A Simple Shot and a Beer no LongerStill refreshingly without pretension, Pittsburgh's burgeoning scene offers entertainment for every personality and palate.
Pittsburgh was once known as a shot-and-beer town, part of its hard-working, hard-drinking steel town heritage.
But that stereotype doesn't fit the 21st-century vibe on Penn Avenue as it runs from the Cultural District in Downtown Pittsburgh east through the food markets of the Strip District before leading you to Butler Street and the gentrifying neighborhood of Lawrenceville.
Up and down Penn Avenue are pockets of postindustrial chic in three distinct city neighborhoods that are reinventing themselves — but with the trademark Pittsburgh lack of pretension.
The Cultural District Downtown pulsates with live entertainment and is a great place to catch a play, a ballet or a symphony. Before the show, try the creative comfort food at Meat & Potatoes, a hopping gastropub located in Theater Square on Penn Avenue. In the same complex is the Cabaret at Theater Square, which features musical productions and late-night acts.
Or go next door to the Backstage Bar for a more casual vibe. Also popular are Bravo Franco Ristorante, a classic Italian restaurant, and Six Penn Kitchen, a modern American bistro known for its wood-fired pizza and other dishes. All are minutes by foot from the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, Heinz Hall and O'Reilly Theater.
For those who prefer a Latin vibe, a few blocks up Penn Avenue is Seviche, a sun-splashed bar that pounds out salsa rhythms to go with its tapas. Jazz lovers will feel as though they've walked back in time at Little E's, a cozy jazz and blues club that's around the block on Liberty Avenue. Art-house movie buffs will be in heaven at the nearby Harris Theater.
Following Penn Avenue a few blocks out of Downtown leads you to the Strip District, the warehouse neighborhood that springs to life long after its produce vendors have closed their doors. On Smallman Street, which runs parallel to Penn Avenue, is Eleven, where you'll find inventive dishes with ingredients from local farms.
Farther up Smallman Street is Lidia's Pittsburgh, featuring inspired Italian food in an airy restaurant owned by celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich. Also on Smallman is Kaya, a lively grill that offers a mix of exotic fare from the Caribbean islands, South America and the Pacific islands. Around the corner on Penn Avenue is Bar Marco, where you can sip wine and eat polenta fries in a former firehouse.
Drive east on Penn Avenue and veer left onto Butler Street and you're in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood where young hipsters can be found renovating houses and hanging out in boutiques and coffee shops.
A passerby could be forgiven for walking past the uninspired exterior of the Eclipse Lounge. But step inside this narrow bar with twinkling lights, sink into a couch, enjoy the music and cocktails, and you'll be glad you stayed. Across Butler Street and half a block up is Round Corner Cantina, a packed, trendy bar and Mexican restaurant. Nearby is the charming Piccolo Forno, known for wood-fired pizzas and homemade pastas.
Head to Upper Lawrenceville, farther up Butler Street, for innovative Mediterranean cuisine at Cure and good Thai fare at Pusadee's Garden. The list goes on and on in Pittsburgh, a place that is constantly remaking its neighborhoods and building on its working-class heritage to create new and interesting places to eat, drink and play.