For a small stretch of land, Pittsburgh’s Strip District has a big history.

From its roots as an industrial center, through its reinvention as a produce distribution hub, to today’s vibrant blend of uses, it has continued to evolve.

Today’s Strip District is a mix of old and new, traditional and trendy, with new businesses and housing options joining longtime staples.

That continued change is a sign of a healthy neighborhood ecosystem, according to Pamela Austin, a resident and president of Strip District Neighbors, a nonprofit that promotes economic development and quality of life while preserving and enhancing the integrity and character of the area.

“As we see redevelopment and change, one of the things I appreciate about the Strip is that there is a very strong business community,” said Melissa Marinaro, director of the Italian American Program at the Senator John Heinz History Center. “Many business owners are not just aware of the history of the Strip District, but they’re protective of it, so there’s great conversation going on.

“I do see respect in our neighborhood for the history we all share,” she said. “We’re all trying to be mindful and respectful as projects move forward.”

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

The Senator John Heinz History Center collects artifacts and archives that document the past 250 years of Western Pennsylvania history.

 

“The Strip has evolved from a wholesale/commercial district to now encompassing a large swath of stakeholders,” Austin said. “This is a healthy thing because sustainable neighborhoods need to be mixed-use in nature, meaning they have to offer places to live, work, shop and play.”

The 1-mile-long area offers all of that and more, she said — including one particularly interesting new feature.

“The trends we have seen most recently include an emphasis on specialty fitness and entertainment. I am not sure if the fitness trend is a renewed commitment to health following the pandemic, or businesses seeing the opportunity from the added residents and employees in our neighborhood,” Austin said. “I like to joke that we have always been known for our food, and now we have a place to work it off.”

One historical aspect of the Strip that has carried over into modern times is its varied ethnic makeup.

“We have our Italian and Greek merchants, Polish and Mideastern merchants, and we now have Asian markets,” Marinaro said. “We’re starting to see an expansion of the original idea and function of the Strip District for all the different types of people who came here to work in the great labor history that we have.”

The Strip District sits on the northern edge of downtown Pittsburgh, bounded by 11th Street on the south end, Bigelow Boulevard and Liberty Avenue on the east, 33rd Street on the north and the Allegheny River to the west.

Here is a look at some of its landmarks, specialty markets, boutiques and restaurants, some of which number among Pittsburgh’s best.

Points of interest

Strip Historic District — In 2014, the area bounded by Railroad Street, the former Pennsylvania Railroad Yards (now the site of a residential complex), 22nd Street, Liberty Avenue and 15th Street was designated by the National Park Service as the Strip Historic District, a National Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Strip District Terminal, 2100 Smallman St. — The renovated historic produce terminal is now home to a number of retail shops, recreational businesses and eateries, with more to come.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

St. Stanislaus Kostka Church was founded in 1875 as the first ethnic Polish parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

 

St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 57 21st St. — Founded in 1875 as the first ethnic Polish parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and home to historic “Munich-style” stained glass windows. In 1970, the church was listed on the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks register and, in 1972, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. St. Stanislaus is one of five churches comprising The Shrines of Pittsburgh.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

The Holy Stairs at Old Saint Patrick’s Church are a replica of the original steps at St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome.

 

Old St. Patrick’s Church, 1711 Liberty Ave. — Founded in 1808 as the first Catholic church in Pittsburgh, the church contains a set of Holy Stairs, or “Scala Sancta,” 28 steps which are a replica of the originals at St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome. One of only three sets in the United States, the stairs are meant to be ascended on the knees, with a prayer recited on each step.

Cultural sites

Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman St. — The Smithsonian affiliate institution collects artifacts and archives that document the past 250 years of Western Pennsylvania history, including general collections and special initiatives for the collecting of ethnic artifacts. The facility also houses the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Opera makes its headquarters in the Bitz Opera Factory in the Strip District.

 

Pittsburgh Opera Bitz Opera Factory, 2425 Liberty Ave. — Established in 1939, the opera presents main-stage productions in the downtown Benedum Center, with smaller productions — including contemporary and experimental operas — staged in its Strip District headquarters and other venues around the city. The opera furthers its mission by presenting free and low-cost musical events and educational programs.

Eateries

Bar Marco, 2216 Penn Ave. — Offering a two-course prix-fixe menu Tuesdays-Saturdays.

Cafe Raymond, 2009 Penn Ave. — Casual cafe serving creative sandwiches, salads made with local produce, scratch-made baked goods.

Cioppino, 2350 Railroad St. — Fresh seasonal seafood and chophouse with a luxury cigar bar.

DiAnoia’s Eatery, 2549 Penn Ave. — Homemade pastas and other Italian dishes, named one of Yelp’s top 100 places to eat in the United States in 2021.

Kelly O’s Diner, 100 24th St. — Woman-owned and operated family business serving breakfast and lunch.

Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaskan Grille, 2106 Penn Ave. — Contemporary eatery featuring New American seafood preparations and sushi.

Osteria 2350, 2350 Railroad St. — Casual Italian eatery offering seasonal dishes with fresh, local ingredients.

Pamela’s Diner, 60 21st St. — Retro, cash-only breakfast and lunch spot specializing in crepes, omelets and Lyonnaise potatoes.

Primanti Brothers, 46 18th St. — The original home of the sandwich shop chain, known for hearty sandwiches topped with coleslaw and french fries. Primanti’s was named a “America’s Classic” restaurant at the 2007 James Beard Foundation Awards.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

The original Primanti Brothers restaurant is in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

 

Roland’s Seafood Grill, 1904 Penn Ave. — Seafood, wood-fired pizza and more using the Strip’s fresh produce, seafood and baked goods.

Savoy Restaurant, 2623 Penn Ave. — Serving upscale interpretations of American favorite dishes.

Something sweet

Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop, 2124 Penn Ave. — Large bulk and nostalgic candy inventory, sodas in glass bottles, gift items.

Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor, 2801 Penn Ave. — Opened in 1923 as an apothecary and ice cream shop, serves homemade ice cream in the Penn State Creamery tradition.

Peace, Love and Little Donuts, 50 21st St. — Original location of the chain serving old-fashioned cake doughnuts with “Groovy, Far Out and Funkadellic flavors.”

Specialty foods and beverages

Cafetano Coffee Roasters, 1601 Penn Ave. — Whole bean and ground coffee from a company with roots in Honduras.

Lotus Food Co., 1649 Penn Ave. — Fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods from all over Asia.

Many More Asian Market, 3050 Smallman St. — Mostly Taiwanese and Chinese fresh and frozen food products.

The Olive Tap, 106 19th St. — Olive oil and balsamic vinegar specialty store.

Parma Sausage Products, 1734 Penn Ave. — Fresh sausages, cooked and dry-cured meat products from family recipes since 1954.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. has been selling homemade pastas and other Italian foods in Pittsburgh’s Strip District since 1902.

 

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., 2010-2012 Penn Ave. — Specializing in pastas and other Italian foods since 1902, stocking more than 5,000 specialty products.

Prestogeorge Coffee & Tea, 1719 Penn Ave. — One of Pittsburgh’s oldest gourmet coffee roasters and loose tea specialists.

Robert Wholey and Co. Inc., 1711 Penn Ave. — Since 1912, selling seafood, poultry, meats, produce and other grocery items.

S&D Polish Deli, 2204 Penn Ave. — Stocks Polish meats, such as smoked kielbasa, bacons, Kiszka, liver sausage, headcheeses and hams, and prepared foods.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Salem’s Market and Grill stocks halal meats and other foods.

 

Salem’s Market and Grill, 2923 Penn Ave. — Stocks halal meats and other foods and other Mediterranean fare.

Stamoolis Brothers Co., 2020 Penn Ave. — Specializing in Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern foods.

Strip District Meats, 2123 Penn Ave. — In addition to the typical meats and poultry, the market stocks exotic meats including venison, kangaroo, buffalo, alligator, ostrich, rattlesnake and ground camel.

WFH Oriental Food Market, 2306 Penn Ave. — Fresh produce and herbs, large frozen food section.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

The Wigle Whiskey Distillery produces regionally inspired spirits made with organic ingredients.

 

Wigle Whiskey Distillery, 2401 Smallman St. — Award-winning, regionally inspired spirits made with organic ingredients.

Entertainment and night life

Art’s Tavern, 2852 Penn Ave. — Food and drinks, popular pre-game gathering spot.

Bold Escape Rooms, 2420 Penn Ave. — Find clues and solve puzzles to get out of a locked room

CAVO Pittsburgh, 1916 Smallman St. — Weekend DJs and dancing, dress code enforced.

Cinderlands Warehouse, 2601 Smallman St. — Brewery with an elevated bar food menu.

Coop de Ville, 2305 Smallman St. — Fast-casual dining, bar, arcade games, bowling and billiards.

El Layali Cafe, 2533 Penn Ave. — Hookah bar and coffee shop.

Preeti’s Pitt, 2701 Penn Ave. — Bar and grill, live music, happy hours.

Real Luck Cafe (Lucky’s Bar), 1519 Penn Ave. — A bar that caters to the LGBTQ+ community with go-go dancers and regular DJ nights.

Steel City Axes, 2420 Penn Ave. — Coaches are available to help ax-throwers hone their skills.

Shopping

Jonathan Moran Woodworks, 108 19th St. — Handcrafted specialty home and gift items.

love, Pittsburgh, 1728 Penn Ave. — Curated selection of gift items made by Pittsburgh-based artists and makers.

Penn Avenue Pottery, 1905 Penn Ave. — One-of-a-kind vases, bowls, mugs and home accents by local artists.

Pip and Lola’s Everything Homemade, 1921 Smallman St. — Lightly scented, handcrafted, vegetarian and vegan soaps.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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