Best of the 'Burgh 2014

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




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!

 


Best Regular Food Event with Ever-Changing Themes

Pierogi Night
Pierogi Night is the Goldberg Variations of comfort food. Since 2010, hosts Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski have been upending familiar culinary themes. The couple’s monthly pop-up nights, held at the Stephen Foster Community Center in Lawrenceville, pit pierogies “against” a challenger from the street-food staples — banh mi sandwiches, for example. Skowronski and Lasky don’t make the Mrs. T’s potato-and-cheese variety; a recent batch contained buckwheat, roasted leeks, mushrooms and carrots, and the contending cuisine boasts similar culinary chops. Having built a loyal following through word of mouth, the duo is pursuing plans to establish a permanent eatery in the East End. — EL

286 Main St., Lawrenceville; twitter.com/PierogiNight; photo by Laura Petrilla

 


Best Place to Zip Along

Go Ape
Remember that time in high-school gym class when you went outside into some scrappy little clump of woods to climb trees and tightrope-walk between the trunks? Go Ape is kind of like that, but you can enjoy a much-improved social dynamic — and you’re up much higher. Cleverly designed for users of most ages and abilities — there are some restrictions — this treetop obstacle course sends you ascending rope bridges, jumping from great heights into the safety of nets and ziplining through the leaves. — KB

303 Pearce Mill Road, Allison Park; 800/971-8271; goape.com; photo by Chuck Beard

 

Best Form of Encouragement for Aspiring Thespians

Gene Kelly Awards
Once high-school musical season ends, artistic students can look forward to the Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater, presented by the Pittsburgh CLO and the University of Pittsburgh. Prizes go to the best musical, ensemble, all-student orchestra, crew, choreography, direction, actor and actress, supporting actor and actress and costume, lighting/technical execution and scenic designs. This year, 29 schools elected to compete, and some accolades are bestowed in three budget levels. The annual awards presentation is a production itself, with performances by select nominees. — LD

412/281-2922, pittsburghclo.org

 


Best Example of Farm to Pint Glass

Hop Farm Brewing Co.
You know you’re in Lawrenceville when many things that can be described as local and organic surround you. Lucky for you, we’re into that sort of thing, as are the folks at Hop Farm Brewing Co. They grow their own hops, more than 1,500, to be exact. They handle their own brewing. They even have an eight-point list of sustainable reasons to explain why they chose aluminum cans instead of glass bottles. If you ask nicely, though, they have bottled seasonal specials. — AW

5601 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/408-3248, hopfarmbrewingco.com; photo by John Altdorfer

 


Best Workout Fueled by Distraction

Club Cycle
As Madonna sings about her love being on the borderline and you see your instructor and DJ joke around, you realize spinning can be great fun. Veteran spinner Stacie Adams and DJ Bill Bara run Club Cycle, the first U.S. studio to have DJs on-site during class and use technology to monitor rider metrics. Employing special-effects lights and music videos, the pair helps cyclists to become entranced as they ride to the beat for an hour. Adams and Bara will relocate their Dormont site and offer “destination” classes atop Mount Washington and elsewhere; they also aspire to launch more regional studios along with a franchise model. Club Cycle provides towels and live beats; you bring the drive and your best karaoke voice. — KM

3281 W. Liberty Ave., Dormont; 412/726-6641, clubcycleonline.com; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Mix of Community, Coffee and Groceries

52nd Street Market
The corner grocery used to be a starting place for aspiring entrepreneurs. A storefront, merchandise and some grit helped many families to get out of poverty. Supermarkets made those stores obsolete but not irrelevant, as 52nd Street Market proves. The side-street shop — once home to the Bloomfield Market — sells staples, produce and coffee, but founders Deirdre Kane and Dora Walmsley, who work at other jobs, are chasing a new American Dream. Their store grew from community planning and was partially crowd-funded. It’s stocked mostly with local products that neighborhood residents request or refer to the pair. Old grocery stores strengthened communities by chance; this market is doing it intentionally. — EL

601 52nd St., Lawrenceville; 412/408-3798, 52ndstreetmarket.com

 


Best (Inexpensive) Night Out for Young Professionals

Mix@Six
Looking for a different kind of weeknight activity? Why not head down to the Pittsburgh Public Theater to see a show — and throw in a Victorian parlor game or a cornhole toss? Held once during each show’s run at the theater, Mix@Six affords young adults an opportunity to mingle while playing games at the pre-show event, with a theme that correlates to the stage production. The $25.75 ticket price covers the performance plus light bites and beverages; those 26 and younger pay $15.75. — LD

621 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/316-8200 x704, ppt.org/mixsix; photo courtesy PPT

 

Best Place for (First) Friday Night Fever

First Fridays at The Frick
You don’t need bell-bottoms, and there’s no disco ball at these events. Relax on the cool lawn of the Henry Clay Frick estate and channel music of many varieties. For 20 years, Pittsburghers have been enjoying this evening event on the first Friday of June through September. Create a gourmet picnic with goodies from The Café at the Frick. Upcoming: Jerry Grcevich Tamburitza Orchestra on Aug. 1 and Sean Jones Quartet on Sept. 5. Closed July 4. — MM

The Frick Art & Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze; suggested donation: $5 per adult; 412/371-0600; thefrickpittsburgh.org

 

Best Spot for a Brew and Bulldog

Packs & Dogs
Many trends are not worth the time. We’d like to see tasty hot dogs stick around, though. Besides Smith’s and all-beef varieties, Packs & Dogs offers veggie dogs. All are available in pooch-themed varieties ranging from the Bulldog (sauerkraut and mustard on kielbasa) to the Mutt (create your own). Packs & Dogs has the added benefit of boasting a selection of 500-plus bottled beers to wash down your dog. — KB

231 Shiloh St., Mount Washington; 412/431-1855, packsanddogs.com

 


Best Annual Parade of Pooches

Bark Shadyside
“Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone ...?” Fido or Fifi may be at Bark Shadyside, a yearly fundraising event for the Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center. That’s where canines of all kinds join their two-legged companions to strut their stuff on a 1-mile walk. In April, 139 pooches lent their paws to help less-fortunate critters at the second event, sponsored by Petagogy and Think Shadyside. — MM

412/682-1298, barkshadyside.com; photo by Jenny Karlsson

 

Best Use of a Brown Paper Bag

Pajer’s Bakery’s Brown-Bag Apple Pie
The age-old notion of baking an apple pie in a paper bag is alive and well at Pajer’s Bakery. The practice is said to yield a flakier crust (a feat for dedicated bakers) than traditional methods. Bakers craft the pie, popular in the fall, by folding apples and spices into a sugar-cookie crust. Loyals swear by it; first-time buyers quickly find out why. — KM

240 Ekastown Road, Sarver; 724/353-1577, pajersbakery.com

 


Best Place to Have Fun After Work N'at

Games N’ At
Tough day at the office? Wind down after work, or anytime, with some games at Games N’ At. Look for the big blue building housing what’s presented as “Pittsburgh’s largest video arcade.” Find pinball, ping-pong, pool tables, driving games, shooting games, foosball, air hockey, bubble hockey, Xbox, PC games and more. There’s even duckpin bowling, and you won’t have to rent ugly shoes. “Everyone thinks it’s a kids’ game,” says owner Marian Jones. “Duckpins are hard!” — MM

2010 Josephine St., South Side; 412/481-2002, sites.google.com/site/gamesnatsite; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Way of Sampling Flicks from Multiple Cultures

Pittsburgh Lesbian & Gay Film Society’s Annual Reel Q
Reel Q was cited, with PrideFest, as one of the reasons The Advocate this year listed Pittsburgh as the nation’s 15th-gayest city. But Reel Q isn’t just a site for expanding gender diversity. It’s also a huge supporter of films from diverse American and international cultures. The festival, Oct. 10-18, frequently partners with other local cultural film festivals and has screened films from Taiwan, Israel and the United Kingdom. — KB

412/422-6776, plgfs.org

 


Best Locally Produced Fizz

Natrona Bottling Co.
A summer cocktail should be sweet and refreshing. Instead of using artificially sweetened mixers for your drinks, we suggest using high-quality products shipped from Natrona Bottling Co. Its pop contains all-natural cane sugar and can take the edge off the heat; see the website for recipes featuring its Jamaica’s Finest Ginger Beer. Flavors including cherry and grape also make the brand an attractive alternative to the high-fructose soft drinks usually marketed to kids. — GB

natronabottling.com

 

Best Place to Thrift for a Cause

East End Community Thrift
First, East End Community Thrift is bafflingly affordable: When you bring $1 items to the register, the cashier knots her eyebrows and says, “Hmm, expensive.” The store also supports the area: As an entirely volunteer-run operation out of the Thomas Merton Center, East End Community Thrift partners with nonprofits to give some merchandise — worth approximately $300 a week — to community members in homeless shelters, halfway houses and low-income lodging though merchandise vouchers. The thrift store stocks clothing, housewares, toys and occasionally fresh, organic veggies and eggs. Hurry — the good stuff is never around for long.  — KB

5123 Penn Ave., Garfield; 412/361-6010, thomasmertoncenter.org/thrifty
 

Next page: Do a crossword and/or jump out of a plane

 


Best Reincarnation of a Retro Dessert

Antney’s Ice Cream’s Shoofly Pie Flavor
With its taste of sweet molasses, the old-fashioned shoofly pie is a must-buy when in Amish country. Antney’s Ice Cream owner Anthony Ciotti recreates that flavor in his shop, incorporating bits of the baked good. Shoofly pie is one of the many choices from his rotating lineup; though 16 varieties are available daily, he can accommodate special requests with advance notice. — KM

1316 Poplar St., Green Tree; 412/920-1300, facebook.com/antneys; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Spot to Grab a Breakfast Fit for a Camper

David’s Diner
David’s excels at making the type of food that sticks to your bones. Example: The “trash plate” is something you’d expect a bunch of campers to eat before a day of climbing or hiking — two eggs are buried under melted American cheese, spiced ground beef in red sauce, bacon, crispy fried potatoes and two slices of toast. Select breakfast plates have outdoors-inspired names. The diner has a patriotic theme and offers military members a 10-percent discount. — KM

2800 Freeport Road, Springdale; 412/463-8482

 


Best Place for Your Morning Crossword

Rocky’s
Most everyone likes a good group brunch, but sometimes you’d rather enjoy a solid solo breakfast. Rocky’s is a prime place for such a meal. Breakfast is cooked simply and perfectly every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Shake out your newspaper, fold it over to those black-and-white squares and sip from a mug of coffee that’s never less than half full. Get through that crossword as Rocky’s staff, in the background, expounds on the Importance of Potato Skin on Home Fries. It’s like you’re home again. — KB

4759 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Dead End You’ll Ever Find

Living Dead Museum and Gift Shop
“They’re coming to get you, Barbra.” Remember that line from George A. Romero’s zombie flick “Night of the Living Dead”? If so, you might want to make a Z-line to this cool little museum in Evans City, not far from where the 1968 classic was filmed. The Living Dead Museum and Gift Shop bills itself as a “celebration of zombies in pop culture.” There’s a video presentation about the movie, a zombie history, lots of cool trivia, artifacts, memorabilia and more. — MM

121 E. Main St., Evans City; 206/350-9641, monroevillezombies.com/museum

 

Best Fondant-Covered Cakes for Kids

Steel Penny Cakes
Smash cakes are high on the priority list for anyone planning a bash for little ones. That’s understandable, but so is having an artful torte to mark the occasion. Steel Penny in Mount Pleasant has been perfecting its batter recipes for years. The company makes five cake flavors. Vanilla is advised for tykes’ birthday cakes, as is any kind of personalized fondant-covered torte. — KM

724/516-7080, steelpennycakes.com

 


Best Way to Take a Dive, With a Guide

Skydive Pennsylvania
We think it’s only right to tell you about Skydive Pennsylvania, which has the largest flight line in town. Licensed instructors give you a 60-minute instruction and make sure you’re familiar with all the sights and sounds before you make that final — or shall we say, first — leap from 13,500 feet. You can even purchase a DVD of your jump in all its glory, perfect for scaring your mom at your next family dinner. — AW

496 Old Ash Road, Mercer; 800/909-5867, skydivepa.com

 

Best Bargain for Budding Sluggers

Batting Practice
Baseball remains an American pastime, and softball still is its beloved sister sport. Droves participate in recreational leagues with hopes of cracking a homer that would make Cutch proud. They’ve got to perfect that swing somewhere, and that place just might be Batting Practice. Tokens are a steal — $10 covers 70 swings. The company has baseball and slow- and fast-pitch softball cages, which teams can rent by the hour. — KM

4635 Buttermilk Hollow Road, West Mifflin; 412/462-5713, battingpracticecages.com

 

Best Locally Produced Alternative to Treadmills

Incline Strider
Certain fitness buffs and instructors despise the treadmill in the belief that it doesn’t allow users to exert their full strength. Chip Kennedy and Douglas McAuley kept that in mind as they developed the Incline Strider, which they built to elevate users’ heart rate during a low-intensity workout. Here’s how it works: Users propel themselves by walking or running on the belt, prompting the wheel to spin. With four attachment options, users can do lunges and more facing or turned away from the unit. The duo produces the green, mobile equipment in Ambridge and has installed it at several area training facilities and colleges. The Pittsburgh Steelers use it as well. — KM

inclinestrider.com

 

Best Big-Screen Second Act

Twin Hi-Way Drive-In
Decades of technological and cultural changes have altered the way people see movies — and made it tough for drive-ins to stay afloat. Locally, some have thrived while others have closed. Twin Hi-Way Drive-In succumbed to the changing market in 1994 . . . only to be resurrected in 2007. Current owner Jerry K. Salnoris had plenty of work to do to bring Twin Hi-Way back from the celluloid graveyard. “Name it, and I did it,” he says. Twin Hi-Way, which added a second screen in 2010, offers double features for $6.50. Seniors ages 65 and up and kids ages 5-11 pay $3.25. — SC

5588 Steubenville Pike, Robinson Township; 412/494-4999, twinhiwaydrivein.com

 


Best Place to Bounce Around

Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park
Your mom might have told you to stop bouncing off the walls, but the folks at Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park certainly won’t. The floors, the angled walls — nearly everything is one giant trampoline. And it’s for everybody. A head’s up, though: The park separates bouncers by size, so keep that in mind if you’re planning a group outing. You can participate in open jump, fitness classes and 3-D dodgeball. Even if you’re going on a rainy afternoon, buy tickets online in advance to ensure you’ve claimed your spaces. — AW

740 Brickworks Drive, Leetsdale; 724/251-6100, skyzone.com/leetsdale; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Way to Show Off Your Dance Skills While Spelling

Bokwa Class at California Cycle Path
Think of Bokwa as the perfect marriage of your favorite cardio program, say Zumba, and a simple line dance. It’s pretty straightforward: You stomp out letters and numbers to upbeat tunes during the low-intensity exercise. California Cycle Path began offering this internationally enjoyed class this winter because it’s accessible and works in a small studio setting. — KM

3635 California Ave., Brighton Heights; 412/761-1671, californiacyclepath.com

 


Best Use of Surplus Goods

Free Store 15104
Braddock First Lady Gisele Barreto Fetterman says solutions exist for some global problems: Why shouldn’t one person’s castoffs fill another’s need? Nearly two years ago in October, she opened the volunteer-run Free Store 15104 to provide a space where people could donate unwanted clothing and household items; furniture is handled separately. Folks from all over with need for such items visit Free Store to “shop.” Stores such as Costco donate food, retailers have sent Fetterman hundreds of boxes of last season’s styles and local film productions have donated costumes and set items. Fetterman says the goal of the Free Store is “to eradicate food insecurity and clothing insecurity in Braddock.” — LD

420 Braddock Ave., Braddock; 201/532-1722, freestore15104.org; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Comeback of ’90s Attire

Highway Robbery Vintage
Quick — what’s the biggest blouse you’ve ever owned? Did you wear it in the ’90s? We’re not judging if floral fabric or ruffles were involved. Guess what? That blouse is back. If you thought it never would be or were too young at the time to appreciate its greatness, a visit to Highway Robbery Vintage is in your future. The collection features what owner Kate Colussy calls “vintage casual,” and she makes clothing and accessories from the ’50s through ’90s accessible to all levels of shopper. You can browse through past fashions and stock up on those aforementioned blouses. We have a feeling you’ll need them. — AW

1411 E. Carson St., South Side; 412/251-0818

 


Best Resource for Shopping On the Go

Broke Little Rich Girl mobile fashion truck
Here’s a riddle — the answer to which isn’t “never”: When do bread and women’s fashion go together? When Samantha Lugo’s Broke Little Rich Girl bread truck-turned-fashion truck arrives! Whether you’ve stumbled upon it during the week or spotted it on a Saturday while in the Strip, you’ll find a mini wonderland of clothing and accessories. We’re talking all the glamour of a stationary boutique — hardwood floors, a dressing room — with fashion that is as on the move as the truck. BLRG carries trendy classics and, as if it couldn’t get any cooler, local pieces. — AW

In the Strip District most weekends at 23rd Street and Penn Avenue; brokelittlerichgirl.com; photo by Michael Will

 

Best Place to Play with New Toys, Cost-Free

Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library
If you have kids or spent time around them, you know they want All the Toys. Right This Minute. Two weeks after receiving or earning that new must-have, they are bored with it and on to the next thing. The Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library solves both problems — and then some. Since 1974, the all-volunteer, cooperative organization has been loaning toys to children from newborn to age 6. The 400-piece collection is divided into types of development, such as cognitive, and kinds of play, including imaginative. The library also has similarly dedicated play spaces, an eating area and a place for making art (there’s a weekly group), as well as a collection of parenting books available for borrowing. — AW

5401 Centre Ave., Shadyside; 412/682-4430, pghtoys.org
 

Next page: Throw a birthday party (with cats!)

 


Best Place to Cruise on a Summer Friday

Starlite Car Cruise
Cars still head to the site of the old Starlite Drive-In theater in the summer — for the car cruise. Now in its 13th season, this free Friday-night event — one of the country’s largest weekly cruises — features more than 1,000 vehicles that range from classic cars to street rods, plus motorcycles. The cruise, sponsored by North Way Christian Community, also offers food vendors, picnic tables and a DJ spinning oldies in a family-friendly environment. Starlite Car Cruises runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, weather permitting. — MM

12121 Perry Highway, Pine Township/Wexford. 724/935-6803, ext. 2222, starlitecarcruise.com; photo by Chuck Beard

 

Best Museum That’ll Leave You on a High Note

Bayernhof Museum
Perched high above the Allegheny River, this little museum treats you with the eye candy of its views, but those aren’t the only high notes. Bayernhof also offers ear candy via its collection of 85 antique automatic musical instruments. These are the collecting legacy of the late Charles B. Brown III, founder of the museum now housed in his home, with its charming Bavarian inspiration and gemütlichkeit. Secret doors, hidden passageways and a mysterious place called “The Cave” also await. — MM

225 St. Charles Place, O’Hara Township; reservations required; 412/782-4231, bayernhofmuseum.com

 


Best Place to Get Up Close With Lions, Tigers and Bears

Living Treasures Wild Animal Parks
At Living Treasures, you can marvel at the Barbary Lion snoozing a few feet away; snap a photo of the rare white Bengal tiger, which appears on most of the billboards; and warily gaze into a pond of small alligators. But your most memorable moment here probably will be forging a connection with an animal you’ve fed; buy a bag of carrots or a bucket of feed on entry. Who are you to resist the charms of the Highlander cattle? — SC

268 Fox Road, New Castle, 724/924-9571; 288 Route 711, Laurel Highlands, 724/593-8300, ltanimalpark.com; photo by Tom Davidson

 

Best Day Care Affording Nontraditional Learning Opportunities

Doodle Bugs! Children’s Center
A 2-story play village, as well as Tae Kwon Do and dance classes? Your little ones may not want to come home from day care. Doodle Bugs! Children’s Center is all about education-based child care with hands-on learning. An in-house curriculum aligns with research-based best practices. Children love the activities, and adults love the focus on nutrition and safety — the WatchMeGrow camera allows parents to keep an eye on their children remotely, and the center’s doors feature secure, biometric access. — LD

8900 Duncan Ave., McCandless Township; 412/358-0225, doodlebugs.com

 


Best Local Photographer Leading the Charge on Equine Shots

Nicole Begley
Special skills are needed to take a portrait of Flicka. Now there’s Equestrian Experience, a service of Nicole Begley Photography. Based in Marshall Township, Begley is a Certified Professional Photographer, an equestrienne and an animal trainer. She works on location and offers two distinct experiences: “On the Farm,” traditional portraits of horse and horse and rider at the equine home, and “Show Day,” a session at show grounds including “under-saddle” action shots. — MM

724/766-6103, nicolebegleyphotography.com; photo by Nicole Begley

 


Best Place to Throw a Children’s Birthday Party, Complete with Furry Pals

Animal Friends
Although a birthday party at Animal Friends is full of animal-themed activities, the kids’ favorite part is when a shelter cat or dog stops by for cuddling and playtime. The $175 donation also covers the birthday boy or girl’s party-room reservation (for as many as 8 guests), invitations, a pet-themed game, a goodie bag for each child, a Bruster’s ice cream cake, a T-shirt for the guests to sign, a group photo and the opportunity for the birthday child to name an incoming animal of his or her choice. — LD

562 Camp Horne Road, Ohio Township; 412/847-7040, thinkingoutsidethecage.org; photo courtesy Animal Friends

 

Best Urban Garden Icon

Octavia
We love Octavia, the black-and-white mosaic octopus snuggled in the center of the garden beds of the Octopus Garden in Friendship. Originally part of a putt-putt, she is made of recycled material and now serves as an urban garden centerpiece. Octavia’s current situation is a bit of a community project: Originally designed and decorated by Laura Jean McLaughlin and constructed by Bob Ziller, Octavia was invited into the garden by Kristin Hughes; Hughes also initiated Octavia’s new companion, a sea creature named Doris, designed by McLaughlin and Ziller as part of a community art project with local children. — KB

133 S. Aiken Ave., Friendship

 


Best New Fashion Line for Top Dogs

American Beagle
On April Fool’s Day, website teams appear to feel obligated to go overboard with elaborate hoaxes. American Eagle Outfitters’ American Beagle line started as a complex viral stunt. The firm released a press release and Web landing page promoting forthcoming canine fashions. Customers could sign up to get info on the pooch products and buy human versions of the advertised garb. A portion of the proceeds went to the ASPCA, so American Eagle raised more than $100,000 for charity during the promotion. When AEO eventually revealed that American Beagle didn’t exist, customers were crestfallen. Because chic doggie fashions are in high demand, the company plans to launch the “whimsical [and] fun” apparel line, says Bob Holobinko, vice president of brand management, in stores and online in November. — SC

ae.com
; photo courtesy AEO

 

Best Way to Wash Your Car Without Making a Splash

Easy Auto Wash
It’s true — you can worsh your car without water. Easy Auto Wash will make your vehicle spick-and-span; you don’t have to stick around while it’s being done (or leave your keys). Make an appointment for this same-day wash, clean or wax service, park your vehicle in one of more than 30 locations in and around downtown, and a cleaning team will arrive to do the rest by hand. This environmentally friendly procedure makes use of waterless car products in spray bottles and microfiber towels. — MM

easyautowash.com

 


Best Place to See a Replica of the Holy Stairs

St. Patrick Catholic Church
Amid the hustle and bustle of the Strip, St. Patrick Catholic Church provides a zone of unexpected peace and tranquility. A walled garden oasis precedes the entrance to the landmark. Inside, there’s another surprise: a replica of the Holy Stairs in Rome. The originals, brought to the Eternal City from Jerusalem, were supposedly the staircase Christ ascended to be tried and sent to his death, tradition says. The Rev. James Cox, the famous pro-labor “Radio Priest,” commissioned the stairs here in the 1930s. Today, faithful in Rome and Pittsburgh continue to ascend these 28 steps on their knees as a devotional exercise. — MM

17th Street, Strip District; 412/471-4767, saintsinthestrip.org; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Catalog of Changing Landscapes

Used to Be a Pizza Hut
You’ve noticed one, driving past a cafe, bank or maybe Fat Pocket Pawn in North Versailles: “That place totally used to be a Pizza Hut.” The roof, the windows — they’re unmistakable. Only one man had the foresight — and, frankly, the free time — to begin cataloging them. Mike Neilson, a mobile software designer living in Kennedy Township, established Used to Be a Pizza Hut in 2008. After a few years, the site went viral; now it catalogues more than 400 former Pizza Huts worldwide. In February, design podcast “99% Invisible” profiled the site, prompting an even greater flood of submissions. Don’t ask Neilson for topping suggestions, though; “I haven’t had Pizza Hut pizza in years,” he says. — SC

usedtobeapizzahut.blogspot.com

 

Best Recurring Celebration of Music and Food

Weather Permitting at Shadyside Nursery
It’s Sunday evening. You’re not about to cook dinner. You also don’t want to give up on the weekend. It’s summer. There’s got to be something — perhaps something family-friendly, sunny and green. Enter Weather Permitting. The event at Shadyside Nursery features local bands, food trucks and beer. For the kids, there are likely to be hula-hoops, squirt guns and (of course) Popsicles. It’s pretty much everything you need on a Sunday — weather permitting, that is. — KB

510 Maryland Ave., Shadyside; weatherpermittingpgh.com

 

Best Neighborhood Opportunity to Rummage for Knickknacks

Regent Square Community Yard Sale
There is no greater sign of spring than a yard sale. There is no greater sign of awesome’s arrival than Regent Square’s annual yard sale, a community extravaganza generally held the weekend after Mother’s Day. Its treasures will leave you in a daze. We’re not telling you what to do, but if you like to plan, nab a copy of the map of participating houses and businesses and the list of what they’re selling. Whether it’s furniture, clothing or a tasty treat, you’re certain to find something worth your while. — AW

yardsale2014@regentsquare-rsca.org, regentsquare-rsca.org

 


Best Unified Event of Pride

Pittsburgh PrideFest
Think of a time when gender could matter just a little less. Imagine a place — say Liberty Avenue between Sixth and Tenth streets — where people might comfortably blur gender and sexuality so easily that the boundaries seem insignificant. Welcome to PrideFest, produced by the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh. The free bash, generally held in June, comprises everything from bouncy castles and carnival games to two stages of nonstop singing, dancing and drag. It’s a celebration of the LGBT community that invites you to be exactly who you are, without definitions. — KB

Liberty Avenue, downtown; 412/322-2800; pittsburghpride.org; photo by John Altdorfer

 

Best Time Investment for Aspiring Handymen and Women

CCAC’s No-Credit Home Improvement Basics — Do-It-Yourself Session
You’ve been there: Your friends are showing off a newly renovated half-bath, and you’re thinking, “I could do that.” With the Community College of Allegheny County’s no-credit Home Improvement Basics class, you can acquire the necessary skills to get started. The three-hour course meets eight times, covering everything from tool and safety basics to the finer stuff of plumbing, electricity and drywall. Don’t worry — if the class leaves you realizing you’re not cut out for DIY home improvement, you’ll also learn how to find and hire a reputable contractor. Either way, you’ll save money and prevent headaches. — AW

Allegheny Campus, 808 Ridge Ave., North Side; 412/237-2525, shopcommunityed.ccac.edu

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