See Yinz Later! Go On Vacation Without Leaving Pittsburgh

Follow our food editor’s island-hopping adventure across the region.


I made a vow to go island hopping on a budget this summer, and I’m making good on that promise.

So far I’ve dined at tropical locales such as Island Bowls in the Strip District, the concession stand at Keystone State Park in Derry and Marshall Island in North Park, where I experienced a Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream brain freeze. Wexford’s Anchor & Eat serves Hawaiian grub near a shopping plaza waterfall. 


Once you navigate through the Bermuda Triangle of Traffic Signs to Washington’s Landing, formerly Herrs Island, I soaked up the A.C. in my office. The property also boasts walking trails, scenic views and waterfront restaurant Redfin Blues. (That’s a catchy jingle, right?) 

Next on the itinerary? Lacing up my skates and hitting the Neville Roller Drome‘s nostalgic snack bar on Neville Island. I’m sure I’ll also fill up on a few gas station reubens (#22) slathered in Thousand Island dressing to round-out the season and my stomach.

Island Bowls 

I don’t always binge on junk food during my downtime. Sometimes I enjoy finding healthier options. Once in a while I succeed. 

I hit the jackpot when I found Island Bowls, a stationary acai food truck in the Strip that serves plant-based smoothies and smoothie bowls. Since it was a beautiful day, I parked my car on the other side of the river and walked across the David McCullough Bridge. By the time I reached the Caribbean-inspired stand near 16th Street and Penn Avenue, I was sweating like a beach volleyball player on the equator. 

An Electric Mango Bowl helped cool me down. 

The mango blend is topped with granola, green apple, chunks of mango, kiwi, strawberries, passion fruit syrup, coconut shavings, pumpkin seeds, a tropical flower and one of those little drink umbrellas. Add some I.C. Light  Mango and it’s a booze cruise in a cup!

If you’re on an extended-stay health kick, Island Bowls has a lot of add-on options that can make the order even better for your body, including collagen powder, Goji berries, sea moss gel, chocolate whey and ch-ch-ch-chia seeds. 


Keystone State Park 

When I was a child, my parents told me Moraine State Park’s man-made Lake Arthur was the ocean. I would never do that to my daughter; she’s convinced Keystone Lake, another man-made body of water in Westmoreland County, is the deep, blue sea. 

The 1,200-acre Keystone State Park is just over an hour away from Pittsburgh (and that’s with a layover in Parkway East traffic near Monroeville). The smoke-free, alcohol-free sand beach is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset through Labor Day. 

While I did enjoy taking a dip in the not-so-briney deep, my favorite part of the trip was the $5 basket of French fries. They were delicious and the portion size reminded me of the potato mountains served by The Original Hot Dog Shoppe, a gastronomic empire in Oakland that went belly up. I think I learned more there and at Fuel and Fuddle (R.I.P.) than in any Pitt lecture hall.

I also ordered a hot dog, but no one could dupe me into believing it was the O. 


Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream, North Park

For years, North Park visitors have beat the heat with a little help from a seasonal ice cream stand by the Boathouse. Operators have come and gone but now local powerhouse Millie’s is running the place. 

Millie’s scoop shack is located next to the Boathouse, which houses Kayak Pittsburgh and Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe. There are a few picnic benches on site, but I took my dish to Marshall Island, a few minutes drive up the road. When I was a clueless kid, I used to feed the waterfowl there, but you can’t and shouldn’t do that now because it’s bad for the birds. 

But there’s no rule against gorging myself on the island. That dairy-free pina colada was really ducking good.

No matter where you consume it, you can get ice cream in North Park daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Devouring ice cream (slowly!) is a good way to start or end your day. Do both — you’re on vacation!


Anchor & Eat

My 13-year-old daughter was stoked to try the new poke place at the Village at Pine Shopping Center in Wexford, until she realized it had nothing to do with Pokemon. 

But then she tasted a bite of my Hawaiian Pulled Pork Bowl. The volcano-sized pile of sticky rice, braised pork, grilled pineapple, edamame, scallion, cucumber, carrot, jalapeno and miso ginger dressing made her look like Surprised Pikachu. And then she went back for more. 

I should’ve ordered two, but even the regular size is enough to feed a luau. Instead of demanding the bowl back, I decided to hang loose and wait for her to admit defeat. I’m still waiting.

Owner Jim and Leslie Matz first operated Anchor & Eat as a food truck in Naples, Florida, where poke places are a common sight. The couple fell in love with the healthy, yet tasty, fare.

Jim, a McKeesport-native, wanted to open a tropical eatery in a landlocked suburb of Pittsburgh to give yinzers an alternative to fries and slaw. There’s a waterfall at the entrance of the Village at Pine to give you that tropical vibe. 


Not that you can’t experience a vacation-like atmosphere and the ultimate yinzer photo op at Primanti Bros. There’s now one at Kennywood! Congratulations to park employee Dan Horgan on his new mullet! It’s a beaut!

Anchor & Eat is a BYOB establishment, so grab a growler of mojitos from Goodlander Cocktail Brewery on your way and tell the Matzs I said, “Aloha!”

Categories: PGHeats