The Northern 'Burbs
From historic communities a stone’s throw from the city proper to spacious, booming suburbs with a rural mindset, there’s a hometown for everyone in northern Allegheny County.
photo by richard cook
Marshall Township: Industry meets heritage in Marshall, home to the sizable Thorn Hill industrial park and a pair of Native American trails (the Venango Trail and the Kuskusky Path). Jergel’s Rhythm Grille also is emerging as a suburban entertainment destination.
Bradford Woods: A small residential community carved out of Marshall, this one-time summer getaway for Pittsburgh’s elite remains coveted real estate today. Our region’s most pop-tastic product, Christina Aguilera, grew up in Bradford Woods.
Franklin Park: This pastoral borough’s population has more than doubled since 1980, owing in large part to its location in the North Allegheny School District.
McCandless: The still-growing McCandless Crossing development [McKnight Road and Cumberland Road, mccandlesscrossing.com] already houses Old Navy, LA Fitness, Cinemark and Trader Joe’s.
Pine Township: A good chunk of the idyllic village of Wexford falls within Pine Township, as does a large portion of busy North Park. Pine-Richland High School also is located in the township.
Hampton Township: Family Circle magazine in 2010 called Hampton among the 10 best places to live in the country for families, and it’s easy to see why. The large suburb is notable for highly regarded schools, beautiful parks and lovely homes.
Richland Township: The crown jewel is Chatham University’s innovative Eden Hall campus, where students work to forward the causes of sustainability and environment-friendly living.
West Deer Township: Grab your clubs! Three golf courses claim territory in West Deer: Pheasant Ridge [6065 Rittman Road, pheasantridgegc.com], Rose Ridge [4769 Gibsonia Road, facebook.com/roseridgegolf] and Pittsburgh National Golf Club [287 Monier Road, pittsburghnationalgolfclub.net].
Ross Township: With still-bustling shopping and dining along McKnight Road and Babcock Boulevard and homes and parks pretty much everywhere, there’s plenty to recommend in this convenient-to-downtown community.
West View: Entirely surrounded by Ross Township, West View is a rarity in the northern part of the county: a walkable community with a central business district. The area once was a destination for its West View Park, a rival to Kennywood for much of the 20th century.
Cranberry Township: The UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex [upmclemieuxsportscomplex.com] will draw plenty of hockey fans to Cranberry when the facility — scheduled to open in summer 2015 — begins to hold regular Penguins practices.
Mars: Well of course there’s a flying saucer positioned in the middle of town. Why wouldn’t there be? It’s just one surprising feature of this pleasant Butler County community.
Zelienople: Stroll along Route 19 — called Main Street as it runs through charming Zelienople — for bars, restaurants, shops and a trip to the landmark Strand Theater [119 N. Main St., thestrandtheater.org].
Harmony: Poke around town for a pleasant evening, and cap it off with a meal at the venerable (and purportedly haunted) Harmony Inn [230 Mercer St., theharmonyinn.com].
Adams Township: We can’t work out the astrophysics up here, as the much-larger Adams orbits around tiny Mars. Despite that cosmic confusion, the housing market in Adams — home to Mars Area High School — is thriving.
Seven Fields: This tiny enclave, tucked between big brothers Cranberry and Adams, packs nearly 3,000 residents (and growing!) into less than a square mile of territory.
Evans City: Sure, you know the name as the setting for George A. Romero’s immortal “Night of the Living Dead.” But this Butler County community also boasts a lovely Main Street.
PHOTO BY CHUCK BEARD
10 Things We Love in the Northern 'Burbs
1 What with tailgating and all, we’re used to hanging out in parking lots. There may be no better place to do it than Double Wide Grill [100 Adams Shoppes, doublewidegrill.com] in Adams Township. Order one of the 40 craft beers on tap and munch on the Reuben egg rolls.
2 Hone your mini-golf game at Cranberry Township’s Fun Fore All [8 Progress Ave., funforeall.net]. Not much of a putter? Focus your attention on the batting cages or the go-karts instead.
3 Don’t know if you heard, but comic books are for grown-ups now. Stock up with a trip to Arkham Gift Shoppe Comics & Collectibles [3973 William Flynn Highway, arkhamgiftshoppe.com] in Hampton Township.
4 Beer lovers, there’s no need to leave your non-hoppy friends at home on this brewpub trip. Head to Zelienople’s ShuBrew [210 S. Main St., shubrew.com] to try the signature beers, and point your companions towards the supply of vino from Cabot, Pa.’s Winfield Winery and Gibsonia’s Narcisi Wines — as well as mead from Carnegie-based Apis Mead and Winery.
5 As you gaze over winding, tranquil North Park Lake [Babcock Boulevard and East Ingomar Road, alleghenycounty.us/parks/npfac.aspx], you’d never guess that this body of water is entirely manmade. Contemplate this molding of the environment over lunch at OTB Bicycle Cafe’s North Park Boathouse location [10301 Pearce Mill Road, otbbicyclecafe.com].
6 We guess they’re trying to throw people off with the name because Dive Bar & Grille [12017 Perry Highway, divebarandgrille.com] in Pine Township is a downright refined hangout. Stop by for lunch and order the Ultimate Warrior, a grilled cheese with your choice of three cheeses, tomato and bacon.
7 We’d like to acknowledge that, yes, your high-school field is definitely the best place around to see Friday night football. But the second-best might be North Hills High School’s home field, Martorelli Stadium [5336 Perrysville Ave., nhsd.net] in West View. Passionate fans keep the atmosphere booming.
8 You know, you could be eating Bavarian pretzel sticks right now. Think about that: Whatever you’re up to, you could put it on hold and go out for some soft pretzels. Head to Rum Runners Saloon [3385 Babcock Blvd., rumrunnerssaloon.com] in Ross to get them with beer cheese and honey mustard.
9 T-Bones Marketplace [100 VIP Drive, tbonesmarketplace.com] in Marshall is one of the North Hills’ best-kept secrets for great to-go lunches and dinners, with crazy-cheap daily specials. Locals swear by the fried chicken, a staple of graduation parties and events via T-Bones’ catering service.
10 Before you pick up a bevy of farm-fresh food from Soergel Orchards [2573 Brandt School Road, soergels.com] in Franklin Park, head behind the store to visit with friendly goats and pigs. After all, how often do you hang out with goats? They’re not bad to talk to. Great listeners.
photo by john altdorfer
Under-the-radar food and drinks
It’s worth grabbing one of the 24 seats at Red Orchid Thai [5439 Babcock Blvd., thairedorchid.com]
for a taste of chef/owner Keson Kaplanek’s Thai cuisine. The wild curry, Red Orchid crispy duck and Pad Kee Mao all are terrific choices. Meanwhile, The Pines Tavern [5018 Bakerstown Road, thepinestavern.com] in Richland Township is an environment-focused respite from the hubbub of the city. During the growing season, many menu items come from the restaurant’s garden, and it’s a cozy and relaxing place to eat any time of the year. Stop by on a Friday or Saturday for snapping turtle soup.
— Hal B. Klein
photo courtesy of depreciation lands museum
Take a walk back in time at the Depreciation Lands Museum [4743 S. Pioneer Road, depreciationlandsmuseum.org] in Hampton Township. In 1783, the state of Pennsylvania gave this land to Europeans as payment for their service in the Revolutionary War. Explore the Pine Creek Covenanter Church and its cemetery, a log house, a replica school, a wagon house and a working blacksmith shop. Go deeper with special events such as Cabin Days, where you and your family can experience life in a log cabin by doing chores, cooking and making crafts. The park is open from 1-4 p.m. on Sundays through October. — Jennie Dorris