City Guide: South Side

South Side’s East Carson Street is bordered on one side by a river, houses a strip of industry and gives way to staggering hills. Can you get more Pittsburgh than that?

If you live in South Side, and you say you’re going to The Library, you probably mean that you’ll be ordering a drink called “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Great Expectations” or “James and the Giant Peach.” If you need to redecorate, you might head down to Zenith to catch a vegetarian brunch while checking out their vintage décor—most of which is for sale. And if you’re looking for pierogies, you’re as likely to grab a plate from Fat Head’s as you are to order them from the local Ukrainian church, St. John the Baptist, which sells them from September through May.

This is South Side, after all, where everything is influenced by something else. The Irish, Germans and Eastern Europeans left their mark throughout the last 100 years, and today, you can learn to belly-dance at Zafira Dance Studios, get a Tarot card reading with dinner at the Gypsy Café or take part in a late-night hookah run at Hookah Bookah—and why not? South Side is the one of the best places to try something new.

The first bridge in Pittsburgh—the Smithfield Street Bridge—crossed to South Side. It was replaced in 1846 after the Great Fire burned the original in 10 minutes, and today’s version of the bridge—rebuilt again in 1883—is the longest lenticular truss bridge around. Of course it is. Welcome to Pittsburgh.

Back in the day, there were six inclines to help the steel and glass workers get back home. Before 1870, though, they used the stairs. Thousands of stairs. The South Side has always separated Those Who Have Calves from Those Who Have Naught. Some say the locals still risk their lives every winter as they traverse them, and let’s not even talk about the cyclists.

Today, South Side is known less for the Bessemer Converters, whose 15,000 workers once made steel here at a rate of 3,000 tons per day, and more for what we do after a hard day’s work. It is home to 47 bars (not including bars that consider themselves restaurants first, which would bring the number up to 56). You might decide to play pool at Dee’s, sing karaoke at Lava Lounge, or hit up a few animal-sounding bars. While you’re drinking, make a mental note to stay away from the six tattoo parlors until you sober up. And for a morning pick-me-up, there’s outdoor Saturday yoga in Tunnel Park with BYS Yoga, a plethora of coffee shops, and it seems like everyone’s serving breakfast on the sidewalk. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a friend.

This is South Side. Pull up a chair and join in.

Get fit at the Works
SouthSide Works is most notable for its shopping and dining scene, but we here at Living Pittsburgh recommend that you consider SSW when looking for a way to add some free or low-cost fitness into your routine. During summer months, you can take in some fresh air while you repeat your “oms” with Breathe Yoga Studio. Their $5 yoga sessions are held outdoors at Tunnel Park on Saturdays from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Those who prefer a more self-guided fitness approach can hit the trails for walking, biking, and other activities. No bike? No problem! Golden Triangle rents bikes for $8 an hour, or $30 for an entire day, and they’ve added a SSW location. The rental price includes helmets, locks, trail maps, and handlebar bags. If you can get there on a weekday at lunchtime, you’ll even get a discount (only if you work downtown; ID required)! For even more healthy fun, purchase a lifetime REI membership for only $20. Members can take advantage of free open climb time on the Pinnacle Climbing wall Friday through Sunday. And if you have little ones eager to let their inner monkeys out, they even offer a session called KinderKlimb every Friday.

Build up your music collection
Buying used DVDs, CDs and LPs is always a deal compared to buying new, but finding exactly what you’re looking for can often be a challenge. Dave’s Music Mine on East Carson Street is a specialty independent music store that’s all about stocking music you won’t find just anywhere, urging customers to rediscover great releases from the past. You can buy, trade or sell the music you uncover at Dave’s. Most of these finds are in the $1 – $8 range, which almost always costs less than full album downloads or online retailers with added shipping and handling fees. Dave’s owners are two of the biggest music fans you’ll find in the city, and are always eager to help you find whatever you’re looking for.

Eat & drink on a dime
East Carson and its side streets have more great food deals than one can imagine. Any list we could come up with would barely touch the surface — but let’s have a go at it anyway! Some favorites: all you can eat ribs for $13.95 on the outdoor patio at Double Wide Grill (Tuesdays only); cheap tacos and the “Dude Vs Food” contest at Lava Lounge on Tuesdays; and more wing night specials and happy hours than you can shake a dollar at. You’ll find free beer and food tastings at Carson Street Deli every Wednesday, while those with more of a sweet tooth can head to the Milkshake Factory for their mid-week Milkshake Happy Hour, offering half off milkshakes with over 55 flavors to choose from. Finally, for those with the late night pretty-far-from-sober craving, do yourself a favor and hit up Camoboican. For about $7.95, you can devour an insanely tasty chicken on a stick coated in “Moonsauce,” that might just have some sort of magical ingredient, and fried wontons that will make your belly quite the happy camper.

High-brow vegetarian brunch for a Hamilton
Peruse antiques and art before or after brunch at The Zenith on 26th Street. You’ll get a scrumptious brunch with coffee or tea for $10 and there’s plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians. Visit for more brunch deals in the city.

More sweet deals in the South Side
>> South Side wing specials, including 25-cent vegetarian wings at OTB Bicycle Cafe
>> All the happy hours you could ever imagine

Dish Osteria and Bar
128 S. 17th St.

Folino’s Ristorante
1719 E. Carson St.

Ibiza Tapas Restaurant & Wine Bar
2224 E. Carson St.

2228 E. Carson St.

Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar
1611 E. Carson St.

American Eagle Outfitters
2655 E. Carson St.

2708 Sidney St.

535 S. 27th St.

Jupe Boutique
2306 E. Carson St.

Pittsburgh Jeans Co.
2222 E. Carson St.

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