“Butler Street is a place the chain stores forgot,” wrote The New York Times recently in reference to Lawrenceville, one of Pittsburgh’s most loved neighborhoods.

As the main artery of this energetic community of 2.5 square miles, Butler St. is where you’ll find some 130 galleries, coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants and other consumer-oriented businesses—the majority of them locally owned.

Between 2000 and 2010, Lawrenceville saw a 25 percent increase in the number of 18- to 24-year-olds. It also ushered in higher housing costs as the area grew increasingly vibrant and attractive to young and not so young alike.

“There’s a lot of action,” says Deb Gross, City Council member for Lawrenceville. “There are so many people doing so much cool stuff, new storefronts, new boutiques, new food makers. Just so much that wasn’t here 20 years ago.”

Here are 5 reasons why we love this place. We invite you to add your own in the comments section.

Paint Monkey's Mary Lou Bradley and Joe Groom. Photo by Brian Cohen.
Paint Monkey’s Mary Lou Bradley and Joe Groom. Photo by Brian Cohen.
Paint Monkey’s Mary Lou Bradley and Joe Groom. Photo by Brian Cohen.

1. The lively art scene

With more than 20 arts spaces and studios—ranging from DIY Paint Monkey to galleries that feature local artists such as Revision Space—Lawrenceville is a leader in the Pittsburgh art scene.

“The art and creativity is starting to bring more and more people to the area and is making Lawrenceville a destination,” says Cindy Lisica, owner of Revision Space. “The businesses work together and have the same goal of bringing something new to the space.”

Consider Radiant Hall, a multi-story building devoted to affordable working space for artists from the enterprising artist/entrepreneur Ryan Lammie.

Other destinations to check out are Asian Influences, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, be Galleries and Kiln-N-Time pottery studio.

2. The live entertainment

Looking for something a little offbeat?

Gus’s Café gives you a chance to show your DJ prowess at Open Turntables every Monday. On Wednesday, head over to Brillobox to test your knowledge at Pub Quiz night. If you like improv, keep an eye on Unplanned Comedy’s calendar.

Cattivo offers an array of events such as goth industrial dance night, drag/burlesque shows and glow-light dance parties.

Look for obscure game night or open mic comedy at Hambone’s, or catch a great band—and some good bar food—at the Thunderbird Café.

Franktuary. Photo by Brian Cohen.
Franktuary. Photo by Brian Cohen.

3. The food scene

Lawrenceville’s food options are as wide-ranging as they are unique. Within a mile radius you can chow down on anything from salumi at Cure to a grass-fed beef hot dog topped with pierogies at Franktuary.

“It’s exciting to be part of the food industry in Lawrenceville and to have such innovative neighbors,” says Tim Tobitsch, co-owner of Franktuary. “We all benefit and support each other to bring a vibrant atmosphere to the area.”

See a pattern here?

“Brunch is a major creative outlet for us,” says Tobitsch. “Some of our most popular dishes have included a fried chicken and waffle sandwich, crusted catfish and a pork belly confit corn dog.”

Other popular brunch locations include Coca Cafe, Industry Public House, Tender Bar + Kitchen and Round Corner Cantina. And there are lots of new places for dinner including Smoke Taqueria pictured above–check ’em out here .

4. The innovation 

As the home of the National Robotics Center, Lawrenceville has plenty of cred in the creativity and innovation area, including two companies that embody the inventive spirit Pittsburgh is becoming known for:

Amizade organizes fair-trade, service-focused learning opportunities. There are international offerings such as Community Health in Brazil and closer to home, Sustainability and Culture in Appalachia. Amizade is part of a larger co-working space, The Global Switchboard, which houses 12 globally minded organizations under one roof.

“We wanted to be in a neighborhood where people live, work and socialize in a forward-thinking way,” says Brandon Blanche-Cohen, executive director of Amizade.

Elisco Advertising pairs two diverse elements—advertising and food—into one agency. Or is it into one cafe? These ad men and women love cooking so they designed their workspace to include a cafe.

Next to the rustic warmth of a red brick oven, they serve up brand development and strategic planning with cappuccino and biscotti. For their clients, they host wine tastings, Italian dinners and once a week, a free lunch. No wonder they attract big-name—and, yes, well-fed—clients.

Rowhouse Cinema. Photo by Brian Cohen.
Row House Cinema. Photo by Brian Cohen.

5. The blending of old with new

Stroll down Butler St. at twilight and sense the magic as shop interiors come alive with lamplight. Take note of one well designed façade after another from Wild Purveyors and Atlas Bottle Works to Pavement and Espresso a Mano. There are dozens of charming and distinct independent shops.

A walk down this main street is all you need to catch the resonant vibe that comes when a community honors history while embracing the new.

Here are some places you can do both:

Row House Cinema shows old-time classics like Singin’ in the Rain and Chicago, but also offers up modern classics like Grease (with a singalong) or a John Waters marathon. Plus, there’s craft beer, locally baked pretzels, popcorn with real butter and vegan snacks.

At the Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar—a U.S. Civil War themed winery (yes, you read that right)—you can sample your daily rations of hard apple cider, mead or cider-style fruit and grape wines.

At Kickback, test your pinball skills while eating kale chips and drinking beer—a winning combination, we say. Did you know Pittsburgh is known as one of the best pinball hubs? True.

There are many more reasons to check out Lawrenceville. Check out our neighborhood guide and this recent 10 reasons why Lawrenceville’s food scene is exploding. Want more neighborhood features? We recently wrote about Brookline and before that, Carnegie. Stay tuned for more.

All photos by Brian Cohen.

A recent graduate of Point Park, Chloe Detrick works in the social psychology research sector of Carnegie Mellon University. In her spare time she contributes reviews to the Pittsburgh Stage Online Magazine, teaches Zumba classes and attempts to find the best plate of macaroni and cheese Pittsburgh has to offer.