An explorer's guide to Pittsburgh neighborhoods

Credit: Rachel Cohen/Pillbox Editor, Jonathan Carreon/Contributing Editor, Allison Cosby/Cont Credit: Rachel Cohen/Pillbox Editor, Jonathan Carreon/Contributing Editor, Allison Cosby/Cont

You’ve officially arrived at college. While you’ll be busy over the next few days getting to know the campus that will be your home for the next four or five years, it’s also important to explore outside the Carnegie Mellon bubble. Pittsburgh is a wonderfully diverse city with lots to offer, especially to college students. Read on for an overview of the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh that we here at The Tartan don’t think you should miss.

1. Strip District

Vibe: An eclectic mix of just about everything Pittsburgh has to offer.
Favorite eats: For brunch, try Deluca’s, a cheaper and homier version of student favorite Pamela’s Diner. If you’re looking to splurge on a nice dinner, Bar Marco has you covered. Recently named one of Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants in 2013, Bar Marco’s menu is constantly changing and always full of delicious surprises. On a related note, definitely go there when you turn 21; the only things better than their food are their cocktails.)
Favorite attraction: The weekend markets are the main attraction for the Strip. The neighborhood’s streets are bustling in the morning hours with crowds of people stopping in boutique shops and at sidewalk vendors. The Strip is also home to one of Pittsburgh’s most popular concert venues, a church-turned-club called Altar Bar.
To get there: Making the trip can be a challenge, but if you time it right, the 54 from N. Craig Street and Fifth Avenue will take you straight there.

2. Lawrenceville

Vibe: A young, hip community where you’ll probably bump into a Carnegie Mellon art professor or two.
Favorite eats: The best Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh, Piccolo Forno, is located in the heart of Lawrenceville and is a great choice for an adventurous date — where the adventure would be getting there via public transportation. If you’re in the mood for a great hot dog, check out Franktuary, where you have myriad choices for your hot dog — or veggie dog. We recommend trying it “Pittsburgh style,” with a smooshed pierogi and slaw.
Favorite attraction: For a night of good, clean fun, try Arsenal Bowling Lanes. Think of it as your favorite bowling place as a kid, except it’s actually cool and geared toward adults. Every year they put up some intense Halloween decorations, so we recommend heading over there then. Bowling aside, Lawrenceville is just a great area to spend an afternoon. With lots of great shops and wonderful coffee at Espresso a Mano, it’s well worth the hassle of getting over there to spend a quaint weekend afternoon.
To get there: Biking there is your best bet, but it is possible to get there by bus. You’ll have to transfer buses or walk a bit, so we recommend pulling this one up on your smart phone.

3. East Liberty

Vibe: Trendy, up-and-coming neighborhood with all of the necessities.
Favorite eats: East Liberty has lots of great food options, from grocery stores to restaurants. With Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Giant Eagle all within walking distance of each other, your grocery needs are covered here. For a night out, try BRGR, an awesome burger joint complete with heavenly milkshakes. If you’re in the mood for barbecue, check out Union Pig and Chicken, where you’ll be seated at picnic-style tables, and where in one sitting you’ll eat enough food for an entire week. Or now that you’ve been warned, you’ll just have really great leftovers.
Favorite attraction: East Liberty is also home to the nearest Target, and which is convenient for getting dorm, apartment, and school supplies. The East Liberty Presbyterian Church is also worth a visit; its huge tower can be seen from miles away and it remains at the heart of the neighborhood, even as all the run-down buildings around it are converted to upscale shopping and office complexes.
To get there: Take the 71 A, B, or C or the 75 bus from N. Craig Street and Fifth Avenue.

4. Bloomfield

Vibe: The “Little Italy” of Pittsburgh.
Favorite eats: Bloomfield has tons of amazing bakeries and Italian restaurants to check out, including Alexander’s Italian Bistro, Sanchioli Brothers Bakery, and Paddy Cake Bakery. Go hungry and go often.
Favorite attraction: Also home to numerous art galleries, Bloomfield is where much of the Penn Avenue Art Walk, which happens every first Friday of the month, takes place. While the neighborhood is well worth a visit on any given day, the art walks really bring the community to life.
To get there: Though it’s close enough to walk on a nice day, Bloomfield is also reachable by hopping on the 54 from Fifth Avenue and N. Craig Street.

5. Shadyside

Vibe: A chic, clean neighborhood with trendy shops.
Favorite eats: For a cheap burger, check out Stack’d, a burger joint where you build your own burger from the bun up. For a nicer evening out, head across the street to Girasole, a fabulous Italian restaurant with a classy, old-world vibe. If sushi is your thing, Umi is your place. Located on Ellsworth Avenue, this restaurant is known for its fresh, delicious sushi.
Favorite attraction: Walnut Street itself is worth the short trip to Shadyside. This spot has nearly every kind of shopping you could desire, from the Apple Store to Banana Republic to Francesca’s Collections. Take a walk down the street for window shopping, coffee, and some delicious gelato.
To get there: Hop on any of the outbound 71 buses from Fifth and Morewood avenues. Or you could walk down Fifth Avenue and turn down S. Aiken Avenue. It’s pretty close.

6. Squirrel Hill

Vibe: A less expensive, quirkier version of Shadyside.
Favorite eats: For the best pizza in all of Pittsburgh, head to Mineo’s Pizza House on Murray Avenue. Then, if you still have room, check out Gullifty’s for delicious desserts. These local favorites are small and quaint but will blow you away with their delectable goodies. For a classic, quality dinner before a movie, check out the Murray Avenue Grill; their French fries are to die for.
Favorite 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 nestled among 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 Avenue and Forbes Avenue, then jump off at Forbes and Murray avenues. You’ll be in the heart of Squirrel Hill in no time.

7. Oakland

Vibe: A tried and true college community.
Favorite eats: For breakfast, head to Pamela’s; there is no contest for a better, greasier, more satisfying breakfast. When it comes time for lunch, if you’re somehow hungry after that huge breakfast, head over to Primanti’s for a signature Pittsburgh favorite. For dinner, come back toward Carnegie Mellon and dine outside at The Porch at Schenley Plaza. With a hip but mature ambiance, it’s the perfect dinner for an evening out.
Favorite attraction: The Carnegie complex includes three amazing and free venues, all of which you should take advantage. First off is the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which has not only every book, magazine, or movie you could desire, but also a multitude of free events to attend. The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History are next on the list: They’re both free with your 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 Avenue and Fifth Avenue. Or just walk — it’s practically in your backyard.

8. South Side

Vibe: A vibrant shopping center and party place.
Favorite eats: The famous Buca di Beppo is a fun trip, especially for a big group. This quirky, almost cheesy Italian restaurant serves good food family style. You’ll be full of pasta before you can say “Mamma Mia.” For an especially awkward and hilarious dining experience, ask to sit in the Pope room, where a bust of the Pope watches you eat.
Favorite attraction: Station Square 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: This one’s a little harder. Grab an inbound 61 bus from Forbes and Morewood avenues, and get off at Sixth Avenue and Wood Street. From there, walking across the Smithfield Street Bridge will put you off at W. Carson Street, right in Station Square.