I know I’m not the only one that feels like their life has been hijacked over the past 6 months.
Obviously we understand why, but ever since St. Patrick's Day, we have been going through various stages of COVID purgatory. The teams we cheer for stopped playing, the concerts and events we bought tickets for got postponed or cancelled, and many of the places that we visited everyday for a bite to eat or a cup of coffee were operating under strict limitations if they were open at all. Prior to all the shutdowns, I had already started thinking about all of the parts of the city that I haven’t really explored before. I’ve lived in the area my entire life, but I knew there was still so much to explore beyond what I already knew and loved. The list of places has multiplied since we started the isolation period, and as we ease up on the restrictions, I am excited to finally get out and check items off my list.
Before I talk about some of those places I have in mind, I feel like I need to talk about how much I invest into Pittsburgh sports. I am confident that the Pittsburgh Penguins have 1 or 2 more solid runs left in them before the Crosby/Malkin era I grew up in passes us by for good. I just hope that we don’t have to wait too long before we can get back inside PPG Paints Arena. I will never take a pregame meal at Pizza Milano on Fifth Avenue for granted again. If you haven’t been there before I definitely encourage you to check it out whether you are heading to the arena or not. And if you want to keep things going afterwards, a few drinks at Shales Cafe or the Souper Bowl with some friends after a Penguins win always feel good.
Ever since I started working at iHeart Radio, a lot of my work in the fall is related to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Our whole team does a variety of events throughout the season, but over the last 5 years or so I have worked every home game the Steelers have played. 1 p.m. home games would mean that me and the rest of the crew had to be at Stage AE by 7 a.m. sharp to make sure that everything was set up for the official pre-game broadcast and tailgate party that happens prior to each home game. There were plenty of mornings where the alarm went off and I didn’t want to leave my bed, but I would take back any complaints I ever made about it if that meant that I could work those game days again this season.
A long morning of work would always be followed by a great day at Heinz Field with my dad or friends. This past season we frequented Mullens Bar and Grill on Federal street, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the places down there on gameday. For now it looks like there won't be much of a chance for any of us to experience a Penguins or Steelers game in person any time soon, but just think about how special it will be when the restrictions are lifted and we can all gather together at stadiums and arenas together! I can’t wait to get back to those days again.
Away from sports, there is so much to love about the great city that we live in. As I said earlier I have lived in the area my entire life and I still find new places to visit in each of the diverse neighborhoods around town. If I wrote something about each of the places that popped into my head when I was planning this blog, I would have been writing for DAYS.
The best way to explore a day in Pittsburgh was from the top of the hill down. Mt. Washington is a popular tourist spot because of the great city views, but it's also home to some great food and drink spots that aren’t right on the edge. Bigham Tavern has been a go-to place of mine for a long time. If you are starting early on the weekend, they have incredible brunch options. And no matter what time you show up, wings are always on the menu. They have a ton of flavors to choose from, but I definitely recommend the Coyote seasoning to get you started - SO FIRE!
While you are up on Mt. Wash, you should take the short ride from Bigham to check out other awesome spots like Coughlin’s Law and The Summit. Coughlin’s has a great drink list and special food items that rotate alongside their other menu items. If you can get a spot on the back patio with the partial city view, you will definitely enjoy yourself. The Summit is a short walk down the hill on Shiloh Street. It’s a great place to grab a few brews and play a variety of table games that they have available on the shelf. I’ve spent plenty of days belly laughing over an adult card game with my friends at this cool corner spot.
Moving way further down the hill, I recently visited a place that I had seen on Instagram a million times over the years - The Color Park on the Southside. Finding this spot can be a little tricky since the address listed online is actually for the colorful warehouse complex in front of it. When I explored it for the first time with my sister, we actually parked super far away and walked down to where the trail actually was. If you cross the train tracks behind the warehouse, there is ample parking right near where you need to be. This park is part of the Three Rivers Heritage trail at this particular stretch you will find a ton of interesting graffiti on each of the blocks lining the train and the path itself. I don’t really know the street art code on how long something is supposed to stay up until it is painted over by someone else, but it seems like the art changes pretty frequently. There are benches for you to relax at and some great views of the city as well, so I definitely recommend taking a walk down there when you get the chance.
Two other places that I love to visit are on the other end of southside, Zeds and Shop 412. If you haven’t heard of Zeds before, you absolutely need to check it out if you are looking to upgrade your closet. The shop has been around for a while now, and if you are a sneakerhead or a fan of unique streetwear you will enjoy their Instagram feed. The guys are constantly buying/selling/trading some of the hottest items on the market. Things aren’t all high end and rare down there, however. Zed’s has an insanely cool collection of retro shirts, hats, jackets and other items that can really make you stand out from the crowd. I always gravitate to his rack of retro Pittsburgh sports gear. I’ve snagged a few sick 1990’s Penguins shirts during visits to the shop, and I need to make sure I jump on the chance to grab an old school Steelers Starter jacket when the right one shows up on the shelf. What’s old is new now, right?
A bit farther down the road in Southside works, you also need to stop into Shop 412. There have been so many Pittsburgh centric streetwear companies that have started up in recent years, but these guys were some of the first to do it around here. Back in the day they were known for their awesome trademark logo and rotating list of unique shirt color combos, but it has grown into a shop that does insanely cool collaborations with some of the biggest brands in the game. I’ve stood in line outside their shop plenty of times to get my hands on some limited edition Carhartt and Swiss Army merch, but you can’t go wrong with any of their core products that they always have in stock as well.
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412 x Ryan Shazier - SHALIEVE ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This one is for Ryan, with Ryan. He’s been Pittsburgh’s indomitable force on the field bleeding black and gold on the front lines. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We teamed up with the Shazier family and were tasked with a very important job—to show him that our city and the world is behind him as we reciprocate his fight with some community solidarity. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This Saturday, 1.13.2018 at 11AM we will release an exclusive first batch of our official #412xShazier collaboration in-store. Our collaboration is also available, right now, for pre-order online on our website; pre-orders will be accepted through Monday, and will begin to ship in the next 2-3 weeks. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Also, a portion of the proceeds of each tee sale will go to benefit Spinal Research as well as The Boys & Girls Club of Western PA. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Ryan believes in all of us. Let’s show him that we #SHALIEVE in him too. [link in bio] #412xShazier
Before you bail on the Southside, you need to make a quick pit stop into Doce Taqueria. They recently moved out of a smaller space on Carson Street and into a new renovated spot a few doors down. This is where you will find some of the best tacos around, and that is saying a lot since so many Mexican food places have popped up in recent years. I keep things pretty simple by ordering the Americano tacos, but at $3 a piece you might as well try them all at least once! The line for this place is usually out the door, especially after the bars close on the weekend. So if you want to make things a little easier on yourself, stop in during the day.
On a recent day out with my sister, we decided to grab some grub from Doce and take it across town to Blue Slide Park for a picnic lunch. This really is a special place for Pittsburghers, especially those who were a fan of the late Mac Miller. Blue Slide Park is just a small section of Frick Park which is gigantic, so if you are looking for a place to take a long walk and explore this is definitely one of the best in town.
Since we were already in that part of the city, my sister and I decided to end our day out with a walk down Walnut Street in Shadyside. Here you will find a great collection of stores, bars and restaurants. Two of the places I always make a point to visit when I am over here are Blick Art Materials and Kards Unlimited. While I wouldn’t consider myself an artist, I have always wanted to cut time out of my schedule to pick up a hobby like painting. While I am far from that yet, my sister is really into art these days, so it is a great place for us to explore together. I had been to a large scale crafts store before, but it was nothing like Blick. If you are creative in any sense or are looking to start a new hobby, this is definitely a place you should visit.
Just a few doors away is another unique store called Kards Unlimited. Ever since I received a great birthday card from this place a few years ago, I try my best to return the favor with other people that I want to celebrate. This place is hardly just cards though - it is jam packed with books, knick-knacks and other novelties that cover a broad range of interests. Looking for a dirty birthday card for your friend? This place has it! How about a set of Harry Potter coffee mugs or a 1980’s pop culture puzzle? They have that too - and a ton more! After I grab a card, I usually grab a drink or two at one of the great bars just a few steps away. You really won't miss no matter where you go over there, but if you want to hit a bar that feels like an authentic Pittsburgh spot I definitely recommend William Penn Tavern. Just an all around solid menu especially for late night bites and a great place to catch a Pens game if there’s one on TV.
I haven’t really thought much about where I would stay in Pittsburgh since I live here, but if I had to shack up after a night out I feel like I would want to rest my head over at TRYP - a Wyndham hotel that was recently renovated in Lawrenceville. They have an insanely cool rooftop bar called “Over Eden” that gives visitors a really cool look at the Pittsburgh Skyline. What sounds better than a few too many drinks looking at the best damn city in the world and walking a few steps to your hotel room? Book it!
As I said before, I could probably write all day about places that I love and places that I still want to explore in this great city. One thing I wanted to emphasize before I finish here is the need for us to support our awesome local music venues when these restrictions are lifted. As a radio guy, lots of my nights throughout the year are spent at each of the incredible music venues in the area. Keep your eye on concert calendars as we hopefully get back to normal in the near future.
Looking forward to seeing you out at one of these great Pittsburgh places I mentioned sometime soon!