I once heard that in times of stress, one of the best tricks is to take a quick trip to your happy place. Mine isn't my bed, nor my home, and not even my refrigerator (although that comes in at a close second)—it's the Pittsburgh Strip District. The Strip District has everything a tourist or local could want: food, live music, Steelers football paraphernalia, and a beautiful view of the city.
Of course, what differentiates the tourists from the locals in the Strip District is that we locals know all the tricks to the best eateries along Penn Avenue, the main street. So here they are, foodies: the top seven sweet and savory eateries for any given scenario in the delectably delightful Strip District.
If you're in hipster mode and feeling a little tired, 21st Street is a must. Their treasured Intelligentsia blend of coffee will wake you up and prepare you for a big march down Penn. Not to mention, the beanie-wearing, alternative music-playing baristas are truly too cool for school.
What to get: Either their mocha (made with glass jarred chocolate milk fresh from the creamery), a chai latte, or a deliciously decadent affogato.
Pamela's Diner is one of the most popular stops in the Strip District and is seldom skipped by visitors and tourists. Often found with a line out the door, Pamela's is best known for its delicious "hot cakes," which are essentially just made out of butter (in a good way). Fun Fact: Even President Obama stopped by during a quick trip to the 'Burgh!
What to get: The best hot cakes are banana and chocolate chip, stuffed and topped with a spectacular homemade whipped cream.
3. Café Raymond
Might as well stay aboard the breakfast train for one more stop, because Café Raymond, one my newer discoveries in the Strip District, is a great brunch alternative when Pamela's wait list is just too long.
What to get: Their French toast, made with flaky challah bread and topped with strawberry compote, is absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious. Always made fresh, this French toast may just send you to heaven and back. You might need a gym stop on the way—it's heav(enl)y!
Aside from its market of fresh fish, Penn Ave has unique and freshly made sushi dishes, some of the best in the Pittsburgh area. Decorated with fishnet chandeliers and open-air windows, it's the ideal lunch venue.
What to get: For a light, yet delectable meal, try a combo of the shrimp tempura and California rolls. If Chef likes you, he just might throw in something special. Trust me, we're tight.
Okay, in reality nobody cares much about lunch if there are sweets and snacks nearby. The best stop for local stress-eaters and snackers is hands down the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company. Yes, it's a store that ONLY has popcorn in a multitude of flavors.
What to get: Seasonals like pumpkin spice or peppermint bark are always a treat, but I'm too comfortable with my favorite—peanut butter cup.
Picture a wall of all your favorite bottled sodas. Even better, go see the wall at Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop. As soon as you walk through the doors, your eyes are quenched by the spectrum of colorful chocolate bars, lollipops, candies, and...socks? Yes, socks. They're covered in sarcastic quotes and it's fabulous.
What to get: If you're feeling adventurous, be sure and try the sweet, crunchy, spicy, and salty Chuau chocolate bars.
Donuts aren't even at the top of my favorite foods list, but walking by this shop and smelling the smells is enough to put you in a food coma without even taking a bite. Peace, Love and Little Donuts, famous for their groovy maple bacon donut, is the place for a mini indulgence in the form of their house-made dough rings that smell absolutely heavenly.
What to get: Feast your eyes on their "Funkadelic" treats, and be sure to try the donuts with adventurous toppings.
Keep in mind that these are only seven spots in six blocks of culinary perfection. Satisfy your sweet tooth and prepare for adventure: the Latino, Argentinian, Chinese, and Ethiopian restaurants just yards away will give you a new definition of savory.
But since I just told you the greatest spots for a sweet-toothed, breakfast-loving sushi eater, "yinz" (y'all in Pittsburghese) might wanna hit that up first. This way, the Strip District might just become your happy place too.