Last Updated on February 5, 2021 by Jeremy
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Pittsburgh's South Side is often known as its bar crawl neighborhood, and you do not need to spend much time exploring this one to understand why that is- the bars are everywhere.
While this one is incredibly popular for college kids looking for a cheap drink and anyone in need of a night out with libations, there is actually quite a bit going on in the neighborhood beyond your typical bar. For us, while we visit this one for a periodic adult beverage ourselves, we often visit for other reasons, and wanted to highlight some of our favorite attractions, restaurants, and of course, bars in this neighborhood guide!
It is worth noting that the following is not a collection of every business in South 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 South Side, do yourself a favor and go inside!
South Side History and Map
The area known as South Side initially grew, like most river-based neighborhoods, as an industrial zone. It was home to the first glass manufacturer in the United States and the industry had a boom here in the 1800s.
As the growth continued, the boroughs that made up South Side were annexed by the city in 1872.
By the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, the glass industry started to leave South Side and more iron and steelworks took its place. This was aided by the construction of the iconic Hot Metal Bridge in 1887. The bridge was designed to allow for heavy machinery carrying molten steel to pass and was said to have carried roughly 15% of America's steel across it during WWII.
With the collapse of steel, the mills left South Side and the neighborhood was revitalized with the addition of the commercial space, SouthSide Works and the dining and drinking options on East Carson Street (often considered to be one of the highest collection of bars per capita in the country- but this data is often speculative in nature). This has often given South Side a reputation of being a popular spot for college students for drinking and being a bit rough around the edges at times- especially late at night.
This reputation of South Side is in a state of flux, as more of the commercial entities are moving out and the industrial spaces are being renovated into luxury condos, hotels and even a hostel, more restaurants, breweries, and more. As such, the state of South Side as we know it is in a state of change, albeit a slow one by Pittsburgh standards.
In general conversation, the term South Side often refers to the neighborhood of South Side Flats which extends from the Monongahela River to the North, Liberty Bridge to the West, the train tracks to the south (essentially the base of the hill), all the way to to Page Dairy Mart at Becks Run Road to the East.
When we think of South Side, we often go a bit broader to also include the small neighborhood of South Shore (home to Station Square) as well as South Side Slopes- the primarily residential neighborhood rising up the hill towards Allentown and Arlington.
As such, we are extending the western boundary of this guide to the West End Bridge and the southern boundary to Arlington Avenue as well. So when we say South Side, we are generally speaking of these three neighborhoods south of the Monongahela River.
This area consists of multiple unique business districts including Station Square (in South Shore), the bar and restaurant stretch of East Carson Street, and the more commercial SouthSide Works development, all of which we are highlighting in this neighborhood guide!
Bars & Restaurants in South Side
When we started working on this guide, we were originally going to break out bars into a separate category as, mentioned above, South Side is home to a pretty large collection.
But when we took time to think about it, many of the bars in South Side are basic neighborhood bars in nature and are not the kind of spots we typically feature on this site. The bars that we do visit often in South Side are, in fact, also part of restaurants and have rather robust food menus that should also be noted.
As such, the number of standalone bars we could highlight are minimal, so we are featuring the two in one category for now until we visit more that we can recommend in its own category.
- Grand Concourse – A high-end restaurant in a former train station known for a stellar (and expensive) brunch service.
- Streets on Carson – A unique restaurant making dishes from several countries from around the world.
- Doce Taqueria – A short-order taco spot for a quick meal.
- Mike & Tony's Gyros – Specializing in gyros and making some of the finest (and largest) options in the city.
- Dish Osteria – Traditional Italian done right with a die-hard following- so reserve a table early!
- Stagioni – An Italian restaurant using local and seasonal ingredients.
- The Pub Chip Shop – British style food including scotch eggs, boxty's, and more.
- Dive Bar – A gastropub serving an array of pub fare.
- Fat Head's Saloon – One of the original brewpubs and breweries serving food and locally (Ohio) made beer.
- Piper's Pub – English pub in South Side with an array of British options.
- Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe – Bicycle themed cafe with a few locations around the city.
- Mallorca – Spanish style restaurant with seafood, paella, and other specialties.
- Carmella's Plates & Pints – Comfort food with meat delivered from a local butcher and a large collection of spirits.
- Carmi's – A soul food restaurant right in the heart of South Side.
- Bonfire – A two-story restaurant with a downstairs brick oven menu and upstairs finer dining menu.
- The Pretzel Shop – A specialty pretzel store operating since 1927.
- Carson Street Deli – A sandwich shop and craft beer bar hybrid.
- The Zenith – A vegetarian and vegan cafe in Pittsburgh known for its weekend brunches.
- Thai Me Up – A popular BYOB Thai restaurant in South Side.
- La Palapa – Authentic Mexican cuisine with a number of options (go for the tacos) and a bar program.
- The Colombian Spot – Focusing on all things Colombian foods from bandeja to arepas.
- Cilantro & Ajo – A Venezuelan street food restaurant right on the outskirts of the East Carson business district.
- Cambod-ican Kitchen – A late-night Cambodian restaurant with various South East Asian dishes.
- The Library – A pub with cheap craft beers and cocktails as well as many food specials throughout the day.
- The Vault – A gastropub with a self-serve bar system for beer.
- Acacia – A speakeasy-style cocktail bar that is one of the finest in the city.
- Jekyl & Hyde Bar – Halloween themed bar that is open year-round.
- Waffles, INCaffeinated – Serving up sweet and savory waffle creations.
- Milkshake Factory – Local Pittsburgh milkshake chain serving up an array of sweet treats.
- Delanie's Coffee – A cozy coffee shop right in the heart of East Carson Street.
- Big Dog Coffee – A quiet coffee shop right outside of the bustling business district.
- 350º Bakery – A popular bakery in South Side Slopes.
- Page Dairy Mart – A Pittsburgh staple ice cream shop located on the eastern edge of South Side. Seasonal and with long lines.
If you have a favorite spot you would like to recommend, be sure to comment at the end of this guide and we'll go check it out as soon as possible. We know we have a long way to go in this particular neighborhood!
South Side Attractions
While the overall number of attractions in South Side may be a bit limited, as we include the area known as Station Square in this guide it opens up the options a fair bit. So if you're looking for traditional things to do in South Side that are attraction based, you may want to check out the following:
- Riverhounds Game – Support our local Pittsburgh soccer team as they play at Highmark Stadium (and take in the city views as well!).
- Gateway Clipper – Go on a ride on Pittsburgh's riverboat sightseeing tour whose fleet is docked in Station Square.
- Ride the Inclines – The base of the iconic Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines are location around Station Square, so go for a ride up to Mount Washington to check out the views!
- Ascend – Go rock climbing and bouldering at this indoor gym and enjoy some skyline views while doing so.
- Victory Pointe – A board game / arcade spot in South Side with BYOB policy with corkage fee.
- Club Cafe – A bar with a great music program (ticketed) for some pretty high-quality performers.
- Color Park – A small graffiti park right on the Monongahela River.
- South Side River Trail – Take a walk or bike ride on the river trail. This one continues on all the way to Washington DC!
- South Side Slope Steps – Climb the slopes via one of the many staircases, including our favorite Church Route.
Information for Visiting South Side
For those who drive into the neighborhood, parking is a mix of metered street parking (on Carson Street, a few side streets, and limited lots) as well as restrictive permit parking in the residential neighborhoods (often just one hour free). As such, finding available parking can be tricky depending on when you visit- especially on Thursday through Saturday nights.
There are three parking lots in South Side including a small lot at 1213E E Carson Street, another at 1800 E Carson St, and a garage at SouthSide Works on Sidney Street. If street parking is not readily available these would be your best bets for quick parking; however, note that paid parking often runs 24 hours at these spots.
As an added consideration, it is also worth noting that meters for street parking in South Side run until midnight on Friday and Saturday. This is a unique extension beyond the standard 6 pm you see virtually everywhere else in the city. Currently, meters end at 6 pm the rest of the week, but we always recommend checking the meter to confirm during your visit (including on weekends) as exact times could change without notice.
If you are visiting the Station Square section of South Side, there is a paid parking garage next to the Sheraton Station Square that is somewhat reasonably priced and metered parking near the Duquesne Incline lower station (this lot is suitable only for those riding the Incline, in our opinion).
Hotels in South Side
There are a number of great hotel options in South Side, and most can be discussed based on their location within the neighborhood.
In Station Square, you can find the Sheraton Station Square. This one is a relatively basic hotel but has access to the Riverhounds Stadium, Gateway Clipper fleet, and is just steps away from downtown via the Smithfield Street bridge. We recommend splurging for a more expensive river view room here for what is arguably the best hotel view in all of Pittsburgh. It is worth noting that this one would be a short walk to the businesses on East Carson Street mentioned above and is better suited for those who want easier access to downtown over South Side proper.
As you progress further into South Side proper along East Carson Street you'll come to South Side Traveler's Rest, the city's only hostel. While this one is in a bit of an industrial area, this one is great for solo travelers on a budget and bikers who are starting/finishing a ride on the GAP as they have a large assortment of bicycle amenities. From there you'll find the Holiday Inn Express on the west side of the shopping district on East Carson and the Hyatt House and SpringHill Suites on the east side near SouthSide Works with quick access to Oakland.
South Side also has one boutique B&B, The Morning Glory Inn, which is perhaps the most conveniently located hotel to the bar and restaurant district on East Carson Street.
Suffice it to say, if you're visiting and want to stay in South Side, there are a number of options to consider, as well as a number of Airbnbs!
Now that you've read some of our favorite spots in South Side, it is your turn to get out and see them for yourselves! If you have a recommendation on where we should go to next, be sure to comment below and share as well.
Are you a local business in South Side that would like to be featured in this guide? Please comment below or contact us!
Read Our Latest South Side Posts
Check out our latest posts from the South Side at the following links:
- A 5-Mile Walking Tour of Pittsburgh to See 17 Unique Highlights
- Bonfire Review – A Wood-Fired Oven in the First Floor Restaurant
- An Attraction, Drinking, and Eating Guide to South Side
- The Library Review – A South Side Gem for Cheap Eats and Drinks
- Cilantro & Ajo Review – Venezuelan Cuisine in South Side
For more Pittsburgh neighborhood guides, check out our guides to the Lawrenceville, North Side, Squirrel Hill, or Mount Washington! Or if you're looking for more things to do in Pittsburgh at large, click the previous link for our favorite spots!