The Savvy Newbie’s Guide to Pittsburgh

Your step-by-step guide to getting up and running in the 'Burgh.

Deadline: Within 60 days of moving to Pa.
Where: PennDOT Driver’s License Center
Required Paperwork: Out-of-state driver’s license, Social Security card, passport or birth certificate, lease/mortgage and current utility bill
Cost: $29.50

Deadline: Within 20 days of moving to Pa.
Where: Many notaries, messenger services and dealers; AAA
Required Paperwork: Pa. driver’s license, valid title, proof of Pa. car insurance and tracing of VIN number
Cost: $36

*for all new Pa. residents

Deadline: Within 10 days of registering vehicle
Where: Most car mechanics
Required Paperwork: Car registration
Cost: Varies; $40 and up

Deadline: 30 days prior to election
Where: In person at PennDOT, at County Voter Registration Office, or by mail
Required Paperwork: Pa. voter-registration mail application form
Cost: Free

Deadline: Immediately
Where: For Pittsburgh, in person at Pittsburgh Parking Authority (232 Blvd. of the Allies) or by mail; varies elsewhere
Required Paper-work: Proof of residency (lease, utility bill or mortgage), car registration and driver’s license
Cost: $20 in Pittsburgh

*required in some areas

Deadline: ASAP; required by law in PA.
Where: Pittsburgh residents: via mail to City Treasurer’s office; County residents: via mail or online through County Treasurer’s office
Required Paper-work: Dog-license application
Cost: $10-20 (City), $4.45-8.45 (County)

Deadline: none
Where: Port Authority downtown office; “T” stations; Giant Eagle locations; other retailers
Required Paper-work: None
Cost: Standard fare: $2.50

Deadline: none
Where: Any of 62 libraries throughout Allegheny County (including all Carnegie Libraries)
Required Paper-work: Photo ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.) and proof of address (utility bill, bank-account statement, etc.)
Cost: Free

Deadline: none
Where: By mail through Forestry Division of Public Works
Required Paper-work: Tree-planting request form (for city to plant) or request for permit and site analysis (to plant yourself)
Cost: Free

Deadline: none
Where: Call 311 or visit city’s 311 website
Required Paper-work: n/a
Cost: n/a

Grocery Guide

Buying your groceries in Pittsburgh can be a little tricky if you’re used to frequenting one-stop-shop grocery stores. We do have stores of that type — but the city is a lot more fun if you also shop small and explore ethnic food shops, farmers markets, bakeries and butchers. Here’s a rundown of how to navigate our grocers.

Farmers markets run by Citiparks are located in many Pittsburgh neighborhoods. They generally start in May and end as late as the end of November. There are branches of the farmers markets in Squirrel Hill, East Liberty, South Side, Carrick, Bloomfield, Beechview, downtown and the North Side. Plenty of neighborhood markets spring up in the warmer months throughout the ’burbs and outlying areas, too. []

The Pittsburgh Public Market is fun — and not just due to the fact that East End Brewing Co. has a loyal following and sells inexpensive tasters and growlers near the front door. You’ll spend time tasting the exotic olive oils at The Olive Tap and trying cheeses at Family Farms Creamery. The market is open Wednesday-Sunday; keep an eye on the website for new merchants. [2401 Penn Ave.,]

Patisseries: It’s not often that you’ll feel like spending $5 on a croissant, but the almond croissants at Gaby et Jules [5837 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill,] are worth every penny. If you’re heading to a dinner party, stop by La Gourmandine [4605 Butler St., Lawrenceville,], where the baguettes (made in traditional and rustic) are so perfectly soft inside with a crunchy exterior that you won’t mind waiting in the line that stretches out the front door. Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery [213 North Ave., Millvale,] makes outstanding French pastries and macarons.

Ethnic shops: Spend a Saturday exploring the Strip District, where you can choose from hundreds of varieties of cheeses at Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. [2010-2012 Penn Ave.,] or get Asian groceries (and homemade tofu) at Lotus Foods [1649 Penn Ave.,], among other shops. While you’re there, stock up on sweets at Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop [2124 Penn Ave.,].

Butchers: It’ll take only one bacon burger (yes — a burger with generous bits of bacon worked in) for you to buy all of your meat at DJ’s Butcher Block [4623 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield]. If you want specialty sausages, head to Butcher on Butler [5145 Butler St., Lawrenceville], where you not only can stock up on sausages for your next barbecue, but you also can enjoy a lunch special grilled fresh every day.

Giant Eagle / Market District
Vibe: Gigantic and insanely friendly
Pro: You can buy beer at Giant Eagle’s Market District stores
Con: You could get lost in the store for days

Vibe: A clean, no-frills local grocery chain
Pro: No yuppies browsing through six types of organic flour
Con: Most locations are outside the city; better for the ’burb dwellers

Trader Joe's
Vibe: Island cult dedicated to TJ house brands
Pro: Addictive snacks and frozen items
Con: “Two-Buck Chuck” in-house wine not available in Pa.

Whole Foods
Vibe: Yuppie-hippie shrine to produce
Pro: Every apple is perfect
Con: Every apple costs, say, $4/pound

ShurSave / Shop ’n Save
Vibe: A grocery store from the 1950s
Pro: Inexpensive staples
Con: Hunting through bins to find fruits and vegetables that aren’t beat up or bruised

“Where the Heck Can I Buy Booze in This City?”

Sorry to tell you this, but buying alcohol in Pittsburgh can be a bit complicated. If you come from a state where you can buy a handle of whiskey, a six-pack of beer and a bottle of red in the same store, we’ve got bad news: In Pennsylvania, we keep our booze separate. For a newbie, it can take a bit of an Easter-egg hunt to figure out where to buy a keg versus a six-pack versus a bottle of wine. Here’s what you need to know.

Wine and liquor:
Sold together at the eponymous Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores [], which vary in size from neighborhood outposts to larger “Premium Collection” stores. Good News: The state owns all stores, so the prices are the same wherever you go.

Cases and kegs: If you want to buy beer in bulk — meaning more than a six- or 12-pack — you need to look for a beer distributor, where you can get a case or a keg. Good News: Beer is much more affordable this way.

Sixers of beer: If you want six- or 12-packs, you can buy these at restaurants, bars, some grocery stores and bottle shops. Beers tend to be a little more expensive this way, but bottle shops often add the fun option of being able to mix and match. Good News: A local favorite is D’s SixPax & Dogz [1118 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square,], where there’s a huge local selection and you can get your beers chilled while you indulge in a gourmet hot dog from the bar.

Growlers: Breweries and some bars offer growlers, as do some Giant Eagle Market District locations. For local brews, stop by East End Brewing Co. at its Larimer home [147 Julius St.,] or at its stand in the Public Market. You also can make a growler run through Lawrenceville, with stops at Church Brew Works, Hop Farm Brewing Co. and Roundabout Brewery. Good News: Pittsburgh has refined taste in beer, and you can get some great brews in your growler.


Categories: From the Magazine