What Not to Do in Pittsburgh

Don’t eat at Primanti Brothers

Primanti Bros'
Don’t eat here. (Image: Ian Abels)

Even if you’ve never been to Pittsburgh there is still a chance that you may have heard of Primanti Brothers. The iconic PGH chain has been dishing out their “Almost Famous” sandwiches for over 80 years. What’s not to like? Well, most things. Beneath the hype, you’ll find mediocre sandwiches and combinations of greasy ingredients that don’t really work together (I don’t care what anybody says, tart coleslaw and soggy french fries do not need to be slapped on the same slice of bread). The number one selling item on the menu is Iron City Light, Pittsburgh’s local beer of choice, and if you’re just looking to get a crisp swig of the watery nectar you would do best to buy a pounder at one of the city’s beautiful sports stadiums. After all, it tastes better after you’ve already had a few.

Feel free to stop by Primanti’s just to say that you went, but if you’re looking for a good meal or just some cheap beer, go elsewhere. Pittsburgh is full of unique restaurants and bars that you can enjoy yourself at and leave not feeling like you are going to sweat through your clothes. Lunch alternatives nearby Primanti’s in The Strip District include Gaucho Parilla Argentina or Cafe Raymond. You won’t regret it.

Don’t go to Station Square

Hard Rock Cafe at Station Square
Station Square. (Image: Ian Abels)

Of all the places to go to when visiting Pittsburgh, the last place you want to end up is Station Square. Full of common chain restaurants and overpriced tourist traps, it unfortunately is a popular place for folks to stay. C’mon, you are better than the Hard Rock Cafe. While there are undoubtedly some nice amenities, (the view of the river and the Duquesne Incline come to mind), the majority of attractions are overpriced and the nighttime crowd will make you wish you visited Cleveland instead.

Not sure what you want to do? Head over to Shadyside. A variety of restaurants, bars, and stores await you on on Walnut and Elsworth and you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy. If you’re looking for some rowdy nightlife, swing by the Southside. Order some pre-dinner drinks at Acacia, and close the night out at Bar 11 if you want to get weird. If you would prefer a more upscale night, maybe head downtown and catch a show. Meat and Potatoes is located right next to the CLO Cabaret. Looking to just kick back? Lawrenceville is the spot. Swing by Round Corner Cantina to enjoy the back patio on a nice night grab some local cider at Arsenal.

Don’t call people Yinzers

A "yinzer" in his natural habitat.
(Image: Ian Abels)

They don’t like it.

If you want coffee, don’t settle for Crazy Mocha

21st Street Coffee
21st street coffee – go here. (Image: Ian Abels)

Pittsburgh is blessed with a lot of small “Mom & Pop” style businesses. For a small city, there is an abundance of quality coffee shops. While Crazy Mocha is a great establishment and they have done much for the city, if you’re looking for a place to get your caffeine fix, or maybe just to ask the barista for recommendations, you can do far better. Hit up Espresso A Mano to chat with some of the friendliest baristas in town. If you’re lucky the PGH Taco Truck may even be parked out front. Need a place to recharge after you didn’t go to Primanti’s in the Strip District? Make sure to swing by 21st Coffee for possibly the best brews in town. Constellation Coffee and 4121 Main are both solid picks as well.

Don’t take the Pittsburgh Light Rail (commonly referred to as the T)

Pittsburgh's Light Rail
Map of the T. Image: Ian Abels

The T is Pittsburgh’s one and only subway system.  While useful for suburban commuters, the length of the subway that runs downtown borders on being completely pointless. Using it to get from one part of downtown to another will almost certainly be a waste of your time and you should forego this to get there by other means. Rent a bike from one of the city’s communal bike stands and take a ride or even take to foot and walk to enjoy the downtown view. Pittsburgh is filled with great walking and biking trails. Pedal across any of the bridges that connect to the North Shore to guarantee a beautiful view of the city and a connection to a riverside trail.

Don’t drive through Oakland during the end of August

In the event that you find yourself in the city towards the end of August, or during a large sporting event/concert, be very wary of where you try to drive. Oakland, which is home to both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, turns into downright gridlock as the students and their families swarm the streets to move in for the new school year. No use to spend your time stuck on the streets praying that your car doesn’t get hit by that guy who thinks he can carry the couch all by himself.

Category: Travel TipsWhat not to do


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