The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

Pittsburgh’s Architecture.

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on November 2, 2009

One of the things I noticed the first time I went to Pittsburgh, was how beautiful the architecture was.  I imagined Pittsburgh as having a very dingy, dirty feel.  I figured that after years of smelting iron into steel, a fine, thorough film of filth would overlay everything in the city, and this would only be punctuated by typical big-city street trash.  Not so!

I was pleasantly surprised to find a city that was remarkably clean.  Not only was the fine layer of filth non-existent on all but a few buildings, but the city was generally devoid of trash and other filth.  Not only that, but the city’s architecture was a very pleasant surprise.

In any “old” city (old by American standards), I expect great architecture in the churches.  I only got a couple churches, here, but they both qualify.

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Look at how CLEAN the CHURCH is.  Bright and pristine!

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Beyond the churches, though, there’s a lot of stone in the city, of which I am a big fan.  Municipal buildings, homes, and office buildings have stone architecture, with spires and towers, all over the city.  This is a municipal building.

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Here is a house on the North side of the city.

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Here is a small house beside the second church (above) that is accented with stone.  It also has a gorgeous view of the city.

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Beyond the “old school” and almost gothic look of several of the buildings, the city revels in its new architecture, too.  Here is a glass building with battlement-like parapets on the top.

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And another building celebrates the steel heritage of the city, being made of HUGE steel girders.

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It all goes beyond the structures, though.  Buildings throughout the city are trimmed with arches and magnificent attention to detail.  I tried to capture a couple of them in these pictures.

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Even this building, which is attached to a parking garage, and I believe is associated with bail bonds, is remarkably-trimmed. It’s hard to see, but it’s fastidiously decorated on the awning and between each floor.

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Also, you can really see how clean the STREET is in this picture!  It’s just amazing.

After realizing that great architecture was a part of the city, I did a little looking.  Indeed, I am not alone.  Evidently others realized the architecture is spectacular.  Frank Lloyd Wright even has multiple buildings in the greater Pittsburgh area.

So hats off to the good people of Pittsburgh that take great pride in their city.  If you have a chance to get to Pittsburgh, go see the downtown.  If it’s warm, walk around and take it all in.  If the weather is freezing, and you have access to a car, just drive around, and admire the buildings.  You won’t be disappointed!

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Posted in Sites, Travel | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Primanti Brothers – A Pittsburgh Tradition

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on October 4, 2009

In looking around Pittsburgh for a tasty place to eat, while staying up in the University area (Oakland), my co-worker and I came across Primanti Brothers.  It looked interesting from the outside, and he and I both like holes in the wall, so we popped in.

First, the music was straight out of the late 90s.  Stone Temple Pilots (Lady Picture Show).  No Doubt (Spiderwebs). Alice in Chains.  Better than Ezra.  The music wasn’t so odd, by itself, but it was the fact that it was the ONLY music that was played.  Either they were on satellite radio, getting a 90s feed, or someone in their early 30s had their iPod hooked up to the sound system.

It wasn’t “my kind” of music, but it was all from my high school years, so I didn’t bother me at all.  In fact, the nostalgia was kind of nice.

Otherwise, the restaurant had almost a diner feel.  We seated ourselves in a quiet corner.  There were several flat screens playing sports.  Our server, Jess, came over.  She was friendly.  We asked for menus, but she said that the menu was on the wall.  I thought that was interesting.  We looked up, and sure enough, the walls had the menu on them.
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Clearly we weren’t locals.  She stated that all sandwiches come with tomatoes, cole slaw, and fries on them, and asked us to just call for her when we were ready to order.

Wait wait wait… tomatoes, cole slaw, and fries ON the sandwiches?

Tomatoes, cole slaw, french fries ON the sandwiches.

Like… between the bread?

Not LIKE… Between the bread.

Huh.  How ’bout that?

Well, I ordered an Iron City Pilsner, which I had never had before, and a capricolla and cheese sandwich, hold the cole slaw.  The beer was cool, crisp, and thirst-quenching; just like any authentic pilsner should be.  The sandwich came out shortly there after the beer, without cole slaw, but with tomatoes and fries ON the sandwich, as promised.

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It was excellent.  It was regular white bread, high-quality meat, and tasty cheese.  The tomatoes were good, and the fries were excellent.  We settled up our bill, and resolved to come back when we go back to Pittsburgh in early October (this week).

The food wasn’t spectacular, but the ambiance, price, and food combined to get a solid recommendation.  If you’re in the Iron City, make it a point to swing by a Primanti Brothers.

Primanti Brothers (Oakland) on Urbanspoon

Posted in Restaurants, Travel | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Garage Door Saloon/Big Joe’s Pizzeria

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on September 20, 2009

While I was in Pittsburgh, one night, my co-worker wasn’t feeling well.  He had a headache, and then took some Aspirin on an empty stomach, and he doesn’t usually take any meds unless he’s REALLY not feeling well.  The Aspirin was eating up his stomach and did little to help his headache.  It looked like I was on my own for dinner.  Not a problem.  Even though I had a car, I decided to take a walk and see what was near my hotel.  I asked the young woman behind the counter if it was safe to walk around (indeed, the area looked…. eclectic), and she said it wasn’t a problem, even in the dark, and that she walked to and from work all the time.  She was probably 22 years old, and worked the 1600-0230 shift, so I figured I’d be alright.  I armed myself with my iPod and a book, and set out to find some dinner.

I didn’t realize it, but I was about 4 blocks from the University of Pittsburgh.  As I began walking over, I realized it really was a very safe area, and the “eclectic” feel, I had sensed driving through was the same sense I probably would have had driving through any college neighborhood.  Houses that were clearly rented by college students, with little time for home maintenance, and remnants of weekend parties on the front yards, but nothing truly nefarious.  I enjoyed the walk, and found a wealth of mom and pop restaurants to pick from.  A couple caught my eye, but as the evening was gorgeous, I was looking for something with an outdoor patio, or at least an outdoor feel.  I found the Garage Door Saloon.

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This picture shows the windows are closed, but those windows are actually small garage doors with glass panes.  When I was there for dinner (it was too dark to take outside pictures when I was there), those garage doors were open providing a nice view and breeze for the bar.  I walked in to the nearly empty bar, as it was about 1730, and it really wasn’t clear how to get a seat, if they sold food, etc.  I asked the bartender, Mark, where I could sit, and if the kitchen was open.  He said I could sit anywhere, handed me a menu, and pointed out a window to order from, once I was ready.  I sat at the window next to the pay phone.   What wasn’t immediately obvious, and what I’m still not completely sure about, is that food was being provided by Big Joe’s Pizzeria, the shop adjacent to the shop (there was just a doorway in the wall between the two stores).

I took a look at the menu; standard college/bar/comfort-type food.

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I surveyed the menu, and to be honest, I’m a total sucker for food like this, particularly at these prices!  I ordered some wings with butter garlic sauce, fries, and two chili-cheesedogs.  The young woman working at the counter was clearly new; it may not have been her first day, but it certainly wasn’t her third day.  She didn’t charge me the correct amount for the individual orders; she overcharged me on some, and undercharged me on others… I think it all came out, though, and I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that she wasn’t getting it right.

From there, I went to the bar and ordered a glass of water and a Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale (Cleveland, OH).  I then retired to the window with my beer and book, and waited for my meal.  The meal was delivered, I noticed from OUTSIDE; the woman walked up on the sidewalk and handed the food through the window.  It was funny.

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The food was as good as it looked.  I expected, for $2.00, that the hot dogs would be little tiny hot dogs, but no!  They were big, quarter-pounder dogs.  They were good, but not great.  The Burning River Pale Ale was awesome, though.  i would certainly recommend one anyone that showed even remote interest.  The wings were cooked really well, but it seemed like they may have been sitting awhile, and were a little dry and cool.  The food was delivered without any utensils or napkins, though.  THAT was a problem.  Those chili-cheesedogs and wings  both required napkins, and I didn’t see any, so I just enjoyed my gluttonous meal without my book, and just admired the twilight view.

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The meal did the trick, though, and I didn’t finish it all, as I figured the hot dogs alone might cause me to go into cardiac arrest on my walk back to the hotel.  After I finished the beer, I ordered another beer, asked for a stack of napkins from the bartender (Mark) and continued reading.  I ordered the Troegenator Double Bock (Harrisburg, PA) based on Mark’s recommendation (although I did forego his recommendation for the Dundee Octoberfest (Rochester, NY)).  I’m generally not a big fan of darker beers, but I try to give them a chance, and I have been a big fan of Sam Adams’ Double Bock.  This met my expectations, and was “ok”, but not particularly good.  I took my time to finish it, continued with my book, and headed back to the hotel.

Overall: It would have been a great place to enjoy a beer, with the open feel and friendly atmosphere.  I would leave Big Joe’s food for Big Joe.

Ambiance: College bar, with open-air, garage-door windows.

Food: American-bar food, brought to you by Joe’s Pizzeria, located next door.

Posted in Restaurants, Travel | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Pittsburgh, PA – Home of the Steelers.

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on September 19, 2009

Hello, all!  It’s been awhile since I’VE written a post (The Husband), but I will likely be writing more posts, as the Wife is back in school for the semester, completing her Master’s Degree.  She finishes this winter!
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In the mean time, I’m traveling like mad for work.  This week, I was in Pittsburgh, PA.  It was a wonderful surprise.  I had visions of a dingy, smelly, smog-filled, big city, with all the downsides of a big city.  Not so, however.  It was very similar to Charlotte, in a lot of ways, but was also very different.  Once the 10th largest city in the Country, now 60th, being about half the size, in terms of population than Charlotte.  Being bounded by the three rivers, it does have the distinct disadvantage of being unable to expand the city’s boundaries, however, and its greater metropolitan area has nearly 2.5 million people.

To be honest, I would not say it was much of a tourist town.  Clearly, the city has not embraced what it has to offer for visitors.  The public transportation subway, “T”, had no instructions for the unindoctrinated.  Indeed, after riding the “T” twice with my co-worker, we had paid $6 ($1.50/one-way fare), never received a single receipt or “ticket”, and still weren’t sure if we had appropriately addressed the system.  See my rant-blog for the whole story.  Otherwise, there was no clear city center, used for drawing in tourists, like most cities have.  Charlotte has Uptown with the Mint, Discovery Place, and the nightlife.  Pittsburgh encouraged us, in our off hours, to go find the local hangout, where we were not embraced as guests, but were equally not shunned as outsiders.

With all that being said, the town was far cleaner than I expected.  Having its history deeply rooted within steel production,  I expected a heavy, almost permanent-overcast gloom over the city.  Not so, however.  The weather was gorgeous.  The city has clearly made a concerted effort to reinvent itself, without the benefit of steel, but without forgetting its heritage.  The medical industry seemed almost intrusive within the city.  We failed to find solace from the seeming perpetual infiltration of the scrub-donning populace.  Indeed, when we had lunch at Station Square, we felt like we had simply missed the memo, as upwards of 70% of our co-lunchgoers were in the light-blue scrubs.  Second to that was education.  University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, and Duquesne were all there, as the major universities, but there were several, several smaller institutions.   I believe these two staples, education and medicine, were the catalyst for the endless sea of young people who were around.  It seemed like there was no one in the city over the age of 45, except my coworker, and this old, old woman that we saw, literally, crossing the street and shaking her cane at a car waiting for her to complete her trek through the endless salt flat that was the crosswalk.  I kid you not.  The streets were neither clean nor dirty, however; more of a “well-used” look.

The revitalization has clearly been focused on recapitalizing the downtown real estate to provide jobs, not to become an international spectacle, reflecting its humble, blue-collar roots.  The amount of construction was amazing; between the sea of over/underpasses routing drivers across the rivers (usually, in my case, the WRONG river), to building a new skyscraper or sports complex.  Indeed, it was a city focused on taking care of the people who made it great.

Down to the sports complexes.  Being from Washington, D.C., and being a die-hard Redskins fan (please celebrate the victories we’ve had, don’t mourn the dry spell we endure <sigh>), I assumed that all “old guard” franchises (Dallas, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, etc.), who claim to have the “best” fans, were like Redskins fans, and celebrated the team similarly.  Indeed, the Redskins hold the record for the longest sellout streak in NFL history.  Pittsburgh, however, celebrates sports like no other city I have ever seen.  Every three blocks, there is Steelers store, littered with “Franco Harris for Mayor” signs.  It was amazing, and it made me jealous.  I will not name the Pittsburgh fans the “best” (truly, all die-hard fans, regardless of their team of allegiance, are the “best” fans), but I can see that they celebrate their teams wonderfully and differently than Washington does, and I applaud them for it.

While Pittsburgh won’t win any “Best City to Visit” awards, I suspect it would be a wonderful city to live in, speckled with “corner dives” and entrenched in their sports heritage (not just the Steelers, but Pirates and Penguins, too), with a city government that clearly takes an interest in taking care of its people’s needs.

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