Merry Christmas! And happy Pittsburgh snow.

Lake Geneva Switzerland panorama

View of Lake Geneva from Pully, Switzerland. Yes, I’m totally obsessed with the panoramic feature on my phone.

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season! While I’m currently in Switzerland visiting family, I hear Pittsburgh got a bit of snow the other day. I made this infographic on snowfall in the region and really liked how it turned out, so give it a look! (click to make bigger)

Pittsburgh snow infographic

It will probably be a few weeks before I post here again so I hope everyone has a happy New Year!

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A perfect day in Pittsburgh: Pamela’s, History Center, PPG Plaza, Market Square, and Fat Head’s

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To get lots of details on what I did for my perfect day, plus see all the pictures I took throughout the day, check out this slideshow of almost 100 photos!

While dealing with the stress from impending finals (and having relinquished most of my social life this semester anyway), I decided to take a break by enjoying what I would consider to be my perfect day in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t hard to envision my perfect day (lots of eating and lots of exploring) but getting down to specifics, and factoring in a rainy day, was tricky. Here’s what I ultimately decided on, primarily influenced by an intense craving for strawberry hotcakes and some holiday cheer.

Map

Pamela’s

Even Obama loves Pamela's hotcakes!

Even Obama loves Pamela’s hotcakes!

So about those hotcakes. Pamela’s has been a Pittsburgh breakfast institution since 1980, featuring their famously delicious crepe-like hotcakes. Even with six locations throughout the city, Pamela’s always get packed with a line out the door on weekends and some weekdays– and for good reason. Thin, crispy, and delectably sweet and buttery, their hotcakes have attracted a cult-like following and, personally, I think I may be addicted to the crunchy edges.My favorites are the strawberry ones, which are rolled up with sliced strawberries, brown sugar, and sour cream (it works) in the middle. They also have blueberry, banana walnut, and chocolate chip banana speciality hotcakes, as well as plain short stacks.

Hotcakes filled with strawberries, brown sugar, sour cream, and topped with whipped cream.

Hotcakes filled with strawberries, brown sugar, sour cream, and topped with whipped cream.

Their omelettes are also delicious, especially the accompanying lyonnaise potatoes which are their heavily caramelized, oniony version of home fries. Besides many other breakfast options, Pamela’s also has lunch options available, but my perfect day was definitely going to start with the strawberry hotcakes. The decor varies by location, with the Squirrel Hill location having checkerboard floors, light blue and metal accents, and vintage photos and rave reviews adorning the walls. They’re cash only at Pamela’s, so come prepared.

Senator John Heinz History Center

Reconstructed trolley on display in the History Center's lobby.

Reconstructed trolley on display in the History Center’s lobby.

After sufficiently stuffing my face, the next stop was the Heinz History Center, which I had been invited to check out after posting this blog post. The roots of the Center date back to 1879 (click here for a timeline on the history of the History Center), making it the oldest cultural institution in Western Pennslvania, but it has only been located at its current Strip District location since 1996. Today it is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute and is the largest history museum in Pennsylvania (take that, Philly!).

Elevator panel from Three Rivers Stadium. With only 22 seconds left in the divisional playoff game against Oakland in 1972 and the Steelers down 7-6, Art Rooney admitted defeat and entered the elevator to travel down to the Steelers locker room. When the doors opened, he was completely confused as to why the Steelers were celebrating-- Franco Harris had made one of the luckiest plays in all of sports, the Immaculate Reception, and the Steelers were advancing in the playoffs... and Art Rooney missed it.

Elevator panel from Three Rivers Stadium. With only 22 seconds left in the divisional playoff game against Oakland in 1972 and the Steelers down 7-6, Art Rooney admitted defeat and entered the elevator to travel down to the Steelers locker room. When the doors opened, he was completely confused as to why the Steelers were celebrating– Franco Harris had made one of the luckiest plays in all of sports, the Immaculate Reception, and the Steelers were advancing in the playoffs… and Art Rooney missed it.

There are six floors of permanent collections, such as the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Clash of Empires: The British, French & Indian War, the new From Slavery to Freedom exhibit, and the Heinz 57 display, which is about the Heinz company and products (and sadly was closed when I visited). There are also several traveling exhibits, including the extensive and incredible Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Most Super Bowl wins graph

Super Bowl wins percentage

I always forget just how gigantic the History Center is– you easily could spend the whole day there, wandering through the Special Collections (which houses artifacts from Pittsburgh’s history and of different ethnic groups), learning about Lewis and Clark’s famous journey through a recent recreation by the Rooney family, or discovering Pittsburgh’s once-thriving glass industry. The library and archives are considered the ultimate resource for Western Pennsylvania history, with thousands upon thousands of photos, documents, and personal collections (and it’s free for students and staff with a valid school ID). More details on the specific exhibits are in the slideshow at the top so check that out. All the collections are fantastic, educational, and well-organized, and I only wish I had alloted more time to really take in everything. Thanks again to the History Center for inviting me!

PPG Plaza and Market Square

The Christmas tree at PPG Plaza.

The Christmas tree at PPG Plaza.

The rain seemed to be holding out for a few hours so the next stop was PPG Plaza and Market Square to experience some Christmas cheer. As everyone from Pittsburgh is well aware, every winter PPG Plaza between Third and Fourth Avenue is transformed into an outdoor skating rink, featuring a large Christmas tree in the center during the holidays. Skaters can bring their own skates or rent some from the rink and practice their best hockey moves and double axels throughout the winter season. The plaza and surrounding areas are decked out with lights and other decorations but, best of all, Market Square is currently hosting a holiday market.

Market Square Holiday Market.

Market Square Holiday Market.

Based on traditional German Christmas markets, the one in Market Square has regional, national, and international vendors selling their wares, plus live music and Santa’s house if you want to tell the big guy what you want for Christmas (the Santa we saw had a real beard so he gets my approval). It’s open every day until December 23, plus the city is offering free all-day parking (warning: PDF link) on Saturdays at downtown parking garages until December 22 to encourage business in the area (street parking is always free after 6 p.m. and on Sundays). The holiday season is thriving in Market Square and wandering around the little shops and admiring all the pretty lights officially put me in Christmas mode.

Fat Head’s

Cover of Fat Head's menu.

Cover of the menu at Fat Head’s.

After being out and about all morning, afternoon, and early evening, we headed home to spend some quality time with my dog, Daisy. In an ideal scenario, Daisy and I would have enjoyed a long walk in Schenley Park as part of my perfect day but we may be waiting a few months until the weather cooperates enough for us to do that again. Eventually, appetites at the ready, we headed down to South Side to eat and drink our hearts out at Fat Head’s. While my waistline and wallet disapprove, I love Fat Head’s for their enormous draft list and giant headwiches, which are aptly named for being as big as your head and stuffed with an assortment of meats, cheeses, and toppings.

Fat Head's impressive draft list.

Fat Head’s impressive draft list.

They have a giant and intense menu of sandwiches, wings, appetizers, burgers, and even salads. Fat Head’s also has their own brewery in Ohio and always has a few of their own beers on tap, including their delicious and award-winning Head Hunter IPA. We started with an order of garlic fries and my goodness, was there a lot of both. Our waitress brought out a heaping mountain of fresh-cut fries topped with a frightening amount of garlic and parmesan cheese. If you get heartburn or don’t have mints on hand, you should avoid these, because they are seriously delicious and very seriously garlicky. Next up, the Jack-O headwich: sliced steak, onion rings, roasted red peppers, sharp cheddar, and their spicy ranch.

The Jack-O: Strips of sirloin steak topped with onion rings, roasted red peppers, sharp cheddar and Killer Ranch.

The Jack-O: Strips of sirloin steak topped with onion rings, roasted red peppers, sharp cheddar and Killer Ranch.

I’ve always eyed it up but was wary of their self-proclaimed Killer Ranch, which luckily ended up being the perfect amount of heat (I’m admittedly a huge wuss when it comes to spicy food). The whole thing was super tasty, with tender marinated sirloin and flavorful peppers, and was accompanied by their wonderfully crunchy homemade chips. The Jack-O was definitely added to my list of favorites, which includes the SouthSide Slopes headwich (kielbasa, pierogies, American cheese, grilled onions, and horseradish sauce– which I omit, being a hater of horseradish), the honey chipotle char-grilled wings, and the Hoff-witch (grilled chicken, original hot sauce, cheddar, bacon, goat cheese, black olives, lettuce, cilantro tomatoes and garlic-parm mayo). After a few more rounds of beer and the occasional peck at garlic fries, we closed the place down and headed home with more than enough leftovers for a few days.

My perfect day in Pittsburgh was indeed perfect: I got to eat tons of delicious food, learn all about Pittsburgh and its history, and walk outside and soak up some Christmas cheer. In the next few months, I hope to embark on a similar perfect day with all new destinations, so stay tuned! I’d love to hear what you would include in your perfect day!

What would your perfect day in Pittsburgh be like?

Where would you go? What would you do? Where would you eat?!

This incredible shirt is available at here from Compress Merch-- that is, unless I buy them all first.

This incredible shirt is available here from Compress Merch or at their store at 1931 E. Carson St in the South Side (where I took this photo)– that is, unless I buy them all first.

I set out on my perfect day this past weekend, documented with lots of photos, and had a wonderful time. Check out the blog post tomorrow to see exactly what I did as part of my perfect day in Pittsburgh!

Survey results: What you like most/least about Pittsburgh and its activities

As some of you may know, I posted a survey on my Facebook page about Pittsburgh and its attractions. Besides some standard demographic question, I also asked people what they like most/least about Pittsburgh and about some of the more popular things to do here. After 25 respondents, I took the answers and made some pretty little charts and graphs to better visualize everything. People were allowed to pick more than one answer for most questions so a lot of answers add up to more than 25. Hopefully this gives me a better understanding of my readership and some ideas for future blog topics (which I am ALWAYS open to).

Pittsburgh Staycation: age chart

As far as demographics go, most people (16 out of 25) who answered were in the 18-25 age range, with 7 in the 26-35 range, and 1 each in the 36-45 and 46-55 ranges. I didn’t bother making a chart for the gender responses since they were pretty much equal: 13 respondents were female and 12 were male. The same applied for a question asking if the person was currently a college student: 13 said no, while 12 said yes.

Pittsburgh Staycation: location mapClick the map for actual, useful information!

I also asked people what areas of Pittsburgh they lived in, such as Downtown or the East End, and plotted them on this map (click on the image to see the interactive Google map). Important note: I didn’t ask for exact locations so the pins on the map represent the area, not that specific point, where someone is located. The number of people that responded for each location can be seen on a list on the left or by clicking on a pin. Four people were not from Pittsburgh (come on, yinz guys!) and their locations are plotted too. Most people were from the eastern areas of Pittsburgh, with, surprisingly, no one from the western side.
 

Pittsburgh Staycation: what do you like most about Pittsburgh chart

Not surprisingly, people said they liked the sports teams and parks and rivers the most, two prominent features of Pittsburgh, with restaurants and people rounding out the top 4. Some of the other answers written in were the geography, topography, history, location, walking distance, architecture and skyline. All super great stuff!
 
What do you like least about Pittsburgh?
As for what they like least about Pittsburgh, almost everyone said the weather and traffic, which is a shock to absolutely no one. I’m a little sad that someone said what they like least is the people. We love you, Mr. Grinch, whoever you are! One person said the construction is their least favorite thing (can’t argue with that) and the person from Durham said the fact that it’s 8 hours away. Good point.
 
Favorite Pittsburgh professional sports team
Expectedly, the Steelers were most people’s favorite professional sports team in Pittsburgh, with the Penguins and Pirates sharing second place.
 
What's your favorite Pittsburgh neighborhood?
The neighborhood love was pretty evenly spread out, with Squirrel Hill getting the most mentions. Someone (who lived Downtown) answered Station Square too but poor Bloomfield got nothing! Not sure what that’s about because Bloomfield is awesome, especially for Little Italy Days.
 
If you had to pick one "must-do" for a Pittsburgh visitor, what would it be?
Now onto the really good questions: Most people thought riding the incline, eating at Primanti’s, and going to the Strip District on a Saturday morning were musts for Pittsburgh visitors, and rightfully so. In terms of quintessential Pittsburgh-y things, those three (along with sporting events, which ranked 4th) are pretty indisputable. As for the other options, people said the bookstores, Phipps Conservatory, the Ducky Tour, and taking people Downtown to show them all the buildings.
 
What is something you haven't done in Pittsburgh yet that you really want to do?
Lastly, in a question semi-related to the previous one, the Warhol Museum came out the clear winner. Phipps, the Cathedral of Learning, the Heinz History Center, and attending a Penguins game rounded out the top 5. Three wonderful Pittsburghers had done everything on the list and I want to shake their hands. Other great suggestions were kayaking downtown and spending a spring day at Hartwood Acres. But wait, no one’s been dying to go to a Pirates game???  Maybe next year, Buccos.
 
Overall, this survey gave me some great ideas. The Warhol, Phipps, and the Strip District are definitely higher up on my list of places to check out, with maybe some more activities aimed at students. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Interview: Pittsburgh for dog lovers, restaurant goers, and, oh yea, Cowboys fans

Vanessa and I first met while working at Camp Bow Wow (doggie daycare and boarding), and her and her fiancé Matt have become some of my dearest friends here. Although they are both not originally from Pittsburgh, they’ve settled into life here easily and love exploring the city, especially with their shih tzu, Wesley. Vanessa’s new line of work means they’ll eventually be moving out-of-state but they’ve had some great memories here in Pittsburgh and hopefully will visit often after they leave! They answered a few questions about Pittsburgh and what they love about it, plus included a few pictures from their Facebooks of them doing “Pittsburghy” things.

Matt and Vanessa attend Pup Night at PNC Park for a Pirates game with their dog, Wesley.

Matt and Vanessa attend Pup Night at PNC Park for a Pirates game with their dog, Wesley.

Tell me a little about your background.

Matt – I’m originally from Lancaster (Lan-KISS-ter), Pennsylvania and came to Pittsburgh to go to Pitt to study Finance. I lived in Oakland during school and now live in the North Side with Vanessa. I currently work at BNY Mellon in the Corporate Actions department and process various corporate events as they occur for our clients. Vanessa and I started a pet tag engraving business a few years ago which is a secondary job for each of us (check it out at www.petidexpress.com).

Vanessa – I grew up about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh in the small town of Belle Vernon, and I made the move up to Oakland to study Neuroscience at Pitt. Once we finished school, Matt and I moved to the North Side and have been here for about two and a half years. I decided to go back to school for Air Traffic Control, which I just finished up this past August and am now waiting on a government job. Currently I work at Pittsburgh International Airport deicing airplanes (you know, spraying them with a glycol solution before they take off in the wintertime) as well as maintaining our pet tag engraving business that Matt mentioned. When we’re not working, we like to explore the city with friends, try out new restaurants, and go places with our dog, Wesley.

Matt and Vanessa in one of the planes Vanessa flew for her Air Traffic Control program.

In one of the planes Vanessa flew during her Air Traffic Control program.

What do you like most about Pittsburgh? Least?

Vanessa – One of the things I like the most about Pittsburgh is how its neighborhoods are set up. Downtown has a large city feel with its towering skyscrapers & daily hustle and bustle, but the city itself is actually pretty small and compact. You can literally walk from one side of downtown to the other in almost no time. Areas like the Strip District, Oakland, South Side, North Side, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, etc are all not far from downtown, and each neighborhood offers its own unique feel. It’s nice being able to visit Pittsburgh’s different neighborhoods in the same day without having to drive far. And that brings me to what I like least about Pittsburgh – driving. I love to drive, but Pittsburgh is known for its terrible traffic (specifically 376). People around here seem to be “tunnel challenged” so the Squirrel Hill tunnel & Liberty tubes always create a huge backup. There are also a lot of potholes and never-ending road construction.

Matt – I love the architecture: the bridges, PPG Place, The US Steel Building, PNC Park (who plays there?), the Casino, the Cathedral of Learning, I could keep going. My least favorite thing about Pittsburgh is the Parking Authority and parking in general.

Enjoying an Incubus concert outdoors at Stage AE in Pittsburgh's North Shore.

Enjoying an Incubus concert outdoors at Stage AE in Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

What are your favorite things to do in Pittsburgh?

Matt – I really enjoy the Pittsburgh music scene which continues to draw better and better acts. I love going to Market Square during my lunch breaks; there always seems to be something interesting happening. I also enjoy going to different Pittsburgh area parks on nice days.

Vanessa – I love to try out new restaurants & bars (Groupon has been a great tool for finding new restaurants & getting great discounts!). I also enjoy strolling through the Strip District, catching some rays at Sandcastle Waterpark in the summer, & spending time outdoors with our dog. Earlier this year we discovered Riverview Dog Park, which is a hidden gem behind the Pittsburgh Observatory, and we find ourselves there a lot. If you have a dog, it’s a great place to spend an evening with lots of other people and their dogs!

Don't let that face fool you-- Wesley loves exploring the city parks!

Don’t let that face fool you– Wesley loves exploring the city parks!

What are your favorites places to eat in Pittsburgh? Drink? Go out at night?

Vanessa – Some of my favorite places to eat around here (and there are LOTS!) are Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, DiBella’s Subs, Lindo’s, Primanti Bros, Sushi Boat, Antoons, Fatheads, Taj Mahal.. the list goes on and on. I enjoy going out at night to Pittsburgh’s South Side and visiting the various bars along that strip (some favorites that come to mind are the Rowdy Buck, Locals, & Mario’s). I also like to visit the River’s Casino from time to time.

Matt – I like to eat at Nicky’s Thai, Mix Stirs, Monterey Bay, Madonna’s, Taiwan Café, and many more. I like going out to various bars in the South Side but can’t always remember their names. I also enjoy hanging out at friend’s places.

What is your favorite neighborhood in Pittsburgh and why?

Matt – My favorite neighborhood in Pittsburgh is Oakland because it is the first one I knew and I have a lot of good memories there including meeting my fiancé Vanessa!

Vanessa – I could say my favorite neighborhood in Pittsburgh is Oakland for the same reasons as Matt, but for a little variation I will go with the North Side because it’s where I live now, and I love it here. While Pittsburgh’s North Side is sometimes known for its somewhat “shady” areas, there are also some very nice areas here. I can honestly say that I have never felt unsafe living here. I think Pittsburgh’s North Side is turning into a beautiful part of this city, and I’d love to see how far it’s come in a few more years.

Wesley and his friend Fleury playing hard at Riverview Dog Park in the North Side.

Wesley and his friend Fleury playing hard at Riverview Dog Park in the North Side. Photo by Kent Noble

Matt- What’s it like being a Cowboys fan in Steelers country?

Other than the death stares I get when walking downtown wearing my jersey, it’s not that bad. The Cowboys haven’t been very good for a while now so I don’t think Steelers fans feel threatened. At work, I am constantly defending Tony Romo (I think Steelers fans are jealous). [Editor’s note: HAHAHAHA]

A photo Vanessa took of Pittsburgh while flying for her Air Traffic Control program.

A photo Vanessa took of Pittsburgh while flying for her Air Traffic Control program.

Describe your perfect day in Pittsburgh from start to finish.

Matt – Wake up and watch the sunrise on Mt. Washington then head down the incline and go into the Strip to enjoy breakfast and coffee while walking around the shops. Next, stop by the Furry convention [?!] and then head out kayaking on the river. After kayaking, grab some sustenance at Primanti’s and then head to Soldiers and Sailors to lie down before the food coma sets in. After I awake, travel to the North Side for a show at Stage AE and then back home to my warm cozy bed.

Vanessa – My perfect day in Pittsburgh would begin by sleeping in a little and then going out to breakfast somewhere (I’d say Lindo’s because their breakfast is awesome, but I’d prefer to try somewhere new). After breakfast, I would spend the afternoon out on a boat on the river with some friends & some brews. Once evening starts setting in, we’d get dressed up and go out to eat somewhere fancy on Mt. Washington, and then maybe go catch a show downtown at the Benedum before heading home.

A Steelers fan’s dream: the Heinz Field experience


I went to the Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs game at Heinz Field on November 12, 2012 and taped the experience. While the NFL doesn’t allow you to take video of plays during the game (you hear that, Belichick?), I took a lot of shots of Heinz Field and interviewed a first-time Steelers game attendee and a Heinz Field employee. I will admit, my video skills are lacking, so if you get extremely motion sick, you might want to pass on it. Otherwise, give it a view!

When football is as large a part of life as it is in Western Pennsylvania, it tends to transcend simple entertainment. After a reigning dominance in the 70s, a resurgence in the 90s and more recent years, and the values the Rooneys have instilled in the franchise, Steelers football has become more than just a game for many current and former Pittsburgh residents. On game days, it’s hard to escape the excitement, joy, and, sometimes, disappointment that seems to overwhelm the city.

The current Mecca for Steelers fans is Heinz Field, located on the North Shore of Pittsburgh. When the stadium opened in 2001, it replaced the much-loved and storied Three Rivers Stadium, which also housed baseball games for the Pirates. Heinz Field is the current home for the Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers, and also hosted the 2011 Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins (which the Penguins sadly lost). It also sees local high school playoff football, several concerts a year (most notably Kenny Chesney every summer), and was featured in The Dark Knight Rises.

Heinz Field Steelers gameThe Steelers beat the Tennessee Titans 38-17 on October 9, 2011.

On Steelers game days, tens of thousands of fans fill the surrounding parking lots and restaurants to eat, drink, and be merry (while drinking some more) before entering the stadium. Inside they can visit numerous food and drinks stands, explore merchandise stores, listen to live bands, and wander down the Great Hall. The 40,000-square-foot concourse contains many Steelers and Panthers memorabilia, including replicas of all six of the Steelers’ Super Bowl trophies, as well as a Walk of Fame on Steelers history. Perhaps best of all, from their seats fans can admire the spectacular views of Pittsburgh through the open south end of the stadium.

Once the game begins, the crowd truly unites to support the team. They join together to rile up the defense, celebrate when the Steelers score, and commiserate if the opposition does well. An exciting game day atmosphere is created through numerous videos and songs aimed to engage fans. Most loved of all is the song Renegade by Styx. When the scoreboard screen turns black during the later half of the game, seasoned fans know what’s coming: an action-packed montage of impressive Steelers defensive plays meant to fire up the crowd during a particularly crucial play.

Heinz Field Steelers gameSteelers versus the Cleveland Browns on December 8, 2011, winning 14-3.

It’s not certain what makes the Steelers so ingrained in the culture of Pittsburgh. Perhaps it’s the hope and distraction their success in the 70s offered residents during a rough time for the city as the steel industry began to collapse. Maybe it’s the upstanding principles and strict standards enforced by the ownership on the organization, as others in the NFL seem to be faltering. It could be their continued success throughout the past 40 or so years, winning the most Super Bowls and AFC Championships in NFL history and repeatedly being playoff contenders. Either way, if you’re from or live in Pittsburgh, there’s only one thing to say: Here We Go, Steelers!

Quick 18th-Century History of Pittsburgh Timeline

Pittsburgh History
Click for the timeline!

The 18th century was a crucial time in the development of Pittsburgh. From foundings to rebellions to many regional firsts, the city truly earned its identity during the 1770s. Development began at the Point and gradually expanded east and across the rivers. Pittsburgh wasn’t incorporated until 1813 but there’s a lot of interesting and important history prior to then.

City Dining Cards offer $10 off at over 50 Pittsburgh restaurants

Pittsburgh City Dining Cards

While catching up on some blog reading, I noticed a several-week-old blog post from the wonderful people at eatPGH.com. Apparently City Dining Cards have arrived in Pittsburgh, with each card offering a $10 discount to one of over 50 Pittsburgh restaurants. And best of all, the included restaurants are all locally-owned and many are some of Pittsburghers’ favorite establishments. Respected places such as Square Cafe, The Church Brew Works, Abay Ethiopian Cuisine, OTB Bicycle Cafe, and Sausalido joined the program.


Click the image to see an interactive map of all the participating restaurants.

Here’s more specifics on the cards themselves:

  • It’s $20 for a set of 52 cards. 5% of each purchase gets donated to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
  • 50 of the cards are valid at a different Pittsburgh restaurant for $10 off purchases of $30 or more. Each one can only be used once.
  • Then there’s 2 wildcards with each giving you either a free small coffee or espresso at Espresso a Mano or one free beer at The Church Brew Works (go for the beer, people!).
  • Can only be used towards the food portion of the bill, which means it can’t be used for alcohol, tip, or tax.
  • Expire at the end of 2013.

Even better, eatPGH is offering free shipping if you order online! Just enter “eatPGH” for the Promo Code AND Shipping Code (you have to do it for both), and you’ll get free shipping on as many as you want. Thanks, eatPGH! You can also find in-store retail locations to buy a pack.

I haven’t been to a decent amount of the restaurants on this list (quite a few are out of my current price range) but some perennial favorites appear, as well as places I’ve been meaning to check out. Bites and Brews in Shadyside is my favorite place for pizza and beer, with an extensive draft list and build-your-own pizzas and sandwiches. Across the street is another one of my staples, Harris Grill (whose website has been down for a while). It’s been mentioned on here before but bacon night deserves to be mentioned as much as possible. They have a fantastic, unique cocktail list and on Tuesdays after happy hour, they put out baskets of free bacon for patrons to munch on.

D's Six Pax and Dogs

Oh yes. That’s a hot dog topped with macaroni and cheese from D’s. Photo by somenametoforget on Flickr.

I used to go to D’s Six Pax and Dogz in Regent Square almost every week, at the very least to explore their beer cave featuring more than 1,000 (according to them) craft micro-brew and import bottles. They also have pretty great food with slightly atypical pub food, creatively-topped beef, turkey, and veggie hot dogs, and tasty pizzas. Industry Public House in Lawrenceville features a modern wood and metal decor, a wonderful draft list, artisanal cocktails, including a signature smoked bourbon drink, and creative, homemade food.

The Round Corner Cantina

Tequila, Cointreau, and grapefruit drink from Round Corner Cantina. Photo by somenametoforget on Flickr.

I’m most excited to finally check out the Church Brew Works, Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville, and Pi Coal Fired Pizza in South Side, and even possibly splurging on a meal at Root 174 in Regent Square. Overall, the City Dining Cards are a great deal and an excellent opportunity to explore new restaurants. Your purchase will pay for itself with just two uses and, as far as price and types of cuisine go, the options are varied and extensive. They’d also make a great holiday present for any food-loving friends and family, so go ahead and grab a deck or two!

Top 5 Historic Sites in Pittsburgh to Visit Today

Pittsburgh is a city rich and alive with history. From its settlement in 1717 to its rise as the steel center of the US in early 20th century, from the French and Indian War to the American Revolution, the city has been integral in the development of the US. Besides checking out the fantastic Heinz History Center and Sports Museum, here’s a list of the top 5 historic sites in Pittsburgh, in no discernible order, that you can still visit today.

Point State Park and the Fort Pitt Museum

Point State ParkView of Point State Park, the former location of Fort Pitt, from the Duquesne Incline. Photo by chrisinphilly5448 on Flickr.

Located where the three rivers meet, Point State Park was a strategic hub during the French and Indian War between 1754 and 1763. After visiting the Point, George Washington wrote in his journal that it would make a great place for a fort, and soon one was partially built. The French and British traded occupancy of the location and its forts throughout the war, with the British finally maintaining Fort Pitt at the site. In 1763, after the war, local Indians tried to drive out the British settlers by attempting to siege Fort Pitt, but they failed due to the strength of the fort and the distraction of additional British troops nearby. During the American Revolution, the Continental Army used Fort Pitt and the Point as its western headquarters to gather troops and supplies to fight against the British. The first peace treaty between the United States and the Indians was also signed there in 1779. However, the fort’s purpose was soon lost thereafter and it was abandoned to poor conditions in 1792.

Fort Pitt's "Redoubt" Blockhouse

The Fort Pitt Blockhouse. Photo by bridgevillepennsylvania on Flickr.

Today, all that’s left is the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, which was built to address a weakness in the fort’s design. It is considered the oldest structure in Western Pennsylvania and is open to the public for free. All of this information and much more is expanded upon in the Fort Pitt Museum located within Point State Park. The park itself has riverfront walkways, grassy hills, and fantastic views of the city and rivers, although the iconic 100-foot fountain at the tip of the Point is currently closed for construction.
(References: Fort Pitt Museum; Point State Park)

Kennywood

Kennywood Park - The Areo 360The Aero 360 at Kennywood. Photo by Alan Jakub on Flickr.

While an amusement park may not seem historical, Kennywood is one of only two listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in 1898 as a small trolley park, it found itself struggling to stay open as it competed with dozens of other trolley parks and amusement resorts in the area. The park underwent new management in 1906 and grew tremendously from then until 1930 as they built five large roller coasters (two of which are still operational today- the Jack Rabbit and the Racer) and a large swimming pool.

Jack Rabbit rollercoaster at Kennywood Park, West Mifflin, PA

The Jack Rabbit, built in 1921, is still in operation at Kennywood. Photo by Brian Butko on Flickr.

The Great Depression of the early 1930s hit the park hard yet they managed to stay afloat by having numerous great dance bands play from 1930 to 1950. New rides were added as the country crawled out of the Depression and the park bought a ferris wheel and a miniature train during the Second World War. During the 1950s, Kennywood prospered as more schools began bringing their students to the park for designated Kennywood Days. The park continued to grow through the later part of the century. They added many new rides, especially in Kiddieland, were named “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World” from the late 60s to the 90s, and opened up Lost Kennywood, which was a replica of parks from the early 1900s. Today, Kennywood prides itself in mixing tradition with modern elements and lives up to its moniker of “America’s Finest Traditional Amusement Park.”
(Reference: Kennywood)

The Cathedral of Learning

Cathedral of Learning

 Photo by AxsDeny on Flickr.

The second-tallest university building in the world, this iconic landmark is located in the heart of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus in Oakland. Construction of the 535-feet, 42-story Gothic cathedral began in 1926, with classes first being held in 1931. It was commissioned by the University’s tenth chancellor, John Gabbert Bowman, as a dramatic educational symbol. The Cathedral was partially funded during the Depression in a unique way: local school children were encouraged to “Buy a Brick” for a dime, with over 97,000 sold. The building has been used mainly for education purposes since its inception, housing classrooms, theaters, computer labs, libraries, a restaurant, and administrative and departmental offices.

Cathedral of Learning at night

The Cathedral of Learning’s Commons Room decorated for the holidays. Photo by LugerLA on Flickr.

The stunning Commons Room on the main floor features grand Gothic-style architecture and is used as a study area. The Cathedral also has 29 Nationality Rooms, each celebrating a different culture that has influenced Pittsburgh, from Chinese to Czech to Early American. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, tours are conducted in order to gain entrance to the Nationality Rooms.
(References: Cathedral of Learning; Nationality Rooms)

The Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines

Pittsburgh Reg Mtg Aug 09 (448)

The Duquesne Incline. Photo by Hannaford on Flickr.

At one point in history, Pittsburgh had 15 operational inclines providing easy access between the riverfronts and the hills that frame the city. Today, only two remain, both providing service to Mt. Washington. The Monongahela Incline, built in 1870 and located near Station Square, is the longest continually operating incline in the US. At the top, riders can admire the views of Pittsburgh from the south or venture to several nearby restaurants, some also offering spectacular city scenes.

incline decline

Inside the Monongahela Incline. Photo by Brian Siewiorek on Flickr.

The Duquesne Incline, located further west than the Mon Incline, opened in 1877 and briefly closed in 1962 due to financial concerns. However, a group of local residents created a non-profit to preserve, restore, and operate the incline and it reopened just a few years later. The upper station contains a museum on Pittsburgh history and inclines around the world, as well as a tiny gift shop. Traveling at 6 miles per hour, both inclines provide spectacular views from atop Mt. Washington and are considered historical structures by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
(References: Station Square- Inclines; Duquesne Incline; Port Authority- Inclines)

Allegheny Cemetery

allegheny cemetery1

Photo by Chris Collins on Flickr.

One of the largest cemeteries in the United States and the oldest west of the Allegheny Mountains, the Allegheny Cemetery is located on 300 acres in Lawrenceville. Founded in 1844 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, almost 130,000 people are buried here. Included are many famed Pittsburghers, such as congressmen, senators, professional baseball players, war veterans, and other notable members of Pittsburgh’s history. The oldest graves come from soldiers of the French and Indian War, who were transfered from their original burial sites in a downtown cathedral to the large cemetery once it opened.

She Watches Over Pittsburgh

Photo by Matthew Niemi on Flickr.

Allegheny Cemetery aimed to get rid of the common conception that cemeteries are creepy and uninviting by beautifying the grounds and welcoming groups and individuals to enjoy the natural landscape and historic landmarks. Large monuments and statues decorate the spacious grounds, which feature rolling hills, stately trees, over 15 miles of paved paths, and numerous species of birds to watch.
(Reference: Allegheny Cemetery)