Next, head 15 minutes north to Lawrenceville’s Butler Street, past the Brooklyn-esque shops and restaurants to Rolling Pepperoni (6140 Butler St), where Katt Shuler sells her take on the pepperoni roll—a coal miners’ lunchtime classic. Try the Hometown (peps, provolone) or the vegan and Greek riffs. When Schuler isn’t baking, the West Virginia native works with programs like the STAY project, which helps foster young leaders in Appalachia.
Then make your way down to the Hill District, where many Southern and Black families settled during the Great Migration. The Hill’s most enduring institutions might be August Wilson, who set his Pittsburgh cycle of plays here, and Grandma B’s diner (2537 Wylie Ave), which serves up dirty grits and loaded fries with a tangy house-made “Big Al” sauce that I think about a few times a week. As the sign behind the counter says: “if you don’t like the food, ya tongue lied :)”
Now may be a good time to do something besides eating, which is where 2,500 acres of trails at McConnells Mill (1761 McConnells Mill Rd) figure in. Riverside walks, secret waterfalls, and the lush green of the secluded Slippery Rock gorge are all less than an hour’s drive from the city.
Wrap up in the Strip District. Like much of Pittsburgh, the Strip has transformed in recent years—new restaurants, high rises. But the city’s immigrant story is still preserved there in the hand-painted signs, vendors, truckloads of produce, and old standbys like Robert Wholey & Co. seafood market (1711 Penn Ave), Mediterranean and Asian grocers Salem’s (2923 Penn Ave) and Lotus Food Co. (1649 Penn Ave), S&D Polish Deli (2204 Penn Ave), and the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company or “Penn Mac” (2010-2012 Penn Ave), where as a teen I made pecorino and prosciutto runs for my family of hungry Italians. You can’t hit the Strip without a stop at the OG Primanti Bros. (46 18th St), renowned since 1930 for its fries-and-slaw sandwiches, first made to keep truckers fed on their southbound routes. My regular order is the Pitts-Burger and Cheese; add a fried egg and that’s a piece of sandwich art.