Word Mouth: Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville + Strip District Neighborhoods

Coffee shops, a spacious art studio, a sourdough pizza spot and more in the runway to downtown proper

Pittsburgh’s Point State Park sits at the top corner of a triangle that houses the city’s downtown. Two rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, serve as the two downward borders. On the Allegheny’s edge, you’ll find the Strip District and Lawrenceville neighborhoods. They’re separated by a steep hill and a handful of intersections, but the former neighborhood’s thoroughfares flow into the latter. Bustling on the weekends and slower once the week resumes, both areas boast markets, art initiatives, outdoor spaces, specialty stores, restaurants and coffee shops—at varying cost and quality levels. We’ve rounded up those most worthy of a (safe, precaution-following) visit here.

Courtesy of The Vandal

The Vandal

Stylish New American restaurant The Vandal offers a rotating menu of signature dishes. The spot (run by Joey Hilty and Emily Slagel) posits itself as a neighborhood staple, and we agree. Open for coffee, brunch, dinner and drinks, for dine-in or to-go, The Vandal pleases at all hours. Right now, dinner includes options like squash tempura and lamp dumplings for starters and pumpkin ravioli or a double-cut pork chops. During brunch hours, The Vandal kitchen team prepares dishes like brisket hash and a rotating pan de mie French toast. Plus, a newly debuted list of wines, beers and cocktails pairs well with whatever you order.

Courtesy of Driftwood Oven

Driftwood Oven

Driftwood Oven offers sourdough pizzas, cinnamon rolls, croissants, breads and seasonal treats like pies and fritters. There, owner Neil Blazin lives by the philosophy “Organic grains, ethically sourced produce and animal products, love for the world and its inhabitants.” You’ll find farm-fresh cheeses on all of their pizzas—which range from vegetable-forward to rich and meat-focused—and the highest quality ingredients in every dough. As of publish, Driftwood Oven remains open, but only for take-out and pick-up of your weekly bread share (if you’ve enrolled).

Courtesy of Mello and Sons

Mello and Sons

Neal Mello’s aptly named vintage and menswear shop Mello and Sons only takes visits via appointment right now. But scheduling one in advance proves worthwhile. Shelves full of old Levi’s jeans and jackets, military issue T-shirts, band merch and bandanas sit atop a 150-year-old wood floor installed by The Moose Woodshop. In the back, an indigo wall sets the stage for a few crates of records and a turntable to test them on. Mello and Sons is the sibing to Brooklyn’s Grand St Bakery, which closed in 2016 when Mello (and his wife, Cyd) moved to Pittsburgh. It’s a gem that will continue growing.

Courtesy of Reed & Co

Reed & Co

Lawrenceville walk-up window stand Reed & Co offers far more than the typical to-go spot. Serving food and drinks “for vegans, pre-vegans, post-vegans and non-vegans—aka everyone,” their menu consists of cashew and other nut smoothies, cold-pressed raw juices and juice cleanse kits, Impossible Foods-based sandwiches and soups, made-to-order bowls and boxes, and plenty of gluten-free desserts. (They’re also the home base for mushroom tincture brand US Myco Corps and will add any of their drops to drinks for an additional fee.)

by Evan Malachosky

Michael Lotenero

Pittsburgh-based artist Michael Lotenero works out of a studio in the Strip District—and it’s available for visits rather regularly. The spacious venue features ceiling-height works at the front, sculptures as you near the middle and a paint-splattered pieces at the back, where Lotenero experiments with found objects, printed materials and plywood. The weekends, the artist explains, are when you’re likely to see the garage door drawn back, or at least a sign that welcomes passersby. You’re also welcome to schedule visits on weekdays through the artist’s website—even if you have no plans to purchase works.

Courtesy of Atelier de Fer

Atelier de Fer

Situated across the street from McCaffery’s highly anticipated mixed-use development, The Terminal, Atelier de Fer offers an abundance of coffee and tea drinks, and the corresponding beans and looseleaf mixes to-go, too. All are responsibly sourced, roasted on-site, and served fresh—including a barrel-aged bean blend collaboration with beer magazine Hop Culture. Their team also ideates a rotating list of seasonal drink options like the winter espresso tonic (a double espresso topped brown sugar, anise, vanilla, orange peel simple syrup and tonic water) and small bites to match. Joe Gourmet tinned sardines, squid and more are available for purchase, and prepared meals like a speck panini and sausage brioche strata delight (while the daily allotment lasts). Plus, there’s beer, wine and pre-batch cocktails to-go.

Courtesy of Hot Haute Hot

Hot Haute Hot

No two visits to Strip District furniture and decor store Hot Haute Hot are ever the same. The shop (and an off-limits storage hull) houses rotating collections of vintage chairs, tables and couches, market-found rugs and wall art, locally sourced decorations and more. Co-owners Rose Smith and Keneva Kennedy founded the shop in 1999, and have maintained the storefront and an interior design and consultancy service for two decades. Plus, on most days, you’ll find both in-store, offering advice and fielding requests and queries. If you’re in the market for a specific piece or a replica of something you already own, the staff with do their best to source it—or dig through their trove of treasures downstairs to find something similar.

Hero image courtesy of The Vandal