Appreciate the Past and Marvel at the Present in East Liberty
East Liberty is equal parts historic and modern, with new hotspots nestling against longstanding buildings. Come for the culture and architecture, stay for the hot restaurants and trendy shops.
Get your caffeine fix at Redstart Roasters, a little off the beaten path in the Detective Building (224 N. Euclid Ave., redstartroasters.com). It may be a short walk from East Liberty’s main stretch along Penn and Highland avenues, but this hidden gem serves up artisan, small-batch roasts with a unique schtick: it’s bird-friendly. While that doesn’t mean you should bring your pet parrot in for a cup of joe, it does mean that its products are sourced responsibly with the conservation and preservation of avian habitats in mind. Through partnerships with the National Aviary, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Pearl Parrot Rescue and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Redstart Roasters aims to promote ecological sustainability through research and education. Grab a maple latte and relax in its earth-toned seating space, and if you need a pick-me-up later in the day, stop by Margaux (5947 Penn Ave., instagram.com/margauxpgh), a chic spot that just opened in June, serving coffee in the morning, cocktails in the evening and food throughout the day.
Kasa at the Maverick
If you’re from “outta tahn” and looking for a place to stay, consider Kasa at the Maverick (120 S. Whitfield St., kasa.com), the former Ace Hotel, which closed during the pandemic. The future of this space, a historic YMCA building, was briefly up in the air until it reopened in early October under the new management of virtual hotel operator Kasa. It operates hotels and short-term apartments in more than 30 U.S. cities — including another Pittsburgh location in the SouthSide Works — and in Tokyo. The first guests in East Liberty were greeted with new decor, artwork and linens. Kasa also installed its technology package, which includes an automated check-in process and digital front-desk services.
Whether you wake up early or late, start your day with brunch at Square Cafe (134 S. Highland Ave., square-cafe.com). Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Tuesday, Square Cafe has a menu curated with seasonal and fresh ingredients made locally. Whether you’re looking for something sweet, such as nutella crepes, or prefer something savory, such as the spicy chicken and waffle sliders, the Square Cafe will accommodate just about any craving — and it also has vegan and gluten-free options. The drink menu is just as diverse, ranging from flavored hot chocolates and milkshakes, made with Dave and Andy’s homemade vanilla bean ice cream, to fresh juices and smoothies.
If you’re looking for an afternoon sugar rush, head over to the Macaron Bar (6101 Penn Ave., macaron-bar.com). There’s only one choice for dessert, but you can pick from 14 flavors of these delicate French sandwich cookies, ranging from dark chocolate to lemon lavender. Sit inside and try a few flavors with a friend, or take a box of several to go. However you do it, make sure you savor each bite — at $2.75 a piece, the macarons, while delightful, don’t come cheap.
Trim Pittsburgh (5968 Baum Blvd., trimpittsburgh.com) has been offering designer underwear, swimwear, T-shirts and socks for the fashion-conscious male since 2014. Once you’ve got your undergarments, head over to Social Status (5929 Penn Ave., socialstatuspgh.com) for some outerwear — particularly, footwear. The boutique store sells a variety of shoes from Nike, Adidas, Heron Preston and other popular brands.
For lunch, try Bird on the Run (128 S. Highland Ave., birdontherun.com). Chicken comes in five varieties: not hot, hot, xtra hot, damn hot and hot af. If you’d prefer a healthier option, go with Two Sisters Vietnamese Kitchen (216 N. Highland Ave.) for top-notch pho.
Even if there isn’t anything going on when you visit (although there likely is), you’ll want to stop at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church (116 S. Highland Ave., cathedralofhope.org). The 84-year-old stone cathedral, inspired by the Gothic structures in Europe, welcomes its congregation and numerous cultural events into its main sanctuary, large chapel and enclosed courtyard.
Speaking of culture, you’ll also likely find something of interest at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (5941 Penn Ave., kelly-strayhorn.org). Named for Pittsburgh sons Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn, KST was founded in the early 2000s and offers a wide variety of dance, theater, music and live art and serves as a resource for youth education and community collaboration.
End the night with a drink at Muddy Waters Oyster Bar (130 S. Highland Ave., muddywaterspgh.com). Its craft beer, wine and cocktail lists have something for everyone.
This article has been updated from its original version to reflect recent closures.