I spent 48ish hours in Pittsburgh a little after Christmas. It was my first trip there in two years. I’ve already posted a couple from the trip, but here’s a bit more.
I love Pittsburgh. I’ve lived in something like nine places at this point, but the longest tenure and most formative years were spent in Western Pennsylvania. I didn’t really didn’t think much of it while I lived there, but in summers of college and afterward on visits, I realized how much I liked it. Let’s say that everyone I know who didn’t grow up there thinks I talk too much about Pittsburgh for their liking.
When Pittsburghers say “Pittsburgh” to non-natives, they often mean Western Pennsylvania. Culturally, linguistically and in landscape it is a region that is pretty unique region. And driving to Pittsburgh from Southeastern Virginia, I could tell when Western PA was getting near–Cumberland, MD seemed very familiar. A shrinking town in a hill with similar architecture. And maybe it’s selective memory mixed with nostalgia talking, but I think if you lean your head against a car window and look out, through the trees and at the sky, you can tell just from that when you hit Western Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh surprises me every time I go back, both by changing and by staying the same. I didn’t expect there to be cyclists on the road or to have the same experience at a number of places that I had 8 or 10 years ago. Coming from a place where bars and restaurants and people turn over every few years, it’s odd to be in a place where something is still pretty new if it was built five years ago and many people have spent their whole lives in the region.
One of my favorite traditions is late night pizza at Mineo’s. It’s cheap and good and the company is unbeatable.
A newish place to me is Pamela’s Diner. They have great food at reasonable prices, compared to what I’m used to. I’d been introduced to the original (in the Strip) a few years ago by a friend from out this way who’d moved to Pittsburgh. It’s still good.
I’d been to Jerry’s and to Paul’s CD but I’d never been to Dave’s Music Mine. I don’t know how that hadn’t happened before, but it’s a pretty cool place. It’s got a good used selection and their soul records are pretty good.
I had a couple pinball aficionado friends that lived in Pittsburgh for a bit. One introduced me to pinball at the Beehive. I liked the Spiderman one. It had plenty of action but it was still pretty straight forward.
I love walking around the South Side. There are such great buildings. Also, there’s a sweet Salvation Army Thrift Store. I bought a suit for New Year’s Eve for $6.50.
I went back to the Church Brewworks for the first time since 2000ish. It was still good and, hey, possibly even better now that I can/ like to drink beer.
I went to Gooski’s for the first time. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, but I can imagine spending a lot of time at a place that’s halfway between its hard scrabble Polish neighborhood and the hip and alternative side of the clientele. Next time I’ll have to have the pierogies.
Primantis is as good as I remember it, but I’m glad I have Giordano Brothers the rest of the year for my Pittsburgh-style sandwich cravings.
I rode the incline, had cheap draft beer at a dive bar, and watched a football game.
Oh and did I mention I got to have buckeyes for the first time in a while? They’re a Christmas tradition for me and the region for whatever reason.
Pittsburgh always seems to tease me when I’m leaving, as if to say, look, Pittsburgh can have enticing weather sometimes.
Finally, all my friends now seem to have GPSs in their car. These are pretty funny in Pittsburgh, with its convoluted roads, one way streets and difficult geography because the driver inevitably says/ yells: “Why does it want me to go that way?? No, no, no, this other way is much faster.”