A Hungry Grl Rediscovers the South Side

As I type this, I’m sitting in Big Dog, one of my favorite coffee shops since moving back to Pittsburgh in the fall of 2018.

In the past (almost) two years, I have met friends over coffee, turned strangers into connections, laughed with the baristas and enjoyed so much time outside on the back patio. 

Earlier this year, I moved from Lawrenceville to the South Side with one of my best friends. It was a move I always discussed wanting to make prior, but one I didn’t know how or when to make a reality; I was so in love with my old space, that the thought of ever leaving it didn’t seem possible. 

However, the stars aligned, and my friend and I found a beautiful space for us to laugh, cry, eat, cook and call our own. Then, about a month later, the severity of COVID-19 took over and significantly altered our living, exploring and even working. Though these times have been tough, the South Side has stood strong and is thriving in so many ways. I am beyond grateful to still have a second home in Big Dog, even if it was only for to-go in the early months of the pandemic. 

This blog post will explore all that there is to do, see and eat in the South Side, which for a Hungry Grl like myself, does not nearly get enough credit and recognition for the array of life, tastes and activities that it should. 

Let’s start with a gem I clearly can’t talk enough about: Big Dog Coffee. Located on Sarah Street, Big Dog offers coffee beans to-go, an oatmeal bar, the best caramel latte (in my opinion) and an atmosphere unlike any other. Their back patio is currently open and makes you feel like you’re in an oasis. If you have a bagel craving, you’re more than likely to get it satisfied here. 

In typical fashion, my days usually revolve around eating and exploring when possible. Even before the pandemic, one of my favorite spots for a great lunch (and at a great price) was Thai Me Up, a few blocks away from Big Dog on Sarah Street. It’s a great feeling to walk to Big Dog, dash to Thai Me Up for lunch and then either eat outside somewhere or bring it home. For all my Thai food lovers, this is a must-try! 

Let’s take a pause from the food and focus on the threads: South Side also is an excellent place for thrift, vintage and boutique shopping. I love vintage finds - especially throwback Pittsburgh sports apparel - and great jackets and accessories. Zed’s on East Carson has a fantastic selection of t-shirts (there’s even have a $10 rack!) and is big into the sneaker scene. They are always posting their latest finds on their Instagram, which is a must-follow. 

I also love Highway Robbery Vintage, located almost across the street from Zed’s. Their space is easy to get lost in, and they always have re-worked denim, as well as pieces they rework themselves, like sweatshirts and t-shirts. If shopping in-person isn’t for you right now, they also sell pieces on their Instagram Stories daily. 

Okay, now back to the food! Though I can talk about the South Side’s food all day, I’m going to share two of my favorite hidden gems, one of which has an incredible back patio that most don’t know about! 

The best arepas in the city are at (please feel free to quote me on this one) The Colombian Spot. I think I get takeout from here at least once a week, and their arepas are some of the most authentic in the city. The maduros (sweet plantains) are a must-add for your side, and be sure to ask for all the sauces (they will always give you more than enough). They also have a great drink menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and if you’re feeling sweet, add the tres leches cake to your order! 

My second favorite gem is Carson Street Deli & Beer. This spot has been a favorite of mine since my college days (which initially brought me to Pittsburgh in 2013), and I have probably tried half the sandwiches on the menu during my visits. They are currently offering great takeout and delivery, which has genuinely been essential these past few months, and also have a back patio that is perfect for sharing sandwiches and sipping on their carefully curated selection of beers. 

It’s no surprise that I know all of the must-eat spots all over the city (I am Hungry Grl, after all!). Being able to explore my new neighborhood, especially amid a pandemic, has been a challenge and an adventure all in itself. If you’re looking for some activities you can do between meals, consider renting a  bike from a Healthy Ride Bike Sharing Station – there are locations throughout the South Side - and be sure to bike or walk the South Side Trail, which leads to the ever-evolving Color Park