Cheap must-eat: The ballyhooed Primanti Brothers sandwich is revered for a reason. Primanti's classic “Pitts-burgher cheesesteak” starts at $7.29 and is a full meal (cole slaw, thick cut of beef, thick-cut French fries, thick-cut Italian bread... it's all thick, actually) in the palm of your hand.
Best cheap thing to do: For a mere $5, you can take the historic Duquesne incline (it’s like a ski-lift on rails) up Mount Washington to bask in decidedly cinematic views of the Three-River City with a bird’s eye perspective.
Why it's worth a trip: Pittsburgh fell to shit in the early '80s but has bounced back big to become one of the most exciting and intriguing Midwestern cities. Yet it still holds onto its rusty belt and blue collar. For lodging, eschew the bougie charm of the William Penn Hotel (I mean, that’s where Obama stays when he visits), and instead get an Airbnb in one of Pittsburgh’s auxiliary neighborhoods, to really live like a Yinzer. Stay in the cozy, cobblestoned Squirrel Hill or Shadyside if you want to pose as a broke-ass Pitt student, hitting up trend-tastic cafes (at PA prices) like Commonplace Coffee. Late night, enjoy mountains of fries and two hot dogs for under five bones at the Original Hot Dog Shop with a post-bar crowd that flocks there, to the ‘O, for its prodigious selection of rare and craft beers.
Now: sports. Steelers and Penguins tickets will set you back, but a few outfield seats in the gorgeous PNC Park can be had for $20, especially if you wait it out till game time. And if the weather is nice enough for a ballgame, it’s probably nice enough to rent a kayak or paddleboard ($15 and $20 for an hour, respectively) to cruise on the Monongahela, Allegheny, or Ohio rivers.
But what you really come to the ‘Burgh for is food. Sure, Lawrenceville and East Liberty have a snarl of hip, fantastic restaurants, but if you are munching on a budget, you cannot go wrong with hitting up the Strip District on Saturday morning. From the claustrophobic (yet extremely prolific) sushi booth at Wholey’s Fish Market, to freshly made biscotti that won’t break your molars at Enrico Biscotti, to a pile of thin-as-crepes pancakes and bacon at Pamela’s Diner, to pierogis literally sold on the street -- there’s a glut of food to eat that will run under $10.
Don’t come to Pittsburgh looking for pretension, or complication. Come instead to get a flyover city where you can live (and eat!) like Mario Lemieux, on your unemployed cousin Mario’s budget. -- Wil Fulton, Thrillist staff writer