Where the Strip District found itself after the collapse of the city’s industry would usually be the point at which a neighborhood either decayed into virtual nonexistence or was ultimately bulldozed and rebuilt from the ground up by hungry developers. The Strip District, though, took a uniquely Pittsburgh approach: its revitalization would bring new life to the area without sacrificing what it once had been, repurposing old buildings in new and fascinating ways. Factories became apartment buildings, stables became restaurants, warehouses became nightclubs. A lot of similar neighborhoods in other cities have reinvented themselves, but few have accomplished the feat without losing sight of where they came from. Today, the Strip District is one of the city’s hottest club, bar, and restaurant neighborhoods, and probably its most aesthetically fascinating.
And speaking of the city’s restaurants: it’s worth bringing up that I’ve given this city a lot of crap in the past about its food culture in the past. To be fair, Primanti Brothers, the city’s most well-known purveyor of french fry-laden hoagies, actually is garbage food -- I wasn’t talking out my ass on that one. And while many Pittsburghers vehemently insist sandwiches with french fries on them can be great if they come from other sources, I remain dubious. That being said, any city’s “signature” food is likely to be kitschy garbage riding high on reputation over substance. It’s unfair to hold Chicago responsible for the atrocity that is deep dish pizza, half-smokes are a sad clownshow that shouldn’t detract from the rest of DC’s food scene, Cincinnati chili is a blight upon all mankind and… ok, actually, I’m cool with blaming Cincinnati for that one. Anyway, the point is, french fries on sandwiches are no exception to the rule of “trademark” food being hot garbage not reflective of a city’s overall food quality.
On the other hand, a lot of the other food here is shockingly good. You can walk into any random burger or sandwich place (Primanti’s notwithstanding) and expect a level of quality far above what you’re paying. Pittsburgh’s pizza, meanwhile, is far better than it has any right to be -- I’ve yet to eat a bad pizza from any local place here. It’s not even that Pittsburgh does anything unique or bizarre when it comes to pizza; it’s just really, really damn good. (Granted, I’m from DC, where terrible pizza is the one blight on an otherwise sterling food scene, so it’s possible my opinions are warped from the start.)