Contributing writer, Janelle Wilson weighs in on her favorite coffee shops and cafés in the area.

By: Janelle Wilson

It’s no secret to residents that Northside is on the rise, but sometimes we all need a little caffeinated-jolt to help rise with our beloved neighborhoods.

From 15-year staples to newly-opened, the following coffee shops and cafés have become Northside favorites, with owners and baristas alike seeking to create places where Pittsburgh residents can gather and call home.

5) Kaffeehaus

Having just opened this past May, the Kaffeehaus Café is the youngest member on this list.

Owner Chris Waraks renovated the space from an old barber shop and its new interior features plenty of wood, metal accents and hanging from the walls are exhibits from local artists.

Kaffeehaus in East Deutschtown. Photo credit: Neil Strebig

Waraks wife, Tammy, makes the café’s fresh-baked goods and the shop offers up novelty brews like the ‘Deutschtown Dunkel Coffee’ and ‘Tripoli Tea.’

1002 Chestnut Street, East Deutschtown: Tuesday thru Friday 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

4) Priory Fine Pastries

The oldest café on the list, Priory Fine Pastries has been rooted in the Northside since 2004.

While Priory Fine Pastries is well known as a bakery, they also serve breakfast and lunch paninis in addition to coffee drinks. Not to mention, the location has a charming decor that meshes well with the historic vibe of Deutschtown and the building’s own history.

Priory Fine Pastries was originally Clark Candy Company in the late 1800s, where the original Clark Bar was invented to keep up with U.S.  soldiers’ demand for candy during World War I. According to their website, the Graf family opened Priory Fine Pastries because the closest bakery in the area was miles away and they wanted to fill that void in the community.

Jim Lazeration, general manager and head pastry chef for the past seven years, said that cookies and cupcakes were the most popular food item they sell, but added that people come in for all sorts of different foods.

Fresh baked goods and a cup of coffee with a side of history? Count us in.

528 E. Ohio Street, Historic Deutschtown: Monday thru Saturday 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

3) California Coffee Bar

After Vault Coffee and Tea Bar closed its doors, California Coffee Bar co-owner Sarah Mendak sought to fill the void in her neighborhood by opening California Coffee in its place this past March.

“We hope to give more of a Pittsburgh feel to Brighton Heights because it is still part of the city,” she said.

According to Mendak, the café hosts a number of events including fall and Halloween-themed events. With its large, modern and clean dining space the coffee shop offers patrons a gathering space, which Mendak mentions can draw a diverse crowd, from young professionals to families and retirees.

One of many decorative signs at California Coffee Bar in Brighton Heights. Photo credit: Janelle Wilson

“We’re excited to be here, and we’re having a lot of fun,” she said.

Mendak mentioned that the café’s lavender latte has been a popular choice as of late, but their nitro coffee blends – which have less bitterness and fewer calories than an average brew – are still the most popular choices.

In addition to the lattes and coffees, California Coffee also offers sugar-free smoothies, which are made with whole ingredients and plant-based proteins.

3619 California Avenue, Brighton Heights: Monday thru Friday 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

2) Commonplace Coffee at the Mexican War Streets

Commonplace Coffee House and Roastery is a Western PA coffee chain with seven locations in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Its Buena Vista St. location opened in January of 2016.

With its high ceilings and large windows, Commonplace has a light and airy feel with plenty of hipster flair. The coffee shop attracts a diverse crowd according to facilitator Frank Battista, who has been a barista at the coffee shop since its opening.

“It’s called Commonplace for a reason,” Battista said. “It’s an easy luxury, and approachable for people from all walks of life, the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy.”

A cappuccino from Commonplace Coffee at Mexican War Streets. Photo credit: Janelle Wilson

According to Battista, the most popular drinks are cappuccinos, lattes and pour over coffee.

“I hope people feel like this a place to come gather,” he said.

1501 Buena Vista Street, Allegheny City Central. Sunday thru Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m

1) Arnold’s Tea

Seeking to set her café apart from the rest of the coffee shops in Pittsburgh, Arnold’s Tea owner Verna Arnold, affectionately referred to as Miss Arnold by her customers, decided she would focus on tea instead of coffee. Although she admits that their coffee drinks are still popular. With its spacious green walls and wood accents, Arnold’s has become a meeting ground for both residents and visiting professionals.

“People have told me that this [Arnold’s Tea] is the cornerstone for Northside revitalization projects,” she said. “People even hold business meetings here, which is something I never expected.”

In addition to its brewed teas and lunch options, Arnold’s dedicates a retail space for selling loose leaf teas and tea accessories.

A native Pittsburgher, Arnold opened her Deutschtwon café three years ago, after a 30-year career in education. Boasting a 4.5 out of 5 rating from the about 50 Yelp reviews, it’s safe to say Arnold’s is a community favorite.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I feel honored to be part of the community in this way,” she said.

502 E. Ohio Street, Historic Deutschtown: Monday thru Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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