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Powered by NEXTpittsburgh |   Tom O’Connor

Late-night menus are making midnight food adventures in Pittsburgh more interesting. When late-night cravings hit, it’s nice to have fresh options to go along with the all-night diners, pizza joints and food trucks. And it’s safe to say that food tastes pretty fantastic when you’ve been fueling up on beers and cocktails all evening, or just wrapping up a busy work week. But when you find that perfect “still open” spot to match your mood, it’s magical.

Ready for a little late-night culinary exploring? Here are a few places to add to your map along with some of the midnight classics:

Robatayaki at Umami. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
Robatayaki at Umami. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Umami – Lawrenceville

Umami feels like the perfect late-night destination. The red lanterns give off a comfortable glow and the vibe feels relaxed with just enough “night market” energy to keep the fun going.

There’s a lot to choose from here: platters of colorful sushi and sashimi, temaki sushi rolled into handheld cones, rice bowls and ramen, gyozas and shumai all bursting with flavor.

The tantalizing smells of the robatayaki grill are immediately mouthwatering. This Japanese barbecue-like method involves small skewers of meat or vegetables slow-grilled over hot charcoal. The point is not to flame up and scorch the food, but to slow grill everything to its sweet spot, where juices start to flow. Beef and chicken take on smoky flavors and a crunchy outside while the inside is melt-in-your-mouth tender.

The robust cold sake menu offers many different flavor profiles to experience. The cocktail list is peppered with Japanese-leaning elements like flavored shochus (Japanese distilled beverages), ginger, coconut, wasabi and matcha. There’s also a full wine list and a great selection of Japanese beers that pair perfectly with bold flavors.

Our pick: The Wagyu beef tenderloin and pork belly from the robotayaki menu.

Location: 202 38th St., Lawrenceville (above Round Corner Cantina). Open: Tuesday – Thursday 4:30 p.m. – 12 a.m., Friday – Saturday 4:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Seafood Wontons and "Moon" Sauce at Cambo-dican. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
Seafood Wontons and “Moon” Sauce at Cambod-ican. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Cambod-ican Kitchen – The South Side

People light up when you mention the name—“Oh, Cambod-ican! Love that place!” Mentioning it often leads to flashbacks of post-bar adventures and crazy nights: late-night munchies at the famous food cart that eventually morphed into a real restaurant on the South Side. Cambod-ican Kitchen is now an after-hours staple in the neighborhood.

Cambodian and Asian fusion cuisine, with all kinds of noodle dishes, curries, wontons and kabobs, is a big draw. Cash only orders are placed right at the kitchen window which, since it’s open most nights until 5 a.m., sees its fair share of interesting customers.

What Cambod-ican lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for with quirkiness, good prices and a friendly feel. Owner Dan McSwiggen keeps the energy level up, enthusiastically pushing wife Moeun’s kitchen creations like the Cambodian noodle soup, Caw Goh beef noodles and General Tso’s chicken.

Our pick: Crispy wontons with “moon” sauce. If you’re lucky enough to be offered the pickled Thai peppers from the back, say yes.

Location: 1701 East Carson St. on the South Side. Open: Tuesday – Saturday 6 p.m. – 5 a.m.

Late night empanadas and tacos at Pirata.
Late-night empanadas and tacos at Pirata. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Pirata – Downtown

A late-night visit to Pirata is like a little island vacation. Open since October, the rum bar and Caribbean restaurant features 200 different rums and a late-night menu packed with big spices and savory island flavors. There’s a crowd-pleasing selection of empanadas, tacos, wings and sliders. Pirata keeps it simple with a special late-night menu that doesn’t overwhelm. Everything is easy to eat and share right at the bar. The late-night menu is offered Monday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to midnight.

If you want to learn about rum, this is your place. The bartenders are knowledgeable and sampling is made easy with a variety of rum flights. Pirata features rums from as far away as India, and as close by as Maggie’s Farm in The Strip.

Fortunately, the beer list is more about keeping beer lovers happy than sticking with the Caribbean theme. Spain and Argentina feature heavily on the wine list. For a little late-night pick-me-up, there’s cafe cubano and cafe con leche.

Our pick: Order a few different things to share but don’t miss the Jamaican beef patty empanadas.

Location: 274 Forbes Ave., Downtown. Open: Monday – Thursday 11 – 12 a.m., Friday – Saturday 11 – 2 a.m. and Sunday 12 – 9 p.m.

Yucca fries at Tres Rios. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
Yucca fries at Tres Rios. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Tres Rios – The South Side

Tres Rios is a relatively new option along Carson Street on the South Side. The Mexican kitchen and tequila bar serves an upscale spin on street food until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Pork belly tacos and slow-roasted lamb tacos share the menu with crab cake and chicken tortas (Mexican sandwiches) served on grilled crusty bread. In addition to more unique combos, the Tres Rios kitchen prepares classic burritos, fajitas and made-to-order guacamole.

The bar menu features margaritas and cocktails made with a range of tequilas including blanco, reposado, and añejo. There’s a great beer list as well.

The pick: The delicious crispy yucca fries, served as a side or as an appetizer bowl topped with cheese sauce, beer-braised jalapeños, and chorizo.

Location: 1719 East Carson, South Side. Open:  Monday – Wednesday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – midnight.

The "special sandwich" late night choice at Apteka. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
The “special sandwich” late-night choice at Apteka. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Apteka – Bloomfield

Apteka makes for the perfect late-night spot that feels a little more soulful and nourishing. The vegan menu has a way of pleasing with its unique potato dumplings in rich broth and some of the most delicious pierogi you have ever tasted. There are also sandwiches, soups and small plates to try.

Place your order at the bar and grab a seat there, or at any of the tables. There’s a comfortable feel here that’s calm, homey and relaxed. There’s always good music in the background. At night, the ambience shifts to a pleasant darker and more lounge-like feel. On some nights, there’s a DJ handling the music. It’s a great place to dive in and explore different kinds of Central and Eastern European cuisine.

One tasty late-night option is the “special sandwich” featuring smoked chili paste, smoked apples, red cabbage slaw, garlic, salted turnip, savory sauce and a veggie pate. It’s a delicious explosion of flavors that work so well together, with just the right amount of crunch all served on tasty bread.

The cocktails are unique and seductive, often featuring a rotation of liqueurs, simple syrups, specially preserved fruits like cherries and black currants, fermented and pickled things, shrubs, and herbsall things that lean toward experimentation but also tell a story. Embracing something different can lead to great rewards here.

Our pick: The special sandwich is THE late-night choice, hands down.

Location: 4606 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. Open Wednesday – Sunday 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.

"The Korean" taco at Täkō. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
“The Korean” taco at Täkō. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Täkō – Downtown

Täkō is all about street food, small plates and savory tacos with fresh ingredients served in unique combinations. Entering next to the streetfront kitchen feels like walking into a night market busy with revelers. The DJ spinning tunes and the vibrant visuals add to the nighttime energy. If you’re lucky enough to grab bar space, you’ll be very happy. Getting a table can sometimes be tricky without a reservation, so plan ahead if you need to because its really worth it.

Once you settle in, the menu has a big range of bold flavors with all kinds of tacos to try including grilled octopus, chorizo, grilled chicken and duck confit. There’s street corn, poke, ceviche and wings that make great late-night shares.

While many menu items are only offered until midnight, Täkō rolls out a special late-night menu “starting around 12-ish till we run out.” It’s a simpler, rotating selection that often includes loaded nachos and straightforward taco selections more in line with people’s post-midnight decision-making abilities.

All of these great tastes are served up alongside a big selection margaritas with bold and delicious taste combos. There’s a great list of tequila-based cocktails, beer, sangria and wine.

Our pick: The Korean—a scrumptious taco made with wagyu short rib, peanuts, fermented cucumber, cabbage and cilantro.

Location: 214 6th St., Downtown. Open Monday – Thursday 5 – 11 p.m., Friday – Saturday 5 p.m. to beyond midnight (times vary), Sunday 3 – 9 p.m.

English style chicken pot pie at The Pub Chip Shop. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
English style chicken pot pie at The Pub Chip Shop. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

The Pub Chip Shop – The South Side

British pub food classics like fish and chips, Scotch egg, sausage rolls and sandwiches made on fresh baked buttery rolls called “baps” are just some of the late-night highlights.  The Pub Chip Shop serves until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Locals know this place as the early morning home of Just Good Donuts. If you’re having a really late night, it’s almost worth hanging around for them to open at 6 a.m.—the doughnuts are that good, but that’s another story. 

The English-style savory pies here are neatly shaped with a homemade lard crust that is irresistibly flaky and delicious.

Our pick: Try the chicken pot pie or a steak and ale for an extra hearty late-night snack.

Location: 1830 East Carson St., The South Side. Open: Monday – Thursday 6 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday 6 a.m. – 12 a.m., Sunday 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Chief Pizziolo Joe Pepe at Fiori's Pizzaria. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
Chief Pizziolo Joe Pepe at Fiori’s Pizzaria. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Fiori’s Pizzaria – Brookline

Pizza preference is hotly debated topic in this town. Spak BrothersMineo’sFiori’sA’Pizza Badamo—a lot of players with a strong pizza game. There’s also a good variety of styles like the wood-fired Italian classics at Piccolo FornoAnthony’s coal-fired pizzas, and the interesting cold-cheese-on-top twist at Beto’s. But who’s going to be there for you in the wee hours? Two Pittsburgh legends, Mineo’s in Squirrel Hill and Fiori’s in Brookline both serve up hand-tossed pies very very late (Mineo’s until 2 a.m. and Fiori’s until 3 a.m.).

If you’ve made the uphill trek on the cobblestone road to Fiori’s in Brookline, you know the payoff is delicious. Pizzas so heavy with cheese you need a furniture dolly to get to the car. Their crusts get raves for hitting the sweet spot between crunchy and chewy. The white pizza special is also a big hit.

Our pick: You can’t go wrong with any pizza choice here, but add on a calzone to-go with your order. They’re huge, and make great leftovers. Don’t forget to say yes to the extra container of sauce.

Location: 103 Capital Ave., Brookline. Open Sunday – Thursday 11 – 1 a.m., Friday – Saturday 11 – 3 a.m.

Honey-dipped fried chicken at Ritter's Diner. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
Honey-dipped fried chicken at Ritter’s Diner. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

Ritter’s Diner – Bloomfield

When you can’t decide if you want dinner or breakfast, it’s good to have all the options available. Ritter’s is a trip down memory lane for a lot of Pittsburghers, and most things here don’t change very often. There’s comfort in that. And sometimes in the middle of the night, you need comfort.

Breakfast can be a great way to end the night, and there’s nothing better than a stack of pancakes or a cheesy omelet with bacon on the side. But if your cravings are leaning more toward fried chicken or cheese fries or some Greek specialties, Ritter’s can still hook you up. Best of all, they’re almost always open.

Our pick: Honey-dipped fried chicken.

Location: 5221 Baum Blvd., Bloomfield. Open: Monday – Tuesday 6 a.m. – 1 a.m., Wednesday – Saturday 24 hours, Sunday until 10 p.m.

The classic "O" fries at The Original Hot Dog Shop. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
The classic “O” fries at The Original Hot Dog Shop. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

The Original Hot Dog Shop – Oakland

The Original Hot Dog Shop, or the “O,” as its known, has been a late-night fixture in the city for decades. It’s a classic choice for hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, pizza and fries. Oh, and there’s beer, because you might need some to take home.

It’s pretty fun to watch the late-night lineup of slightly dazed people, fresh from the bars and now suddenly in harsh lighting, trying to make decisions about what to order. Lots of seating makes this an easy place to roll into late with a bigger group.

The pick: The “O” fries. Go big, then go home.

Location: 3901 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Open: Monday – Wednesday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Thursday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 1:30 a.m. For some of the history about this longtime Pittsburgh classic, be sure to check out their website.

Also worth notingBrillobox serves a late-night menu that includes burgers and banh mi sandwiches; Mike & Tonys Gyros serves late-night options until 3 a.m. Tuesday – Saturday.; Primanti Bros. in The Strip is open 24 hours; Eat’n Park serves a full menu including breakfast 24 hours a day.

The Original Hot Dog Shop. Photo by Tom O'Connor.
The Original Hot Dog Shop. Photo by Tom O’Connor.

 

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NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh |  Jennifer Baron

Festivals are not just for summer anymore. March has an epic event for every Pittsburgher—from foodies and knitters, to outdoor explorers and virtual reality enthusiasts. So strap on a pair of VR goggles and blast off into spring at our top 11 events not to miss in Pittsburgh this March.

Ace and the Desert Dog
Ace and the Desert Dog, Brendan Leonard, Forest Woodward and Stefan Hunt (2017).

1. Wild & Scenic Film Festival at Chatham University: March 9, 6 p.m.

Of the many niche film festivals in rotation all over the world, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival is one that eco-minded cinephiles should have on their radar. Showcasing 13 award-winning, short documentaries—such as Plastico and Nature Rx—the country’s premier environmental and adventure film festival explores everything from the elusive wolverine population in Utah to the impact of the U.S./Mexico border wall to the burgeoning fair trade clothing movement. Take a 60-day backpacking trip with adventure photographer Ace Kvale and his dog Genghis Khan, discover how Jim Cochran invented the organic strawberry industry and watch in awe as Wasfia Nazreen becomes the first Bangladeshi to scale the Seven Summits. Showcasing breathtaking ecosystems, films tackle issues like climate change, species extinction, environmental justice, and conservation. The event also serves as a call to action for residents, who can sign up on-site to volunteer with Pennsylvania Resources Council and Allegheny CleanWaysBuy tickets.

Bricolage
Bill Peduto and Tami Dixon. Photo by Louis Stein.

2. BUS: Bricolage’s Annual Fundraiser at the August Wilson Center: March 11, 6:30 p.m.

What if you had to produce an original 10-minute play in 24 hours—and it had to be based on a 90-minute Port Authority bus ride?! Find out how Pittsburgh’s top directors, playwrights and performers are embracing this formidable challenge at Bricolage’s 12th annual BUS. One of the local theater scene’s most anticipated happenings, the fiercely imaginative—and friendly—smackdown embodies the spirit of risk-taking and innovation that underscores the company’s mission. This year’s brave B.U.S. riders include 40 award-winning performers, seasoned playwrights, and local stars on the rise. From writer Gab Cody and director Patrick Jordan, to performer Wali Jamal—this team is bringing their A-game. The guerrilla theater adventure kicks off when six courageous playwrights get their creative juices flowing during a Friday night bus ride. Equal parts benefit bash, performance art and reality theater, B.U.S. also includes a Friday night VIP reception and live actor exhibition. Witness the artful and arduous results during the grand finale of plays and celebrate cutting-edge theater with a post-show toast. Buy tickets.

Hump Film Festival
Courtesy HUMP! Film Festival.

3. HUMP! Film Festival at Spirit: March 10 & 11, 7 & 9:15 p.m.

He has 288,000 Twitter followers, founded the award-winning It Gets Better Project, and slings advice via a wildly popular, syndicated sex column. But did you know that the oft-provocative writer, media pundit and LGBT activist Dan Savage is also the brainchild behind a festival dedicated to erotic home movies, amateur sex cinema, and DIY porn? What hatched as an eccentric idea in 2005—basically Savage asked people to send him “homemade dirty movies” and they did, in droves—is now an internationally touring festival 12 years in the making. With provocative titles like Sock Puppet and Boat Daddy, this year’s lusty lineup of 22 new films will showcase all body types, ages, colors, sexualities, genders, and fetishes under the sun. Equal parts hot and hilarious, HUMP has a way of simultaneously easing people out of their comfort zones while uniting viewers in an unapologetic celebration of sexual diversity, positivity and expression. HUMP is on a mission to redefine the genre, and you’re invited to come along for the ride. Buy tickets.

Carnegie Museum of Art
Hall of Architecture at Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo by Tom Little.

4. Virtual Reality Museum & Third Thursday at Carnegie Museum of Art: March 16, 7—11 p.m.

Strap on some VR goggles and morph into an imaginary future. No, you’ve not been cast as an extra in a science fiction flick: all of this and more await at Carnegie Museum of Art. The night blasts off with a free presentation on “The Virtual Reality Museum.” Be the first to see exciting new virtual reality and photographic technologies being created for CMOA by leading new media artists. Afterward, trek further into the outer limits at the Third Thursday party. Attend the launch of Styles and Customs of the 2020s, a virtual reality experience created by NYC-based art collectives Scatter x DIS. Watch firsthand as historic preservation expert Chad Keller uses laser scanning to create 3-D models of the Hall of Architecture, and take a tour of the new exhibition of fantastical fashions by Dutch design sensation, Iris van Herpen. Lori Hepner will teach you how to draw with light, and DJ duo Tracksploitation will help you get your groove on. Buy tickets.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

5. Ta-Nehisi Coates at University of Pittsburgh: March 20, 6:30 p.m.

He received the coveted MacArthur Genius Grant in 2015, was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2016, and is outspoken on Twitter, where he addresses current events and race relations while engaging with his 833,000-plus followers. Fans of the award-winning American author, journalist, and educator Ta-Nehisi Coates should mark their calendars now for his very special local appearance at the William Pitt Assembly Room. A highlight of the 17th annual Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series, the free reading will also include a Q&A and book signing with Coates. Author of the award-winning books, The Beautiful Struggle and Between the World and Me, Coates is a former writer for The Village Voiceand The Atlantic. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious accolades, such as the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism and the George Polk Award. Most recently, Coates wrote 11 issues of Marvel Comics’ Black Panther series, which became the first comic book to feature a black superhero when it debuted in the 1960s.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Courtesy Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

6. FUSE@PSO at Heinz Hall: March 22, 6:30 p.m.

Radiohead and Brahms. Beethoven and Coldplay. To some, these may seem like incongruous pairings, but in the mind of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Conductor Steve Hackman, they are fruitful fodder for his genre-bending concert series. Continually seeking out cutting-edge composers to mine, mashup and reinvent—and forging refreshing connections between historic and contemporary musical genres—Hackman is now tapping into he artistry of Tchaikovsky and Drake for the next edition of FUSE. The world premiere performance will weave Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with 12 Drake songs, including “We’re Going Home” and “Hotline Bling,” and will showcase rapper Jecorey “1200” Arthur and vocalists Malia Katherine Civetz, India Carney and Mario Jose. Arrive at 5 p.m. for a lively happy hour (in the tranquil garden, weather permitting) featuring cocktails, snacks, activities, and mingling with the musicians. The concert is open seating with drinks allowed. Buy tickets.

When Two Worlds Collide
When Two Worlds Collide, Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel (2016).

7. Carnegie Mellon University International Film Festival: March 23—April 9

Focusing its lens on personal, cultural and global identity, CMU’s International Film Festival is using cinema to examine highly potent and topical issues. Curated around the theme of “Faces of Identity,” the 11th annual festival boasts up to 18 features, documentaries and shorts—including many making their Pittsburgh debut. Spanning 18 days and countries throughout the world—from Peru to Poland—films will spark engaging dialogues about issues such as race, sexuality, gender, and ethnicity. Screenings are augmented by Q&A sessions, and receptions showcasing locally-produced ethnic cuisine. The world’s only international film festival run entirely by students from numerous universities, the event also seeks to celebrate Pittsburgh’s own ethnic heritage and dynamic culture. Don’t miss opening night on March 23 for the Pittsburgh premiere of With I, Daniel Blake directed by renowned English director Ken Loach—who is acclaimed for creating films such as Riff-Rafthat tackle pressing social issues. Additional highlights include an epic biography about the pioneering, Nobel Prize–winning scientist Marie Curie, a powerful portrait of a young Chinese woman emigrating to Argentina, and a story about political and environmental turmoil in rural Peru. Buy tickets.

Farm to Table Conference
Christina Emilie Photography.

8. Farm to Table Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: March 24 & 25

It may seem like science fiction to see daffodils, insects and birds before March, but one thing is certain: spring is on the mind of Pittsburghers. The best place to kick off a season of gardening, CSAs and dining al fresco, find out where your food originates, and learn tips for a healthier lifestyle is at the 11th annual Farm to Table Conference. Cuisine and culture will converge around this year’s theme of “Growing Roots for Healthy Communities.” Inspired by the idea that food is “the great connector,” the conference will focus on cultural origins, diverse preparations and local ingredients. Attendees have a dizzying array of offerings to choose from, including cooking demos, gardening classes, wellness seminars, exhibits, tastings, lectures, and the popular “Friday Night Food Tasting” kickoff. New this year is the “Farm to Flask Mixology” event, where foodies will sample wine, beer, and spirits made in Western Pa. Attendees will learn about how cooking can build community, discover the health and economic benefits of eating local, and will have plenty of time for mingling with chefs, farmers, food purveyors, businesses owners, nutritionists, and advocacy groups. Register now.

Pittsburgh Humanities Festival
Pittsburgh Humanities Festival speakers. Photos courtesy Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

9. Pittsburgh Humanities Festival in the Cultural DistrictMarch 24—26

Where can you hear thought-provoking talks by pioneering Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, Black Panther activist and law professor Kathleen Cleaver, former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia—and many others—all within three days? Get enlightened at the second iteration of the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival. Setting up shop throughout the Cultural District, the event is convening leading scholars, artists, and intellectual innovators for a shared exploration of what it means to be human. A mix of engaging formats is offered—featured talks, readings, performances, and 24 intimate conversations and interviews. Charismatic presenters will examine humanity via the framework of art, literature, music, science, and politics, with session topics exploring everything from the history of birth control pill and queer performance art, to Bauhaus design and foreign affairs. Not to miss is an evening with writers Seena Vali and Matt Spina from the inimitable, award-winning satirical news publication, The Onion. New components include an All Access Pass, a lounge at Crazy Mocha coffeehouse, a partnership with White Whale Bookstore, and a YouTube-based “Have-A-Chat for Humanity” video contest that invited the public to suggest discussion topics. Buy tickets.

Knit and Crochet Festival
Courtesy Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival and Pittsburgh Creative Arts Festival.

10. Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet & Creative Arts Festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: March 24—26

Move over Sixburgh, it’s time for Knittsburgh. The city’s fiber arts scene was thrust into the international spotlight in 2014 when some 1,847 area makers covered the Andy Warhol Bridge with the country’s largest yarn bomb project ever. From latch hook rugs and macramé to string art installations, the contemporary fiber arts genre is back with renewed gusto, creativity and innovation. This festival is your chance to dive in—whether you’re still wondering what “knit one, purl two” means or you’re eager to master new techniques. Choose from 90 classes and workshops, shop for hard-to-find fibers, and experiment with sewing, cutting and felting machines. Pop into the Creative Open Studio to sew a pillowcase for UPMC Cancer Center patients, watch instructional and DIY videos, and meet famed fiber artisan StevenBe—who’s been dubbed the “Rod Stewart of the knitting world.” A three-day extravaganza of all things stitched, knitted, felted, crocheted, loomed, and more, the festival also serves as the first stop for the 2017 SW PA Quilt Shop Hop. Buy tickets.

Bang on a Can All-Stars
Photo by Peter Serling.

11. Bang on a Can All-Stars at Carnegie Lecture Hall: March 25, 8 p.m.

Sometimes live music can provide the perfect antidote to the din and dissonance of the world, especially in our 24-hour digital age. This can be said for the legendary Bang on a Can All-Stars, who will bathe audiences in their immersive, otherworldly sounds. Named “Ensemble of the Year” by Musical America, the electric chamber sextet is appearing in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2000. Their production is part of Carnegie Museums’ adventurous new Nexus project, which kicked off in January with a 12-event series dubbed Strange Times: Earth in the Age of the Human. For their take on the concept, Bang on a Can will perform its multimedia Field Recordings, which fuses music, film, found sounds, and obscure audio-visuals. Showcasing works by Julia Wolfe, Bill Morrison, Christian Marclay, Steve Reich, Gabriella Smith and others, the epic soundscape explores the concept of duality, while fluidly blurring boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music. Known for its dynamic and imaginative live performances, the ensemble features piano, guitar, percussion, bass, clarinet, saxophone, and cello. Expect to have your ears led into uncharted territories. Buy tickets.

Farm to Table Conference
Farm to Table Conference. Christina Emilie Photography.

Check out more terrific events every week in NEXTpittsburgh, including these and more coming up in March:

SUNSTAR Festival at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: March 3
Aaron Draplin lecture at The Hollywood Theater in Dormont: March 3
Art auction and fundraiser benefitting Girls Rock! Pittsburgh at Percolate: March 10
Reel Q presents Reel Stories: March 10
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Park on Tap fundraiser for Allegheny Commons: March 10
From Pittsburgh, With Love fundraiser at Pittsburgh Public Theater: March 10
Standup Sisters presents Border Crossings at La Roche College: March 14
Steve Martin and Martin Short at the Benedum Center: March 15 & 16
The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center’s Shake Your Booties Down Bourbon Street! gala at Stage AE: March 25
Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-in Tour at the Benedum Center: March 26
Public Source presents author J.D. Vance at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Lecture Hall: March 30
Opening reception for 2017 Solo & Collaborative Exhibits at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts: March 31

Looking for events for families and children? Check out our Top 10 family events in Pittsburgh this February feature story.

Looking for live music? Check out our 17 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in 2017 feature story.

 

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Looking for a job? ImaginePittsburgh.com‘s got ‘em — more than 20,000 open positions on our powerful, 10-county job search aggregator, updated nightly.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

- See more at: http://explore.imaginepittsburgh.com/now/#sthash.MM32eDl4.dpuf

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh |  Michael Machosky

So, Fences is up for a lot of Academy Awards this year. It was mostly made in the same neighborhood where playwright August Wilson imagined itwith Denzel Washington’s Troy Maxson roaring across the Hill District of the ’50s like the literal wrecking ball that would smash through the neighborhood soon thereafter.

It’s both one of the best movies ever made in Pittsburgh, and one of the most Pittsburgh movies ever made. Those are two completely different things, of course.

For sheer Pittsburgh content (regardless of quality), it’s kind of hard to top Sudden Death (1995), which features a fight scene between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Iceburgh (the Penguins mascot) in the kitchen of the Civic Arena, using a deli meat slicer and a deep fryer as weapons. Flashdance (1983) is another Pittsburgh classicabout a steelworker/stripper (!), in a time-capsule-of-the-’80s sense. It was a massive hit, even though the critics hated it.

Picking the best movies made in Pittsburgh, though, is actually really tough. Even five years ago, it was easier. But the recent boom in Pittsburgh-made productions has knocked out some good-but-not-great movies, like Wonder Boys (2000), of the top 10.

As always, feel free to disagree, and add your own picks below. I feel like I’m going to change my mind already.

Tom Hardy in "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012).
Tom Hardy in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012). Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding, LLC.

Tom Hardy in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012). Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding, LLC.

10). The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is certainly the biggest movie ever made in Pittsburgh, making more than a billion dollars worldwide. Compared to the first two chapters in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight (Batman) trilogy, it’s a lugubrious, murky slog, with the franchise’s least interesting villain (Tom Hardy tried, but it’s hard to act with your mouth covered). Still, there are a few action sequences here that are simply stunning, such as the apocalyptic destruction of Heinz Field on game day. And by this point, the onrushing doom of Nolan’s vision has its own unstoppable momentum.

9.) Lightning Over Braddock: A Rustbowl Fantasy (1988): There’s always been a strong undercurrent of experimental cinema in Pittsburgh, going back to the ‘60s. To single out one superb example, there’s Tony Buba’s sublimely weird Lightning Over Braddock. It’s about both the economic implosion of a working class steel town paradise, and some goofball local character named Sal, who periodically hijacks the whole movie, steering it towards his own esoteric, self-aggrandizing ends. You’ll never see another movie like it.

8.) The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012): In the social hierarchy of high school, being a wallflowerthe shy, observant sortis only slightly above hall monitors and kids crammed into lockers. But for freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman), there are some perks, like being adopted by an older clique of worldly misfits, including a girl who was a wizard in a past life (Emma Watson). Somehow, of the three great coming-of-age novels of Pittsburgh adolescence, the best book, Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, made the worst movie. The second best book, Jesse Andrews’ brilliant and underrated Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, made a very good movie (just missing this list). However, Stephen Chbosky’s Perks takes the crown, through outstanding performances from its leads.

"Dawn of the Dead" (1978).
Ken Foree in “Dawn of the Dead” (1978). The MKR Group, Inc.

Ken Foree in “Dawn of the Dead” (1978). The MKR Group, Inc.

7.) Dawn of the Dead (1978): The legendary first sequel to Night of the Living Dead has some surprisingly sharp satire of modern consumer culture buried beneath the endless severed limbs and decapitated heads. A few lonely survivors try to ride out the apocalypse holed up in Monroeville Mall, while the undead return to wander endlessly, aimlesslynot that much differently than when they were alive, actually. Who knew the world would end not with a bang or a whimper, but with an all-you-can-eat buffet (of humans) at the mall?

Tim Robbins and Giancarlo Esposito in "Bob Roberts" (1992).
Tim Robbins and Giancarlo Esposito in “Bob Roberts” (1992).

Tim Robbins and Giancarlo Esposito in “Bob Roberts” (1992).

6.) Bob Roberts (1992): Though obviously intended as political satire, it now hits a bit too close to homelike some sort of demonic prophecy foretold. Actor/writer/director Tim Robbins plays a genial folk-singing fascist, an entertainer who makes the jump to a Pennsylvania Senate race by preying on the fears and worst instincts of the marginal and the gullible. He cleverly inverts Bob Dylanesque protest songs into anthems about lynching drug dealers (and users), and the lazy immigrants and welfare queens living large on your unwitting largesse: “Times are Changin’ Back,” “Retake America,” “My Land.” It’s funny and ridiculous until, suddenly, it’s not. Still probably less absurd than our current political reality.

5.) Fences (2016): It’s impossible to know how this will age, or how it will relate to the rest if Denzel Washington adapts all 10 of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle plays for the screen. At times, Fences feels more like a play than a movie, but that’s really the only criticism that sticks. By now, the role fits Washington like an old catcher’s mitt. He and Viola Davis reprise the roles that won them Tonys on Broadway, wearing the pain and sorrow and fleeting bits of joy of their fenced-in characters as if August Wilson is still watching.

"Slap Shot" (1977).
Paul Newman in “Slap Shot” (1977). Universal Pictures.

Paul Newman in “Slap Shot” (1977). Universal Pictures.

4.) Slap Shot (1977). Another genre that rarely gets respect is the sports movie. Slap Shot (shot in Johnstown, Pittsburgh and upstate New York),  might be the funniest and best movie about sports ever made. It’s a rite of passage for hockey fans, and explains the pugnacious, blue-collar soul of the sport like nothing else. Though it’s easy to miss amidst all the blood and unbelievably crude jokes, there’s also an undercurrent of foreboding hereadroitly depicting a looming crisis of masculinity, when the mills and factories are shutting down, and people are clinging to any bit of hope and camaraderie they can find.

3.) The Deer Hunter (1978): This film is a panoramic portrait of mill town martyrdom, as souls forged in the steel mills of Western Pennsylvania are fed into the final furnace of Vietnam. Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep all appear at the peaks of their respective powers. From the wild Russian Orthodox wedding to the prison camp game of Russian roulette, this is the sort of cinematic moonshot that either launches or detonates careers. For Michael Cimino, it was the former, until its catastrophic follow-up, Heaven’s Gate (1980), became the latter.

2.) The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Serial killers have kind of been done to death (sorry), but it’s hard to overstate how unsettling and original this seemed back in 1991. It won Academy Awards in the Big 5 categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, which never happens, and horror movies rarely get nominated for anything in the first place. Also, the house in Fayette County (which is pretty nice!) where the killer, uh, did bad stuff, took forever to sell, because . . . well, we don’t really know. But go ahead, you try to live there.

"Night of the Living Dead" (1968).
Judith O’Dea in “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

Judith O’Dea in “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

1.) Night of the Living Dead (1968): In town for the Pittsburgh premiere of Land of the Dead in 2005, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino mentioned that the American independent movie was born in Pittsburgh with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Romero (who previously worked on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood), along with some friends, family and friends-of-friends, didn’t realize they were inventing the modern horror movie or a zombie genre that still refuses to die. The claustrophobic, walls-closing-in sets, shadowy black & white film, and tense, wartime newsreel-like cinematography weren’t selected to maximize terrorthey were just cheap. The guts and innards yanked from screaming victims weren’t elaborate special effectsthey were pieces of meat the butcher shop didn’t want. Duane Jones wasn’t intended to break new ground for African-American actorshe just gave the best audition. In 1999, the movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.

Got a favorite movie made in Pittsburgh that we didn’t mention? Here’s your chance in the comments below.

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Powered by NEXTpittsburgh | Jennifer Baron

The shortest month of the year is not short on things to do—in fact we had trouble narrowing it down to 11. Resist the urge to hibernate with tropical vibes, warming whiskeys, fantastical fashion and much more.

 Phipps
Courtesy Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

1. Party in the Tropics at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: February 3, 7—11 p.m.

Dance away the winter blues amidst lush greenery, rushing waterfalls, rare orchids and tropical cocktails. No you haven’t won an island getaway. Botany buffs and night owls will converge when Phipps delivers a dose of revelry amidst the winter gloom. The conservatory will morph into one of Pittsburgh’s most unique nightlife spots populated by dazzling displays of flora—from massive sausage trees to colorful Napoleon hat plants. Visitors can wander outdoors into the mesmerizing Winter Light Garden, which has been extended through February 10th. Bigger than ever, the enchanting exhibit sparkles with luminous orbs, trees and fountains, and a new immersive tunnel of lights that mimics the twinkling, nighttime winter sky. Party In The Tropics will also feature music by DJ Mike Ley, hands-on activities and savory bites and seasonal cocktails for sale at Café Phipps.

 

Iris van Herpen
Iris van Herpen, Refinery Smoke, Dress, 2008. Photo: Bart Oomes, No 6 Studios.

2. Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion at Carnegie Museum of Art: February 4–May 1

She’s dressed Beyonce, Bjork, and Lady Gaga, collaborated with starchitect Rem Koolhaas, and was the first to use 3D printing in fashion. Pittsburghers will now have the rare chance to experience the extraordinary designs of Dutch international fashion sensation Iris van Herpen up close and off the runway. With intriguing monikers like Hacking Infinity, Wilderness Embodied and Biopiracy, van Herpen’s innovative collections reflect her interest in blending art, science, technology and nature. Under van Herpen’s masterful vision, fashion is transformed into fantastical worlds and living sculptures—from a dress made from woven metal gauze that mimics billowing smoke to architectural high-heeled shoes fabricated from a 3D printer. Fusing haute couture handicraft with cutting-edge technology, van Herpen works with a dazzling array of unexpected materials, such as crystals, glass bubbles and umbrella tines. Inspired by neuroscience, science fiction and the environment, van Herpen’s work is designed to move and change along with the human body. The results are otherworldly fashions you have to see to believe.

WYEP
Courtesy WYEP.

3. Alternative Souper Bowl Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: February 5

Carnegie Library’s Quiet Reading Room is about to bring on the noise. Whether you have your money on the Falcons or Patriots, don’t miss the chance to celebrate the local music scene and help end homelessness at WYEP’s 18th annual Alternative Souper Bowl. Tap your foot to the old-timey vibes of bluegrass, country and rockabilly band The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers, be lulled by the melodies of singer-songwriter Brooke Annibale and groove to the retro sounds of The Buckle Downs. Don’t forget to bring a non-perishable food or household item to help stock the shelves at HEARTH, a local shelter for homeless and displaced women and their children. Free and open to all ages from noon to 3 p.m., the Souper Bowl will be emceed by WYEP’s Morning Mix host Cindy Howes and will be broadcast live on 91.3 FM.

Shower Curtain Art project by Mike Cuccaro. January 22: Hippo on some painted dots.
Shower Curtain Art project by Mike Cuccaro. January 22: Hippo on some painted dots.

4. Fun-A-Day at TechShop Pittsburgh: February 4 & 5

For many people it’s yoga, for others it’s journaling, and for others it’s walking 2,000 steps. Daily rituals are a powerful and centering part of life. This month you can meet local makers who took up the creative clarion call—and check out more than 50 projects made throughout January—at the two-day Fun-A-Day exhibition. From an effort to turn junk mail into art, to a “Trump outrage calendar,” impassioned projects encompass a staggering array of mediums and techniques. See how Pittsburgh’s industrious doers are infusing daily life with art to foster creative expression and let off steam. Always inclusive and un-juried, the grassroots phenomenon has showcased tens of thousands of projects around the globe. Free to all ages, the opening reception runs from 5 to 7 p.m. on February 4th. Follow along here.

Wigle Whiskey
Courtesy Wigle Whiskey.

5. Valentine’s Day and Ginger Whiskey Weekend at Wigle Whiskey: February 14, 17, 18, 19

Chocolate and roses make a great duo, but pairing chocolate and whiskey is even better. On Valentine’s Day, get a first taste of Wigle’s new batch of Afterglow Ginger Whiskey, sample chocolate and whiskey pairing flights and sip cocktails at Wigle’s Strip District HQ. Cupid’s devotees can learn about Wigle’s award-winning production facilities during “Sweetheart Distillery Tours.” Then head back on February 17-19 for a three-day celebration of sweet and spicy Pennsylvania exoticism. Friday’s Spicy Soirée release party will showcase Wigle’s Afterglow, a spicy and sweet spirit made from pot-distilled whiskey and ginger cultivated at Chatham’s Eden Hall campus. The weekend will feature all things ginger: Imperial Ginger Beer from Southern Tier, Ginger Whiskey cocktails, and ginger-infused tacos, plus live music by Greg Jones, whiskey truffles from Mon Aimee Chocolat and bites from the Pittsburgh Sandwich Society. Buy tickets.

6. Firelei Báez: Bloodlines at The Andy Warhol Museum: February 17–May 21

Visitors to The Warhol will be the first to see select works by an important contemporary artist that have never before exhibited in a museum. Exploring gender, race, identity politics and the history of social movements in the U.S. and Caribbean, Bloodlines presents a comprehensive look at the large-scale art of Firelei Báez, who was born in the Dominican Republic. Featuring 15 works, the thoughtful exhibit showcases her labor intensive, textured and colorful artistic process. Richly layered works depict textiles, hair designs and body ornaments that explore Caribbean history and folklore from female viewpoints. Female figures are painted with elaborate tignons, or 18th-century headdresses imposed by law for women of color in New Orleans—a form of oppression that became a symbol of power and beauty. Also featured are Azabache gemstones carved into fists and worn in Latin American cultures as protection from evil spirits and panthers—a symbol claimed by the 1960s Black Panther party. Báez will also collaborate with local students to create site-specific wall paintings. A powerful voice on the contemporary art scene, Báez challenges viewers to confront critical social issues that are often ignored in mainstream culture.

Duane Michals
A Last Walk in the Woods, Duane Michals.

7. Duane Michals at Point Park University: February 18, 7 p.m.

Recently showcased in a first-of-its-kind retrospective at Carnegie Museum of Art—which was lauded by everyone from The New York Times to Artforum—groundbreaking photographer and McKeesport native Duane Michals will debut his latest body of work during this unique artist talk and film screening. Co-presented by Silver Eye Center for Photography and Point Park University, the event should not be missed by any fan of contemporary art. Be among the first to see Michals’ newest project, Talking Pictures, which includes 12 short films written, directed—and at times acted in—by the artist. Exploring themes running throughout his prolific career such as identity, homosexuality and counterculture, Talking Pictures reflects Michals’ passion for the history of filmmaking—from the golden age of Hollywood to experimental cinema. Talking Pictures draws inspiration from a wide range of cinematic styles and sources including film pioneers like Charlie Chaplin, Georges Méliès and Kenneth Anger. A highly influential and pivotal figure in 20th-century art, Michaels is acclaimed for his innovative process that uses photographic sequences, multiple exposures, handwritten texts, and manipulated imagery. Register now.

Lunar Gala
Lunar Gala. Photo by Chloe Chia.

8. Lunar Gala at Carnegie Mellon University: February 18

The countdown to this year’s Lunar Gala is on, and across campus and the city, student designers, models, dancers, videographers and technicians are finalizing their vision for one of Pittsburgh’s largest fashion events. To produce the showcase, students across all disciplines have created original lines that fuse complex materials, wearable fashions, innovative technologies and interdisciplinary cultural themes. Be the first to see 150 fresh looks created by 17 design teams presented alongside performances by Infra Dance Company and Soulstylz. From zip ties and sheet metal to mood-sensing Intel chips, the forward-thinking designs reflect today’s society, technology and current events. For the first time, the haute happening will feature an Alumni Line showcasing fashions from across the U.S., as well as Japanese-inspired designs by NYC’s own up-and-coming streetwear brand Ronin Division. Attendees will also ring in the Chinese New Year with a new theme inspired by the lunar calendar’s Zodiac animal. The Lunar Gala fashion show starts at 8 p.m. at CMU’s Jared L. Cohon University Center. Tickets go on sale Feb. 6th.

Beerfest
Courtesy Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest.

9. Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: February 24 & 25

It’s a good thing that Dry January is over, because the fourth annual Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest—one of the top 10 biggest craft beer festivals in the country—is back and bigger than ever. That means 225,000 square feet of space flowing with 400 varieties of refreshing craft beers from 125 breweries. From Session IPA, cider and barrel-aged stout, to gose, honey lager and hefeweizen—there’s a brew for all styles and palates. The staggering—and growing—roster of featured brewers includes everyone from San Diego’s Ballast Point and Boulder’s New Planet to Pittsburgh’s own East End Brewing. Showcasing craft beer from just down the street, coast-to-coast and even around the globe, the event will also feature live music, local eats, souvenir mugs and a VIP Connoisseurs Reception. Newly added is a daytime session on Saturday. Pairing craft libations with doing good, this year’s festival is donating proceeds to the local nonprofit Animal Rescue Partners. Buy tickets.

Q Ball
Q Ball. Photo by Mark Simpson.

10. The Q Ball at the Union Trust Building: February 25

Whether in art history class or at museums, you’ve likely seen the dreamlike images—often of long-locked women in natural settings—conjured by English painters like William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. At “Painting With Light,” Quantum Theatre invites you to step into the frame and play the part of Pre-Raphaelite muse. Downtown’s ornate Gilded Age landmark will provide an ideal setting for the cutting-edge company’s signature benefit bash. Transforming the iconic 11-story Union Trust Building into an interactive tableaux of 19th-century masterworks, the Q Ball will blend the great cultural traditions of theatre, painting and literature with revelry and dramatic photo opps. Translation: Dress like you’re posing for pioneering 19th-century portrait photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. From 7 to 9 p.m., VIPers will enjoy fab fare catered by chef Kate Romane’s new Black Radish Kitchen, live entertainment and commemorative photos. The fantasia gets groovy at 9 p.m. with tasty desserts and a Digital Dance Party curated by DJ Soy Sos. Buy tickets.

Pittsburgh Film Office
Photo: Leeann Marie. Courtesy Pittsburgh Film Office.

11. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Presents “Lights! Glamour! Action! at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: February 26, 6 p.m.

And the Oscar goes to . . . YOU. Well, at least for one February night when the Pittsburgh Film Office unrolls all 500 feet of the city’s longest red carpet for its signature benefit bash. Whether you’re team Emma, Denzel or Ryan, you can cheer on this year’s nominees and turn on that Tinsel Town panache all without having to trek 2,500 miles to La La Land. Get glammed up and strike a pose to celebrate and support Hollywood East—where television shows like MindhunterOutsiders and Downward Dog and films like Fences and Last Flag Flying have recently filmed on home turf. Watch the drama of the 89th Academy Awards unfold live on a massive broadcast screen and vie for cool stuff in the 50/50 raffle. While rubbing elbows with local celebs, entertainment insiders, business leaders and politicians, gala-goers will be treated to live music by Totally 80s, gourmet food stations and premium cocktails. Proceeds will benefit the PFO, which has assisted with 138-plus productions and generated $1.2 billion in regional economic impact since 1990. Buy tickets.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Courtesy Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Check out more events every week in NEXTpittsburgh, including these coming up in February:

Fiesta Fiesta dance party at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: February 3
Attack Theatre’s One Night Stand at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh: February 11
The Warhol Museum’s Vintage Valentines Workshop at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh: February 12
The Book of Mormon at the Benedum Center: February 21—26
Gregory Porter at the August Wilson Center: February 22
Black Bottom Film Festival at the August Wilson Center: February 24—26
Showcase Noir Art Show and Sale at the August Wilson Center: February 24—26

Looking for events for families and children? Check out our Top 10 family events in Pittsburgh this January feature story.

Looking for live music? Check out our 17 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in 2017 feature story.

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- See more at: http://explore.imaginepittsburgh.com/now/nextpgh-restaurants4visitors/32987/#sthash.FguYYqqy.dpuf

Bonnie Pfister

It’s baa-aack: the contest for the National Hardware Cup makes a three-peat in Pittsburgh this year, with the regional competition returning to TechShop in East Liberty on Thursday, Feb. 21.

The contest is brainchild of Pittsburgh’s own AlphaLab Gear, a leading product accelerator, and TechShop, the nation’s premier “maker” facility providing tools and know-how for do-it-yourselfers. The AlphaLab Gear National Hardware Cup aims to find the top ideas in hardware (that is, tangible products, as opposed to software or services) across the nation. This year. teams will compete in Los Angeles, Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Washington D.C., Chicago and Austin, with the grand finale playing out here in Pittsburgh in mid-April.

The winning team in each city will take home $3,000 cash, a year-long license for 3-D design software SOLIDWORKS and other prizes. The national winner — which will be decided back here in Pittsburgh — will earn $50,000 from Startbot VC.

Watch six Pittsburgh teams make their four-minute pitches to local venture capitalists and hardware CEOs from 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 21 at TechShop. Admission is free, but space fills up quickly, so reserve your seat today!

*   *   *

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Powered by NEXTpittsburghDrew Cranisky

“You pick the place.”

Few things set me to trembling like those four innocent words. Whether it’s a high school friend visiting for a night or a few relatives in town for the weekend, we all end up getting saddled with the unenviable task of selecting a dinner spot. And it’s not always easy. Your grandma wants something quiet, your cousin wants something cool, your uncle wants something cheap—and you just want to get it over with.

There’s enough to be stressed about during the holidays without panicking over reservations. Sure, you could just head to Primanti’s and call it a day. But iconic though it may be, Pittsburgh has plenty more to offer.

That’s why we’ve drawn up this handy guide to dining out with out-of-towners. Read on for recommendations tailored to all the family, friends and long lost lovers visiting Pittsburgh this holiday season.

Menu at Eleven
A special menu for a private party at Eleven.

The Visitor: Your well-off parents/grandparents/mysterious benefactor—and they’re picking up the tab.

The Place: Eleven, Strip District

Why: What to do when someone else is paying but you’re picking the spot? You don’t want to choose the fanciest place out there or select somewhere with strange or fussy cuisine. Eleven strikes a perfect balance between formal and casual, bold but familiar. Chef Eli Wahl and his talented team create unique takes on classic American dishes, from crab cakes to strip steak. Located in a former warehouse in the Strip District, Eleven sits at the intersection of elegance and good old Pittsburgh grit.

More Picks: Spoon, East Liberty, Alla Famiglia, Allentown

The Visitor: Your Dr. Oz-obsessed aunt, who is avoiding a new food every time you see her.

The Place: Eden, Shadyside

Why: Though Pittsburgh food has an artery-clogging reputation, Eden provides a cozy haven for nearly any dietary preference. The entire place is gluten-free (good news for those concerned about cross-contamination) and almost 100% vegan. With a seasonally rotating menu heavy on inventive raw dishes and chefs sensitive to food allergies, Eden pays attention to the eaters that other restaurants ignore.

More Picks: Apteka, Bloomfield, B52, Lawrenceville

Photo by Brian Cohen.
Photo by Brian Cohen.

The Visitor: Your childhood pal, who still lives at home and is perpetually broke.

The Place: Noodlehead, Shadyside

Why: Noodlehead is no-frills—they’re cash only, the menu rarely changes, and they don’t even have a phone number. But unlike plenty of places that make the claim, they actually pass the savings on to customers. Their small menu boasts a mix of classic Thai dishes and house specialties like the Street Noodle #1, an addictive combination of fried chicken, rice noodles and an umami bomb of a sauce. And with a BYOB fee of a measly 50 cents, you’ll leave full and tipsy for less than 15 bucks.

More Picks: Taj Mahal, West View, The Dor-Stop, Dormont

Meat's the draw at Gaucho Parilla, the Argentinian restaurant that packs them in.
Meat’s the draw at Gaucho Parilla, the Argentinian restaurant that packs them in.

The Visitor: Your gym rat brother, who wants heaps on heaps of meat.

The Place: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, Strip District

Why: For the first two years or so that it was open, it was nearly impossible to get a seat at Gaucho Parilla Argentina. And now that the Strip District destination has tripled in size? Well, it’s still tough. But that’s a testament to just how good this Argentinian shrine to beef really is. Landing on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for the past two years, Gaucho cooks everything on a wood-fired grill, from blood sausage to flank steak—and even the occasional vegetable.

More Picks: Whitfield, East Liberty, Tessaro’s, Bloomfield

The Visitor: Your NYC/Chicago/LA friend, who still can’t understand why you’d live in Pittsburgh.

The Place: Max’s Allegheny Tavern, North Side

Why: You could try to wow a skeptical friend with any number of glitzy Downtown spots. But chances are that they’ll know a place back home that does it bigger or better. Instead, why not blindside them with somewhere that’s Pittsburgh through and through, of which no equivalent exists beyond our hills? Max’s Allegheny Tavern fits the bill. With old-school German food, friendly people and décor that looks like it’s been untouched for a century, Max’s is as classic Pittsburgh as it gets.

More Picks: Pierogies Plus, McKees Rocks, Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, Bloomfield

The Visitor: A gaggle of relatives who want a restaurant that suits everyone, from your picky younger cousin to your snooty brother-in-law.

Dinner at The Porch. Photo courtesy of The Porch.
Dinner at The Porch. Photo courtesy of The Porch.

The Place: The Porch at Schenley, Oakland

Why: This is always a tough predicament—you need a place with a diverse menu, moderate prices and a whole lot of space. The Porch at Schenley nails it. Surrounded by universities, the Porch is prepared for large groups of all ages and stripes, with ample seating indoors and outside. The menu features plenty of safe bets, from a prime rib sandwich to a rotating selection of pizzas. But with lots of local produce and a rooftop garden, there are enough unique touches to keep everyone happy.

More Picks: Pamela’s Diner, multiple locations, Smallman Galley, Strip District

At Morcilla, ranked tops in the country. Photo by Adam Milliron
At Morcilla, ranked tops in the country. Photo by Adam Milliron.

The Visitor: Your college roommate who’s a food trend hawk—she spends more time scouring Eater and Yelp than she does actually eating.

The Place: Morcilla, Lawrenceville

Why: Though I shudder at the word “foodie,” we all have friends who proudly embrace the label. And for a sure-fire bet to dazzle that friend, head to Morcilla. Though sister restaurant Cure continues to turn out world-class food, Morcilla is new darling of Pittsburgh’s food scene. Recently named one of Bon Appétit‘s Best New Restaurants for 2016, Morcilla excels at authentic Spanish tapas, charcuterie and drinks. With a menu ranging from single bite pintxos to huge platters of suckling pork roast, a spread at Morcilla will wow even the most jaded foodie.

More Picks: Pork & Beans, Downtown, Legume, Oakland

Burger and fries at Independent Brewing Company.
Burger and fries at Independent Brewing Company.

The Visitor: Your boozehound work colleague, who’s sweeping through for a night and wants great drinks to go with the food.

The Place: Independent Brewing Company, Squirrel Hill

Why: There are plenty of great breweries around town, and there’s a good chance they’ll have a killer food truck parked outside. But for a whirlwind chance to try the best of Western Pennsylvania beer, head to Squirrel Hill’s Independent Brewing Company. Despite the name, they don’t actually brew anything there. They do, however, dedicate all of their taps to the latest and greatest offerings from our region’s 50-plus breweries. Along with an impressive cocktail program and Chef Monique Ruvolo’s Middle Eastern-tinged bar food, the IBC is not your average neighborhood bar.

More Picks: Butterjoint, Oakland, Spirit, Lawrenceville

The Visitor: Your old high school flame—and you’re hoping something might be rekindled.

Dish Osteria and Bar on the South Side. Photo by TH Carlisle
Dish Osteria and Bar on the South Side. Photo by TH Carlisle.

The Place: Dish Osteria and Bar, South Side

Why: If seafood, pasta and red wine in a cozy neighborhood joint doesn’t scream romance, then I guess I’m hopeless. Dish Osteria and Bar has been a South Side staple for 15 years, but with Chef/Owner Michele Savoia at the helm, the quality never wavers. At Dish, the focus is on top-notch ingredients and classic preparations, and the super-fresh seafood is always a good bet. Accompanied by a pick from their mostly Italian wine list, dinner at Dish is the perfect way to kick off a romantic evening.

More Picks:  Avenue B, Shadyside, Altius, Mt. Washington

Brussel kale pizza at Piccolo Forno.
BrusselKale pizza at Piccolo Forno.

The Visitor: A total stranger.

The Pick: Piccolo Forno, Lawrenceville

Why: Once in a while, you get asked to choose a place for someone you don’t know at all. Your dad’s old work buddy, perhaps, or a friend of a friend who just moved to town. In these situations, I can’t think of a more crowd-pleasing food than pizza. Though everyone’s got their favorite place for a pie, Lawrenceville’s Piccolo Forno hits all the right notes. It’s classy but affordable (being BYOB helps), and the atmosphere is lively and inviting. And if you happen to find some weirdo who doesn’t like pizza, the homemade pasta dishes are every bit as good.

More Picks: Dinette, East Liberty, Il Pizzaiolo, Mt. Lebanon & Downtown

Looking for more great restaurants? Check out the 16 best restaurants that opened in 2016.

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