices (when all are five Sharp Edge sites are combined), that’s a looong beer list. It weighs heavily on Belgian and American brews, but you also can sample the wares from places like Jamaica and Sri Lanka. See the website for a current list and updates at the five Sharp Edge locations.

best restaurant for a first date
This intimate but sophisticated spot has been a South Side destination since 2000. Order a Sicilian Sunrise or Dirty Dish martini, sample the cucina Italiano by executive chef/owner Michele Savoia, and you’re in for one enchanted evening.

best bed & breakfast
There’s no place like home, but a grand old antique-filled Victorian home like The Inn on Negley can offer the next best thing. What’s more, the Shadyside setting lets guests walk to the visual, cultural and mercantile attractions of the East End.

best takeout
Even if you have to eat on the go, you don’t have to settle for the humdrum. The Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland Park offers a wide-ranging menu of Thai cuisine: appetizers, soups, salads, entrées and desserts. Now that summer’s here, cool off with a Thai iced coffee or coconut juice.

best frozen treat
Freezing out the competition is Rita’s, which has been serving those seeking the big chill since 1984. Today, it has hundreds of locations,from North Side to China, and now offers more than just Italian ice, including frozen custard and Gelati.

best soul food
Traditional Southern- and New Orleans-style cuisine has found its way north—to the North Side of Pittsburgh. Honey barbecue country ribs, red beans and rice, and shrimp gumbo are on a menu that appreciates heart-healthy cooking. A Bistro Brunch and catering services add to the options.

best wing night
Taste buds take flight over the ’Burgh at Bigham Tavern on Mount Washington every Wednesday. But just to clarify: It’s wing day and wing night here from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Order a wide assortment of flavors — from original to Buffalo to Cajun Wet and more.

best new bar
A 19th-century building in North Side’s historic Deutschtown district provides a charming location for James Street Speakeasy and Gastropub (see page 46 for more). Local and craft beers as well as cocktails are served — and there’s entertainment, with live local jazz, blues and acoustic artists.

best hot dogs
During the dog days of summer, there’s nothing like hot dogs to grill up at a picnic. Our reader write-in winners are made by the family-owned, Erie-based Smith Provision Co. They’re also the official hot dogs of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the CONSOL Energy Center.

best brewery
Self-described as “Pittsburgh's micro-est microbrewery,” East End Brewing boasts a gas-fired 10-barrel single-step infusion brew house. Remember: It’s not also a brewpub, but you can stop by during “Growlers Hours” at its Homewood headquarters or at its shop in the Strip District.


best local comic
A youth minster turned funny man, Munhall-based Aaron Kleiber, who studied at the legendary Second City, has been blessed with talent and determination. His star is on the rise, with a steady stream of stand-up gigs, both local and on the road.

best local artist
Award-winning artist Stacy Innerst’s illustrations have been seen in numerous books and periodicals, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Among his projects, Innerst painted custom football helmets for Pittsburgh Steelers Jerome Bettis, Jeff Reed and Hines Ward.

best local actor
A hard-working 40-something actor and comic from the ’Burgh, Billy Gardell has landed roles on network TV and currently portrays Mike on CBS’s “Mike and Molly.” A Steelers fan, he also maintains hometown roots via guest appearances on the WDVE Morning Show.

best exhibit
It’s double honors for “Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story,” presented by Carnegie Museum of Art. Both editors (see left) and readers bestow “Best” on this multimedia, multidimensional exhibit dedicated to the life and times of Pittsburgh photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908-1998).

best museum
The largest museum in the country devoted to a single artist — Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol — The Warhol earns another 15 minutes of fame from our readers. Since 1994, this North Side attraction has been engaging and sometimes enraging Pittsburghers with exhibits, film, performances and special events.

best theater company
Edgy and adventurous, City Theatre’s been wowing audiences with an emphasis on new plays —with works by Christopher Durang, Jeffrey Hatcher and Adam Rapp, among others — since 1975. A cool performance space in an old South Side church adds to the experience.

favorite local athlete
Although he retired from the Steelers in March, Hines Ward—who, with partner Kym Johnson, won Season 12 of “Dancing With the Stars” last year—still remains in the hearts of Pittsburgh sports fans. He’s since signed on with NBC to—no surprise—cover sports.

favorite local team
Here we go, Steelers. Here we go. Steeler Nation readers vote black and gold. Winning six Super Bowls —the most of any team, ever— is a super source of hometown pride.

best local golf course
Rated No. 5 in “America's Top 100 Courses” by Golf Digest, Oakmont is considered one of the most challenging courses in North America. The historic greens have been at the fore-front of notable moments in golf history, including playing host to eight U.S. Opens, the most recent in 2007.

best local park
Among Pittsburgh’s crown jewels are several emeralds, including Frick Park, the largest of our regional parks, with 561 acres. Its wooded slopes and valleys are perfect for hiking or birding. Frick also boasts an environmental center and the only public lawn-bowling green in Pennsylvania.

best spa
A go-to spa in Aspinwall, ESSpa Kozmetika specializes in everything from paprika "power facials" to French spa manicures. When stepping into the charming space for a treatment, you're basically guaranteed to walk out feeling rejuvenated.

best fitness club
When working out, nobody wants to feel intimidated. At Keystone Health Club, which offers some state-of-the-art equipment, the mission is to make guests feel welcome and possibly forget that they’re doing work of any kind.

best hair salon
Located downtown, Denham & Co. employs stylists who aim to be positively creative. An Aveda concept salon, Denham uses premium products to ensure everyone has hair that's model-perfect. 412/338-9977

best yoga studio
Catering to adults (and even kids), Amazing Yoga aims to teach locals best yogi practices. Check out one of its three area locations and see why learning the Downward Dog pose is beneficial.


best local blog
Feelin’ nebby? Yinz got a beef n’at? Find out who’s a jagoff, or nominate one at this sassy blog. And there’s lots more fun, quintessentially Pittsburgh stuff, too, at Ya Jagoff. Check it aaht:

best local website
Maybe this category should be qualified as Best Local Website for Men. Guys, here’s a cyber man cave just for you. Browse the site for articles, advice and events, or become a member.

best app
From Ambridge to Antarctica you can follow the Penguins 24/7 with this free mobile app for an Android, BlackBerry or iPhone/iPod Touch. Download the app and get real-time news, scores, stats, standings, video and more wherever you are—especially in CONSOL Energy Center.

best local twitter feed
Curt Wootton portrays Pittsburgh Dad, a character he created with friend Chris Preksta. You can catch episodes of this Web series featuring the archetypical local Everyman on YouTube, or catch Dad’s bon mots n’at on Twitter. Get aht!

best tv personality
For more than 30 years, Sally Wiggin has been a fixture on the local airwaves at WTAE-TV. Currently anchoring the noon news each weekday, the award-winning broadcaster has made news of her own for earning “Best” status in Pittsburgh Magazine several times in the past.

best writer
Best known by local readers for his award-winning work in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he has covered sports, politics and media criticism, Gene Collier has been in the business for 30-plus years. He’s been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize, and he’s also a co-author of a one-man play, The Chief, about the life of Steelers founder Art Rooney.

best meteorologist
Pittsburgh weather may seem easy to predict: Cloudy with a chance of showers, right? But readers like the meteorological flair that Demetrius Ivory — who earned a degree in atmospheric sciences at Ohio State — brings to WTAE-TV forecasts.

best radio personalities
The zany antics of Mikey and Big Bob on 96.1 KISS’s “Morning Freak Show” are day-brighteners for Pittsburghers. From creating various songs to imitating Oprah Winfrey, the duo has created an entertaining style that resonates with readers tuning in to our poll.

best morning drive team
Head out on the Parkway. Looking for adventure—like a pig wandering the roadway and backing up traffic. Randy Baumann and crew make the drudgery of driving to work more tolerable for WDVE Radio listeners. In the case of the perplexing porker, Baumann even composed a song, “Pig on the Parkway,” to mark the occasion.

best playground
Like a piece of minimalist public sculpture, a deep-blue-colored slide slinks down a hillside in this cool little playground, where it’s the signature attraction, in Frick Park. Fun fact: The park’s name also serves as the the title of an album by rapper Mac Miller, who grew up nearby.

best community pool
People in the borough of Dormont have been cooling off since the 1920s in this 60,000-square-foot swimming pool—one of the largest in the state. It’s also now a historic landmark, and a visual landmark as well if you’re traveling along Route 19.

best camp
The 500-acre Camp Kon-o-Kwee/Spencer, located near Fombell, Beaver County, along Connoquenessing Creek, has grown in many ways since its founding in 1926 as a YMCA summer camp for children. Today, not only kids but also people with special needs and seniors are included in its programs.

best children's entertainer
With more than 40 characters in his puppet family, Chris Donahoe has a wide range of opportunities for demonstrating his voice-throwing talents. He’s available to entertain kids (and adults) at birthday parties, science shows, scouting banquets and school assemblies.

best day care
When it's time to get to work, dropping your kids off at KinderCare should be a no-brainer; with numerous area locations, there should be a center near you, where employees wait at the ready, eager to take care of your little ones.

best pet store
Dedicated to “healthy products for healthy pets,” this place sells natural pet foods and treats, grooming products and supplements, toys and accessories. The Shadyside store also sponsors special events throughout the year, including “Yappy Hours” for you and your furry companion.

best pet groomer
You can take Fido or Fifi to this multiservice facility in Lawrenceville for a standard grooming or Shed-Less Treatment, but if he or she has been a particularly good dog, there’s more — like such spa pamperings as Dead Sea mineral mud treatments or blueberry facials.

best pet hotel
Camp Bow Wow wants to make “the word ‘kennel’ obsolete.” Guests at the upscale hostelry receive cabins with cots, play areas, camp counselors and bedtime treats, among other services at the four locations around Pittsburgh.

best veterinary hospital
Picking a hospital for a beloved pet comes down to location and reliability. So East End Veterinary Medical Centre is perfect: they’re located in the heart of everything on Ellsworth Avenue, and an Angie’s List Super Service Award honoree. Rover’s in good hands.


best antiques store
With more than 50 dealers on four floors and thousands of items to see, everything old can seem new again at E.N. Miller Antique Mall in Verona. Furniture, glassware, lamps, dolls, collectibles, Pittsburgh-related memorabilia and more are there in abundance. 412/828-3288

best florist
Named for a herbaceous perennial, Hepatica Florist in Regent Square is a stylish store that creates floral expressions for all occasions — births, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, funerals and more. Two outdoor garden “patches” offer additional visual interest. 412/241-3900

best shoe store
Readers say Littles Shoes lets them put their best foot forward. This iconic Squirrel Hill business offers footwear for men, women and children.

best jeweler
Founded in 1952, Orr’s Jewelers is celebrating its diamond anniversary this year. During its 60 years, Orr’s has expanded and grown, and now has two locations, Squirrel Hill and Sewickley, both offering a large collection of diamonds, fine jewelry, bridal jewelry and watches.

best furniture store
Now serving western Pennsylvania and Ohio with almost two dozen showrooms and specialty centers, Levin Furniture started with just one store in Mount Pleasant in 1920. Levin offers a wide selection of indoor and outdoor furnishings: contemporary and traditional—even furniture hand-crafted by the Amish.

worst road
Through most of its 97-mile journey across five counties, Route 28 isn’t all that annoying. But that stretch where you can see the Pittsburgh skyline makes for a painful route canal —especially during rush hour. Snags, delays, bumper-to-bumper bedlam, road construction and detours put drivers behind the 28 ball.

worst trend
There are Terrible Towels and terrible styles. Donning Steelers jerseys may be fine to show team spirit on Steeler Sundays. But strutting that black-and-gold sartorial style all during the week, through all four seasons and on every conceivable occasion is overkill.

worst local commercial
You know who’s not going to convince me to buy a Kia? Crazy-eyed actors who’ve appeared on “Celebrity Rehab.” If you can’t outlast Meat Loaf on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” you can’t sell me a car.

worst local sports blooper
WPXI REPORTS HINES WARD TO THE RAVENS’s fake Ward-to-the-Ravens report was all joke — they even quoted Art Rooney II as calling Ward’s smile “pretty creepy.” But even with the word “spoofs” in the web address, WPXI-TV saw fit to report the story as fact. Oops!

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