Best of the 'Burgh 2014

60 of our favorite things — from mobile fashion trucks to off-menu items and big-top apprenticeships.



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Best Place to Waffle Over Your Breakfast Selection

Waffles INCaffeinated
It’s hard enough to choose which breakfast dish you want when you’re starving. Waffles INCaffeinated further complicates the process by offering savory and sweet versions of its Pittsburgh-famous sourdough waffles. They’re light yet thick enough to sop up every last drip of bourbon-maple syrup. As its name suggests, this eatery also serves coffee in the form of lattes and more. The owners recently relocated the Beaver site to a larger space at 453 Third St. — KM

2517 E. Carson St., South Side, 412/301-1763, facebook.com/wafflesincaffeinated; photo by John Altdorfer

 


Best Big-Top Apprenticeship

Pittsburgh Showoffs
There are plenty of ways and things to show off — material possessions, smarts, cash. Why not flaunt something a little more unique? Pittsburgh Showoffs, which recently joined forces with the Carnegie Mellon University Juggling Club, is a group comprised mostly of jugglers. There also are Yo-Yoers, hula-hoopers, belly dancers and the occasional stilt-walker. While it may be intimidating at first to see all that coordination, remember that the support and skill among the group will help you learn. All are welcome to join this bunch of variety artists. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing. Approach Pittsburgh Showoffs as a child might — curious and eager, fearless of failure. — KB

pittsburghshowoffs.com; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Way to Get in the Swing of Things

Swing City
The Wightman School building in Squirrel Hill houses myriad treasures, none quite as exciting as Saturday-night dancing with Swing City. There, the big bands will play, and you can do the Jitterbug or the Charleston — or your closest approximation — in a judgment-free zone. To be on the safe side, there’s a weekly lesson from 8-9 p.m. before three hours of unadulterated Lindy Hop bliss commences. The only differences from the Good Old Days: This joint’s alcohol- and smoke-free. If you think ahead and shop vintage, you won’t be alone in your new-to-you zoot suit or flowing circle skirt. — AW

5604 Solway St., Squirrel Hill; 412-952-2920, swingpgh.com

 


Best Place for Tech Nerds to Tinker

TechShop Pittsburgh
TechShop Pittsburgh likely will help our city to regain the title “Workshop of the World.” Located in Bakery Square, the studio is 100 workshops in one. With more than $1 million in machinery — everything from computers and 3-D printers to wood- and metal-shop tools — this local outlet of a California office makes it possible for anyone to complete nearly any project. You just need a $125 monthly membership or $50 day pass. Classes — some required for safety, others recommended for proficiency — build technical skills. Events include 21-and-over demonstration nights, specials for veterans and dislocated workers, and free tours. — EL

192 Bakery Square Blvd., East Liberty/Larimer; 412/345-7182, techshop.com; photo by Joseph Schell

 


Best Spot for Off-Menu Items

Pgh Taco Truck
Some believe that only a select few can know about off-menu items. Pgh Taco Truck owner James Rich keeps everyone in the loop by tweeting photos and descriptions of his underground offerings, which aren’t always tacos. A recent pick: pan-seared ahi tuna with Asian maple glaze and organic microgreens. Rich, who often vends in the North Hills and Braddock, can bring back former favorites at any time, based on ingredient availability. — KM

twitter.com/PghTacoTruck, pghtacotruck.com; photo courtesy PGH Taco Truck

 


Best Presence of Inflation

Airheads Balloon Art
You know all those big events where you wondered how on Earth someone goes about finding a balloon archway? Wonder no more because your balloon archway — really, your balloon anything — awaits you at Airheads Balloon Art. The balloons are eco-friendly (who knew?), and the company offers helium- and air-filled products. As you would expect, co-owner David Weiss relies on his own hot air for the smaller-scale, crazy-impressive Twisters. You’ll be up to your ears in this top-notch balloon design. — AW

322 Mall Plaza Blvd., Suite 191, Monroeville; 866/4-AIRHEADS, airheadsballoonart.com

 

Best Place for Simple Simon to Meet a Pieman

Country Pie Shoppe
Going skiing or coming back from a summer drive, the Country Pie Shoppe is a pie pit stop of long standing in the Laurel Highlands. Choose among pies including strawberry, coconut cream, lemon meringue, apple, cherry, peach, blackberry and more at two Westmoreland County locations. There are other varieties of enticements — doughnuts, cakes, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, apple dumplings, Rice Krispies bars and gobs. — MM

Route 31, Donegal, 724/593-7105; Route 819, Mount Pleasant, 724/547-7105, countrypieshoppe.com

 


Best Halloween in July Activity

Haunted Pittsburgh Tours
Do you have to believe in ghosts to go on a ghost tour? That depends on how you define ghosts. Haunted Pittsburgh Tours focus on tales of apparitions, orbs and hauntings, but the real passion behind the tours is history. While you may go in with the hope of hearing a spooky story, you’ll find that what you’re really in for is a chance to notice old buildings, remember the industrial era and imagine the people who once lived there. No matter which tour you choose — Oakland, Mount Washington or downtown — you’ll learn as much about Pittsburgh as you will about its ghosts. — KB

412/302-5223, hauntedpittsburghtours.com; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Snarky Nod to Local Behavior

YaJagoff
The concept of the jagoff — roughly defined as an individual behaving in a rude, irritating manner — is not one to be regarded silently. When we see a jagoff, we must tell others. Enter YaJagoff, the website John Chamberlin founded in 2011. “I started the blog on a whim,” says Chamberlin, the sole writer and editor. The site covers all sorts of jagoff-ery; posts covering the Penguins and the Steelers get the most traffic. The most frequent submissions involve terrible parking; users can submit photos, sans identifying information, of awful parking jobs and print out notes to leave under the wipers of the offending jagoffs’ cars. — SC

yajagoff.com

 


Best Excuse for a Pit Stop

The Pop Stop
English teacher Todd Saulle wasn’t looking to start a business, but then the idea struck: Last summer, he and an acquaintance from Philadelphia were chatting about mobile food when he realized a frozen-pop business could thrive here as well. Using local produce and herbs grown in his backyard, Saulle makes his products in an industrial kitchen in the East End. He experiments with taste profiles; choices have included salted apple-caramel and Mexican chocolate. Saulle now has two Brazilian coolers, one small and one large, for vending appearances at area farmers markets, special events and private functions. — KM

twitter.com/the_pop_stop; photo courtesy The Pop Stop

 


Best Way to Get a Crash Course in Coding

Steel City Codefest
In February, 105 participants worked through the night on one floor of the American Eagle Outfitters headquarters. The goal of this frenzied shindig: to design an app that addresses a civic problem. During the second Steel City Codefest — a “civic hackathon” that the Urban Redevelopment Authority and several sponsors and partners organized — 23 teams of three to six coders worked against a 24-hour deadline; participants could select teammates or find matches through a shared Google Drive file. Winners received Nexus 7 tablets. Also, participating teams were invited to apply for grants from Forbes Funds; the organization donated a total of $34,500 toward development of winning apps, such as one for Pittsburgh Cares. — GB

steelcitycodefest.org
; photo by John Altdorfer

 


Best Homecoming

Zany Umbrella Circus
After touring Jordan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan, the Zany Umbrella Circus last year returned to Pittsburgh to mark its 10th anniversary with a retrospective housed in a hand-painted bus and free performances in Market Square. With a victory lap complete, socially conscious members of the troupe — which specializes in circus arts, puppetry and other forms of physical theater — have been getting back to work. This month at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Artistic Director Benjamin Sota and his collective will perform “The Gift,” an adaptation of the O. Henry classic “The Gift of the Magi.” Zany Umbrella has two projects on the horizon: a residency at the Mattress Factory and a collaboration with dancer Jil Stifel at the New Hazlett Theater. — EL

zanyumbrellacircus.com; photo by Renee Rosensteel

 


Best Imbibed Crafting

Clay & Wine Fridays
The joys of working with clay after a glass or two of wine are obvious: increased creativity, a more individual concept of what a typical mug is supposed to look like and an increased sense of community. At The Union Project’s quarterly Clay & Wine Fridays, you receive a hand with your wobbly masterpiece and an opportunity to donate the clay back to the project or leave it to be fired and picked up later. — KB

801 N. Negley Ave., Highland Park; 412/363-4550 x222, unionproject.org; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Place to Satisfy Late-Night Doughnut Cravings

Big Daddy’s Donuts
Famished in the wee hours of the morning? You’ll score a hole in one at Big Daddy’s Donuts, open daily from 10 p.m. to 3 p.m. Choose from roughly 30 varieties made fresh on-site — from traditional glazed and sugared to mint Oreo and Fruity Pebbles. Want something else? Go for the muffins, including blueberry, butterscotch and French-toast varieties. Big Daddy’s serves breakfast sandwiches by the dawn’s early light. — MM

90 Noble Ave., Crafton; 412/921-4441

 


Best Summer Camp for Would-be Warhols

Andy’s Factory at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
The word “camp” could conjure up campy Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol. Strictly speaking, however, “Andy’s Factory Camp” at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is camp of a different color — as in, summer camp. Nevertheless, kids ages 8-10 might pick up some of the first meaning as they learn all about the life and career of this Pop art superstar. Potential future Warhols will follow in Andy’s footsteps and experience drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking. This year’s camp is set for July 21-25. — MM

Fifth and Shady avenues, Shadyside; 412/361-0455, pittsburgharts.org/summerartcamps; photo courtesy PCA
 

Next Page: Pierogies, Pups, Zip lines!

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