Enrico Biscotti

(Photos of Strip District street view, fresh produce on Penn Ave., Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., Costume World; Rob Larson)

All roads in Pittsburgh lead to the Strip.

What began as a rail hub for produce and fish has become the city’s most treasured destination for fresh food and accouterments, all on a few gritty streets lined with specialty shops, street vendors, pubs and restaurants.

Nestled in the shadow of downtown Pittsburgh, this is the place shoppers go to jostle with fellow shoppers and diners go to get and eat seriously good food. More recently the Strip has become the cool place up-and-coming companies like 4Moms and Deeplocal.

The Strip is tiny by neighborhood standards. The one-half mile stretch is sandwiched between the Allegheny River to the north and portions of downtown and the Hill District to the south. While traditionally a place of industry and commerce, more and more people are making their home here—600 according the recent count—as more places like the Cork Factory become available.

The main thoroughfares of Penn Avenue and Smallman Street hum throughout the week, from early morning to mid-day, although weekends draw the biggest and liveliest crowds. Some of the best coffee and beans are here at places like La Prima Espresso and 21st Street Coffee.

Primantis’ famous flagship eatery is here, known for salads and sandwiches ploughed under by fries. Wholeys is a fish and meat lover’s paradise. Penn Mac and Parma Sausage’s give the street its Old World charm.

It’s hard keeping up with the Strip these days, let alone guess what it ultimately might look like one day. Thankfully, the city seems determined to preserve the Strip’s role as a place of bustling shopping and nightlife.

Many of the warehouses and factories have already been redeveloped into lively nightclubs, breweries, restaurants, residential lofts and museums, such as the Heinz History Center and the Society for Contemporary Craft.

Reigning over it all is the historic St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, built in 1891 in the ornate Polish Cathedral style. It continues to stand as a quiet reminder that in these changing times, this neighborhood remains at the heart of what Pittsburgh and the region is all about.

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Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared in Fast Company, Ozy and Pittsburgh Magazine.