Pittsburgh by night: A euphoric excursion
By night one way, by day another.
Pittsburgh is one of those cities that’s evolving from what it was in its heyday. The steel mills and iconic musty air are transforming into a modern urban hub, with a mix of an old-time and rustic-chic aesthetic.
The issue that seems to exist at the moment is that this city seems to fall asleep a little too early for the average college student to appreciate. It’s often looked down at because it’s compared to cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago, when in reality, we’re a whole different type of East Coast city. But I would almost say that it is the sleepiness that currently lingers about our city that makes it accessible, and beautiful.
Our weather is unpredictable, our neighbourhoods are eclectic and distinct, and in and around Oakland we’ve got a lovely college-town atmosphere that has settled in. On a lovely sunny day we bask in the sun on picnic blankets, sipping bubble tea and scarfing down waffles and hotdogs down in Schenley. In the rain we huddle around warm bowls of ramen in establishments up and down Murray and Forbes. In the winter we keep warm with warm drinks both from the likes of big names like Starbucks and local cafes and in the spring we warily continue drinking the same beverages lest the winter snow decides to make a comeback. At night, we often find ourselves confined to our rooms finishing up assignments, or catching up on movies and tv alone or with friends. We order in pizza, wings, Indian food, and all sorts of guilty pleasures and take solace in the meaningful late night conversations we have with those wandering around dorms late at night.
While some of the most memorable moments of my life at Carnegie Mellon have been created through such experiences, I’ve been lucky enough to be pushed out of my comfort zone this past semester by writing for this paper. I took writing about food to be a fun, easy task, until I realized that I only had so many restaurants that I knew well enough to casually sit in on and experience. Now, I actively seek out new dining opportunities, and consequently have been able to have a taste — not just of the food — but of the raw and transforming culture that Pittsburgh has to offer. So, when our very own Pillbox editor offered to accompany me for a night on the town photo session and dining extravaganza, there was no way I could have refused.
Our night began at Station Square, which is built around the late 19th century Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad (P&LE). When we told our Uber driver where we were going, he immediately asked us “which bar?”, and appropriately so. The area is now known for its many restaurants and bars, as well as its quirky mom-and-pop shops housed inside of the Freight House, which sell everything from toys to cigars.
The Freight House’s facade is something right out of what I would imagine a classic entrance for a circus to look like. Bright lights and tastefully painted bold letters that accompany a sign that proclaims the old train shed’s lifespan. “1897-1979” made this building hard to resist entering. Because we arrived a little later than anticipated, most of the stores were closed and in the unexpected emptiness, we were free to explore the charming corridors that lead us around the structure. The closed shops gave off a heavily nostalgic air of the past, which was further brought to life with a small arcade nestled off in a corner of the House. Gum ball machines and brick walls, jewellery stores and buzzing incandescent bulbs came together to yield a surreal sense of the past colliding with the present.
With my camera filling up every extra second we spent in the Freight House, we began a short, but scenic stroll over to the Monongahela Incline at Mount Washington. I would like to note here, that admission to both the Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline are free with your Carnegie Mellon ID and both lines run until 12:30 a.m. It’s a great place for some good conversation and contemplation, and once you reach the top you’ll get one of the best views in Pittsburgh.
It was from this dramatic height, perched on a concrete platform that I looked out at the yellow-lit Steel City and the clustered buildings and majestic rivers that make it up. The waters of the Monongahela river reflected the lights from the towering buildings with a long, distorted rendering, and sparkled under the illuminations from the Smithfield St. Bridge.
We were joined by some visiting families who eagerly looked out over the city and breathed heavy sighs of satisfaction. The view stretches quite far, and includes the Carnegie Science Center, Point State Park, Heinz Field, Station Square, and much more. To the left was the hauntingly radiant St. Mary of the Mount Church, brightly lit up with an intense yellow glow. An adjacent large American flag waved in the wind, contributing the echoes of history that had been following us over the past hour as we encountered structure after structure that have been a part of Pittsburgh just a little longer than our own university has.
We would have stayed at the incline longer, but the restaurant we were planning to visit closed at 11 p.m., and we were getting hungry. Mount Washington boasts a pretty wide variety of restaurants, most within walking distance of each other, as well as some ice cream parlors and candy shops that are open during the day time. By night, the area changes from a more family friendly scene to one of laid-back nightlife, with restaurants and bars welcoming both their regulars and curious visitors.
Shiloh Grill is just a couple minutes’ walk from the top of the Monongahela Incline, and from a good distance looks like an over-decorated wooden deck. Rest assured, the restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, the latter of which is an ode to the aforementioned rustic-chic atmosphere that I’m beginning to pin on Pittsburgh.
From the fiery sign to the simple, yet comfortable deck furniture that occupied to outdoor seating portion, Shiloh Grill really was something else. The railings of the deck were lining with more incandescent light bulbs and the waiters were lively and more than happy to help me with my indecisiveness.
All-in-all, it was a fun night, and it has given me the urge to go back and see what other interesting places there are nearby.
Pittsburgh is blossoming everywhere, and I urge you to get out there and take it by storm. Our campus is lovely, but at times it can be a little self-contained, and taking a step out is a breath of fresh air that I’ve found to be both fulfilling and refreshing.
Now, in the spirit of my regular column, here’s a quick rundown of what we tried over at The Shiloh Grill:
Spa day: By the waiter’s recommendation, I ordered this mocktail to mellow out the intense flavors of the food to come. Flavored with lemon and cucumber, this drink was delightfully light and incredibly refreshing. I appreciated that it wasn’t as sweet as your run of the mill virgin mojito, but still had a cool quality, brought in more by cucumber slices than mint leaves.
Macaronis Et Fromage De Langoustine: LOBSTER MACARONI AND CHEESE!? Yes, and it was as glorious as it sounds. The cheese was gooey and rich, the macaroni was cooked just right, and an absolutely stunning crunchy baked crust topped the dish. The lobster flavor was also a perfect complement to the sharpness of the cheese. It was wholesome and hearty, and had me reaching back for more long after I was full.
Cookies-N-Cream: A skillet-baked cookie topped with whipped and ice cream. It was warm and cold, soft and chewy all at once. Truly a great conclusion to the evening.
Cha-ching: Cards and cash are both welcome.
Meat, glorious meat: A pretty good spread of options, although the food airs more on the meaty side.
Are we there yet?: Right across the street from the Upper Monongahela Incline Station. I’d recommend taking an Uber.
Address: 123 Shiloh St., Pittsburgh, PA 15211.
Click, click: The website is complete with items from their menu, information about catering and much more: http://theshilohgrill.com/
For those stay-at-home days: Take out is available, but home delivery through the restaurant is not available. Here’s a number: (412) 431-4000
Mon-Thurs 11:30 a.m.-12 a.m. (kitchen open until 11 p.m.)
Fri & Sat 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. (kitchen open until 1 a.m.)
Sun 10 a.m.-12 a.m. (kitchen open until 11 p.m.)
21+: The place is very famous for their quirky and innovative cocktails. They’ve also got a pretty solid wine and beer collection.
Ambience: Like I said before, rustic chic. This is a great place for dinner, and the atmosphere is incredibly, for lack of a better word, chill. The waiters were very friendly, the food was delicious, and the weather was nice (although I can’t promise that for any given night).
College student friendly?: I didn’t see a lot of other college students around, but they’re definitely used to a young crowd and I didn’t feel out of place in any respect.
Overall rating: 4 melons