Around the Point

Home to Pittsburgh's instantly recognizable skyline, rivers and bridges, the area around Point State Park once was the bleeding (literally) western frontier of the United States. Today, it remains the economic heart of the region.


PHOTO BY DAVE DICELLO
 

What's Here

Downtown: While the metro area’s largest employers (UPMC, Highmark, PPG and PNC) long have filled the city’s skyscrapers, both the restaurant scene and residential population of downtown have exploded over the past few years, attracting millennial workers and empty-nesters alike.

South Shore: The narrow strip of land between the Monongahela River and Mount Washington is the South Shore — you’ll find bike paths, Station Square and the lower stations for the Duquesne and Monongahela inclines here.

Strip District: Thanks to the river and rail lines, the Strip traditionally has been the center for Pittsburgh’s trade in food and goods — and still is today. On weekends, the Strip is buzzing with people shopping for fish, meat, produce and Pittsburgh Steelers swag.

Bluff: Best known as the home to UPMC Mercy hospital and Duquesne University (pronounced “doo-kane” for all you newbies), the Bluff — often called Uptown — is on the cusp of a resurgence, finally ready to take advantage of its valuable spot between the financial engines of downtown and Oakland.

Crawford-Roberts: While Crawford-Roberts mostly has been a residential area for decades, the neighborhood received a major burst of development in 2013 with the opening of the Shop ’n Save grocery store and surrounding plaza at 1850 Centre Ave.

Bedford Dwellings: A sliver of land overlooking Polish Hill and the Strip District, Bedford Dwellings is home to a housing development and a few parks.

Middle Hill: Economic revitalization has taken hold in the history-rich Middle Hill with a host of new developments, including the Hill District’s bright and airy Carnegie Library branch [2177 Centre Ave.].

Upper Hill: In addition to being one of the highest points in the city (about 1,270 feet!), the Upper Hill is a quiet, tree-lined residential area.
 


PHOTO BY JOHN ALTDORFER
 

10 Things We Love Around the Point

1. Hike up Centre Avenue from downtown to the Hill District under the watchful gaze of the 18-foot-tall St. Benedict the Moor statue, a 3,000-pound behemoth that sits atop the historic church of the same name [91 Crawford St.].

2. The lines start assembling at the Strip District’s Gaucho Parrilla Argentina [1607 Penn Ave.], one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2015 Best Restaurants, well before noon on weekdays, and with good reason — the wood-fired steak, pork and chicken sandwiches are a level above any deli sub, especially when drizzled with one of four varieties of onion- and garlic-spiked oils.

3. Pittsburgh has some way to go when it comes to making the city totally safe for bikers, but the bike lanes on Penn Avenue through downtown are a step in the right direction; we love tooling down the street and stopping for boutiques and happy hours.

4. Grab a sandwich and head up to the recently revamped Mellon Square [Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue], a 1.37-acre jewel in the midst of downtown that helped to spur a wave of urban parks in the 1950s.

5. Tipping is a fraught activity for diners, especially in large groups, which is why we applaud the new no-tipping policy at Bar Marco [2216 Penn Ave.] in the Strip. Now, restaurant-goers get to dive into meals of fried chicken or risotto without worrying — and without performing any major calculations at the end of the meal.

6. After 50 years of being separated from downtown by a sea of parking lots, the Hill District’s fabric finally will be restitched with a 28-acre, mixed-use neighborhood of office, retail and residential buildings. The development will take years to go up, but the ground-breaking on the new U.S. Steel headquarters is a welcome beginning.

7. Half the fun of the Strip District is bouncing from shop to shop, but if you want to try to get everything in one place, visit the Pittsburgh Public Market [2401 Penn Ave.]. You can buy all of your ingredients for a Sunday-night supper and a growler of East End Brewing Co.’s Monkey Boy hefeweizen to top it off.

8. Completed in 2012, the Thelma Lovette YMCA [2114 Centre Ave.] has become a hub of activity for the Hill’s diverse community. The exercise and spin classes are wildly popular, the treadmills and weight machines fill up after 5 p.m. and swimmers churn out laps in the pool.

9. When we’re quibbling over dinner, we find ourselves ending up again and again at downtown’s Sienna Mercato [942 Penn Ave.], a winner of our 2015 Best Restaurants “Delicious Design” award. At Emporio on the first floor, grab spicy pork meatball sliders with creamy parmesan; head upstairs and order a bacon-and-clam pizza at Mezzo; and finish your night with a cold beer on the rooftop deck at Il Tetto.

10. Up at the very top of the Upper Hill, the view from the Robert E. Williams Memorial Park, also known as Herron Hill Park [Milwaukee and Adelaide streets], affords a panoramic view of the city’s East End.
 


PHOTO BY JOHN ALTDORFER
 

Under-the-radar activity

Get into fighting shape at Stout Training Pittsburgh [2020 Smallman St.] in the Strip District, which offers a range of martial arts classes and training. Take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (which offers three levels of classes), Muay Thai kickboxing (including beginner, intermediate and advanced options) or mixed-martial arts training (including the option to be on an MMA team). If you want more ways to build your strength, check out their kettlebell and boxing classes. — Jennie Dorris
 


PHOTO BY MARK SIMPSON
 

Under-the-radar food and drinks

The bar inside the Strip District’s Maggie’s Farm Rum [3212A Smallman St.] is right in the heart of the city, yet it remains one of Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets. The distillery’s copper-topped bar is the perfect place to sip a crafted cocktail based on one or more of owner Tim Russell’s award-winning spirits. Enjoy classic rum cocktails such as the daiquiri and rum Old Fashioned, or go big with tiki drinks. Bottles of Maggie’s Farm rums also are available for on-site purchase; you’ll find varieties the state doesn’t sell (and the state’s supply is available only via special order online). Look for the “Rum For Sale” sign out front. — Hal B. Klein

 

Categories: City Guide