Though Pittsburgh’s North Side sprawls over several smaller neighborhoods, there’s a thread of cultural continuity that holds it all together.
Some of Pittsburgh’s most well-known attractions and best-kept secrets are just across the Allegheny. From delicious eats to live music and Randyland to the Mattress Factory, the North Side is always worth a trip over a bridge.
Eat and Drink
With locations in Squirrel Hill and Garfield, Commonplace has been a staple of Pittsburgh’s constant caffeine buzz for years. Now, you can grab a freshly-brewed cup on the Mexican War Streets before setting out on a walk through the beautiful streets of the North Side. If you’re into expertly crafted coffee drinks and sun-filled spaces, you’ll definitely want to stop in.
The Park House
If you’re craving some awesome live music and Mediterranean-inspired eats, check out The Park House, whose owner is known (for good reason) as The Falafel Master. Plus, there are a ton of fun events every single week. Acoustic night on Fridays, Adult Coloring Night on the last Tuesday of every month, and ‘80s night (1880s, that is) featuring period music, costumes, and themed drinks.
Pittsburgh loves craft beer. There are so many breweries popping up that it can be hard to narrow down the search. But Penn Brewery offers some of the best beer (and food) around. They’ve been at it since the mid-80s and focus on German styles, making sure that their beer is top notch every time. Their food is delicious, too, and where else are you going to find an authentic Pittsburgh French-fry salad?
Max’s Allegheny Tavern
If German-inspired eats are your thing, head over to Max’s Allegheny Tavern in Deutschtown. Not sure what a “German meal” means besides sausage, beer and, uh, pretzels? Don’t worry, the menu is extensive and has something for everyone. Try the Bavarian nachos for a great twist on an old standard, piled high with knackwurst, bratwurst, and kielbasa, as well as Swiss, Gouda and honey mustard sauce. And, yes, there will be pretzels.
This North Side tea house, run by Hazelwood native Verna Arnold, offers so many specialty tea drinks that it’ll make your head spin and your mouth water. If you’re ever in the mood for the class and sweetness of a craft cocktail minus an awful hangover the next day, stop down at Arnold’s for an E-O-Jito (spearmint with a lemon twist and a hint of sugar) or a Yerba Redhead (yerba mate, cranberry juice, raspberries and lemon zest). And grab a sandwich or snack while you’re at it.
Nicky’s Thai Kitchen
Nicky’s is one of the best places in Pittsburgh to grab some delicious Thai. They offer everything from crab rangoon to homemade dumplings (yes, please!), and their curry selection is absolutely amazing. The Panang Curry is something special, featuring bell pepper, kaffir lime leaves, broccoli and Panang curry flavoring. If you want a drink, you don’t have to settle for your usual. Branch out and try Thai beer or bring your own bottle.
More proof that Pittsburgh is the next big thing: NYC restaurateur Brian Keyser just opened the doors of Casellula, a wine-and-cheese cafe, at City of Asylum’s Alphabet City. If you don’t know too much about cheese (or, indeed, wine), Casellula is a great place to start – and continue – your journey. From Allison Park to Burgundy, France, the cheese selection is charming, baffling, and undoubtedly really, really delicious. And, yes, the menu DOES include mac ‘n’ cheese.
James Street Gastropub
Make your way to James Street for the true speakeasy experience where you’ll be treated to some of the ‘Burgh’s best blues and jazz while sipping a Prohibition-era cocktail. The draft list is on point, too, with a rotating list 15 beers, many of them from local breweries, available. Clearly, the North Side is one of the best places to catch a show and grab a drink.
The New Hazlett Theater
Catch the rising stars of Pittsburgh’s performance and art scene at the New Hazlett Theater. Aiming to provide a venue for artists of all kinds, the theater hosts a Community Supported Art program that showcases a number of creators in the community. Recently, the New Hazlett featured shows like A Love Supreme, a music-and-visual piece honoring black women composers, and Kalopsia, a surreal play delving into mental illness in the black community.
At the Allegheny Elks Lodge, the Pittsburgh Banjo Club bring you a fun, toe-tapping, that’s totally free. Trade the regular bar scene for a Wednesday night at the Lodge. It’s a fun change and, who knows, these twangy jam sessions might have you coming back every single week.
City of Asylum
Did you know that the City of Asylum provides living and working space for creatives in exile? If not, now’s a good time to learn: CoA makes sure that writers whose lives are in danger and whose words are stopped by militant groups or governments are given a place to work and a platform to amplify their voices. The best part? You get to learn more about the world around you through a constantly rotating series of events, including an International Fiction Series (with Okey Ndibe on deck), slam poetry competitions, film screenings, album release parties and lots and lots of jazz nights.
Take a stroll through the gorgeous, fascinating National Aviary to experience the sights and sounds of birds from all over the world. You can bask in the humid warmth of the tropics while colorful birds flit from tree to tree overhead, then cross into the next room and spend some time in the dry grasslands. There’s so much to look at and learn about that you’ll likely spend several hours there in awe.
Randy of the eponymous Randyland, is one of the most beloved people in the ‘Burgh. And the colorful explosion of plants, murals, artwork and a lovely nest of oddities on Arch Avenue is an absolute must-see. Believe it or not, Randy started our picking up litter in his neighborhood, then blossomed into a collector and artist in his spare time. Today, you can visit this awesome outdoor art exhibit for the low, low price of absolutely nothing, as Randy wants visitors to be able to enjoy the view free of charge.
Quick! Name the number one Pittsburgh museum! If you guessed the Heinz History Center, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History or the Warhol, you’re wrong, at least according to Trip Advisor. The coolest, most visit-worthy history spot goes to the North Side’s Bicycle Heaven. It’s the world’s largest bicycle museum, and while that might sound a bit dull, it’s anything but. From antique bikes to faux-futuristic oddities to bike-themed art, Bicycle Heaven offers a wide range of history on something you might not know too much about. Did we mention it’s free?
Deutschtown Music Festival
We love how great the music scene is here in Pittsburgh. There are so many excellent musicians performing across a variety of stages, and the best place to see them all together is the Deutschtown Music Festival in the North Side. Last year, there were 180 bands packed into 21 stages and two totally rockin’ days, and this year, there may be even more. You can catch local acts like Morgan Erina and Meeting of Important People as well as enjoy food, face-painting, games and, of course, visual art. It’s basically the event of the summer in one of the best neighborhoods around.
With a focus on creating visual and sonic landscapes in the confines of a room, the Mattress Factory provides a great place to go for the most thought-provoking installations in the city. Along with its permanent installations, the avant-garde art museum has a number of ever-changing exhibits. If you’re looking for art that makes you stop and think about the spaces you occupy, the Mattress Factory is the place to go.
The Andy Warhol Museum
You can’t talk about Pittsburgh art without talking about Andy Warhol. The world-famous pop artist’s works have a home in the North Side, where thousands of his works are on display. At the Warhol, you can see, firsthand, iconic prints like Campbell’s Soup Cans and his various celebrity portraits, as well as his many films and photographs. As a bonus, the Warhol Sound Series, held several times per month, hosts some of the coolest touring artists in the world, including Jenny Hval, Hypercube, and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.
Photo Antiquities Museum
Few things spark the imagination quite like a black-and-white photo. At the Photo Antiquities museum, you can take a journey into America’s past through its very own lens. Civil War soldiers stand stoic in their uniforms as the past of Allegheny County comes to life in time-worn sepia. Take an afternoon and bring historical events to life — you won’t read a history book in quite the same way afterward.
More to come
With a rich history dating back to the 1800’s, it feels wrong to say that the North Side is up and coming. Maybe making a comeback is a better phrase? However you’d like to characterize it, there sure is a lot going on.
Nove Place transforming the mostly-abandoned Allegheny Center into updated offices (PNC has an office here as well as many start-ups), the Alloy 26 co-working space, restaurants (including a new concept from Smallman Galley), apartments, and a 10,000 square foot gym, Union Fitness.
Alphabet City Center
A Masonic Hall has been reimagined as the Alphabet City Center. Development has been led by City of Asylum, a group that is known for renovating vacant buildings into galleries and art houses. Alphabet City Center includes Casellula Cheese & Wine Cafe, a bookstore, and an event space for reading performances, writing workshops, and artist residencies.
Despite decades of setbacks, there’s still hope for the redevelopment of the former Garden Theatre. It’s been a delicate balance between restoring the historic buildings on the block and building new construction between Federal and West North, but Trek Development and Q Development hope to turn the former theater into a mix of storefronts and apartments.
Workingman’s Savings Bank
The owners of the Priory Hotel are converting the 100+-year-old Workingman’s Savings Bank into a brewpub and event space. The working name of the event space is the “Priory Vault” and is said to feature a two-story atrium with a mezzanine and marble throughout. The brewery will be open to the public with rooftop seating and views of downtown Pittsburgh.