Pillbox

A beginner’s guide for exploring the City of Bridges

A guide to Pittsburgh's neighborhoods and districts. (credit: Eunice Oh/Assistant Art Editor) A guide to Pittsburgh's neighborhoods and districts. (credit: Eunice Oh/Assistant Art Editor)

When students arrive at Carnegie Mellon, they often find that the campus is a fascinating place with its outgoing student body, research initiatives, and unusual creations. The campus offers more than enough to keep students busy during their time at the university, but beyond the campus is an entire city to explore. Not only is Pittsburgh located in a unique geographic location nestled among rivers, but it is broken into various neighborhoods and districts that have their own distinct flavors. Use this guide to navigate these neighborhoods, which shouldn't be missed by any Carnegie Mellon student.

Strip District

Vibe: An old riverside warehouse district transformed into a regional culinary destination.

Best eats: For everything from steamy espresso to fresh cooked pasta straight from the heart of Italy, Enrico Biscotti Company has you covered. And no, we don't mean the small bakery (although you could definitely fill up on delicious biscotti there). Nestled behind the bakery is the restaurant portion of the business, which is an authentic family favorite and crowd pleaser.

Best attraction: Sure, this area is great during a normal day, but by the time you graduate, you must go during its peak business hours: Saturday and Sunday mornings. The street market explodes with people, food, flowers, and fun little shops.

Travel tip: If you can borrow a car, do it. The buses that take you to the Strip are few and far between and a huge hassle.

Downtown:

Vibe: The only area of Pittsburgh that really feels like a traditional East Coast city; skyscrapers and congested streets galore.

Best eats: Meat and Potatoes was the hip and trendy Euro-style gastropub that was a gastropub before it was cool. Though definitely a more expensive restaurant, the food here is unbeatable: delectable and surprising at the same time. Take a date, make sure to get a drink from their fabulous selection, and then enjoy a night on the town.

Best attraction: Seviche, a Mexican/Cuban restaurant on Penn Avenue, hosts a learn-to-salsa dance class every Monday night starting at 9 p.m., and then at 10 p.m., the floor opens for a night of sultry dancing and late night snacks. The music plays until nearly 1 a.m., so bring your dancing shoes and your date!

To get there: Hop on any 61 or 71 headed inbound and then walk when you get there. You never know what you'll stumble upon Downtown!

East Liberty

Vibe: An up-and-coming neighborhood, almost like a mineral: a little rough outside, but some real gems lie inside if you take the time to look.

Best eats: The pan-Asian fusion at Plum is the winner for East Liberty. Hands down the classiest pan-Asian in Pittsburgh, Plum presents not only a beautiful, tasty plate, but a fun, modern space in which to enjoy it with family and friends. Be sure to try the pad thai and the sushi.

Favorite attraction: All the shopping. In recent years, the city has put a lot of money and effort into the gentrification of this area, leading to the development of plenty of stores and shops. From Giant Eagle to Trader Joe's to Anthropologie, check out Bakery Square and more in East Liberty.

To get there: Take the 71B from Fifth and Morewood avenues to South Highland Avenue and Station Street.

Shadyside

Vibe: A slightly upscale, clean neighborhood with fashionable shops.

Best eats: For a nice evening out, head to Girasole, a fabulous Italian restaurant with a classy vibe. For a mouth-watering burger, check out Stack’d, a burger joint where you build your own burger from the bun up. If you’re a big sushi fan, then hit up Umi. Right on Ellsworth Avenue, this restaurant is known for its fresh, delicious sushi.

Best attraction: Walnut Street is a great place to spend an afternoon or evening. Browse some of the shops — including an Apple Store, Banana Republic, and American Apparel — grab a coffee and some ice cream, and take a nice, leisurely stroll.

To get there: Hop on any of the outbound 71 buses from Fifth and Morewood avenues. It’s certainly within walking distance, however, and you can simply walk down Fifth Avenue and turn down South Aiken Avenue.

Squirrel Hill

Vibe: A lower-cost, quirkier sibling of Shadyside.

Best eats: For the best pizza in all of Pittsburgh, head to Mineo’s Pizza House on Murray Avenue. Uncle Sam’s Sandwich Bar is also a great spot if you’re a cheesesteak kind of person. If you drink a lot of coffee— and even if you don't, you will be soon — then check out Commonplace Roasters. Great teas, coffee, and friendly atmosphere abound.

Best attraction: The old-timey and intimate Squirrel Hill movie theater — the Manor Theatre — is the perfect place to check out a new movie in a building with a fantastically vintage vibe. It’s surrounded by just about every kind of restaurant you could dream of, so it’s easy to make a night of it.

To get there: Grab an outbound 61 from the corner of Morewood and Forbes avenues, then jump off at Forbes and Murray avenues (by the Rite-Aid). From there you can explore pretty much all of Squirrel Hill.

Oakland

Vibe: Pittsburgh’s collegiate center.

Best eats: If you love your pancakes piled high with butter and syrup, your bacon crispy-greasy, and your omelets full of fillings then you’ll be in heaven at Pamela's on Forbes Avenue. When it comes time for lunch, head over to Primanti Brothers for signature Pittsburgh cuisine: French fries on a big sandwich. For dinner, come back toward Carnegie Mellon and dine outside at The Porch at Schenley Plaza. It’s got a hip, yet mature atmosphere, and most importantly, it accepts Plaid Cash.

Best attraction: Possibly one of the greatest — and often underutilized — resources is the museum complex on Forbes Avenue, at the end of South Craig Street. The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History are not to be missed. They’re both free with your student ID and packed with interesting and thought-provoking material. Best of all, you don’t even need a bus to get there.

To get there: Hop on either an inbound 61 from Forbes and Morewood avenues or an inbound 71 from Morewood and Fifth avenues. Or just walk — it’s practically in your backyard.

South Side

Vibe: A shopping center, nightlife destination, and restaurant hotspot.

Best eats: If you have a big group, definitely hit up Buca di Beppo. This almost cheesy Italian restaurant serves great food family style, meaning large servings in big bowls to pass and share around the table. They’ll have to roll you out after eating so much pasta. For a truly hilarious dining experience, ask to sit in the Pope room, where a bust of the Pope watches you eat. Another great find in the South Side is Nadine’s, near the SouthSide Works cinema. Their fried bologna sandwich is as good as it sounds.

Best attraction: SouthSide Works is a must-see for anyone who is going to call Pittsburgh home for the next four years. Head there for the Cheesecake Factory, trendy shopping, beautiful fountains and gardens, and a short walk to the river’s edge.

To get there: Head down to South Craig Street and catch the 54 from in front of Bagel Factory. Take that to East Carson and South 22nd streets in South Side. From there, just walk east on East Carson Street until you get to South 27th Street. From there, you should be able to see SouthSide Works!