Station Street Hotdogs specializes in — no surprise — dogs: house dogs, Hawaii dogs (with pineapple salsa), chili cheese dogs (with arsenal cheese curds), banh mi dogs (pork liver with pickled vegetables) and more, made with 100 percent beef natural casing or vegan. This glass-enclosed eatery with red vinyl stools looks out to the parking lot, recalling an era of lunch counter simplicity.
Conflict Kitchen, a take-out style storefront serving food from countries with which the United States is in conflict, opened in 2010. It has featured — one country at a time for a number of months — Iranian, Afghan, and Venezuelan cuisine. A project of Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, it aims to engage the public in the culture, politics, and issues at stake within each country, through food as well as a series of events, performances, and discussions. Since my visit, it has closed in the East Liberty location and is looking to secure a larger restaurant, with seating, downtown. But don’t despair: Conflict Kitchen has been functioning as a Cuban paladar (home-based restaurant) in the home of a local family. Check website for dates and book a spot for a five-course Cuban meal accompanied by lively political and cultural conversation.
Also noteworthy: Vanilla Pastry Studio, serving the fluffiest cupcakes, and Zeke’s Coffee, a small batch roaster (one pound at a time) serving iced or hot coffee strong enough to propel you through the day.
In the Downtown Cultural District, empty storefronts inspired the city to initiate a program of pop-up spaces, and encouraged local businesses to apply.
Since last January, 11 projects were chosen out of 90 applicants, with more on the way, including Awesome Books, Boutique 208 (artist co-op), an ice cream shop — Dream Cream Ice Cream — that funnels money to 12 dreamers a month (to finance their personal projects, or dreams), Robot Repair (art installation), and something called The Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa.
“The pop-up project aims to get empty retail spaces filled. It’s a great venue for each artist,” said Marcy Bates, a co-op member of Boutique 208, adding they have already extended their lease and plan to stay in the neighborhood.
The 14-square-block district, a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, also has dozens of art galleries, seven world-class theaters, eight public parks and art installations, and is adjacent to the Allegheny River, where a brief stroll over the lemony-yellow 7th Street Bridge will take you to the Andy Warhol Museum.
The spirit of reclamation is active in the corporate world as well. On bustling Liberty Avenue PNC Bank employs an on-call archeologist to catalog artifacts it finds while building a new corporate tower, continuing a reclamation project (PNC Legacy Collection) of more than 26,000 artifacts found during a previous excavation. Some of those objects are on display — with audio tour — free and open to the public in the nearby Fairmont Hotel.
The bank is also building a separate exhibition hall — dubbed The Lantern Building — to display more objects from the collection, including glass bottles, porcelain dolls, ceramic plate fragments, and other items that reflect Pittsburgh’s early history. I hope it’s ready for my next reunion.
Necee Regis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.