Chain coffee shops are a dime a dozen. They don’t offer much outside of the norm – cups of subpar caffeine-filled, sugar-laden beverages. Don’t expect the vibe to make your visit anymore inviting either. Like the ingredients in each drinks the atmosphere is also artificial.
Any place fitting that description will be a huge disappointment. Thankfully, in Pittsburgh, there’s a collection of small time and locally owned shops and roasteries providing an escape from the chain coffee experience.
Speaking of which, here they are – the Pittsburgh coffee shops that combine community, atmosphere and carefully crafted coffee (and espresso, and tea) to make every visit worthwhile.
A coffee shop that has a wood burning fireplace, patio, eye-popping art on the walls, an oatmeal bar AND serves Intelligentsia? This must be a dream. No, that’s a standard day at Big Dog. The lengthy list of teas, plenty of pastries, stellar staff and cozy atmosphere truly put this place over the top. Which is why you’ll have trouble finding a seat at almost all points in the day.
Espresso a Mano
Nowadays Butler Street is bustling. So too is Espresso a Mano. But this place isn’t packed with patrons who just happen to be passing by. It’s so good it lures people to Lawrenceville. From the coffee to the customers there’s artisan aura at this spot. One reflected in the name “a mano,” meaning by hand.
What began as a plan to sell and service commercial espresso machines has transformed into a sort of operational shrine in the Strip District. The showroom started by Sam Patti in 1988 has evolved into an Italian style espresso bar and keystone of the community. Now La Prima is the place for culture, character and a shot of espresso that will transport you to the old world.
The answer to your caffeine cravings may be written in the stars. Enter Constellation Coffee, a relative newcomer to Pittsburgh’s coffee scene, located on Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville. The space and espresso are like something out of a dream. Beans from Ceremony Coffee Roasters and massive windows make for a stellar espresso sipping experience.
Fact: If you want meticulously sourced and intentionally prepared coffee or espresso, you go to 21st Street Coffee in the Strip District. Some portray this place as pretentious, but we perceive their appreciation for uncontaminated coffee and attention to detail as passion, not snobbery.
So for those of you looking for the milk and sugar, it’s behind the bar. But maybe try tasting the coffee first.
If you’re not looking for it, there’s a good chance you’ll miss this spot along East Carson Street. And even if you are looking, you still might overlook Delanie’s Coffee. Which would be a shame. Their open-air storefront and second floor loft make for a unique environment. But it’s the variety of food options, like waffles, sandwiches and salads, that really set this place apart from other grab and go coffee spots.
Most coffee shops bank on the fact that we all like to work on our computers, or have a friendly conversation, with a cup of coffee in hand. But Cannon Coffee wants to provide that opportunity and a whole lot more to Brookline and the neighboring communities. For that reason, Cannon is out to reclaim Brookline’s business district by creating a place where the community can come together to share ideas and experiences.
This spot is less of a coffee shop and more of a coffee house, literally. The coffee laden drinks are on point. But it’s the atmosphere that truly sets this place apart – including great big rooms upstairs, a pet friendly porch and patio, plus regular food truck roundups.
“Cup of gold.” That’s what Tazza D’oro means in Italian. And in Pittsburgh, Tazza D’oro means quality, community and great coffee. Tazza has become a staple in the Highland Park neighborhood by focusing on barista training, preparing the best coffee available and sourcing food and milk locally. Head here to hideaway, head down at work, on a rainy day or sit outside to enjoy the sun and friendly conversation.
The Commonplace Coffeehouse
A roastery and coffeehouse combo, the Commonplace Company serves coffee and espresso by the cup, as well as beans by the bag. You can check out them out at two locations, the more spacious spot in Squirrel Hill on Forbes or gather with friends in Garfield at Commonplace at Voluto on Penn Avenue. Whichever location you choose your coffee and espresso will be exceptional.
This eclectic coffee shop is funky, groovy and puts the hip in hipster. It’s also an art gallery, performance hall and literary workshop. Sure, they’ve got all of the caffeinated essentials and tea to boot. Plus the huge outdoor deck, pinball machine in back and recurring food truck Wednesday add to the growing list of reasons people are electing to escape to Biddle’s.
Lili Coffee Shop
Since opening in 2010 Lili has become a centerpiece of Polish Hill. At the same time this place remains a relative unknown to the rest of the city. No more, we say! Next time you’re going between the East End and Downtown, stop in Polish Hill. You can grab a coffee, healthy eats (including vegan and vegetarian options) browse a comic book store and vinyl records all in the same building.
Not all that long ago Zeke’s very existence was in question. Some real estate moves in East Liberty were threatening to displace this local favorite. But, thanks to Pittsburgh’s supportive community, Zeke’s completed a successful crowdfunding campaign that helped them beat the bulldozer. Now, Zeke’s has an awesome new spot right across the street from the old place, where they offer the same stellar coffee that their patrons have come to love and expect.
Carnegie Coffee Company
For all of the Burghers out there who aren’t afraid to cross a bridge, and are willing to take on a tunnel, be sure to stop by this outside-the-city spot. It’s a short trip to this former post office, turned coffee shop. Once inside you won’t want to leave. The stunning two story windows, detailed architecture, rich wood floors and, of course, carefully brewed coffee can easily turn a quick stop into a day trip.