Wednesday, November 30, 2011

60 and Sunny at November's End: Biking to Deutschtown

When I saw the Thanksgiving weekend forecast, I almost jumped for joy. We'd been having the rainiest week. I'd already biked to or from work three times in a downpour. The chilly, "man I think this rain might actually be little ice chips" kinda rain. It was gross. And I was grumpy.

But 60 and sunny? That is something I am never grumpy about. That is perfect adventuring weather. And, so, on Friday afternoon, Carrie, Corey and I hopped on our bikes and made our way to the North Side. We got to the beginning of Deutschtown's business district and locked up our bikes, ready to explore some new streets.

Facts to Know about Deutschtown:
  • Its proper neighborhood name is "East Allegheny"
  • It's actually pronounced "Dutchtown" (wow, do I feel dumb...)

Deutschtown's main street, East Ohio, was pretty bustling for a holiday weekend afternoon. We were disappointed to find that the Park House wouldn't be opening until 6 p.m., as we had planned on eating there after our walk. But, we pushed onward and found some pretty great stuff.

In addition to t-shirts, I might have to start collecting awesomely artistic Pittsburgh postcards.

There were a string of photography shops crowded together on East Ohio. Apparently, the Museum of Photographic History is located in Deutschtown. This place sounds awesome, and definitely warrants a repeat trip to the neighborhood.

We crossed down onto a residential street to get a better feel for the neighborhood's residents and stumbled upon a gated garden across from a beautiful building with the label of Pittsburgh's Grand Hall.

The Grand Hall is a reception hall/event location that looks absolutely beautiful inside. I can't think of a better place for a reception than something called "Pittsburgh's Grand Hall."

Evidence of Pittsburgh's smoggy past: One house clean, one house still holding onto the grime.

I really, truly enjoy window decorations like these. They are so charming and honest.

Two very big and enthusiastic thumbs up for Priory Fine Pastries and the delicious treats we procured.

This cat. Pretty much the best.

When our adventures in Deutschtown were over, we got back on our bikes and coasted down W North Ave to the War Streets for beers and dinner at the Monterey Pub. More and more I'm convinced that in a few years I'm going to be ready to buy a home and the North Side is seriously looking better and better to me all the time. Which is crazy to think because I do love living in the East End, as it is very convenient to my current sensibilities. But, someday in the not-too-distant future, I am seriously going to start looking into real estate in the War Streets. And then start planning for the awesome front porch I absolutely must one day have.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PGH Beautiful: Murals, November 2011, Vol. 2

Celebrating the end of November with a mish-mash of murals.

Yummy foods on a wall in the Strip, just like the yummy foods you find in the Strip.

Great mural in Bloomfield off of Liberty. Best part? Little girl has a jack-o-latern. Makes sense. Bloomfield does take its Halloween parade very serious.

This is the Puddler. He lives on Wood Street between Sixth and Oliver. During the day, you'd barely notice him. At night. He glows.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mexican War Streets Fantasies: Mullen Visits!

Oddly, the person who has visited me from Boston the most is also the person who has not yet had a real, honest-to-goodness Pittsburgh weekend. She'd come in for business trips, usually one-nighters good for dinner and drinks, and for my mom's funeral, which, well, wasn't the most fun reason to be in Pittsburgh. So, finally(!), Mullen came to town for her first official Pittsburgh weekend.

After taking her to breakfast at Coca Cafe and Wildcard and an adventure through the Strip where we bought assorted goods (beer, t-shirts, turkey carcass, artwork, donuts - you know, the usual), I brought her to the Mexican War Streets. Primarily because I knew she'd fall in love with the neighborhood. (And not so secretly because I truly believe this girl would flourish in Pittsburgh).

I wanted to walk from Downtown to the War Streets so we could pass Mullens. For obvious reasons.

Our walk took us through Allegheny Commons and North Park before hitting the War Streets. It was a beautifully mild Saturday afternoon - perfect for a long walk. Earlier in the week, I had attended an apartment-warming party in the War Streets. Just walking into the entryway of the building - not even the amazing apartment itself - gave me serious apartment envy. The War Streets are quickly creeping up my list of neighborhoods I want to investigate when it comes time to buy a home. The area is lovely. It is full of color. The Monterey Pub is awesome and perfectly neighborhoody. I knew Mullen would fall in love with it, and we started making (fantasy) plans for buying and flipping a house in the area. At first, I wanted to take Mullen past the Mattress Factory and show her the sunken garden, but the lightbulb went off over my head and I changed our route to get to Randyland.

We were taking pictures of the mural on the side of the building when Randy himself came out of nowhere in a faded Pitt sweatshirt welcoming us into his backyard, where the bulk of his creations reside. I'd never been past the gate to the backyard before, so this seemed like a really special occasion. What follows are pictures from outside and inside the backyard of Randyland.

After we made our way out of Randyland and down the street toward the Monterey Pub, I pointed out the firehouse catty-corner from Randyland. It's for sale. And it's hard to figure out a way that my life could continue without that somehow ending up in my possession one day. (So, if any of you want to chip in and buy me a firehouse in the War Streets: go. for. it.)

This is my 100th post on Everything Better Pittsburgh.
Thank you for reading! I've been having a blast coming up with adventures and writing about my one true love. Here's to another 100 things to say about Pittsburgh.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Buy, Shop and Support Local: Small Business Saturday

This Christmas I intend to do my best to stick to shopping at local shops, through Etsy sites, and online retailers that are PGH-based or independently owned and operated. It should be easy, because between the Strip District on weekend mornings and the plethora of small shops or awesomely creative people in this city, I should be able to achieve my goal. (And hopefully bring smiles to loved ones' faces.)

This means, I will be spending the entirety of my Black Friday bumming around, maybe taking in a movie, but I will NOT be shopping anywhere like the mall, Target, Best Buy, etc. On Saturday, however, I will be taking part in Small Business Saturday visiting a few local shops around town. Here are three that I adore and will probably be handing over some cash on Saturday and throughout the month to come.

Kards Unlimited
Shadyside: 5522 Walnut Street

I would say that Kards Unlimited looks innocent enough from outside. But it doesn't. The windows are covered in t-shirts for sale and when you walk in the door you are hit with a blast of awesome. The store is long and skinny, but it is full of awesome books, cards, gifts, and stuff. Just really great and fun stuff. If you want a really FUN present, this is where you need to go. My friend from Boston was visiting me for the weekend, and her birthday had just passed, so I picked her up a ton of goodies on my visit. But I've already made mental note of some awesome stuff that my friends may find in their stocking.

Lawrenceville: 4209 Butler Street

Walking into Wildcard is dangerous. I want to leave with everything. (Except the baby stuff, but only because I don't know any babies. If I did, they would have one of everything.) I went in this past Saturday to show my friend from out of town around and ended up walking out with a t-shirt (the blue city of bridges tee in the photo above) and the zombie magnet below and a really nice Steelers button below.

This is a fantastic place for quality and creative Pittsburgh gifts. They have plenty of other items that are also really amazing, but this is my go-to place for a really nice Pittsburgh-themed gift. Really, anything you find inside of Wildcard will be interesting. Lots will be handmade. Much will make you go "awwwwww!" It's a fantastic place; it's going to cause me to go broke.

S. W. Randall Toys and Gifts
Downtown: 630 Smithfield Street

Okay, remember what I said above about Kards Unlimited looking totally unassuming? Well, S. W. Randall's Toys and Gifts was so unassuming-looking to me that I literally passed it by for a year and a half every day before walking in. I have biked and walked past this storefront hundreds of times, always thinking: "dolls, ew." But, around Halloween this year, I got the sudden urge to go inside. Man, oh man. Am I ever glad I did. This store being directly down the street from my office building is likely the best and the worst thing. Toys only a block and half away? Four floors of toys? (This blog is less about Pittsburgh and more about me proving to my friends that their theory of me being the main character of Big is spot-on.)

This is the place you need to go if you need a straight-up toy. If you need a board game. If you want to find an awesomely difficult puzzle. If you need a Nutcracker. If you fancy a doll. This place is like walking into a child's overactive imagination, and therefore it is heavenly.

Buy local! Shop local! Support the places in your neighborhood that keep your main street looking like a plethora of awesome rather than a sad-looking string of chain stores. Start with your holiday shopping, and keep it going throughout the years the come.

Plus, you don't have to wake up at 3 a.m. and wait in a line of crazy maniacs who want a bigger TV.