The Wild, Wonderful Hubub of the Strip District
Strip District foot traffic, particularly on Saturday mornings, can reach epic proportions. If you’re down to get into the mix, perhaps even purchase some of the ubiquitous black and gold sports gear, you’re in the right place — but you can also seek a little bit of refuge in an otherwise boisterous neighborhood.
Gaucho Parrilla Argentina
First, breakfast. Eat at DeLuca’s Diner (2015 Penn Ave.; delucastripdistrict.com), a neighborhood institution since 1950. It’s a real-deal, old-school diner with a straightforward (and lengthy) breakfast menu that hits all the high points of the classic American breakfast. Saddle up to the counter or spread out in a booth, fuel up with bacon, eggs, home fries and toast, and get ready to see the neighborhood.
A public storefront since 1990, and an artist collective for more than a decade prior to that, Penn Avenue Pottery (1905 Penn Ave.) is serenity forged in a 2,000-degree fire. The narrow retail space features the work of local artisans, many of whom finish their products in the kiln in the back of the store. Peruse the marvelously crafted bowls, mugs, earrings, vases and more; if you have any questions, the person at the register is always a member of the collective.
Lotus Food Company
Ready for a quick nibble? Pop into Mon Aimee Chocolat (2101 Penn Ave., monaimeechocolat.com) to work your way through a large selection of domestic and imported chocolate confections, many of which are made with time-honored methods from sustainably sourced cocoa beans. Thirsty? In the colder months, you can order house-made hot chocolate, among the best of its kind in Pittsburgh.
Hot Haute Hot (2124 Penn Ave., hothautehot.net) is a neighborhood staple for interior design. The ever-changing showroom features a dazzling array of high-end furniture and furnishings. Take a break on one of the gorgeous — and gorgeously comfortable — couches, then browse the collection of silk carpets, Turkish pillows, vintage knick-knacks, eco-friendly artwork and more. Hot Hot Haute’s basement is an especially lovely escape on a hot summer afternoon.
If you’ve been chilled-out by the flowers and furnishings, grab a pick-me-up at La Prima Espresso Co. (205 21st St., laprima.com). The Italian-style coffee shop has been a Strip District anchor since 1988; you’ll likely catch one of the neighborhood’s shop owners or an old-school Italian chef partaking in a (locally roasted) espresso and a bit of banter.
Pennsylvania Macaroni Company
Need to catch up on your grocery shopping? Let the excellent fishmongers at Penn Avenue Fish Company (2208 Penn Ave., pennavefishcompany.com) help you find the catch of the day. Stop by the legendary Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (2010 Penn Ave., pennmac.com); the family business started in 1902 and is home to a good selection of olive oils, dried pasta, canned tomatoes and peppers. It also has a boisterous cheese counter. For a slightly more mellow experience, the fourth-generation charcutiers at Parma Sausage (1734 Penn Ave., parmasausage.com) prepare cured and fresh meat products on-site using old-world methodology. And at Asian grocery store Lotus Food Company (1649 Penn Ave.), you can find a wide variety of ingredients from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam; the house-made tofu is a treat.
Feel like having lunch or dinner before you head home? Gaucho Parrilla Argentina (1601 Penn Ave., eat-gaucho.com) is your destination for all things cooked over a fire. The restaurant’s menu of Argentine-style beef, served with an assortment of sauces, is a delectable draw, and so are its fish and vegetable offerings.