A new-look North Shore Avenue has more and more Pittsburghers visiting without their Steelers and Pirates gear on
By: Neil Strebig
Cover photo by Neil Strebig
Decades ago Pittsburgh’s North Shore was home to the city’s warehouse and manufacturing districts cut off from the rest of the city via the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” In July 1970, Three Rivers Stadium was built becoming the lone talisman of attraction. For non-North Siders Steelers and Pirate games were the lone reason to visit the western shore of the Allegheny River. The joint-stadium would offer Pittsburghers a venue to witness sports history as two World Series titles and four Super Bowl Championships birthed Pittsburgh’s The City of Champions nickname.
Yet, despite the success of the city’s sport franchises there was little reason to visit the North Shore aside from tailgating. Even after the demolition of Three Rivers Stadium in 2001, the arrivals of Heinz Field and PNC Park still saw a stretch of timid appeal to Pittsburghers or out-of-town visitors. Outside of game days there was little entertainment value on the North Shore.
That isn’t so much the case nowadays thanks to a revamped North Shore Avenue boasting over a half dozen restaurants that have popped up there over the years including Jerome Bettis Grille 36 in 2007, followed shortly after by Rivertowne in 2010, a restaurant inspired from the Verona-based brewing company. Since North Shore has played host to a number of restaurants and businesses, including Stage AE and Rivers Casino, looking to capitalize on the game day exodus.
The neighborhoods recent additions of Southern Tier Brewing Co., Tequila Cowboy and the locally owned brewpub The Foundry are helping the North Shore change that perception even further.
“It’s crazy to see what’s going on down here,” said Mike Puschaver, general manager at Southern Tier. “I remember when Bettis’ was the only thing on the street. It’s crazy to see what’s happening down here. It’s awesome.”
Puschaver and executive chef, Jamie Sola have been excited to not just bring the Southern Tier brand to the North Shore but to help make the neighborhood into a destination rather than a game day stop.
“This is definitely turning into a secondary South Side, if you will. People are coming down here now to just straight up party even if anything else isn’t going on,” said Sola. “You’re starting to see a new influx of people down here.”
Southern Tier Brewing Co., hails from Lakewood, N.Y., but the current location offers Pittsburghers a chance not only to enjoy some of the brewing company’s most beloved brews but also the opportunity to enjoy a few new creations in house courtesy of the location’s four fermenting tanks. According to Puschaver they are currently brewing a scotch ale, a golden ale along with a single malt and single hop pub smash brew. Each is specific to the North Shore location.
“It is kind of our take on what they do in Lakewood,” said Puschaver.
In addition to their in-house beer creations and selection of 30 beer taps, Sola has helped create a menu that he described as “going outside the box while keeping things familiar for Pittsburgh.”
“Within doing that you’re expanding everybody’s knowledge and understanding of food while keeping it familiar,” he added.
Guests should try the in-house smoked wings which offer a complimentary sootiness to pair with their beer selections or the restaurant’s best-seller, their Southern Tier Burger: A beer cheese-stuffed burger with black pepper bacon, garlic aioli, arugula, jerk pickles and topped with a beer-battered onion ring. It is a non-traditional take on an American classic and according to Puschaver the burger is quickly becoming a staple for the establishment.
Across from Stage AE is the North Shore’s newest slice of nightlife, Tequila Cowboy a Nashville-based theme bar. Tequila Cowboy offers visitors three different bars to choose from: Tequila Cowboy’s mechanical bull offers guests a fun challenge to pair with a traditional Nashville-styled setting, Little Red Corvette is an 80s and 90s-themed section and Wanna B’s promotes itself as a karaoke bar. All three provide North Shore visitors with after-dinner entertainment options.
Catty-corner to Southern Tier and directly across the street from Tequila Cowboy is The Foundry, a family owned brewpub home to over 30 taps – nearly all microbrews – most of which are made right here in the state.
Co-owner, Andrew Stackiewicz who opened The Foundry with his sister Michelle Bugg and her husband Rob, acknowledged that the “vision” of a changing North Shore was a huge reason the trio of Pittsburgh natives decided to establish themselves here. The Foundry’s name pays homage to the North Shore’s industrial roots taking its title after Pittsburgh’ H.K. Porter Foundry and Machine Co. which operated on the same block during the mid-to-late 19th century. The Foundry opened in July of last year replacing, Asiago’s.
Stackiewicz is excited to see a vast majority of his patrons visiting the restaurant on non-game days and credits a portion of that success to his culinary program run by executive chef, Mike Godlewski.
“We’re the only non-chain,” said Stackiewicz. “So, we’re more flexible with what we can do. We do everything from scratch and [use] all local farmers.”
According to chef Godlewski they are a complete “scratch kitchen” making everything in-house.
“When it’s from scratch you have more control over the whole process and know exactly what is going into the finished product,” said Godlewski. “When we place an order from one of our produce farmers the items are being harvested in the morning and then delivered the same day, having never seen a warehouse or extended refrigeration. It’s really hard to get that quality and relationship if you’re buying it premade.”
Both Stackiewicz and Godlewksi are excited to see that more and more patrons are lining up outside on non-gamedays.
“We’ll be at the restaurant for meetings and the foot traffic on days when there are no events going on is amazing. On the weekends, you look at all the people inside the restaurant, the foot traffic and you would think there was a game or concert going on but it’s just a regular day – no events,” said Godlewski.
“You can just see it in the streets each night. With all the new venues opening you hope it will bring more people down and give us more exposure.”