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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Springtime for Pittsburgh

Old and new blend perfectly in an ever more interesting Steel City

Last Updated: 3:12 PM, March 31, 2011
Posted: 5:58 PM, March 28, 2011
Comments: 3 
IN about a million ways, crazy old Pittsburgh is not like other cities in this part of the world, but the first thing people usually notice about it — coming in from the Pennsylvania Turnpike and through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, or shooting under Mount Washington on their way in from the airport — is that this is a city with a lot going on in the looks department.
The setting, along those famous three rivers — Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela — at the foot of those dramatic hills, is unforgettable. The ruggedly handsome skyline is a constant reminder of an era when this was one of the world’s eminent industrial capitals.
Work it out, Pittsburgh style — rent a kayak on the Allegheny.Never mind that it’s half empty — of all the half-empty Rust Belt cities, none wear diminished status as comfortably as Pittsburgh. It is the master of keeping up appearances. The downtown, known as the Golden Triangle, remains one of the country’s best-planned and most walkable, with one pleasant streetscape after another. In some ways, it is like a mini-New York, streets filled with people on sunny weekdays, pouring off buses and a little subway in the mornings and back on at night. Pittsburgh feels busy, alive. Industry has given way to research, health care, education, the arts. Smart people are moving in or moving home. 

The city feels young again, promising, like a place that has a future, one brighter than just about any of its contemporaries.
In short, Pittsburgh is just a little bit of a miracle. It is springtime, now — a good time to go take a look. Here are just a few reasons why.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE The 'Burgh's crazy topography — the likes of which could make a San Francisco city planner shudder — makes for close-knit neighborhoods that often function almost as if they were their own cities. To really get to know Pittsburgh, you’ve got to hustle a bit. There's the bustling South Side, with its endless selection of bars along jammed East Carson Street; try the local East End Brewing Co. beers on tap at The Bar at 2132. Then there's sleepy Highland Park, where locals sip espresso at (the excellent) Enrico’s (1125 N. Highland Ave.), not to mention the Williamsburg-ish scene up the Allegheny in secluded Lawrenceville — stop for lunch at Dozen Bake Shop, a city favorite (3511 Butler St.). There are many Pittsburghs, all in very close proximity to each other, but each their own universe. East Liberty, for years one of the city’s trouble spots and all but abandoned by the end, is a major happening these days, with tons of shopping and other developments that include a new Google campus. Stick around when the whistle blows five and take a table at neighborhood favorite Dinette, a vivacious rustic Italian canteen and wine bar with its own rooftop vegetable garden. Snack on grilled shishito peppers with fried almonds, goat cheese and sea salt while you contemplate the pizza menu (5996 Penn Circle S.).