Times Are A-Changin’, But Also Staying the Same
I bet few of you had even heard of an activity bar five years ago.
But now they’ve sprouted all over the Pittsburgh area, offering everything from miniature golf to duckpin bowling and arcade games in vibrant entertainment centers that serve good eats and fine cocktails.
We added the “activity bar” as a category for the first time this year in our annual — and very popular — Best of the ’Burgh Readers’ Poll. The winner, the 14,000-square-foot Coup De Ville in the Strip District, was opened by the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group in 2020 and includes a fast-casual Southern restaurant, games, a coffee shop, bars and an all-day lounge.
This is just one of the categories we added that reflect the changing times and interests. In the poll, 8,534 readers provided 43,943 nominations in more than 110 categories and 16,916 people cast 227,523 votes for the winners — up 6% from last year — so thank you for participating.
The rising popularity of tacos and their many scrumptious variations now merits a category of their own (rather than under the umbrella label of “Mexican”). Self-care also is getting more attention: we added counseling centers, independent pharmacies, medical spas, nail salons and semi-permanent makeup studios. In addition, we included more categories involved in home building and design.
We also want to recognize the stalwarts. What’s refreshing about the results of our Readers’ Poll is that it’s dominated by home-grown and independent businesses. Many, such as Oakmont Bakery, Page Dairy Mart and Pamela’s Diner, are repeat winners.
The independent Oakmont Bakery, in particular, is a triumph. Despite competition from myriad pastry shops and chain grocery stores in the region, the bakery has only expanded during its 35-year-history. It started under the current owners in 1988 with a 1,200-square-foot shop on Allegheny River Boulevard. Five years later, it moved to a 12,500-square-foot place on Allegheny Avenue, with a handful of parking spaces. In February 2019, it opened in its current 19,500-square-foot building (on the newly created Sweet Street address), with a huge production facility, 110-space parking lot and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.
Page Dairy Mart on the South Side, now branded as simply Page’s, goes back even further — it was founded in 1951, more than seven decades ago. Much of its popularity draws on nostalgia; older Pittsburghers visited Page’s as kids. Despite its small size and location far from the heart of the South Side’s business district, Page’s attracts long lines on most summer days. The staff is constantly inventing new sweet concoctions and maintains a lively instagram account.
I also want to give a shout-out to our own Managing Editor Sean Collier, who for the first time was voted as Pittsburgh’s favorite local writer (we didn’t stuff the ballot box — honest!). He follows his dad, Gene Collier, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who has won that accolade the last two years. Magazine writing is just one of Sean’s gigs; he’s a playwright who is co-founder of the immersive theater company Vigilance Theater Group, a stand-up comedian, longtime movie critic and media personality. He also recently won two Golden Quill awards.
So congratulations to Sean and to all of our other Readers’ Poll winners.
Virginia Linn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.