Courtesy of The Globe and Mail.

The title of this article might as well be: Two Canadians walk into a bar . . .

In this case, it’s writers Tom Lawson and Sheila Casey, profiling Pittsburgh for the The Globe and Mail.

In their article, How we stumbled upon Pittsburgh’s dives and culinary hot spots, which appears in the leading Canadian publication, Lawson and Casey share their spontaneous and funny trek through the local food and drink scene in the paper’s Dispatch section—a series of first-person stories from the road.

When shoving off from our neighbors to the north, the pair was asked what seems to be an oft-uttered question:

“All of our friends asked, ‘Why are you going to Pittsburgh?’”

Our city’s world-class arts and cultural scene originally drew the pair, but soon their journey took a tastier—and thirstier—turn:

“The intentions were cultural: the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, Cathedral of Learning and the Mattress Factory. But things then took a swing from cultural to culinary. It started the first afternoon. Should we get some exercise on a short run or go to happy hour? Happy hour won.”

Wise choice.

Wandering into Kelly’s in East Liberty proved to be quite fortuitous for Lawson and Casey, where they struck up a bond with bartender Deirdre, who proceeded to write down “all her favourite haunts in the city” (plus a round of drinks and a bowl of the bar’s trademark mac and cheese). Pittsburgh’s two newest fans were off and running.

Making new friends along the way, the writers connected with local culinary movers and shakers to eat and drink their way through local hot spots such as Bar Marco, Meat & Potatoes, Allegheny Wine Mixer and Spirit. And that was just one night.

“I suppose we contravened one of those cardinal rules of travel: Don’t go with complete strangers to unknown destinations. So ended our first few hours in Pittsburgh.”

The synergies continued during their second night in town, where new friendships were forged with insiders from the city’s restaurant and hospitality industries.

The whirlwind food and drink tour featured tips provided by Cat and Ashley at Wallace’s Tap Room in the Hotel Indigo—who gave the writers a list of all their friends and the restaurants and bars they worked at. Adventure and intrigue ensued when a man named Cecil at downtown’s Butcher and the Rye asked the writers for a “small favour.”

Lawson and Casey explain: “As readers in the restaurant industry may know, there is a thing called a ‘boomerang.’ This is when a bartender mixes a cocktail and has it delivered to a friend working in another bar. We were now couriers on Pittsburgh public transit delivering a Boulevardier. When we presented it to Cat and Ashley, they simply went hysterical. It was their first boomerang.”

The pair wrapped up their Pittsburgh exploits at Butterjoint in Oakland, where Joe the bartender inquired: “Are you those Canadians in the city for six nights?” And later Tim, one of the servers asked, “Are you Canadian?”

It seems that Lawson and Casey left with much more than just an admiration for Pittsburgh’s culinary scene:

“People told us there is an aggressive friendliness to the people of Pittsburgh (and I mean this in only the kindest of terms). Where else would someone approach you at a bus stop and ask: ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Downtown,’ we replied. After ruffling through his pocket, he produced two bus transfers. ‘I know this looks slightly illegal,’ he said, ‘but trust me, it’s legit.’ Sure enough, the two bus transfers worked.

And yes, Lawson and Casey did also make it to all of Pittsburgh’s fantastic cultural institutions.

“In a short period of time we were overwhelmed with hospitality and charm. Pittsburgh may be coming out of an economic recession, but they certainly deserve to be in the pantheon of great American cities by spreading the love.”

Read the entire article in The Globe and Mail.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...