Best of the 'Burgh 2015: Business & Education

Our editors' FRESH TAKES on our favorite Pittsburgh things, including the best birdcage collection and where you can do your laundry and get a massage at the same time.

Best Budget-Friendly Way to Learn a New Language

Next time you’re looking to kill five minutes, try Duolingo, the award-winning language education app co-founded by Carnegie Mellon University professor Luis von Ahn, and see how much you remember from high-school Spanish class (it’ll be more fun). Duolingo takes inspiration from games such as “The Legend of Zelda,” so you’ll find yourself longing to level up, forge your way through the skill chart and flat-out kick your lesson’s tail. It works, too — the company’s studies show that devoting 34 hours to the app produces the same results as spending a semester at a university. With 12-plus languages at your disposal, Duolingo is worth a spin (it’s free). —BL; image courtesy Duolingo


Best Way to Get ‘The Boot’ in Pittsburgh

Mondo Italiano
Boot up your knowledge and enjoyment of all things Italian via Mondo Italiano, the local “Centro di Cultura Italiana.” Experience la dolce vita with a variety of programs and events — various levels of language classes, including one for tourists; conversation chat-fests at Mondo Italiano; film- and book-related activities; opportunities for travel to Italy and more. There’s a library offering books, magazines, DVDs and CDs. And how about that legendary food! Ciao down via dining-out dates, cooking demonstrations and classes, even one for kids. —MM

7604 Charleston Ave., Regent Square; 412/478-2681,; photo courtesy Mondo Italiano


Best Convergence of Great Minds

TED talks are inspirational, but they can be impersonal, especially when the speaker is too famous to grab coffee with afterward. That’s why TEDx is useful. TEDxPittsburgh is an independently organized, community-based version of the larger TED experience. The talks feature “ideas worth spreading” and are offered by local luminaries who are ready to connect and collaborate. TEDxPittsburgh, previously called TEDxGrandviewAve, has featured Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, Saxifrage School Founder Timothy Cook and comedian Gab Bonesso. Many talks also can be viewed online. —EL; photo by Sara Tully


Best Place to Do Your Laundry and Get a Massage at the Same Time

The Laundry Factory
There are many facets to Shadyside’s Laundry Factory that you’re unlikely to find at other such establishments. The products are eco-friendly. You can drop off your laundry and come back to find it clean and folded for you. You can grab a beer at the depot next door and bring it back. You may run into Elijah Wood — the spot does laundry for Hollywood stars in town (although employees say Wood stopped in to do his own). You can sit in chairs salvaged from Three Rivers Stadium while you wait. Or you can sit in the establishment’s (coin-operated) massage chair. —LD

5859 Ellsworth Ave.; 412/361-1200,; photo by Richard Cook


Best Birdcage Collection

Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh
There are many wondrous and beautiful things to see inside the Beaux-Arts-style Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, which is part of the San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels group. But the birdcage collection really is something to sing about. A collection of cerulean-blue birdcages greets guests in a hallway off the living room, and that’s not the end of the bird theme: Each guest room has a bedside lamp within a golden cage. The stunning hotel, formerly the home of the Reed Smith law firm’s local offices, also contains many custom decorative touches that bring to mind Pittsburgh. How tweet!  —JS

620 William Penn Place, downtown; 412/471-1170,; photo courtesy Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants


Best Intro to DIY Home Renovation

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation’s Hands-on Sessions
Pittsburgh boasts some of the most affordable urban-housing stock in the country, making it possible for even cash-strapped millennials to acquire fixer-uppers and become homeowners. After you sign the paperwork, though, you’re confronted with a major problem: How, umm, do you actually fix it? We’ve found ourselves turning, again and again, to the hands-on, beginner-friendly classes offered by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. Covering everything from masonry restoration and wood flooring to building a deck and planting ornamental edibles, the bargain courses (free for members and $5 for non-members) will put your renovation project on the fast-track. —PD

744 Rebecca Ave., Wilkinsburg; 412/471-5808,; photo courtesy PHLF


Best Way to Get It All Done, On the Go

Moon Flight
The growing demand of daily activities means we must continue to improve our efficiency rate. Moon Flight Car Wash, Dog Wash & Coffee Drive-Thru aims to help by offering drive-thru coffee and car-wash services. Once you’ve put pep in your step, you can make your way through the wash bed so your set of wheels sparkles. The company takes things a step further by offering a self-serve pet-grooming station as well. Never did you imagine that you could refuel, polish your ride and scrub up your pooch all in one visit. Fortunately Moon Flight is a step ahead of you. —KM

4875 University Blvd., Moon Township; 412/264-5943,; photo courtesy Moon Flight


Best Place to Think Outside the Box(ing)

Wright’s Gym
Traditional fisticuffs are fine, but there are other ways to defend yourself today (plus get your exercise and keep fit, to boot) and become a lean, mean fighting machine. The Wright’s stuff features exclusive-to-Pittsburgh Krav Maga (used by the Israeli military) as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. Facility and personal-protection training can be arranged here, including instruction in weapons defense. In addition, the offerings at Wright’s Gym, founded in 1996, include wrestling and fitness and strength training.

20 Foster Ave., Crafton; 412/921-1530,; photo courtesy Wright's


Categories: Best of the ‘Burgh