There are definitely advantages to living in Beaver County. Planning a day-trip to the city of Pittsburgh is one that has always been at the top of my list. The city of champions is less than an hour’s drive from anywhere in our county and the day-trip possibilities are endless. On a Saturday morning, one of my favorite adventures is an afternoon spent in the city’s Strip District!
Nestled alongside the Allegheny River, the Strip District runs between 11th and 33rd Streets and includes the three main thoroughfares: Smallman St, Penn Ave, and Liberty Ave. What started in the 19th century as an area muscled up with mills and large factories has become a food metropolis. Many great establishments old and new call this half square mile home-sweet-home.
The Strip (for short) is packed tight with eateries, specialty stores, and some of the best wholesale food distributors this area has to offer. It’s a food mecca – an experience like no other, and where I love to spend quite a few Saturdays with friends and family. The smells are profound and the crowds are vast.
I have a love for food, the taste for it, and the history behind it. The Strip District is the ideal destination to fulfill that love.
In most cases my family and I like to get a jump on the crowd, so we get there early and usually grab a bite to eat right away. The Strip offers a number of places that serve a version of breakfast or lunch. Some are famous, and others are best kept secrets.
You may have seen DeLuca’s Restaurant on the Travel Channel’s Man vs Food, where Adam Richman tackles their monstrosity of a waffle breakfast. Then there’s my personal favorite, Pamela’s Diner, for their incredible crêpes filled with strawberries, brown sugar, and sour cream.
Regardless of which one of these legendary food spots you choose, you’ll be guaranteed a delicious carb-overload. No reason to count calories either, because we’ll be walking it all off shortly.
Strip Tip: On the weekends, both Pamela’s and DeLuca’s can be a lengthy wait, but you’re sure to have a great start to your day.
No matter what you’re in the mood for, whether it be breakfast or lunch, street food or sit-down joints, the Strip has got it and plenty of it. Here are a few of my favorite places to indulge.
Peace Love and Little Donuts – 2018 Smallman Street
If you’re eager to get your day started, and not willing to wait around, then opt-in for a trip to Peace Love and Little Donuts. It’s a donut shop about half the size of a one car garage, so don’t be alarmed if you see a line forming outside.
They have a few convenient locations in around the city, but the one in the Strip is the only one I’ve been to.
They’re known for making an excellent little donut that surely deserves some recognition. Based on my experience you’ll want to try the maple bacon, the cookie dough, and the raspberry lemonade. You will thank me later.
Primanti Bros. – 46 18th Street
It’s always a great lunch option, and I don’t care how cliché it is to mention Primanti Bros when talking about Pittsburgh. The idea of fries and slaw on a sandwich has always been appealing to me.
I’m not sure if it’s the history behind the original location, or what it is, but they make the best sandwich in my opinion. Every Yinzer has their proud favorite when ordering, and so do I . . . Double Pastrami and Cheese with an Egg!
Sunseri Bros Bakery – 1901 Penn Avenue
The Strip has plenty of street vendors offering mouth-watering food to satisfy your palate. Mexican food, Chinese food, and fresh baked breads are just a few that are available.
Although I can’t say I’ve ever been inside Sunseri Bros Bakery, I hear great things about it. What I have done on more than one occasion, is grab a piping hot, fresh out of the oven, pepperoni roll – without even walking inside.
They offer a variety of awesome breads that can be purchased out on the pavement. I promise it will be the best $8 you’ll ever spend.
Let’s Go Shopping
Shopping in the Strip is a one-of-a-kind experience. It is quite enjoyable with all of the specialty stores and imported goods they have to offer. And it is what I refer to as the greatest food adventure imaginable.
From fresh wholesale produce to imported meats and cheeses, it’s hard not to lose control and buy everything, so we devise a plan and try our hardest to stick to it.
In addition to all of the amazing food, the Strip is known for some pretty cool art boutiques, novelty stores, and endless tables of Steelers, Pens, and Pirates gear. Oh yeah, and a few places to grab a cold beer in between it all.
Prestogeorge Coffee – 1719 Penn Avenue
When I was younger I thought only old people drank coffee. Either I’m getting old or I was wrong all along, because coffee is something I’ve learned to love and appreciate. In the Strip there is no shortage on places to get gourmet coffee, but I stick to what I know at Prestogeorge Coffee Roasting Company.
If you have any questions, or you’re looking for a new bean, the well-rounded coffee specialists are there to help you.
Not all premium coffee is expensive, as I always grab a pound of the J.P. hearty Blend for under $10, which in most cases is cheaper than the big name coffee brands. If you love coffee then you’ll love Prestogeorge.
Wholey’s Fish Market – 1711 Penn Avenue
For over 100 years Robert Wholey & Co. has been the leader in supplying the masses with seafood in the Pittsburgh area. This old-school fish market is a true Strip District landmark.
It’s loud, it’s always packed, and it’s a must stop for any Strip District veteran or first-timer alike. They also have an impressive butcher dept with a large variety of meat and poultry. Even if I don’t plan on buying anything, I still take a stroll through to see what’s going on at Wholey’s Fish Market.
Strip Tip: Wholey’s has a really good fish sandwich, with a 2nd floor eating area where you can enjoy it.
Parma Sausage Products – 1734 Penn Avenue
Parma Sausage Products has been crafting the finest quality of pork products since 1954, and they are definitely winning the race when it comes to their Sausage. You’ll have a nice selection to choose from with their hot, spicy Sicilian, garlic, mild, and much more. All of which are available by the pound.
These guys are not minor leaguers when it comes to cured pork like prosciutto and sopressata. Parma is to pork, what the 1992 Dream Team is to basketball – simply the best – NO argument! They have it all and then some, so you’ll have to do yourself a favor and pay them a visit.
Pennsylvania Macaroni Co – 2010 Penn Avenue
Possibly one of the most talked about stores in the Strip is Penn Mac. It’s an Italian superstore, where you can find the finest quality of imported specialty foods.
They have a cheese and meat counter that is worth writing about, yet only a first-hand experience will do it any justice.
Your hands will be full with what seems like an endless section of pastas, oils, and sauces, both imported and domestic.
Like Wholey’s, it can be crazy busy at times, especially on the weekends and around the holidays where everyone stocks up for their family dinner. A visit to Penn Mac is sure to put you in a good mood, so pick a number and wait your turn.
The Enrico Biscotti Company – 2022 Penn Ave
If I find myself looking for somewhere to satisfy my sweet tooth, or wanting to take something home, then I know I’m right where I want to be with the Enrico Biscotti Company. They’re gifted when it comes to making traditional Italian pastries.
Everything at Enrico is handmade on site using only the finest ingredients available. Their goods are a world apart from store bought. I highly recommend you grab some biscotti for the road.
Strip Tip: The Enrico Biscotti Company has a cafe that sits back in the alleyway, and if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss it. They have great food, homemade wine, and even offer cooking classes.
Pittsburgh Public Market – 2401 Penn Avenue
My day is hardly complete without a routine stop to the Pittsburgh Public Market. The public market prides itself on fresh goods, offered by local farms and local businesses.
Quality meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables can all be found at the public market. If you find yourself hungry during your visit then be sure to check out the handful of food vendors serving up some really good eats!
The Pittsburgh Public Market is well deserved of a visit, but the real reason I stop here is to say hello to the guys from East End Brewing Co. They always have a half-dozen or more of their beers to choose from, which makes for the perfect ending of our day. We’ll grab a few tasters, they’ll fill a few of our growlers, and back home we go.
Until next time, I bid you farewell my beloved food-paradise!