Last spring, I took a number of pictures in Pittsburgh’s Strip District to document the places my “Wild Horses” characters would know and love. Those of you who read the book will recognize various landmarks by their captions. The book I wrote makes it sound like Pittsburgh is a crime-ridden warren, but nothing could be further from the truth. The city is getting cleaned up and gentrified to the point where old-timers worry that parts of it will lose its “original character.”
The Strip District has nothing to do with the sex trade. It is a long, flat strip of land by the river where goods were transferred from boats to trains. Even today, restaurateurs shop there for fresh ingredients. You’ll also find restaurants, quirky ethnic stores, art galleries, bars, street vendors… on Saturdays, the crowds are so thick and merry, Penn Ave is often closed to traffic. It’s fun. My family often shops in the Strip, because the food is both fresher and cheaper than from the supermarket, and the prices are a good deal lower. Due to parking issues, we often bike and carry our goods in bicycle baskets and backpacks.
Certain merchants were mentioned in the book. There is a fish store, Wholey’s, and there really is a sushi stand inside. Andy, the sushi chef, agreed to cameo in the book. His sushi is the best, freshest value for sushi in town. One of the photos shows a small restaurant with street seating, “Colangelo’s”. This small gem of an eatery serves high-powered, high-value lunches with a well-balanced culinary touch. A real, Italian coffee shop, La Prima Espresso, is right next to it and it really does play Italian soccer on TV.
Italian soccer games are also featured at Penn Mac, where one can buy a variety of domestic and imported cheeses, bulk dry goods, imported canned goods and pasta, olive oil, vinegars… it’s a gourmet’s pantry. And, they really do call you “Dearheart” at the cheese counter! Down the street and across, you’ll find Prestogeorge’s, a purveyor of fine coffees and teas. I’m very happy with their freshly roasted beans, and make a trip for the coffee alone.
The yellow 16th Street Bridge leads across the Allegheny and provides easy access to a bike path. Note the fun sun-and-shadow patterns. Wouldn’t those be annoying for someone already nauseous and with a full stomach? Poor Kai J I loved writing that part. I’m a bad character-mommy.
This is where Kai scavenged an uneaten sandwich when he was homeless.
What a comfortable loading dock to sleep on. Welcome home, Kai!
Penn Ave is a good place to pick up lunch, groceries, and a part-time job – as long as your papers are in order. (Sorry, Kai…)
A fun bridge – unless strobe lights make you hurl like a well-tuned lawn sprinkler…
If you don’t have a shower, the river does a good job. This channel is between the North Side and the Hess Island. Note the swinging rope.
The hands-down best cup of coffee in Pittsburgh can be found at Espresso a Mano on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, which is just a short bike ride upriver from the Strip.