Best (and Worst) of Pittsburgh

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Best Dog Pool: During the dog days of summer, humans aren't the only ones looking to take a dip. Lucky Paws Pet Resort offers the area's only dog pool, available for all of your pup's aquatic and tail-splashing needs. Let your canine romp in the 3,000-square-foot skid-resistant pool, which has a shallow end for the little ones and a deeper end for all those doggy paddlers. 2273 Lovi Road, Freedom; 724/728-1484, - C.H.

Best Pet-Friendly Community: The Cork Factory loft apartments on the Allegheny River are urban, chic and pet-friendly. The facility includes a dog park fully equipped with doggie bags and open green space, and there's also access to walking trails along the Allegheny River. To top it all off, canine dwellers have their own separate counter at the concierge desk, where they can stop in for a treat before heading home. It's no wonder these dogs are giving the Cork Factory four-paws-up. 2349 Railroad St., Strip District; 412/281-5556, - C.H.

Best Dog Massage:
Treat your pup to the ultimate in pooch pampering with a day at Cozy Inn: Pet Resort and Orchid Spa. The massages provide relief for dogs with joint pains. Have your pup try a Swedish or sports massage, which may have even the most active pets cooed into relaxation. Surrounded by soothing colors, music and skylights, these spoiled doggies may never want to leave. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there - couldn't we all use a little more Zen? 1600 Pet Place, Plum; 412/798-5297, - C.H.

Best Pet Villa: Fuzzy Paws Pet Villa & Spa creates the finest home away from home for your pooch. With overnight accommodations as well as doggie day care, the villa also features dog-loving workers who provide pets with all the TLC they need when spending time away from their owners. Not only do the pups each get their own room with a bed, they're also comforted with the sounds of music and televisions - just like home. Your pet is sure to be occupied, as he or she is taken out eight times a day in the facility's open green spaces and playgrounds. 20 Cheslock Road, North Strabane; 724/746-3899, - C.H.

Best Pet Sitting in Your Home: If your four-legged friend prefers the comforts of home, Steel City Pet Sitters allows you to go away without having to relocate your pet. At a rate of $18 a visit for up to two pets, your furry pal will be walked, fed, brushed and played with. The company can also provide general house sitting, which includes watering the plants, bringing in the mail and alternating lights or blinds. Your pet sitter keeps a daily journal, and can also provide additional services such as key pick-up/drop-off and holiday visits. 412/496-5896, - C.H.

Best Community Pet Event: Once a month, the Pittsburgh Pirates welcome dogs into the ballpark for Pup-Night at PNC Park. This month, pet owners and their canines are invited to the Southwest Flight Deck on Tues., Sept. 22, as the Pirates take on the Cincinnati Reds. Doggie gift baskets and prizes will be given out, and there will be plenty of water stations and treats on hand. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and Animal Friends. Tickets: 412/325-4797, - C.H.

Readers Poll: Pets

Best Pet Store:

Best Pet Day Care:
Camp Bow Wow
Locations in Ross Township, Green Tree and Castle Shannon

Best Veterinarian:
Good Shepherd Veterinary Hospital
101 Fox Trot Drive, Cranberry Township

Best Pet Event:
Bark in the Park
North Park's South Ridge Loop
Sun., Aug. 23

Best Obedience Training:
Margie Sarver, Sarver's Dog Obedience
3450 Evergreen Road, McCandless Township

Best Pet Hotel/Resort:

Lucky Paws Resort
2273 Lovi Road, Freedom


Best Organic Day Spa: Want to spoil yourself for an afternoon? Pay a visit to ESSpa Kozmetika Organic Skincare, owned by former Hungarian model Eva Sztupka and her husband, Pittsburgh native Scott Kerschbaumer. They've rehabbed one of the oldest auto-mechanic shops in Western Pennsylvania (Humes Ford, circa 1915!) using recycled and other sustainable materials. To make your skin look its best, Sztupka uses a mix of organic products handmade in Hungary and in Pittsburgh. Surf the list of discounted packages for indulgences that won't bust your budget. 17 Brilliant Ave., Aspinwall; 412/782-3888, - M.R.

Best Chocolate Fix Without the Calories: What if there were a way to satisfy your cocoa craving without the sugary calories? Centre Avenue Massage & Spa's Chocolate Mud Wrap ($220) offers a sweet - and healthy - alternative. The decadent two-hour treatment begins with gentle, full-body exfoliation. Next, a mixture of therapeutic mud and cocoa is applied to the skin to hydrate, flush the lymphatic system, diminish cellulite and soothe tired, achy joints. As the aromatic cocoa mixture detoxifies skin, the client's feet are massaged with peppermint foot cream, and after rinsing off in the spa shower, vanilla body butter is applied during a relaxing one-hour massage. Essex House, 5701 Centre Ave., Suite LL2, Shadyside; 412/661-7724, - Liz Fetchin

Best Eyebrow Shaping: Pamela Jeschonek, better known as Pittsburgh's "brow diva," doesn't simply wax eyebrows at her shop, Everyday Esthetics Makeup and Eyebrow Studio in Ambridge. In her own words, she performs "a subtle, artistic reshaping of your face, taking into account your bone structure, facial shape, feature size and overall facial symmetry." Jeschonek waxes and tweezes brows to arched perfection - the initial "design consultation" ($40) takes a full hour, and subsequent "maintenance" visits run $25 each. 1400 Church St., Ambridge; 412/716-4825, - M.R.

Best Way to See Pittsburgh Like a European:
Straight out of London, The Pittsburgh Tour Co.'s red double-decker bus is the hippest way to get around town. Manufactured in 1964 for London Transport Co., the bus still sports its original checkerboard seat fabric. The tour loop runs down East Carson Street to Station Square, to the North Shore and PNC Park, through the Strip District and back to the South Side via the Hot Metal Bridge. There are eight stops along the way to hop off and view the city, with tour guides chatting about the city's history, fun facts and must-visit museums and restaurants. 412/381-8687, - C.H.

Best Barbershop: Hey guys. Ever walk into a salon for a haircut and feel as if it's just a bit, um, girly? Michael B's Gentleman's Barbershop is an upscale joint where you can get a classic cut from a trained, licensed barber. The shop is designed with men in mind, complete with leather and mahogany furniture, big-screen TVs and laid-back conversation. The shop also offers straight-razor shaves and coloring services. Most important, says owner Michael Beckadic, who's been cutting hair since age 12, a man will be treated like a gentleman and walk out looking like one. 2991 West Liberty Ave., Dormont; 412/551-4247, - J.W.

Best Matchmaking: Lisdoonvarna is not the newest slogan from Volkswagen. It's a bi-annual event for locals looking for love of the everlasting kind. Each Valentine's Day and again in October, Mullaney's Harp & Fiddle Irish Pub hosts a party with Get-To-Know-You Games, drink specials, karaoke, fortune tellers, and, most important, matchmakers. Based on a traditional Irish matchmaking festival, Lisdoonvarna's proof of success is in the proposals. In 15 years, the event has resulted in more than 70 couples living happily ever after. 2329 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/642-6622, - J.W.

Best Car Wash:
Bringing a shine to a car that's been through a Pittsburgh winter - or that has suffered a bombing from vindictive pigeons - takes a magician. Legions of customers rely on Mr. Magic's five South Hills locations to give their cars that "just-washed" look. Celebrating 50 years, Mr. Magic's has a number of secrets to success, including its own "Magic Blend" of nine cleaning solutions and an advanced safe, effective hot-air drying system. Mr. Magic also offers daily specials (see the Web site), coupon books and a FastPass system for express service. Five locations; 412/343-3555, - J.W.

Best Tarot Readings While You Eat: How many restaurants offer the future on their menu? Gypsy Café, a South Side neighborhood gem, not only serves up an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and Pan-European cuisine, but also hosts Readings by Rebecca on Friday and Sunday evenings. You can reserve a 15- or 30-minute spot with Rebecca Bloom, but be sure to call ahead, because she tends to fill up quickly. With its wine-colored walls, Oriental rugs and tarot-reading side dish, you'll definitely be diggin' the bohemian vibe of this one-of-a-kind spot. 1330 Bingham St., South Side; 412/381-4977, - C.H.

Best Shoe Shine:
Albert Lexie of Monessen began shining shoes more than 40 years ago when he built a shoe-shine box in high school shop class. Now, he travels each week to various Mon Valley business districts, including those in Monessen, Charleroi, Donora and Monongahela, to give clearly brilliant shines. But perhaps the brightest shine is from within Lexie. Since the early 1980s, he has donated more than $100,000 in tips to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh's Free Care Fund, which helps provide medical care to underprivileged children. It's $3 for a standard shoe shine; all tips go to the hospital. - J.W.

Best Locksmith:
Sure, when you need a key made you can go to an oh-by-the-way-we-make-keys station in a hardware or big-box store. But having locks that function reliably is important enough to go to a pro, and the go-to here in Pittsburgh is Ace Lock, co-founded by company president Sandra Hunter in 1975. Ace also offers repairs for specialized items such as entry intercoms, photo-ID badging equipment and safes. 5964 Baum Blvd., East Liberty; 412/363-3328, - J.W.

Best Wedding and Event Planner: Ask Tony Lee of Marriott's Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel what makes a great wedding planner, and he hears you loud and clear. "Listening," Lee says, "is the most important thing, understanding not only what my clients want, but also why they want it." Lee says understanding the "why" helps him ensure the request is properly filled or enables him to suggest an ideal alternative if need be. The greatest reward? The happy couple, of course. "When the bridal couple, their families or guests come up to me, thanking me for a beautiful day - there's no feeling like it." 107 Sixth St., downtown; 412/562-1200, - J.W.

Readers Poll: Services

Best Spa:
Pittsburgh Center for Complementary Health + Healing
1124 S. Braddock Ave., Suite B, Edgewood

Best Cosmetic Dentist: (tie):

William Vitalie
5889 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill

Dr. Owen Cantor, D.M.D.
425 First Ave., downtown

Best Skin Treatments:
ESSpa Kozmetika
17 Brilliant Ave., Aspinwall

Best Stylist/Hair Colorist:
Dan Burda of Studio Raw
3185 Babcock Blvd., Ross Township

Best Law Firm:
Cohen + Grigsby Law Firm
625 Liberty Ave., downtown

Best Architect:
Desmone + Associates Architects
1 Doughboy Square, 3400 Butler St., Lawrenceville

Best Roofer:
Kress Brothers Builders
4930 S. Pioneer Road, Gibsonia

Best Dry Cleaner:

Leff Marvin's Cleaners
4449 Ohio River Blvd., Bellevue

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