When you think of Pittsburgh, you might think of professional sports teams, or the steel industry, or maybe yinz think of the local dialect. What do I think of? Food, culture, and
Prior to relocating to Las Vegas, I would pack a cooler and usually a friend or two, and we would make the 2ish hour drive from West Virginia, to Pittsburgh. The trip always started with a stop in the historic Strip District, followed a visit to Whole Foods, and a final stop at Trader Joe’s. (It’s amusing to me now that I used to drive 80+ miles, but now feel inconvenienced when the closest box of Joe Joe’s is 15 miles away.)
I recently spent nearly a week in downtown Pittsburgh, revisiting old favorites, and enjoying new discoveries.
Upon arriving at my hotel in Pittsburgh’s cultural district, I started scoping out dinner options. I’ve tried on prior trips to get reservations at the acclaimed Meat and Potatoes, but to no avail. This time, I tried calling instead of using the online reservation system, and was thrilled to score a table for that night…sold! Our meal was excellent, I had the pappardelle and my companion had the pot roast. I was also thrilled to discover they were offering a seasonal beer I had been trying to track down.We ended our meal with a pot de creme that tasted exactly like my grandmother’s homemade chocolate pudding. It was a gorgeous evening, and being a Sunday, the matinee’s of local theaters were lit up, making for a pretty walk back to the hotel.
Of all the times I’ve been to Pittsburgh, I had not visited Market Square. I made my first stop at Blue Bird Kitchen, after becoming enamored with their Instagram feed. The pictures did not lie! I grabbed a roast beef with oven dried tomatoes, and this awesome horseradish aioli, and continued down the street towards the square. There is live music from noon-1 on Mondays, as part of Summer in the Square. The Mellow Monday performers for the week were Darryl and Kim, and they were awesome R&B singers. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to make it my inaugural Periscope broadcast.
I enjoyed my lunch, the music, and just sitting there people watching. I made another stop at Gaby et Jules patisserie, because I am a sucker for a macaron. I tried a white chocolate basil, and the Le Pittsburgh – black and gold, and flavored with Bailey’s Irish Cream. I slowly made my way back to the hotel to meet my companion, stopping many times to take pictures along the way.
For dinner, we revisited Sienna Mercato – a three story restaurant with different experiences on each floor. We chose Emporio (again) on the ground floor, and enjoyed their specialty, meatballs, on the patio.The other menus look great, I want to try Mezzo, on the second floor, next time.
Pittsburgh is home to many museums, from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, to the Andy Warhol Museum. I’ve been to many of them in the past, but I hadn’t been to the Phipps Conservatory before. A friend from WV (also a lover of museums) hadn’t been before either, so she picked me up from my hotel, and off we went. Parking is usually interesting in Pittsburgh, and after getting lost twice, we decided to see if we could find a spot in the free parking “island” across the street…we did!
I was blown away by how beautiful the conservatory and botanical gardens were. I was thinking we would spend and hour at most here, but over 2 hours later, we still weren’t sure we had seen everything. Phipps was built in 1893, a gift to the city from philanthropist Henry Phipps. The architecture of the building alone is impressive, and it has grown over the years to include some incredible indoor and outdoor spaces, which you can check out here.
My favorite was probably the orchid room, or the tropical forest conservatory. The butterfly room was open during our trip, and it was also incredible. Tip: It’s extremely humid in most of the exhibits, make sure to bring water, and dress accordingly.
I would love to make a visit here around Christmas, as several employees mentioned how stunning it was with the holiday exhibits.
We finished up our visit, and decided to park at the garage for Carnegie’s Natural History and art museums. My brother had read an article about food stand near University of Pittsburgh, called Conflict Kitchen. They only serve food from countries in conflict with the United States. Currently, they are serving Cuban food.
I ordered the Lechon Asado – slow roasted pork, served with rice, black beans, a salad of cabbage, tomato, cucumber, carrots, and a delicious lemon-garlic dressing. I also got a pineapple aqua fresca, and an empanada with guava and sweet cheese. If you eat lunch at just one place in Pittsburgh, it should be here. The food was simple, delicious, and interesting. They were having a lecture the day we visited, but were a little too late to attend. The food packaging features interviews from Cuban Americans, and their Instagram features guest photographers from Cuba.
After lunch we walked across the street to the University of Pittsburgh campus. I graduated from West Virginia University who shares a backyard rivalry with Pitt., but I have to say that they have a great campus. We were headed to the Cathedral of Learning, to visit the Nationality Rooms. These classrooms are set up like they would be in their respective country. We paid $4 for the key and an audio tour device, and that granted us access to the majority of the rooms on the main floor. After you finish each of those rooms, you return the audio device, and head upstairs for the newer rooms, which aren’t locked. Incredibly, these classrooms are functional and are used by university classes. After a great day of exploring, and catching up, my friend dropped me back off at my hotel before she headed home.
When my travel companion finished his obligations for the day, we walked to Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room for dinner. They had a large variety of beer, and offered a 4x4oz sampler for just $10. My favorites were an excellent hard cider from nearby Lawranceville, Pa – Picket Bone Dry Cider, and a truly spectacular raspberry beer from Michigan – Blushing Monk. I was also really pleased with the pasta I ordered – a house-made cavetelli with broccolini, and house-cured black pepper bacon. A stroll, and chatting in the hotel’s courtyard were a great way to end the day.
Obviously I ate a lot of gluten in Pittsburgh, and did a lot of exploring. I’ll end here for now, but check back soon for my second installment of “How I spent a Week in Pittsburgh.” Follow The Sunday Funday on Facebook to stay connected!