awesome pittsburgh businesses

10 Awesome Pittsburgh Businesses I Will Miss

Pittsburgh has been my home since I moved here in 2006 after college. I love this city. I love the food. I love the beer. I love the sports teams. Most of all, I love the people and the laid back vibe. Pittsburgh is a great place to meet smart, talented, and successful people who don’t act like they want to prove how smart, talented, and successful they are.

I’m moving to North Carolina next month. And while I’m looking forward to being closer to family in NC, there’s a lot I’m going to miss about Pittsburgh, including some cool businesses that do great things. So here’s my list of 10 awesome Pittsburgh businesses (and smattering of non profits) to make planning easier on my next trip back to the ‘burgh.

There are only two criteria for organizations on the list of awesome Pittsburgh businesses. First, they need to have an average Google rating of at least 4.5 (the magic cutoff, in my book). Second, I need to legitimately plan on seeing them on future return visits to the Steel City.

#1 Crafton Shoe Service (Crafton)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business?

I haven’t bought new work shoes in eight years.

Gross, you say? Maybe. But I blame Crafton Shoe Service and the amazing work that they do. These guys not only shine shoes but they’ll repair them and get old dogs doing new tricks. That’s a bad metaphor, but everything about this place is incredible. Owned by Frank Ambrosio and in business since 1968, Crafton Shoe Service does fantastic work and is (more than) reasonably priced.

How to reach them?

Visit at 29 Walsh Road in Pittsburgh (Crafton). You can call them at 412-921-4940. Check their website here.

crafton shoe service

#2 Dancing Gnome (Sharpsburg)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business?

Pittsburgh offers a wealth of excellent beer choices. For my money, nobody beats Dancing Gnome (although Grist House and Brew Gentlemen are close!). The DG folks brew amazing hazy APAs and IPAs with ABVs ranging from the mid 3% (Aveum, Half Lustra, Upward Below) to 10%+ (Triple Lustra). I’ll most miss the doubles like Movie Night and Spy Dolphin and will be stocking up to haul them a little further south to NC.

If you are driving through North Carolina and bring some Dancing Gnome beer with you, I will gladly trade you some NC pork barbecue, and / or free digital marketing consulting.

How to reach them?

Check their hours and then show up at 1025 Main Street (new location in 2022) in Pittsburgh (Sharpsburg) for delicious beer and a great time. Or check their website for more info or the Ecommerce site to place an order.

dancing gnome

#3 Alexions Bar and Grill (Carnegie)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business?

Alexion’s has a wonderful combination of awesome Pittsburgh bar food (great wings, huge sandwiches, pepperoni rolls, good burgers, fries, fries on the salad) and an extensive draft list. They get a great assortment of Pizza Boy beer and always have a well managed list available. The vibe inside is friendly and laid back. The first time I went, the mayor of Greentree was at the bar having a drink and he was quite patient as my then-toddler daughter accidentally (and repeatedly) shined her flashlight in his eyes. It’s just a fun and happy place where no one seems to take themselves too seriously.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve probably averaged 2 – 3 trips a month to Alexions. It has never disappointed. It’s what I imagine a great restaurant in heaven will be like. Here’s just one example…

On our most recent visit my daughter, wife, and I were waiting at the bar for a booth to open up. A kind couple with a prime booth spot offered to give up their table to us and move the rest of their date to the bar. Before we could refuse, they were already up and moving. We asked our server if we could cover their check. At the end of the evening, not only did we learn that they graciously declined our offer, but someone else at the bar who had seen us waiting had paid for our check. This type of stuff is just not normal, but is apparently not unheard of here.

That same evening, one of the bartenders gave my daughter this angel that you can see below. She (my daughter) had left it at the restaurant on a prior visit and the bartender (Val) had been driving around with it in her car until we returned. To the best of my knowledge, she doesn’t know our names but went out of her way to save this special figurine for my daughter.

angel with alexions beer list

As the kind couple who gave us their seats told us, “it doesn’t cost anything to kind.” If you are fortunate enough to go in the future, take that same spirit and you’ll fit right in.

How to reach them?

Show up at 141 Hawthorne St. in Carnegie and try to grab a booth by the bar. If you want to do some research first, you can check out their draft list here. Bell’s Two Hearted is almost always featured, which is an encouraging sign when looking for a place with discerning taste.

alexions bar and grill

#4 Everyday Cafe (Homewood)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business (not for profit)?

Have you ever thought that “church” should be more than a place to worship on Sunday? If that sounds like you, the Everyday Café in Homewood is your kind of place. The café is one of many not for profit organizations that sit underneath the umbrella of Bible Center Church (others include an entrepreneurship academy, an urban farm, an after school program, a transportation company, and more). Bible Center is a faith community that believes “the church has left the building” in this broken yet beautiful world we live in.

The worthiness of the mission is matched by the excellence of the food and coffee drinks at the café. Stop in and the check them out if you’re close to Homewood, the East End, or Shadyside!

How to reach them?

Check out the menu at www.everydaycafepgh.com, or just stop by 532 N Homewood Ave.

everydafe cafe pittsburgh

Ps. Just don’t come on Sunday. The coffee shop is closed, but Bible Center Church is open and service starts at 10:00. It is located in a former Rite Aid at 717 N Homewood Ave and there is a shared-use community kitchen on the ground floor (Oasis Community Kitchen). The pastors and the congregation are warm and love Jesus, and have been so gracious and welcoming to me and my family.

#5 Black Radish Kitchen (East End)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business?

There was only one time that food made me cry. It was when Chef Kate Romane closed her Highland Park restaurant E2. It hurt to lose the food and friends and memories from that place. I’ll always remember meals we had with some of our best Pittsburgh friends over the years. I almost cried again (happy tears!) when Chef Kate opened Black Radish, a food service company that does catering, events, and home delivery. The most magical part about Black Radish is the large “Sunday Sauce” family style dinners they host at their production kitchen in East Liberty. If you are ever lucky enough to attend, don’t miss it!

How to reach them?

For events shoot an email over to info@blackradishpgh.com. You can sign up the email newsletter here or check out the Black Radish website.

black radish kitchen

#6 A1 Seamless Gutters (Greensburg)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business?

Is there any worse feeling than trying to get a quote for a new roof or new gutters and wondering how much you’re being taken advantage of? Now, imagine the exact opposite of that feeling and it’s what it’s like to work with Tyler at A1 Seamless Gutters. He has been running the family business for 5 years and is one of the most honest and most conscientious people I’ve met. He runs his business the way that I’d love to be able to run mine: he explains things well, he cares a lot about the quality of his work, and his finished product is amazing.

Tyler and his team worked on our house in Rosslyn Farms (also, formerly the international headquarters of Root and Branch Group) and did roofing, soffit and fascia, and installed a new Trex deck. I’ve never trusted a contractor more. Even though the project took more time than they had expected, Tyler gladly honored the original deal and refused offers to take more money. How wild is that?

The only “problem” is that they are based in Greensburg and do most of their business east of the city. If you’re in the west or South Hills, good luck. I think he was willing to come out to our place only we were referred to him as a customer.

How to reach them?

Can them at 724-834-7663 or email at sales@a1seamlessgutterspa.com. Or check their website for all things related to Pittsburgh gutters and roofing.

a1 seamless gutters

#7 Piccolo Forno (Lawrenceville)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business?

The food is reasonably priced and delicious. Plus there’s a wine bar / grapperia that is attached to the restaurant and perfect for grabbing a drink while you wait for your table.

Also, it’s a BYOB which is an awesomeness force multiplier of like 3x. What’s better than sitting down to an amazing meal with good friends and a couple bottles of wine? Not much! I’ll always remember this place as the scene of the crime where one of our good friends used the relaxed atmosphere (and my wife Paula and myself) as a shield when he surprised his wife with the news that he had just picked up a new puppy who was waiting at home for them. Wine helps!

How to reach them?

Can them at 412-622-0111 to make a reservation. Or check their website for a reservation or the menu. Highly recommend the Piccante pizza made with crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spicy peppers, hot sausage, kalamata olives, and fontina cheese.

piccolo forno

#8 Bellefield Church (Oakland)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business (non profit)?

Bellefield will always have a special place in my heart. It’s where my parents met and were married. It’s where my wife and I were married on the happiest day of our lives, when we knew we had made it to easy street of marriage (haha!). And it’s where we first sought marriage counseling when we figured out there’s a lot of work we needed to put in. It’s a place filled with people who have different backgrounds and different political views, but all seeking to live for something greater than themselves.

Plus, I have it on good authority that both the Pastor and the Associate Pastor are fans of good beer.

How to reach them?

If you have a prayer request or want to connect with someone at the church, you can do that here.

bellefield church

#9 University of Pittsburgh (Oakland)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business (school)?

Pitt Business is the #10 ranked public business school (#28 overall) according to Poets & Quants in 2022. How rad is that? It’s awesome enough to have carved out a special place for this Penn State alum.

Pitt has allowed me to teach on campus for the past 4 years or so, despite not being “real” teacher (shhhh…don’t tell). I’m still surprised they let me do it, and will always be grateful for the opportunity. Shout out to Becky Rhoades who continues to build out an excellent digital marketing program, and other programs as well.

How to reach them?

I mean, unless you’re a student, this realistically doesn’t apply to you. But if you are, I’d highly recommend you connect with Becky as a good first step. HTP.

awesome pittsburgh business - pitt business building

#10 Rosslyn Farms (Rosslyn Farms / Carnegie)

What makes them an awesome Pittsburgh business (erm, boro)?

Rosslyn Farms is weird, in the best possible way. The residents are fun, friendly, and unassuming.

For most of my life, I struggled with trying to make myself “look” a certain way [spoiler alert: this is a great way to make yourself miserable, until a heart defect helps you get you get over yourself a little]. I kind of thought this was the way that everyone actually lived underneath whatever they looked like superficially. Well, living in a place like this is a great cure for that old way of thinking. It’s strange to see people who have accomplished a lot of things in life, but have zero interest in showing you how smart / successful / accomplished / they are.

After being lucky enough to live in the community for nearly 5 years, I saw lots of “strange” and “weird” things like:

  • That one community project where neighbors chipped in time and money to build a bocce court
  • Neighbors who pick up any random litter on their walks
  • An annual “Redd Up Day” where neighbors volunteer to help get the public grounds ready for spring
  • An annual 4th of July celebration complete with a parade, cookout, field games and pool games in the afternoon (staffed by community volunteers), and drinks from the margarita machine on the O’Toole’s patio.
  • Progressive dinners and progressive happy hours…sometimes planned and sometimes impromptu
  • Neighbors who invite you over for a beer (or don’t think it’s weird when you invite yourself over for a beer)

I don’t think we’ll ever find another neighborhood like this one, but I hope we can bring some of that Rosslyn Farms spirit with us down south. If you live in Pittsburgh and are looking for a new home (and want to contribute to this kind of community), I can’t think of a better place to live.

How to reach them?

If you’re not looking to buy a new house, you can always get some of the Farms experience by renting the Community Center (the former Rosslyn Farms school) for a birthday party or other get together.

rosslyn farms awesome pittsburgh place

Goodbye for Now, Pittsburgh!

We’re shipping out in late June 2022 and looking forward to a new chapter of life in Greensboro. If you find yourself down there, drop me a line or just drop in.

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