Newly dubbed “Sixburgh” for its Superbowl superiority, this former steel city boasts craft beers, haute cuisine and avant-garde culture.
by Savannah Schroll-Guz
Although its sooty history and six-time Super Bowl Champions are often the first associations made with Pittsburgh, this former blue-collar town is also defined by its brewers, both large and small. Perhaps the city’s most prominent macro is Iron City (Bloomfield, www.ironcitybrewingcompany.com). The brewery lays claim to several industry firsts—the snap-top can and twist-off bottlecap, for example—and maintains its place in locals’ hearts with its trendy, caramel-tinged Augustiner amber lager. One neighborhood over, Church Brew Works (Lawrenceville, www.churchbrew.com), located in historic St. John the Baptist Church, situates its copper and chrome tanks against the apse’s striking cerulean walls. The brewery’s English-hopped Pipe Organ Pale Ale makes a heavenly pair with the adjoining restaurant’s Kobe beef cheese steak, but keep an eye out for Cherry Quadzilla and Non-Denominator Doppel Bock on tap. While not a brewpub, East End Brewing (Homewood, www.eastendbrewing.com), founded in 2005 by homebrewer-turned-pro Scott Smith, offers “growler hours:” Customers can fill half-gallon jugs with crisp brews like Monkey Boy, a banana-flavored hefeweizen. Across the Allegheny River, in a building on the National Historic Register, Pennsylvania Brewing Company’s (Deutschtown, www.pennbrew.com) authentic Bavarian-style restaurant serves up sumptuous brews like Penn Dark, a richly flavored, moderately bitter delight showcasing roasted malts and Hallertau hops. Thirty-two miles east of downtown is Red Star Brewery (Greensburg, www.redstarbrewery.com), located in Greensburg’s historic rail station. Its Day-of-the-Dead-themed Agave Grille showcases Mexican fare alongside seasonal brews, like the sweetly spicy Chile Beer.
At consistently crowded Fat Head’s (South Side, www.fatheads.com), patrons select from 42 craft-brewed draft beers and one hand-pumped ale. A “Wall of Foam” honors those who have completed the bar’s Frequent Flyer Beer Tour. Brillobox (Penn Avenue Corridor, www.brillobox.net) is hipster heaven and a sound venue for local bands. While the name references Warhol’s art, the bar decor is signature Poe: Stuffed ravens perched on blossoming branches loom ominously over bartenders. On the other side of the style spectrum is the Manhattan-chic Olive or Twist (Cultural District, www.olive-twist.com), which is toasted for its martini selection but also offers 13 international taps (including Magic Hat No. 9) and 14 bottled selections, along with a spectacular assortment of hard liquors. On the city’s east end, the “Beer Emporium” location of Sharp Edge Beer (Shadyside, www.sharpedgebeer.com) showcases a staggering selection of Belgians—74 in bottles and 28 on tap. Owner Jeffrey Walewski’s work has not gone unnoticed: For his proselytizing on the beauty of Belgian brews, he was knighted by King Albert II.
With its culinary institute attracting new talent, Pittsburgh is fast becoming a gastronomic hotspot. Standouts include the elegant Eleven (Strip District, www.bigburrito.com/eleven/eleven.shtml), whose ever-evolving chef’s tasting menu includes Tuna Tartare and Yellowtail Sashimi. With its view of the opulent Frick Mansion, the gardenside Café at the Frick (Point Breeze, www.frickart.org/start/cafe.php) offers gourmet fusions like Duck Quesadillas and Pork Crepes. Portuguese tile and European vitality dominate Mallorca (Southside, www.mallorcarestaurant.com), where nimble, dark-suited Latin waiters deliver brilliant Iberian cuisine. On its brunch menu, Point Brugge Café (Point Breeze, www.pointbrugge.com) includes scrumptious Belgian-style Liege Waffles with baked-in granules of pearl sugar. Still, no Pittsburgh visit would be complete without a trip to Primanti Bros. (Strip District, primantibrothers.com), open 24 hours to accommodate nocturnal carnivores. Sandwiches are served on wax paper, ’burgh style: piled high with slaw and fries.
An intimate 25-room inn, The Priory Hotel (North Side, www.thepriory.com) has been restored to its early Edwardian magnificence and has two lovely features: a courtyard garden and afternoon happy hour in the library. Just blocks from Walnut Street’s high-end shops, The Inn on Negley (Shadyside, www.innonnegley.com) is a picturesque bed and breakfast featuring full English tea and eight rooms furnished with period antiques. Near the heart of the bustling cultural district is the stately Renaissance Pittsburgh (Cultural District, www.marriott.com) with its dramatic marble rotunda and winding grand staircase. Dazzling crystal chandeliers illuminate the coffered ceilings at the luxurious Omni William Penn Hotel (Downtown, www.omnihotels.com), which once hosted John F. Kennedy.
A must-see for any foodie is The Strip (Strip District, www.neighborsinthestrip.com). Comprised of two parallel streets, The Strip houses a smattering of ethnic groceries, produce markets, bakeries, wine vendors, coffee roasters, gourmet chocolatiers, fishmongers and high-end antique dealers. Further downtown is the Benedum Center (Cultural District, www.pgharts.org/venues/
benedum.aspx), whose flashing, bulb-studded marquee lights up the city’s Cultural District. Inside, The Pittsburgh Ballet and Pittsburgh Opera showcase their productions. Several streets over you’ll find the neoclassical Heinz Hall (Cultural District, www.pittsburghsymphony.org), home of the internationally-renowned Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile, across the Monongahela River is The Duquesne Incline (Mt. Washington, www.incline.pghfree.net), a working museum that’s been in operation since 1877. It uses two funicular cable cars to conduct visitors to an observation deck overlooking Pittsburgh’s dramatic Point, where the Monongahela and Allegheny join to form the Ohio River. Film buffs arriving in late fall will find Pittsburgh Filmmakers (Oakland, www.pghfilmmakers.org) hosting its quarter-century old, two-week long Three Rivers Film Festival, featuring 40 locally and internationally produced movies. •
Artful Pastimes: Because of its many pioneering institutions, Pittsburgh has ascended to unexpected art world prominence. Leading the charge is the Mattress Factory (North Side, www.mattress.org), which has invited international artists to create site-specific installations since 1977 and remains one of the nation’s most innovative contemporary art museums. Similarly, the Society for Contemporary Craft (Strip District, www.contemporarycraft.org) redefines its genre through boundary-pushing, aesthetically astounding exhibitions featuring textiles, ceramics and other craft materials. Pittsburgh Glass Center’s (Penn Avenue Corridor, www.pittsburghglasscenter.org) Hodge Gallery is always filled with fascinating work, while the second-floor furnace and first-floor studio offer mesmerizing displays of glass-blowing, lamp-working and casting. And, of course, since Pittsburgh was Andy Warhol’s hometown, it’s only fitting that the city has an Andy Warhol Museum (North Side, www.warhol.org). Seven trippy floors memorialize Warhol’s art, life, movies and cult of celebrity. However, the museum also looks beyond these thematic boundaries to present challenging, socially-conscious exhibitions. Yet another American icon stands 90 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh: Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, Fallingwater (Mill Run, www.fallingwater.org). This former home to Pittsburgh’s retail millionaire, Edgar Kaufmann, is a necessary stop for every architecture aficionado.
[Photo, top: Joshua Haviv]