Penn Avenue: A Booming Presence for Restaurants, Arts

The Penn Avenue corridor is a very determinately revitalized piece of Pittsburgh, now teeming with arts, food, new business and a vitality that had started to lag ... until now.

I’ve been recently writing a lot about the section of Penn Avenue that spans Bloomfield, Garfield, Friendship and East Liberty. It’s a very determinately revitalized piece of Pittsburgh, now teeming with arts, food, new business and a vitality that had started to lag in many of the neighborhoods it runs through. For as long as I’ve had a driver’s license in Pittsburgh, there have been a few neighborhoods that are guaranteed destinations; these are places where a fine night out is virtually guaranteed without any pre-planning. Places like Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, the South Side and Regent Square. And, now, the Penn corridor.

That makes this—or any—weekend a fine time to head to the area if you haven’t been around in a while. Consult with your wallet before making your dinner decision as the easy choice has become the much-hyped Salt of the Earth (5523 Penn Ave.); I’m contemplating a trip just for the Softshell Crab with horseradish, potatoes and seaweed ($21). If you like Indian, there’s none better in Pittsburgh than People’s (5147 Penn Ave.) And cheaper (but no less filling) eats can certainly be had at Quiet Storm (5430 Penn Ave.) with a menu full of tasty vegetarian and vegan choices like the inspiring Pierogie Quesadilla, aka the “Pierogidilla” ($8).

Those looking to dance after dinner should head to AVA Lounge (126 S. Highland Ave.), featuring well-traveled house DJ Trevor Lamont and friends. Doors open at 9 p.m., and cocktails and domestic beer are a mere $3 from 10 ’til midnight—along with a free Hennessey tasting. AVA and its sister, Shadow Lounge, are undoubtedly the swankiest places in the area, and following-up Salt of the Earth with tunes at either lounge officially makes you one of the coolest kids in Pittsburgh.

If you’re part of that small but passionate group who prefers to dance to Industrial music—or if you’re not afraid of new things and you want to help a good cause—you could head up the street on Saturday night to the Garfield Artworks (4931 Penn Ave.) The Artworks is bringing in a plethora of Industrial DJ’s for an Autism Benefit, starting at 10 p.m. While you’re there, check out the latest exhibit, “Variety,” which features, well … a wide range of styles and efforts from a group of local artists.

Craving a drink to cap off the evening? One could certainly do worse than to head up the street to that stalwart faux-dive, the hipster grandmother of all the swanky digs in Pittsburgh, the Brillobox (4104 Penn Ave.) It can get too crowded at times, and it undoubtedly leans a touch toward the pretentious side of things. But there’s a place for that, and the important thing: they’ve got a rockin’ beer list. The food isn’t not bad, either.

That only scratches the surface of what you do in this part of town, and there’s only more of the same in the future. As a note, make sure that you’re around for the next Unblurred event, held every First Friday—the whole neighborhood keeps the lamps burning late to show off. The next one is June 3, and it’s one of the best nights of food, entertainment and art in town, and most everything is free.

Categories: After Dark