For many, the North Side is viewed as the home to the Pirates, Steelers, and numerous museums along the rivers.
While it is true that many of the city’s top attractions are found along the shore of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers on the North Side, this corner of Pittsburgh is home to many hidden gems that are a must for anyone exploring the city. To highlight these destinations, as well as their more famous counterparts, this neighborhood guide was born!
It is worth noting that the following is not a collection of every business in the North Side. This article only features businesses that we personally visit when we explore the neighborhood. As such, it should only be taken as a starting point and is certainly not a list of every establishment. If you see an interesting business while exploring the North Side, do yourself a favor and go inside!
North Side History and Map
The region of Pittsburgh known as the North Side was originally known as Allegheny City and was founded in the late-1700’s. It wasn’t until a controversial vote in the early 1900’s that Allegheny City was absorbed Pittsburgh- the residents of Allegheny City voted against it while the citizens of the larger city of Pittsburgh voted for it in the majority. This vote was contested so much that the resulting lawsuit went all the way to the US Supreme Court in 1907 where they ultimately favored the city of Pittsburgh and the merger went forward.
The prime of Allegheny City was in the mid-1800’s thanks to the construction boom of many now-historic buildings including St. Mary’s German Catholic church in the German neighborhood Deutschtown (now The Priory bed and breakfast), the rise of the affluent neighborhoods including the Mexican War Streets (named for battles and generals from the Mexican-American War), and Exposition Park (which ignited the city’s love of sports). This park even hosted the first World Series which the Pittsburgh Pirates sadly lost.
The North Side in the mid-to-late 1900’s can only be described as a Pittsburgh neighborhood in decline, and it has been only recently that a new revival has seen this neighborhood explode with many museums, restoration projects on the numerous historic buildings, and dozens of restaurants, breweries, and distilleries opening or planning expansions in the coming months and years.
The North Side is, as its name would suggest, located north of Pittsburgh as you cross the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers.
The generally accepted boundaries of the North Side are blurred here when compared to our typical neighborhood guides as what we would define as the proper “North Side” would encompass several neighborhoods including the North Shore, Allegheny City, Deutschtown, the Mexican War Streets, Manchester, and Kirkbride to name a few. (Neighborhoods on the nearby hilltops are also technically part of the North Side; however, we will be featuring them in a future neighborhood guide for clarity’s sake.)
This makes the boundaries featured in this post be the Ohio River to the west, Allegheny River to the south, the 279 highway to the east, and Route 19 / the beginning of the hills to the north.
All of the businesses featured below are included in the above map. To read our review or visit the shop’s site, either click the link in the map above or in our post below when available!
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Restaurants, Bars, and Breweries in the North Side
The North Side is home to a rapidly growing restaurant scene that is welcoming new additions seemingly every month. The main selection of restaurants in the North Side are along the North Shore trail near the stadiums, along Western Avenue a few blocks further north of the Steelers stadium, a selection scattered throughout the Mexican War Streets, and a few additional eateries in Deutschtown.
Although the bar scene is thriving in the North Side with many local establishment, this neighborhood of Pittsburgh is set to explode in the brewery scene with the upcoming opening of Mexican War Streets Brewing and Allegheny City Brewing (amongst several others) throughout 2016. Add in more breweries and distilleries in the nearby hills that are not featured within this guide (such as Wigle Whiskey, Wigle’s upcoming Cidery, and Penn Brewery), other fun bars like Park House Tavern (with live Bluegrass on Wednesdays) and the Elks Lodge (for a weekly banjo night on Wednesdays), and you have a lot of options to keep you going if you want to drink locally.
Although the following list is not a complete selection of restaurants and bars in the North Side, it is a great starting place for visitors:
- Nicky’s Thai – One of the best Thai restaurants in the city of Pittsburgh.
- Benjamin’s Burger Bar – Gourmet burgers and a rather large Sunday Bloody Mary bar.
- Peppi’s Old Tyme Sandwich Shop – Known for massive hoagies and the #7 – Roethlisburger.
- Giorgio’s – Authentic Italian and pizza shop.
- Lola’s Bistro – A small corner restaurant featuring a rotating menu of international cuisine.
- Max’s Allegheny Tavern – A basic-yet-robust German menu with many delicious Bavarian beers on tap.
- Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 – Jerome Bettis- need we say more?
- Burgatory – A local burger chain’s North Side expansion featuring delicious hamburgers and spiked milkshakes.
- Gus & Yia Yia’s – A Pittsburgh institution- shaved ice from a cart in Allegheny Commons West (summer only).
- Huszar – A Hungarian inspired bar and restaurant with live music every other Thursday.
- Casellula – A delicious wine and cheese bar located in the City of Asylum building on North Avenue. Order the Pig’s Ass Sandwich!
- James Street Speakeasy – A multi-floor bar and restaurant featuring an impressive live music calendar.
- Monks Bar – Located in The Priory Hotel, this one is the smallest bar in PA!
- Bear Head Bar – An incredible selection of beers to go and on tap.
- Monterey Pub – An Irish style pub with a large menu located in the heart of the Mexican War Streets.
- Wilson’s Bar-B-Q – A no frills barbecue shop that only serves ribs and chicken – call ahead to get yours!
- Quik-It Chicken – What can be said about a fast food chicken shop in the same building as a gas station? Delicious!
- El Burro – A short-order Mexican joint known for their burritos and tacos.
- Subba Asian – One of Pittsburgh’s only Nepali restaurants- be sure to try their momos!
- Rivertowne Brewing – A local brewery with a tap room right next to PNC Park.
- Southern Tier Brewing – A NY-based brewery with a tap room near Stage AE and Heinz Field.
More restaurants can also be found inside the stadiums on the North Side; however, as several of these are only accessible with a ticket we have not included them above.
The North Side is Museum Central
It may not seem like it at first glance, but the North Side is home to the most diverse collections of museums in the city. Not only are some of the more famous museums located in this part of Pittsburgh, many obscure museums are also located here that should definitely be on your radar. If you are in the mood to check out a museum, the following may be worth a visit:
- The Andy Warhol Museum – This museum features many of Warhol’s classics as well as his interactive Silver Clouds room which is always a favorite.
- The Carnegie Science Center – If science is what you (or your kids) want to learn about, this museum has it. From the natural world to robotics, sports science, and more, the Science Center has just about everything. Be sure to go outside and explore the USS Requin- a Tench-class submarine that is open for tours.
- The Children’s Museum – The region’s premier children’s museum.
- The National Aviary – The country’s largest aviary is located in the North Side and bird lovers will get their fill seeing hundreds upon hundreds of unique and exotic species.
- Mattress Factory – Contemporary art cannot be described easily because it is often so different from artist to artist. For those who love off-beat art and unusual and interactive experiences, a visit to the Mattress Factory is a must.
- Randyland – Often dubbed Pittsburgh’s most colorful landmark, Randyland is the brain child of Randy Gilson, an artist and local personality who wanted to revitalize the Mexican War Streets during one of its darkest periods. Three houses, hundreds of cans of paint, and countless unique trinkets later, Randyland was born. You have to see this one to believe it and are certain to leave with a smile.
- Bicycle Heaven – Bicycle Heaven is the largest bicycle museum and store in the world and features thousands of interesting, off-beat, and historic bikes (nearly all of which are for sale). Regardless of if you bike or not, this is one interesting spot.
- Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff – Next door to Bicycle Heaven is Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff, an incredible museum and store featuring items from Johnny Angel’s impressive music career.
- The Photo Antiquities Museum – A photography museum sharing work from 1839 all the way to today.
All Things Steelers and Pirates
As sports crazy as Pittsburgh is, there is little we can do to add to the Steelers and Pirates fever that is found all over the city. So rather than go into the dirty details about the stadiums in this guide, we’re simply going to share a few features you may not know about that are worth checking out.
For example, did you know that both Heinz Field (Steelers) and PNC Park (Pirates) offer stadium tours?
Tours of both stadiums must be purchased in advance, and typically run from April to October. Information for tours of Heinz Field can be found here and PNC Park here. A special note needs to be made in regards to PNC Park as a few select tours also go into the team’s clubhouse! Unfortunately this one is quite infrequent (only when they’re away, have a break between game days, and happen to have a stadium tour scheduled), so if you have your heart set on seeing this one it is worth planning in advance.
PNC Park is also famous for its fireworks shows as you can take in the performance with the city of Pittsburgh as a backdrop! Check out the Pirates promotional schedule and look for Zambelli Fireworks for nights when this will occur! For those who are not able to go check them out, you can always watch them live from our Pittsburgh webcam!
The North Shore Trail
One of our favorite attractions in the North Side is the North Shore trail that follows along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. This trail has a great mix of natural scenery, skyline viewing opportunities, gorgeous statues, and is located in close proximity to many of the stadiums and museums featured above.
Our favorite place to start this trail is at the free public parking on River Avenue. Although this one does fill up, especially on game days, odds are good you can find free parking here (we’ve had several failed attempts, but most have been successful). From there you have two options for exploring.
If you are walking and are looking for city views, to walk by the stadiums, or to visit Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh, you’ll want to head west (right). If you continue down past the stadiums on your way to the casino, you’ll reach the Mr. Rogers memorial which is perfect for photos and a good stopping point to turn around for a 3-4 mile total walk.
For those who want to explore more natural scenery in a lesser used stretch of the bike trail, you’ll want to head east (left). Although this is technically not the North Side as defined in this guide, we recommend this section for bikers as you can cover more ground to catch the changing scenery which includes Washington’s Landing and several kayak and rowing centers. (If you do not own your own bike, you can pick up a Healthy Ride rental north of Allegheny Commons at the corner of Federal and North Ave.)
Information for Visiting the North Side
The North Side has a bad reputation for being an unsafe neighborhood of Pittsburgh, but over the years things have improved significantly. As such, you should not have any problems in any of the areas featured within this guide; however, we would recommend some vigilance around East Ohio Street and Federal Street north of Allegheny Commons. As North Side residents ourselves we have never had any problems on these streets despite walking around quite frequently; however, it is not unheard of- especially at night.
Moving on past the inevitable safety concerns, the North Side is a relatively easy neighborhood to visit as metered parking is plentiful. Most side streets are permit parking with free parking limits of 1-2 hours. Likewise, if you are on a short visit and do not want to pay a meter, odds are good you can go roughly one block away from the main streets and find a permit / non-permit street to avoid the charge altogether.
The one major logistic of parking in the North Side is that the neighborhood parking spots fill up rapidly on game days, much to the chagrin of residents. The streets closest to the stadiums also have increased fines for permit violations on these days so it is worth being aware of this if you wish to park near a stadium during your visit. Likewise, there are many paid lots available for parking (and several of the museums have free lots themselves), but the paid lots also rise in price on game days.
Also, as with most major neighborhoods in Pittsburgh street cleaning does occur and it is important to pay attention to the street signs to avoid an unwanted fine.
Hotels in the North Side
The North Side is home to several hotels both to match your budget and style.
The biggest collection of hotels is found within walking distance of the stadiums and includes Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, and Holiday Inn Express. Many of these charge extra for on-site parking ($20-$25/day), but their proximity to many attractions and downtown Pittsburgh may make them a worthwhile option.
An assortment of bed and breakfasts are also operating in the North Side, with The Parador Inn on Western Avenue, The Inn on the Mexican War Streets on North Avenue, the Priory Hotel in Deutschtown, and the Allegheny Inn opening shortly on Cedar Avenue being some of the most accessible. Aside from The Parador Inn on Western Avenue, the other bed and breakfasts are a bit of a walk to the stadiums, but also will have you much closer to many of the museums and restaurants featured within this guide such as Randyland and the Mattress Factory.
The North Side is also within walking distance of downtown, with many hotels, including the Renaissance Hotel, having great locations for visitors.
Now that we’ve shared all of our favorite spots in the North Side, it is your turn to head over and check it out for yourself! Find a spot we didn’t feature in this list that you love? Comment below to let us know about it!
Are you a local business in the North Side that would like to be featured in this guide? Please email email@example.com for more information.
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